I’m just going to start this article by saying I will forever and always will be biased when it comes to books being so much better to films. Hear me out though! I believe that when I read a book I will visualise it in my own weird and wonderful way, with my own imagination and for me that’s why I find comparing a book to a film impossible. A film for a start can never include the same depth of a story that a book can and as a consequence, something will always have to be lost in transit. It will also only ever be a focus on one person’s take away from a book, we will all focus on different areas. For me I liked the world Ernest Cline crafted in the book and didn’t feel that came across with the same depth in the film. I’ve read other reviews saying they felt the Oasis came across so much clearer in the film which also can’t be argued with. So with all of that said please take what I have to say with a pinch of salt!
So, rant over, let’s get to the good stuff! For those of you who haven’t read the book ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline, please do! Read it before you go and see the film because the book provides so much more social depth to the break down of this dystopian world that for me added to the film. The book I felt had a slow intro, as I’m sure any of you who follow me on good reads, watching me chug through the first 20% of the book. However I feel like you need to understand the over population, the strong divide in class systems, the general sense of giving up on trying to fix things. There’s a ‘Wall-e’ like element of human kinds abandonment on the mess they’ve created, with the rich being so rich they don’t care and the poor just trying to get by without being killed. In light of this horrible world the ‘Oasis’ is a VR game that everyone, no matter social status, can access and escape the world, go to school, and try to better their life, not only within the oasis but outside of it too.
So in a Willy Wonka style turn of events, the owner and creator of the Oasis, Halliday dies leaving its fate up in the air. Halliday leaves a trail of 80s themed Easter eggs throughout the game to find three keys. The winner of the three keys will become the owner of the the chocolate factory.. no that’s not right.. the Oasis. A communist style organisation, the I0I, want to commercialise the Oasis charging a membership fee, taking the one last open space not divided by wealth or class and creating a tier system for users. As we find out later in the book/film this organisation is pretty f**ked up, they run their customers into so much debt that they’ll never pay off then bring them into a I0I prison to work their debt off. Interest is added to this debt to a point it will never be worked off and most people end up dying in these prisons. Again an interesting deeper reflection on our own society could be said about that, like most of this book I felt the sociological aspect was completely lost in the film. Our protagonist Wade Watts comes from nothing, an orphan living in the stacks (low income trailer park), and the Oasis is genuinely his only place to socialise with his online friends (his only friends) and gain an education in the free online schools on the Oasis. From the outset of the book and the film it’s obvious it’s all set up for him to win and we want him to.
Everything I’ve talked about above is covered in about two minutes at the start of the film, potentially this is easier done visually but like I said we lose a lot of the bigger picture of society so read the book first! The film will mean so much more. From here out, the book and the film are entirely different stories, which actually surprised me how much had been changed. The three tasks were different in the book than the film which caught me off guard entirely. The tasks in the film were much more difficult obscure 80s references, some went over my head having to quickly google things as I read, but I really liked that. The first clue included the school Wade or Parzival (his avatar name) attended within the Oasis, which was cut entirely from the film. Again a shame, I felt the school really heightened the fact that the Oasis was such a great way for everyone to gain education regardless of social status. The film felt like a dumbed down version of the book, with some more obscure pop culture references such as INSERT MOVIE FROM BOOK swapped in the film for mainstream references such as the Shining, Back to the Future, Prince, and King Kong. Obviously this makes the movie easier than having to sit and look up the certain references but it definitely felt too obvious, give us a little something to figure out.
So my biggest issue with the difference in the book and the film was Halliday’s motivation in the game he creates. In the book Halliday isolated himself from his partner Ogden Morrow as every big creator does without too much questions asked, Mark Zuckerberg did it, Walt Disney did it, I think even Steve Jobs had a partner at one point. It turns out at the end of the book that Halliday fell out with Morrow because he secretly always loved Morrow’s wife. In reading the book my personal interpretation was more of a Severus Snape love for Lily Potter. An innocent pure love that they knew and accepted they could never have, similarly both deeply affected by their loves death. This twist is a small nod to a personal clue that Wade needs in the last trial, an interesting twist he figures out in the book. Nothing more than that. The film jumps on this story entirely making his love for Morrow’s wife, Halliday’s entire motivation in every task for the keys. It makes no sense to me at all why after years of suppressing his feelings and isolating himself in death he’d decide to include Kathryn (Morrows wife) in every single clue. I’m sorry but it was a lazy motivation, it added nothing but a weird storyline to the film and was my favourite twist at the end of the book ruined by the film.
