Before I read Ready Player One about a year and a half ago, I was initially apprehensive. I didn’t think that the stakes would be high enough in a story that takes place 90% in a virtual world. Boy was I wrong. I could not put the book down. I devoured it like a gunter devouring a passage out of Anorak’s Almanac. So when they released the first trailer for the movie at Comic Con, naturally I was excited. It looked amazing, and with Spielberg, the man who inspired a lot of the references in the book, at the helm, I had no doubt this would be something special.
The basic story of Ready Player One is that the world has gone to shit, so almost everyone retreats into this virtual world called the OASIS (Ontological Anthropocentric Sensory Immersion System). When the creator of the OASIS dies, he announces that he has created a contest, and whoever wins this contest will gain his fortune and complete control of the OASIS. An all or nothing battle ensues involving players called gunters (a portmanteau of “egg hunters”) and IOI, the evil corporation who wants to monetize access to the OASIS (which up until this point has been free).
I will admit, I was a little apprehensive before seeing the movie. What if it sucked? They’re obviously not going to fit all the references that were in the book. Hell, one plot point revolves around reenacting the movie, WarGames in its entirety. Another involves acchieving a perfect score in Pac Man. But I went to see it, and despite my reservations, had a great time watching it.
Before we get too far in, I will say the movie strays significantly from the book. Right off the bat, I think, is the appearance of the Iron Giant, who plays a significant role in the movie, but does not appear at all in the book. The book also takes place over a few months, while it looks like the movie happens in a shorter timespan (a few days to weeks, tops). The movie itself takes place in Columbus, Ohio, and it appears all the characters live there. While all the characters end up in Columbus in the book, it starts out n Oklahoma City, where the main character, Parzival, lives, and all the other characters are scattered throughout the world. There are quite a few more differences in the movie, most glaringly probably the quests to find the gate keys. Understandably, these have been changed for copyright issues, and just for cinematic timing. The first quest takes the form of a race, while in the book, Parzival has to play a couple of rounds of the classic game, Joust against a wizard. The aforementioned WarGames re-enactment is replaced with having to survive through the Overlook Hotel from The Shining.
While I think it would be awesome to see Cline’s novel told exactly as it was in the book, I just don’t think it would be possible to cram every single thing into a two hour movie, I also think while it was exciting to read about things like a Joust competition, or reenacting Wargames and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it could make for some rather boring movie watching.
All the superficial changes aside, the basic story of the book is still there. The contest to gain control of the OASIS, the evil corporation trying to exploit this contest for its own nefarious ends, the characters remaim unchanged for the most part, and still a good story is told that keeps the viewer engaged.