Saturday, March 31, 2018

Ready, Player One?

Ready Player One movie review

Ready Player One is one of my favorite novels for entertainment factor. When the movie was announced, I was only vaguely interested. The book was going to be challenging to interpret into a movie form. The book depicts a future reality where virtual reality has replaced the education, entertainment, and consumer real world counterparts. People become so engrossed in the virtual world of The Oasis that they don’t log off except for food, sleep, and biological necessities. Anything possible or impossible becomes real in The Oasis. That meant this was going to require a heavy CGI budget.

The other thing about Ready Player One (the book) is that it is a constant stream of nostalgia for a certain type of people. The book connects with the age of persons who were babysat by an Atari 2600. They remember Alex P. Keaton’s counterculture battles with his parents. They have a secret hankering for a car that talks and has a flashing red light bar on the front. The age that those things appeal to were the target group. And I am proudly in the bullseye of that target.

The main character, Wade Watts, is the narrator of the book. The story comes from his point of view. It really becomes the power of the story because his successes and failures are the only emotional filter. That means when something happens to Wade, the reader is part of the reaction. When Wade discovers something, the reader is part of the discovery. And as the primary plot of the book is a puzzle game, discovery is a central part of advancement.

Then the movie came out. And all I can say is that the movie lost its heart.

The movie gets away from Wade’s point of view. The story draws the 4 other members of the hunting “group” Wade is a part of and the main villain into the perspective. This removes some of the punch in the emotional points of the movie. It also reveals some things without trying to bring the viewer along the road of discovery.

The emotional points of the book are life changing for Wade, but in the movie they are more distractions. Which, if you read the book you understand, are more meaningful as distractions. In translating them to film they are insignificant events. The emotional high points of the book become moderated. It is almost like Spielberg didn’t want the viewer to feel during this movie.

I am most frustrated that the movie did not remain true to the book. It didn’t keep me from enjoying the movie or respecting it on its own merits. It does, however, stand in the way giving this full credit as an adaptation. The game, the Hunt for the Egg, is totally re-written for the movie. The point of view switch includes making someone else the focus of the crucial false ending. And they move the opening act from Oklahoma City.

The greatest issue of not remaining true to the book is the level of respect for the viewer. The book is a book for readers. The vignettes and name drops are on practically every page. And it only requires a mention and the reader “sees” it. The movie, though, is a movie for non-readers. It is for video game players. It is for people who were nurtured on late forms of video games or movies. The puzzles in the book are linked to “ancient” movies and games (movies and games I feel comfortable with). The puzzles in the movie are linked to events that are depicted in the movie and very much oriented to video games of the last 10 years. The underlying ribbon that tied the puzzles together was Dungeons and Dragons. Outside of a couple of images taken from the world of D&D, there was no mention of the greatest game in history.

The movie is not a bad movie. It is okay. I wouldn’t go back to a theater and watch it. I will wait for it to hit the Black Friday movie deal. It is entertaining. It is exceptionally well done as a CGI driven film. It is internally coherent to its own story, even while it is not faithful to its source material. And the music is an ‘80’s music dream. But it just doesn’t have the heart to be good movie.

There is a lot of video game type violence. There is 1 scene that is sexually suggestive. There is no nudity except for a scene where all intimate parts are obscured. There is one foot to a groin. The language seemed to be relatively tame. I would suggest 13 and up for this movie.
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