“Ready Player One” wows pop culture fans in print and on screen
By HARRY FISHER
When I first read Ernest Cline’s famous novel “Ready Player One” about four years ago, I immediately fell in love with it. The book is riddled with allusions to movies, TV shows and video games, as well as other aspects of pop culture, particularly from the 80’s. As someone who greatly appreciates pop culture from the late twentieth century, I had a great time reading through the book and recognizing the references to some of my favorite movies and video games, as well as learning about some new ones that I had never heard of.
When I learned that Steven Spielberg, one of my favorite directors, was going to be behind the film adaptation, I was extremely excited at first. However, I became skeptical once the trailers and commercials were released. It seemed like the movie wasn’t going to have the same depth of character and adventurous spirit that the book had, and was mainly going to market itself on nostalgia, as well as modern trends. But after seeing the movie, I can safely say that the film version of “Ready Player One” is proof of two things. One, the movie proves that modern trailers never do their movies justice, and two, that film adaptations can be just as good, if not better than their source material.
The film has the same basic premise as the book. In the year 2045, most of the planet has become a desolate wasteland filled with slum cities. However, the people of the world find escape and happiness in the OASIS, a massive virtual reality where people can do anything they want and be anything they want, even famous pop culture characters. Before he died, the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, created a contest in which all OASIS users could compete. Halliday hid a special “Easter Egg” somewhere within the vast multiverse, so whoever could find and overcome three special challenges that were hidden in the OASIS would inherit Halliday’s video game company and his entire fortune. The protagonist, Wade Watts, otherwise known as Parzival in the OASIS, decides to take on the challenge of finding the egg. Together with his closest friends, he attempts to solve Halliday’s three challenges and find the egg before a sinister company can find it and use Halliday’s fortune for their own corporate agenda.
The movie is an absolute wonderland for pop culture fanatics. Throughout the film, characters from video games and movies appear in the background. It was always fun when the main characters would be talking to one another, and all of a sudden Batman or one of the Ninja Turtles would just casually walk by behind them. In fact, there are so many cameos that you most likely won’t spot them all during your first viewing. However, the main focus is on the characters from the novel, Wade Watts and his best friends Artemis and Aech. Although their characters aren’t quite as well fleshed out as they are in the novel, they’re still pretty well developed and are able to carry the story, and the film’s actors do a good job portraying them.
The films’ main draw is in its visual spectacle. All of the OASIS scenes are CGI, which makes most of the film look like an animated movie. This works to the movie’s advantage, as it really makes the OASIS feel like a virtual video game world where anything can happen. It also allows the film-makers to make the action sequences a real treat to the eyes. All of the action scenes are so hyper and intense that they make you feel like you’re actually playing a video game. While there is a lot going on in these sequences, and some might say that they feel cluttered and confused, I personally found them highly entertaining, and I can’t wait to see the film again to catch what I missed the first time.
In relation to the book, I found that the movie didn’t do as well of a job at fleshing out the characters as the book did. Some characterizations in the movie felt rushed. Also, Halliday’s challenges in the book felt more mysterious and intriguing, and it seemed like the main characters had to be clever and have a lot of gaming skill in order to beat them. In the movie, solving the challenges basically just means figuring out some incredibly simple riddle, and then suddenly, boom, you win. Because of this, the characters’ victories in the book feel rather underwhelming. However, the movie is able to be a lot more visually appealing simply because it’s a movie rather than text. This makes you want to watch the movie multiple times to try and spot everything you missed, whereas the book doesn’t really give you any reason to read it more than once.
Overall, as a fan of both the book and the movie, I would say that they’re great for different reasons. I highly recommend going to see the movie as it has great acting, fantastic visuals and special effects and all around great direction from Spielberg. However, I also recommend giving the book a shot after you see the movie, to learn more about the characters and their motivations, and to see all of the small details that were left out of the movie. Overall, “Ready Player One” is an incredibly fun and well-thought-out story, as well as a love letter to pop culture fanatics, whether in print or on screen.