Ready Player One is about one gamer’s quest for an easter egg that will give him control over the massively multiplayer online virtual reality world known as the OASIS. In his way is Innovative Online Industries, a powerful corporation who has enlisted an army that is after the same prize.
This is the 54th movie directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the first book ever written by Ernest Cline. While there are many significant differences between the two, the basic premise and plot structure are ultimately the same. This is a classic, three act, rags to riches story. Wade Watts, who is better known by his gamertag Parzival, is our protagonist. Wade is a Gunter (short for egg hunter) who spends his time studying the life and obsessions of James Halliday, the founder of the Oasis. Those obsessions are mostly centered around the pop culture of Halliday’s youth, specifically the eighties.
Through his encyclopedic knowledge of the era, Watts is the first gunter to correctly interpret the clues left by Halliday and thus begins his adventure to find the egg. Along the way, he and his closest friends begin helping each other in order to compete with the IOI army also known as the sixers. We follow this ragtag gang of gamers as they complete quests, kill bad guys, get high scores, and outsmart the sixers — that is, until IOI begins to play dirty.
So far, everything I’ve explained happens in both the movie and the book. However, generally speaking, there are two major differences. The first, I expected — which is the measures taken to fit this entire story into a two-hour movie. The second, I was a bit more surprised by — which is the challenges our heroes faced in order to find the egg.
The sacrifices they had to make to fit this epic novel into a shorter format were understandable, but disappointing. Much of the payoff in the book is due to the amount of time we spend with Wade while he is still a nobody; the egg is an unreachable goal, he is stuck as a level 1 avatar on the planet Ludas where his school is located, and even when school lets out he is stuck fantasizing about the things the other more wealthy avatars are able to experience as they flew off in their Tie Fighters and X-wings. When he finally cracks the code it opens the door for him (and us) to begin to level up and start exploring the expansive universe that is the Oasis. In the movie, the rags to riches story is much more diluted as Wade is already a decently equipped avatar. To reiterate, I understand why this had to be this way. This is a classic reason why people always say the book is better than the movie. Regardless, I feel it is worth noting my disappointment when the movie started and it felt as if I were already half way through the book’s storyline.
The other major difference was the specific scenarios or challenges that our main characters had to complete in order to find the egg. While at first I was disappointed I wouldn’t see some of my favorite sequences from the book play out on-screen, I quickly forgot about them as I watched some of the most jaw dropping visuals I have ever seen in a movie. I am not exaggerating.
For me, what Spielberg does better than anyone who has ever lived is create these cinematic moments that elicit that rare feeling of wonder and awe I often felt as a kid, but has become harder to access the older I’ve gotten. To give an audience that kind of feeling is no easy task. It takes a very carefully crafted combination of the many elements that go into great filmmaking; compelling characters, truthful storytelling, awesome imagery, and a great score — just to name a few. No one knows how to put those elements together better than Spielberg. Ready Player One is just another example of the master of movie magic doing his thing.
I recommend this movie. It’s fun — plain and simple. The book is even better. My suggestion is to read the book first, but go on IMDB and look at the actors who play each character so that your mind’s eye aligns with your actual eye when you do see the movie. Then, forget everything you just read, drop all of your expectations, grab some popcorn and a beer and just enjoy a visual symphony by one of our greatest living virtuosos.