Ready Player One started life as a book by Ernest Cline, and on its release on 2011 it very quickly acquired a cult status. By the time I came to it (a few months after its release), the buzz around Cline’s book was very nearly irresistible. It was pretty inevitable, therefore, that Ready Player One was going to make its way to the big screen. But while I was looking forward to Spielberg’s film adaptation, there was also a quiet trepidation lurking beneath… This is exactly the sort of source material Hollywood has a proven track record for screwing up, right?
Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in Stacks of 2045, among one of Earth’s many slum zones. He counters his banal existence with counter-reality in the OASIS: an online simulation where anything is possible. The OASIS was the brainchild of James Halliday, and on his death Halliday left a code written into the game. Watts is a “Gunter” – slang for “Easter egg hunter” – and one of many that seek to crack Halliday’s code. Whoever should solve this game, and acquire the three keys, will literally inherit the OASIS. That’s Watts’ goal, but the game has been going on for years, with no results. So when Watts finds the first key, solving Halliday’s first riddle, he causes a stir throughout the OASIS, and attracts the attention of others who will stop at nothing to acquire Halliday’s legacy…
The book of Ready Player One struck so many cultural and emotional chords. It was one of those “in the moment” novels that many of a particular age group could associate with. The pop culture nods came thick and fast; in many ways the plot itself felt like window dressing to the twisting and turning labyrinth of ever-more-obscure references. Every page dripped with character, to such an extent that the characters themselves almost became lost in the mix. Player One was an intense ride, through and through, and a unique novel that felt perfectly balanced.
The movie doesn’t disappoint. It certainly has the right director for the job: when I first heard that Steven Spielberg was directing, I will admit that I felt a little relief. Spielberg does spectacle, and that’s what Ready Player One demanded. It definitely delivers on that front. The visuals, the effects and again the references keep on coming. Spielberg manages to capture the essence of the story very well.
The film isn’t a perfect reflection of the book, though. This isn’t a criticism – so often, an attempt to honour a novel can come across as mimicry – but there are several differences between the story and film. The film and culture references are slightly toned down, but I don’t think many casual film goers will mind. The plot isn’t immensely complex. Again, not a criticism, because the story doesn’t need a dense arc, but don’t go into this movie expecting it.
Ready Player One is pure entertainment, which is sometimes its own reward. If you enjoyed the book, then definitely pick this one up.