Speaking of twists, I loved Waydes best friend Aech being a girl, it should have been such an obvious twist but it did really catch me off guard in the book and I think the film cast ‘Lena Waithe’ perfectly, who I adored in Master of None. It would have been wrong for everyone to be exactly who they said they were online because what fun would that have been. In Aech’s case again, her back story wasn’t brought through the way it was in the book. She felt if she pretended to be a white male she would be taken more seriously. The beauty of the Oasis is you can be whoever you want to be or in this case, who you feel you need to be to be taken seriously. Her general back story of coming out to her mother and the isolation that then caused her, again for me heightened the importance that the Oasis became a safe space for not only social class, but race, gender and sexuality. Again I accept everything can’t be portrayed in a film but to me it was a shame they didn’t go for this clearer motivation. It’s similar to Halliday, in the book it’s a much clearer motivation than in the film that portrays a strange lust he had for his partners wife and not kissing her while he had the chance. Mate your literally creating a fair playing ground for all humans no matter race, gender, social status or sexual preference to be educated and build a life for themselves.. but yeah sure keep dwelling on the girl. 🙄
Ok let’s talk about Artimis and I’ll wrap this up. This relationship between her and Wade wasn’t totally different to the book. It’s just massively sped up in the movie. In the book they start dating, break up and there’s a really boring chunk of the book where Wade buys a nice flat and dedicates his life to finding the next clue. There’s also a lot of masterbating into some sex toy he bought which honestly is just uncomfortable to read. He gets past this pretty quick and gets closer to the key. He doesn’t actually meet Artemis in real life until the very end. She never saves him from the stacks and he never sees her peace core like living situation in the book. They’re all actually united by Morrow at the end to help them defeat the sixers (I0I). It pains me to say it but for the purpose of the film, it’s probably the only thing they did well. I struggled reading through the break up, we follow him get fat and depressed and masterbating loads and honestly if it was a hard read, it definitely would have been a hard watch so thanks Spielberg for sparing us that one. In the film Artimis goes to the I0I prison when in the book Wade goes to try and save his friends, which in terms of Wade’s character arc works so well in the book. It was the point where the book became one of those ones you can’t set down. I was reading it walking home to see how he was planning to infiltrate the sixers and save his friends. I’m not entirely sure the purpose in swapping the characters in this story line, but it did give Artemis’ character a stronger leading role which I’m all for but in the over all story, it was an odd thing to change.
BOOK DIAGNOSIS – INPATIENT CARE
The book to be honest is one I’ll have to read twice to appreciate the depth of pop culture references hidden within it. The pace changes drastically throughout the book. There’s a lot to take in at the start, building the world which is worth the read, but also hugely drags when waiting for clues to be understood. It was frustrating at the time but I felt the pay off was worth it. The book guides you through all the difficult elements of trying to figure clues out with him which I liked. Nice twists, strong characters and a really cool world created. I would highly recommend reading the book but DEFINITELY read it before you see the film or the bits that drag will really drag.
FILM DIAGNOSIS – MINOR SURGERY
I understand the change in narrative, the book couldn’t have worked as a film but I just have such a huge issue with Halliday’s motives and the influence that had on the new tasks to get the keys in the film. Again like the book, this film will be worth a couple of watches to appreciate the depth of pop culture references throughout. A shame the world wasn’t featured very much, I think the juxtaposition of the broken world with the Oasis would have created a slightly more powerful understanding of what was at stake. At times watching the film, a link back to the real work would have been a nice reminder that the VR world isn’t real. Visually a beautiful film, the Oasis built so many different styles and made them work so well together. It reminded me of ‘Wreck it Ralph’ with all the gaming styles and references. Read the book first. Books are always better!
Ready Player One comes out 28th of March. Let us know what you think!