Ready Player One is the debut novel of American author Ernest Cline which tells the story of a young man on his search for an Easter Egg in a worldwide virtual reality game set in a dystopian 2044. The person who ultimately finds the egg will inherit the game creator’s fortune.
Over the holiday weekend, Steven Spielberg’s film adaption was released in theaters earning a cool $53.2M over four days. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’d read the book a few years ago and my boy just mowed through it in order to finish it before the film release. We went to see it on Easter Sunday and it was an enjoyable film to watch with all its big-budget Hollywood techno-whiz bang so I’m not going to completely bash it. We all did, in fact, enjoy the film but having read the book, while my boy was satisfied stating immediately “that was totally legit,” and the girls both enjoyed it not having read it, I left the theatre feeling really shortchanged.
It’s always a challenge for a film adaption to satisfy the lovers of the original concept presented by an author but in this case, it felt like there was such a significant amount of content left out of the film adaption that what the viewer is left with is merely a nibble off the snack-sized version of a king-size candy bar. There was just far too much left out of the film to really give the viewer a full sense of the world the story takes place in or the evolution of the main character Wade. Not only that, the character development was so thin that I really had a hard time having any emotional attachment to any of the characters. I was just watching people run around doing amazingly impossible things in a hyper-visual virtual reality. Great, cool, Hollywood magic but so what?
Ernest Cline’s story is so much more than simply a buffet of 1980s nostalgia wrapped around a kid who attempts to win a video game, a metric fuck ton of money (yes this is an actual unit of measure) and control of the world. The story in the book is a Forest Gump length epic tale with a much longer timeline than is presented in the film. It takes years for Wade to accomplish his goal and it’s condensed into what feels like a few days in the theatre. So much world building and character development are lost in the film adaption that it’s really hard to care at all about anything more than watching cool special effects and pointing out pop-culture references with your companions. There is likely way more hidden in the film than I noticed myself and I’m sure some army of nerds is cataloging it all with screencaps online as we speak.
In the end, there are a lot of themes in the story that remain intact in the film so I guess they don’t completely drop the ball in that regard. Reality vs. perception, personal identity, physical appearance, competition, perseverance, friendship, teamwork, etc… it’s all there but in fractions of what you get from the Ernest Cline version so, unless you absolutely hate reading, do yourself a favor and spend some time with the book regardless of wether or not you watch Spielberg’s creation. The film almost feels like using cheat codes to win a game.
Book: A / Film: B-
I’d love to hear your thoughts on either adaption. Feel free to comment and as always, thanks for reading.