New Spielberg film visually appealing, falls short of book

Graphic by Rob Fischer

Alex Brinkhorst

Stephen Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” 2018 film adaptation is an enjoyable experience for audiences but can leave fans of the original book a little disheartened.

Written by Ernest Cline and published in 2011, “Ready Player One” follows the story of Wade Watts and the main conflict within the massive multiplayer video game, the Oasis, which has consumed the entire world in this new twist on Cyberpunk Dystopia. Wade, also known as Parzival within the game, joins the rest of the world on the quest to find “Halliday’s Easter Egg,” which would allow the finder to inherit the entire Oasis and stock in the company worth several billion dollars. Throughout the quest, Wade meets other players hunting the egg and works to stop the seemingly sinister company IOI from winning and inheriting the Oasis.

The film is visually stunning, with the scenes in the Oasis nearly exactly how they could be envisioned within the book. The slums of Ohio and the interpretation of the stacks, a trailer park where trailers end up are endlessly stacked on top of each other, are also elegantly created. While the movie didn’t have the complete dark and dilapidation of Los Angeles in the Blade Runner franchise, it still holds key Cyberpunk themes.

The characterization of Wade in the movie is precisely accurate to the books, along with the characterization of his best friend and one of the funniest characters in both the movie and book, Aech. Aech is an awkward, video-game-loving teenage boy and, while cliché, this type of character is both appropriate in the setting and doesn’t seem out of place.

Art3mis, another one of the main characters, is accurate to her depiction in the book; however, unlike the book, we meet her earlier on and she doesn’t have that mysterious persona that was present in the book.

Of course, one of the largest inclusions in the movie is in the form of “Easter Eggs” from pop culture. Nearly every scene has a small reference to a movie, TV show, book or game. The “Holy Hand Grenade” from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arrakis from the most influential science fiction book Dune, Tracer from Overwatch, and countless Spielberg references are present and in plain sight, with others being so subtle and small that only diehard fans could catch them.

While the movie is solid all on its alone, it is quite different from the book, and while the new challenges were interesting both visually and story wise, this is where the movie was lacking. The book, however, is a challenge to translate to film to begin with, due to the pacing and the sheer amount of story to be told. 

However, avoiding spoilers, some of the best moments of the book have been cut and altered in such a way that it becomes nearly cookie cutter in the young adult dystopian genre. Each challenge was changed from the original, and the original characters have been altered, with some completely lacking story arches. Having read the book, the characters were recognizable, but for those who haven’t, there is no reference to understand some of their actions.

Overall, “Ready Player One” is a fun experience visually, but again, for those who read the book, this movie can feel a little more disappointing.