I loved the book of Ready Player One. It plays with deep matters of ’80s nerdery, namely original and “Advanced” Dungeons & Dragons and especially S1 Tomb of Horrors, old microcomputer, arcade, and home video games (and the very different kinds of games on them), and Rush’s more esoteric albums. It’s kind of incomprehensible if you weren’t alive in the ’70s and ’80s and into these specific things. It’s pretty brilliant if you were. It’s a story of logic puzzles, careful research, and follows much of the story structure of WarGames.
The movie is none of these things. It’s a very pretty film, largely CGI inside the OASIS MMO, but replaces the intellectual challenges with a very stupid car race; a very precise and funny adaptation of a cinemaphile but not geek movie which was NOT in the book and very out of Halliday’s interests; and a final battle, well adapted in scale and craziness, but the final key being in… is this a spoiler if it’s in section 0000 of the book? Adventure for 2600. Well, it’s kind of too obvious to even mention, if you’re looking for an Easter Egg. Did IQs drop sharply in the Spielberg-verse?
SUPER picky detail (but this is in fact what the book is about, being super picky): In the funeral/contest video, the quarters on James Halliday’s eyes in the movie were, if my eyes did not deceive me, from 1972. Book says:
“High-resolution scrutiny reveals that both quarters were minted in 1984.”
Why change it? Because either they didn’t care, or because Spielberg is literally older than dirt, older than rocks, older than “Steven Spielberg is old” jokes, so old that he thinks 1972 is “better” than 1984 (it is not). Everything else about the funeral video is wrong, too, but that’s beside my point here about picky detail.
Ogden appears like a Willy Wonka at the end, in a fairly crappy, formulaic ending. It’s fucking Spielberg, so you know it’s going to be schmaltzy and fall apart at the end, but the extent of the failure is almost epic. The hobbits^W corporate research drones cheering Wade at the end is nonsense filmmaking.
The music varies from great ’80s pop music, sometimes in appropriate places; a few pieces of ’80s soundtrack music in exactly the right place; to poorly-timed, almost counterproductive incidental music. I loathe Saturday Night Fever, as previously mentioned, and having another dance scene based on it is annoying; the book does mention “Travoltra”[sic] dancing software, but you don’t have to see or hear it. I felt nothing from the incidental music. Did Spielberg go deaf in his extreme old age? His old films at least had good scores, but this was vapid.
The final “rule” of disabling the OASIS, the global center of business, education, and entertainment, on Tuesday and Thursday is so stupid only a very stupid old filmmaker could conceive of it.
There is no Ferris scene after the credits, which would have been a great place to at least leave us smiling, instead of “huh, that was not good”.
It lacks the brains, heart, and music of a classic ’80s film. Go watch TRON or WarGames instead.
★★½☆☆ only because it is so very pretty, ★☆☆☆☆ for plot. Validates my movie policy that book adaptations are always worse than the book, and adds a new one: Don’t watch anything by Steven Spielberg. Will some kind nursing home attendant not just put a pillow over his face and end our suffering?