Today I’m adding a new segment to my blog (woo hoo!), ‘Page to Screen’, where I’ll look at book adaptations, compare them to their source material, evaluate what worked and what didn’t, determine which medium reigned supreme, and so on. First up to the plate is Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s, Ready Player One.
Let me say, first and foremost, there are some huge changes from the book in this one. So, if you’re a purist or massive fan of the novel, you’re likely going to be uncomfortable or mad for at least the first half hour or so before you adjust. Prepare yourself.
The biggest change from the book was the clues and challenges to find Halliday’s egg. In the book there are three keys and three gates, each with its own test. In the movie there’s one gate and the tests are limited to the keys ONLY. This cuts down a lot of the book but for time constraints, it’s perfectly reasonable. Additionally, almost none of the challenges in the movie are taken directly from the book and it’s for one obvious reason: to make the movie more understandable and marketable to the masses.
The movie begins with the test for the first key which is, believe it or not, a freaking car race. I almost spat the dummy right then and there. But once Wade actually had to do some thinking and research to beat the challenge, I calmed down a bit. By the time we’d reached challenge two, which involved a fantastic sequence set inside the film, The Shining, I began to realise that these changes were probably a good thing. While they aren’t a direct adaptation of the book, they remain largely in the spirit and tone of it.
As this is a movie, there’s a lot less time to spend describing the conditions in the real world or the nature of The Oasis in lengthy detail. The film does its best through the use of Wade’s voice over and a short, flashy sequence at the beginning but the book has the one up on this one purely due to available time for exposition.
Also, in case you weren’t aware, ¾ of the movie is CGI Oasis. The real world is showcased a bit more in the second half but you’re going to be looking at the characters’ avatars A LOT, so get used to it fast.
I’ll be blunt: Wade’s character is lacking here. The degree of credit he’s given in the film is increased but at the same time, the amount of stuff his character actually does is less. There’s no period in which he re-evaluates his priorities and shapes himself into a mentally and physically stronger person, and no infiltration of IOI (the bit from the book that really does show him off as the hero Cline wants him to be). And still, we get a scene in which Art3mis tells Wade he’s the best of them all and that he’ll win because of it. I mean, really?
On the flip side, Art3mis is given a lot more screen time and things to do, taking over some of Wade’s roles. Compared to the book, we see her in the real world far earlier and it’s Arty that ends up stuck in IOI. At first this seems like it’ll just be a rescue situation but then she starts kicking ass, and I’ve come to see it as another solid deviation choice. Extra depth is also added to Art3mis’s back story regarding IOI and her father. She’s given motives aside from simple altruism and a role in the film’s so called resistance (an unnecessary new element that isn’t really developed or explained).
The Other Top 5
Diversity was maintained here and one character survived where their book counterpart did not. However, notably, Shoto and Daito do get short changed in the development department as the section of the book in which they go questing with Wade has been cut. It’s a sad but understandable loss but then again, even with more screen time, some of the other major characters are still somewhat difficult to connect with at times.
IOI & Sorrento
IOI and Sorrento remain very much the same – they’re still complete dicks and very much the greedy corporation, desperate for power and money. Sorrento comes off as a bit of a lame villain at times and is perhaps given maybe a touch too much screen time whilst his side kick of sorts, Zandor, is a tad wooden for my liking.
OTHER MINOR POINTS
- Time constraints also restrict the development of Art3mis and Wade’s relationship, with him dropping the L bomb ridiculously and creepily early in the time line.
- The climax of the movie drags on too long. Sure, giant robots fighting and watching IOI goons get wiped out is fun, but there is a limit.
- I liked how the film dealt with James Halliday’s character – he’s a sad figure with good motivations behind his actions but I wish we’d been able to see more of his history
Overall, the film manages to improve on some of the weaknesses of the novel but it comes with new flaws of its own. Yet, despite its problems, Ready Player One was an entertaining way to spend a few hours and I’m glad I went to see it.
AS AN ADAPTATION : Not good, a lot of changes from the book.
AS A FILM : Entertaining, but not amazing. 6.8/10
You can find my review of the book here.