Spoilers for both book and film ahead.
Oi. This is going to be a long and probably complicated post. I have FEELINGS. I have OPINIONS. I don’t know what to do with myself right now.
Now you may be saying, “well that doesn’t sound good.” Well, it’s complicated.
Going into this movie I was STOKED. I love READY PLAYER ONE. It’s one of my all time favorite books. I’ve read it a bunch of times this year alone. I love the plotting, and the puzzles, and the fact that Cline is an Ohio author and the book is partially set in Columbus.
So this movie is a little bit weird to me. It is INCREDIBLY different from the book. None of the challenges, the gates, or anything else are the same. The detail, the intricacy, a lot of that is gone. he characters come off a bit more bland than in the book, which I’ll get to later. And the movie is no longer just a love letter to the 1980’s. It’s more a love letter to geekdom period, of all generations.
Now, I don’t necessarily consider all of this to be bad. The original clues are complicated as hell and I’m not sure they would have translated as well. A lot of references Cline makes would not have made sense to much of the younger audience. I doubt many of them would know who Ultra Man was (even though I love that show). How many milenials and gen Z have listened to or even know who Rush is? But they could have left the D&D. Hrrumph.
Parzival lacks a lot of his character from the books, which in some cases is a good thing. Gone is some of the creep factor of when he is describing Art3mis. But gone too are a lot of their great moments together such as the Tomb of Horrors.
Aech loses A LOT from her character as well. Gone is the queer, short, overweight girl. In her place is a sort of tall, skinny, ambiguous girl who lacks the charisma Aech always had. Seems like an unneeded change to make her a bit more Hollywood acceptable. Gone too is the depth of her and Parzival’s friendship as fellow Gunters. Instead they all just sort of clan up with the rest of the High 5.
I’m not even going to get into the whole “Sho” and Diato thing. That whole plot thing completely goes nowhere and has no purpose. They no longer have the importance they have in the book. No death of Diato, no revenge plot, and little to no character between them.
Yes there is a but.
Much of the spirit of the story remains intact. Some of the best and most emotional moments are those involving Halliday and his life, his past, and what he wanted from his contest. The scene in which he presents the prize and is speaking to Parzival is one of the most important and well acted of the whole film. Haliday’s actor absolutely kills it in the role and every scene he i in is truly wonderful.
While I believe the movie as an adaptation does leave a lot to be desired I appreciate that the overarching theme remains the same. And the film, as stand alone film, is quite good. The pacing is a bit fast but you are engaged the whole time and the visuals are stunning.
Overall Film Rating:
All in all I enjoyed myself watching this film, even though I nitpicked it to shreds. That’s just what happens when someone adapts one of my favorite things. I still think a TV adaptation could do wonders with this story, with all the wonderful detail Cline gives.
Go into this movie without expectations and you’ll have a good time.
What’s your favorite and least favorite adaptation of a book? Share in the comments below.
From my shelf to yours,