Not Ready, Player One…

How many times did you ask someone if they’d read a certain book, and they replied “Oh, I watched the movie”? Whenever I find out that a movie I’m interested in watching, is based on a novel, I make a point of reading the book first. From my experience, I can say that in most cases, there are differences between the two entities, big enough to justify experiencing both.

Sure, in some cases the adaptation to motion picture is better than others, perhaps the best example was Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption which was pretty much a story, turning into a script with no manipulation at all. Other adaptations, modified some elements of the written story and turned just fine (Lord of the rings comes to mind). Others were transformed pretty significantly, such as Heart of darkness turning into Apocalypse Now on the big screen. Others yet, turned out… well… flat.

Such is the case, with the popular novel Ready player one by Ernest Cline.

The author is credited for screenplay, along with Zak Penn, which for me is very surprising. As I was watching the film, I was wondering what Cline would’ve thought about the countless changes to the original story. I guess the answer is – he approved. I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed to learn that, not because the movie is different to the book – as discussed above – it is the norm, but because of what changed.

In the Lord of the rings movie series, it made perfect sense to cut some scenes, due to time limitations (the movies stretched that aspect as it is). There was no critical need for Mr. Tom Bombadil to make an appearance, for example, and he did not. I do understand that there are a few things a movie producer must consider, and they will likely affect the end product. But in Ready player one there were simply too many, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out the reason for most of them.

(SPOILERS likely included here)

It’s unclear to me, why Oklahoma had to go… what crucial reason was there to start the story in Columbus? It would still be “The stacks” and I don’t even see any cost restrictions here. But ok. Not as critical as…

Why are the clues and challenges so different? The ones in the book worked very well, could’ve translated to engaging scenes on film, so why? It just made me think about this question, instead of enjoying the scenes. In fact, the clues and challenges in the movie were so simplified (or extremely random) that the viewer would’ve asked (and I did…) – so why did they elude everyone for 5 years?… In the book it worked. why break it?

The characters underwent a complete overhaul. Not in a good way too. Wade started and ended the story the same old Wade, if a tad braver, where in the book, the transformation was worthy of a hero. Art3mis lost all of her zest, caved in to Wade’s courting way too early, and when they kissed, it only begged the question “couldn’t you find 10 seconds to do that until now?”. Absolutely no tension. Ache, instead of a strong and opinionated character was a bit of a whiner and don’t get me started on the character assassinations of Diato and Shoto

I will leave the annihilation of Og’s part in the plot be, because of the biggest two evils of this movie:

The meeting of the characters in real life and their collaboration started too early and with close to zero tension, which for me was a big let down. The point of these characters being staunch no-clan individualists, was an important element in the story. It significantly reduced the experience for me.

But at the top of the list of my qualms – delegating the infiltration of IOI to someone other than our hero… why? why? why? was it a PC decision to show how strong the girl is? We didn’t need that, as Art3mis of the book is likely the sharpest and most capable problem solver as it is… That part, of putting one’s neck on the line absolutely and categorically belongs to our protagonist. It was Wade, all along who wanted to be worthy of Arty’s love! so what do we do? We just let her save him again and again, leading him to… winning some video game… This, to me is unforgiven… sorry.

Now, had any one of the above changes (and I didn’t list them all of course) been the only one… ok… I might’ve been able to swallow a frog. But all of these changes together, not only presented a story that was definitely not Ready player one, but reduced a very well thought out and executed story, to a nice stroll down memory lane. I think many youtubers could have (and indeed have) made a few mashups of 80s culture symbols, on a home computer. The story is not the 80s… the 80s are the settings, they are the backdrop (as fun and exciting as they are) of the story of Wade Watts. At least, that is what’s in the great book I read.

I think, these last few sentences, are what really made the movie so disappointing for me. The story was completely lost in the gimmickry, and that is not what I personally want to see in a good adaptation. Peter Jackson gave us an unquestionable spectacle, but watching Lord of the rings will still tell us the actual story of Frodo and the ring, as close as possible to how Tolkien originally wrote them.

What did you think? am I over-reacting here? 🙂

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