Reviewed by: Ryan McLelland

This is a very hard review for me to write because I love the Ready Player One book and I really did not like the film. The film is not a direct adaptation of the novel and only uses the very core concept: kid looking for 3 keys to obtain an Easter Egg in a videogame so he can win half a trillion dollars and the ownership of the game itself (WORTH A LOT MORE). The story that is built around that concept, written by Zak Penn and RPO’s author Ernie Cline, completely turns away from the book’s plot for a more simplistic story. I went with my wife and best friend to see the film. Wife thought it was good. Best friend thought it was outstanding. What does that tell me?

It tells me that once again the book is way better than the movie. It tells me that if you haven’t read the book you may find the experience fantastic.  I expected something that would have adhered a lot closer to the book. I understand the need to get permissions for all the different IPs from the book to the film, but I don’t mean that kind of “closer.” The Ready Player One novel’s story is fantastic. The overly simple plot of the film? It’s great for those who are unfamiliar with the book. It is even great for those who are fans of the book. Someone tweeted me back last night saying they loved the book and love the movie. But me? I couldn’t get into it because of how different it is. I am unable to separate the book and the movie.

Is my hangup with the book keeping me from enjoying the film? Will I come to love the film with multiple watches? There are plenty of times that I watch something, don’t like it, then return to it only to find that I truly love it. That’s okay. It’s my opinion and my opinion is allowed to change. Technically the film is amazing. The CGI is gorgeous. Director Steven Spielberg really made the “outside world” look just how I imagine it would from the novel. The acting is pretty great though amazing actor Ben Mendelsohn really hams it up as the head of IOI, Nolan Sorrento. Sorrento was a dick in the book, but he was confident. Mendelsohn’s Sorrento was not. I would rather have seen a bit more Pope Cody or Orson Krennic in there. Not that he was bad. Even hamming it up I thought him pretty good.

Let me describe the plot of this flick for a moment: Ready Player One revolves around people around the world playing a virtual reality game called Oasis. You can do everything there. Play golf. Shoot people. Hang out. Dance. Whatever you like. Basically life in 2045 sucks and America is dying. So people go into the Oasis to escape. The creator of The Oasis died 5 years prior and, when he died, a contest was announced. Collect 3 keys, find the hidden Easter Egg, and win total control. It becomes an obsession for those inside the Oasis.

Parzival aka Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a gunter – someone looking for the Egg. He usually hangs out with his massive beast of a friend Aech. A gunter had found the entrance to where the first key is hidden. It’s a car race – a car race that no one is able to win. As the movie starts, a girl named Art3mis shows up (RIDING KANEDA’S MOTORCYCLE FROM AKIRA WHICH IS BADASS!). Parzival, Aech, and Art3mis kind of become friends after once again failing the race. But then Parzival is able to figure something out from a sentence that Art3mis said to him and he is able to find the first key.

Soon the race is one to find the rest of the keys. The evil corporation IOI, run by Sorrento, has a legion of people playing the game and trying to win the Egg. If IOI wins they get to take over the Oasis, monetize it, and reap the rewards forever.  So the race is on. The trio are joined by two other Asian characters named Sho and Daito and together they go off to get the Egg first, often working together.

The pop culture references in the movie are fantastic and I may have to watch this flick multiple times just to see if I can spot every one of them. The plot? The great thing about the book is how much these characters are loners. They are in it for themselves. There is no easy way to just, “HEY I FIGURED OUT HOW TO GET THE KEY!” moments like in this movie. It takes time. In the book it takes a hell of a lot of time. I get that it is condensed because its a movie, but there is no reason for this entire film to feel like it took place over just two days. The friendships have meaning in the book and leads to a third act where Parzival sacrifices everything for these people that he doesn’t even know. It is brilliant. AND, of course, it is not in the movie. No need to change the book. They just did. Because…reasons or something.

I guess actor Tye Sheridan was okay. I don’t particularly find him to be a good actor. I didn’t like him in X-Men Apocolpyse (which I found to be an atrocious film all together) but I can say he was better in this then he was in that X-film. Olivia Cooke was fantastic as Art3mis as was Mark Rylance’s James Halliday. Even as a “dead guy”, Halliday was one of my more favorite characters of the film.

The movie adds two new characters in TJ Miller’s i-R0k as a hitman for hire hunting Parzival for IOI in The Oasis and Hannah John-Kamen’s F’nale who hunts Wade in the real world. Um….F’nale? I guess they call her that in the movie but every time she’s onscreen I’m thinking, “She’s really cute but those bangs are fucking awful.” So I really didn’t catch the name until I went home and looked it up.

At the end of the day, Ready Player One is a tentpole film released in March by one of the most legendary directors of all time. It is fun at times, I can admit that. I can also admit that this may be a film that will grow on me the more I watch it. I’m sure there will be people out there who will love to say, “You are wrong because of (insert something here) or (insert something there).”

Maybe you are right. Maybe you are wrong. But give me a choice of watching this movie or rereading the book once again – I’m going to pick the book every time. The book is a brilliant homage to the 80’s, videogame culture, friendship, and virtual reality. The film just feels like a cheap, hollow version of that.  My buddy Russ said about the film, “The only way you could possibly genuinely enjoy Ready Player One is if you’re the kind of person who’s extremely proud of themselves every time you jerk off.”  Are you instantly supposed to love this simplistic plot because “OOOOH IPs IN THE MOVIE!?!?!?!”  I don’t and I think Russ’ response is apt.  They should put that quote on the 4K cover.


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