Ready Player One
With most of the world reliant on OASIS Virtual Reality, Wade Watts hopes to solve the late James Halliday's virtual scavenger hunt and inherit the technology. If he fails, Nolan Sorrento will almost certainly win and OASIS will become a part of a global corporate structure.
Spoiler Level: Low
Seven years after its publication, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One was adapted to the screen in early 2018. Upon its release, the trailer sparked excitement in a devout group of longtime fans and led new fans toward a months-long run at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list. The futuristic dystopian elements combined with the nostalgic 80s atmosphere made this story the perfect cross-demographic success that authors and directors dream about.
The movie was, unfortunately, decent at best.
It wasn’t any one individual failing of the film—in fact, each individual element flows very well. The design is airtight. The writing is fun and the dialogue successfully guides audiences through an admittedly complex narrative thread. Director Steven Speilberg simply does not produce poor-quality movies, and you will never see me argue that point.
However, the sum of these parts didn’t quite add up. As a whole, the film falls flat, focusing too much on the flair and not enough on the feel. The plot unraveled too quickly. The twists were revealed too early. The only reason I empathized with any of the characters was because Ernest Cline had already done all of the hard work to make me love them before I even stepped into the theater.
It is inevitable that any story will lose pieces of itself in translation from book to movie, but those pieces should be minor. A character’s eye color, or perhaps an unnecessary scene. There shouldn’t be a total loss of emotionality. Where was Wade’s endless and hubristic competitive drive? Why was Sorrento presented as a stock antagonist, rather than a commentary on class inequality in digital spaces? Why was all conversation about Net Neutrality cast to the side? Most of the meat was stripped away, leaving a hollow husk behind.
This story works on paper—a nostalgia fueled, quest driven coming-of-age story, complete with romance and social commentary—so maybe it should have stayed there. It speaks to a larger reliance that Hollywood has on sentimentality in their current box office hits. It should be no surprise that a movie romanticizing 80s pop culture could exist and thrive in the current film climate. More and more, the industry favors recreation of iconography rather than the creation of unique, diverse storytelling. Ready Player One was just one bland result of a greater, unseasoned trend.
This is a book I think about at least once a week, simply due to the relevance of the subject matter. As we increase our online presence, the images of OASIS flood my mind—RPGs, workplaces, schools, all of them virtual. As AI and VR technology advances, I think of the characters in this book and how they utilized these tools. On this front, the movie can’t compare.
Ultimately, Ready Player One is a fun movie, and not much more than that. It’s well made and worth the time spent watching it, but it doesn’t hit the same emotional string that its inspiration does. I suspect that this movie may hit differently for someone who did not first read the novel. But with such a heavy-hitting director and a truly beautiful trailer, I went in with high expectations that this movie just didn’t live up to.
Amazing Science Fiction: Ready Player One
Writing - 8/108/10
Storyline - 6/106/10
Acting - 7/107/10
Music - 7/107/10
Production - 10/1010/10
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