For the most part, I liked Ready Player One. The film is entertaining and imaginative, but it never seems to reach the potential that it has. It feels like it squanders some good material in a quest to be a parable about the dangers of virtual reality.
I finished reading the book a few days before the film’s release (today) and I have the book’s story fresh in my mind to compare with the film.
The film, co-written by the book’s author Ernest Cline only has the very basics from the book. There were some deep structural changes made the the film’s story and characters some for the better and some for the worse.
** SPOILERS AHEAD **
The changes to the way the keys were found and used, that was a good change. The book’s version was dull and drawn out, the film’s version is more dynamic, quicker to the point and in general more exciting – a good example is the first key, in the book it was a dungeon quest that ends with Parzival playing an arcade game. In the movie, it is a race that is visually stunning. The research and Halliday journal are compressed into a museum of sorts and that helps a lot.
One of the changes that was for the worse was the way the characters met. Having Parzival meet Art3mis so early and having Art3mis be the one that initiates the meeting was a bad choice. The chemistry between the two never really works onscreen and the “love” that they feel for each other feels forced and too quick. Aech, who has a larger part and backstory in the book, is reduced to basically a driver. The Japanese kid who dies in the book lives in the movie, which takes away from the evilness of Sorento. Also, having the kids be together in the real world and working together is a bad change as it takes away from the competition. I can see why Spielberg would want this change to happen – it follows in the same footsteps as his other films that feature kids as the protagonists.
Speaking of Spielberg, the man has two sides. There is Serious Spielberg (The Post) and there is Fun Spielberg (Ready Player One). Lately, Fun Spielberg hasn’t had much fun – his last few “fun” films being The BFG, The Adventures of Tintin and that Indiana Jones film everyone chooses not to remember. Gone are the days of Jurassic Park or Raiders of the Lost Ark “Fun” Spielberg. It almost seems like Spielberg is trying too hard with Ready Player One to try to recapture the magic of “Fun” Spielberg. For the most part, he does.
The score by Alan Silvestri is perfect for the film as he remixes some of his best themes into the film that has… well, some of the movies that he scored for.
The leads were decent. Olivia Cooke stands out in the film and is most memorable. Ben Mendelson is also memorable with his mix of the sneering Krennic with a little bit of cowardly goofball – it sounds weird, but it works. T.J. Miller’s I-R0k is a character that was not in the book, but added to the movie – and I really liked this addition. I-R0k was very memorable and hilarious.
The movie banks on nostalgia and shoves quite a bit of it visually in every frame. It will take multiple viewings to catch everything that Spielberg and team put into the film.