When the first trailer for Ready Player One dropped, I was incredibly intrigued by this dystopian world where most people spent their time in a utopian virtual world. I had never read or even heard of the novel by Ernest Cline at that point, but the concept alone was interesting enough to make me pick up a copy.
After reading the book earlier this year, I concluded that Ready Player One is an incredibly entertaining and engaging story, but the characters are a little underdeveloped, the namedropping of 80s culture gets a little old at times, and the lesson learned by the main character is a glossed over and put aside by the end. Fortunately, the film adaptation from Steven Spielberg fixes a lot of the gripes I had with the novel, though it also loses some of the charm from the original.
The OASIS is Stunningly Beautiful
Before I touch on the story, I have to give this film credit as a visual masterpiece. Most of Ready Player One takes place in a virtual world called the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). In this world, anything is possible. The only limits are the imaginations of its users, and you see this unfold immediately.
One of the very first scenes in the OASIS involves a high speed car race, which you can see glimpses of in the trailers. The attention to detail is outstanding, as players zip around each other and crash into obstacles and other cars along the way. Explosions and flying debris are extremely detailed, and you feel like you're part of the race.
The OASIS is a dreamland of visual effects such as this. Another scene involves a night club where players dance in zero gravity. The lighting in this area is gorgeous, and the beauty of the club makes you wish you had an OASIS to go to yourself.
If you haven't read the book, seeing the OASIS will be a delight. If you are familiar with the novel, seeing the OASIS will be like a dream come true.
The Story is Fantastic, But it's Not What You Remember
The story of Ready Player One is going to cause controversy between fans of the book and fans of the movie. However, the film's story still holds up on its own. In some ways, it streamlines the series of events better than the novel.
In the year 2045, the creator of the OASIS, trillionaire James Halliday, has just passed away and left his final will, revealing to everyone that he has hidden an "Easter egg" in the OASIS. The first player to find this egg will inherit his fortune and control of the OASIS itself.
This is a big deal, since most people in the world use the program on a daily basis to escape the real world. Citizens have actual jobs, go on dates, shop, and everything else you would normally do in the outside world. So being in control of the OASIS is almost like being in control of the world to some people.
Our hero, Wade Watts, is a high school student who lives in The Stacks, a collective of mobile homes stacked on top of each other for those who live in poverty. Going by the online name Parzival, he's joined by fellow players Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Sho in a quest to find Halliday's Easer egg.
We're also introduced to our main antagonists, the corporation known as IOI (Innovative Online Industries). This company will stop at nothing to seize control of the OASIS, and it is always on the tails of our main heroes. At the head of IOI is a man named Nolan Sorrento, who often plays dirty to push the contest in his favor.
This is where we see Ready Player One make some changes from the novel. Nolan Sorrento is almost like a cartoon villain in the film, whereas he posed a much bigger threat in the book. On the big screen, Sorrento shows time and time again that he is incompetent and too easily duped. This is sort of true to his character, but some of his mess-ups feel kind of goofy in the movie, rather than just being a corporate villain that knows next to nothing about the program he wants control over.
But this is a minor gripe, and one that didn't damper the experience as a whole. Sorrento still does a lot of messed up things, but he isn't a very threatening villain most of the time.
One thing that is better in the movie is the eventual relationship between Art3mis and Wade. In the novel, most of their interactions were awkward, felt a little unreal, and sometimes they were downright cringey. I understand the point behind this. They're both antisocial people that don't know how to connect properly with each other. But the Wade in the book never really treats Art3mis like somebody he loves outside of the obligatory "I love you."
The Wade and Art3mis relationship in the film is still awkward, but it's cuter and less painful. It feels like two socially inept people are actually getting together because they care about each other, rather than having a love interest just because there has to be one.
Perhaps the biggest change to Ready Player One's story is the challenges to get to Halliday's egg. In the novel, the OASIS users had to be incredibly knowledgeable about 80s pop culture to find answers to the clues or challenges that would lead them in the right direction. I always considered this a flaw of the book, which I feel relied too much on the reader's nostalgia to make the book feel bigger than it was.
However, in the film, the clues to find the challenges are related more to Halliday's personal life instead of the films or games he liked. Delving into this man's past makes the characters more aware of what's at stake and also helps them grow as people. The contest becomes less about themselves, and more about what the world as a whole needs when the winner is finally declared.
Without going into spoilers, the contest makes so much more sense in the context of the film. The characters actually learn a lesson and the fate of the OASIS is one that I think a lot of people can get behind.
On top of all of this, there are many more changes to the overall plot of Ready Player One that would touch too much into spoiler territory. With that in mind, you should watch this film as a separate story instead of expecting to see your favorite book on the big screen.
A Video Game Thrill Ride Everyone Can Enjoy
Ready Player One is an absolute joy ride and a glimmer of hope for the future of video games in film. Some of the characters are a little weak and there are a ton of changes from the novel, but this is an enjoyable experience for anybody that appreciates video games, science fiction, or the original Ready Player One. It's worth the wait, worth the hype, and most importantly, worth your time.