Random Thoughts on ‘Ready Player One’
My son came home for a visit from University, so I took the opportunity and went with him to see Ready Player One, which had opened the week before. (One of the minor frustrations about living in Japan is when movies you want to see don’t open at the same time as in the US, a good example of #FirstWorldProblems if there ever was one.) I thought the movie was loads of fun and was confused about some of the negative reactions I’d caught online when it first came out. I thought I’d write a little bit about the film here. Naturally, there will be spoilers, so don’t continue unless you have read both the book and seen the film, or don’t care.
I’m a person who takes his sci-fi novels pretty seriously. I’ve read every major book and series I can think of, from Ender’s Game to Childhood’s End to The Diamond Age. I obsessively re-read the Dune books and The Forever War and have a highly developed love of hardcore time travel/time dilation stories like the Time Ships by Stephen Baxter, designated as the official sequel to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. As a fan of The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, I was thrilled to see the books form part of the Haruhivese. So naturally, I love Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and have been looking forward to this film ever since I heard Steven Spielberg had secured the rights.
Ready Player One is a story of a dismal future set in 2045 when pretty much everyone has decided to escape from their pathetic lives in meatspace in favor of The Oasis, an online world where people can do anything or have any experience. Before Oasis creator James “Anorak” Halliday died, he created a massive easter egg hunt inside his creation, allowing the entire world to compete to find three magic keys that would allow them to own the Oasis forever.
Because of my great disappointment in the Ender’s Game film, I was nervous about Ready Player One. There seemed to be so many ways in which it could go wrong. The book is filled with hundreds of references to movies, TV, music, and video games from the 80s and 90s, and companies could refuse to allow their works to be put in the film (like Nintendo did). The “mix” of references that ended up in the final film could be skewed in a weird direction. For example, Spielberg could load the film up with references to his own works, something that happily didn’t happen.
One fear I had was that the movie would try to re-create the many minor and esoteric references found in the book that even I hadn’t heard of. Happily, these were quietly removed from the film. Leopardon? Let’s change that to Gundam, a very solid giant robot reference. And an entire in-Oasis planet that recreates the Zork text adventure from the 1980s? It became the flashy race that ended with Parzival getting the first key.
One reason to go see movie versions of books you love is to enjoy the differences between the two. I’m actually quite annoyed whenever a movie is 100% faithful to a book, as was the case with The Green Mile by Stephen King, a near perfect remake of the original. It’s far better for the movie creators to make changes, as long as they tighten and improve the story, which was what we got with The Shawshank Redemption, one of the finest movies ever made.
Happily, there were many reasonable changes to Ready Player One which kept the story moving nicely without changing the core narrative at all. A good example is their decision to remove the interesting — but long — segment of the book where Wade goes underground at IOI, by instead having Art3mis fill that role. There will always be things from the book fans would like to have seen. While the movie’s focus on the game on the Atari 2600 Adventure plot was excellent, did they have to remove the Joust battle? And Rush 2112? Guys?
As I get older, I find myself appreciating the analog side of films more and more, and preferring that movies use practical effects instead of CGI as much as possible. Obviously, this is not something you can expect from a movie like Ready Player One, most of which takes place inside a video game anyway. One of the most enjoyable sequences was the re-creation of the Overwatch hotel from The Shining. That was unexpected and thrilling and opens a new way of thinking about movies.
There was lots more to like about the movie, including the casting, which certainly got nothing wrong and many things right, unlike other films (*cough* Ender’s Game *cough*). Best of all was Ben Mendelsohn (Director Krennic from Rogue One), who really shined as Nolan Sorrento. The music was also a giant easter egg to fans of the 80s, composed as it was by Alan Silvestri, who did the Back to the Future soundtrack. You can hear it in every note.
So, did you enjoy Ready Player One? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!