Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, is a story that emphatically celebrates, to a fault, the kind of overzealous pop-culture indulgence that I love. Basically, the entire world has regressed to obsessing over 80s references to try to crack a puzzle made by an eccentric developer who created the VR world the populous retreats to because the real world blows. This past weekend I finally watched the movie version, by Steven Spielberg, that came out earlier this year.
The movie version sticks close to the major, overall plot of the book, but changes just about every detail along the way, mostly to create a more fast paced, high stakes, action-oriented adventure. As an example, reading through a boy wandering a Dungeons and Dragons module on his own is interesting and captivating, but in the movie, a high-speed, high-impact street race is way more exciting.
On the other hand, the movie version wasn’t able to invest nearly as much time into the characters as the book did. The book version of the story takes place over months, at least, while the movie seems to wrap up in about a week. This means that all the character growth is rocketed in to fast gear, including the main character falling in love. In the book, the immediate obsessive and possessive response he has to the female lead is looked at enough to make it really apparent that it’s gross and immature. In the movie, there’s a little lip service paid to that idea, but before you can really think about it she’s reciprocating those feelings, because, well, that’s just how falling in love in movies works, I suppose.
I still liked the book more, even though it has problems with celebrating gatekeeping in nerd culture, which I’m super against, but the movie really was very good, and the adaptive choices that were made worked well, overall, and actually focus less on the gatekeeping aspects. If you liked the book, definitely give it a shot, and if you haven’t read the book but are into movies, video games, or just pop culture in general, give it a watch.
If nothing else, it’s real pretty!