I don’t really do books. In the last twenty years or so, I’ve probably only read one book from start to finish, and that book was Ready Player One. And I absolutely loved it, reading it pretty much non stop until I’d completed it. As anyone else who has read the book knows, there’s a hell of a lot in there for someone to try and incorporate into any movie adaptation that gets undertaken, not to mention all the rights needing to be obtained for the vast wealth of famous characters, movies and video games that it features and recreates in such intricate geeky detail. Steven Spielberg is probably about a good a choice as any for tackling something like this though, and to say I was excited heading in to the preview screening of this would be a serious understatement.
The movie covers a lot of detail up front in a fairly brisk, but very effective introduction in order to set the scene. It’s 2045, and our hero is Wade Watts, living high up in ‘The Stacks’, towers of trailers crudely stacked and held up together by metal beams in a densely populated urban area of Columbus. As Wade descends from his home, he passes his neighbours, many of whom are wearing some kind of VR headsets, involved in different kinds of online activity that we can’t see. Wade tells us that at some point in the past people just stopped trying to fix lifes problems and learnt to just live with them instead. And to make things easier, they have the OASIS. The virtual world that his neighbours, and billions of people around the world, all connect to in order to escape the daily grind of the real world. In the OASIS you can be anyone you want to be, do anything you want to do. There are different worlds you can visit, and coins to be earned in order to upgrade your experience. Wade has all his equipment for connecting to the OASIS hidden away among the nearby piles of scrap cars, and when he puts on his headset, we are introduced to his online avatar, Parzival. He tells us about James Halliday, creator of the OASIS, who died five years ago. He left behind a message, informing the world that within the OASIS he’d hidden an Easter egg. Anyone who could find the three keys needed to unlock the door to that Easter egg, would inherit his entire fortune, and gain complete control of the OASIS. Since then, nobody has even got their hands on the first key. Nobody has their name up on the high score board. So… Ready Player One…
And so it kicks off, in dazzlingly glorious fashion, with a crazy multi-vehicle race through New York city in order to get to the finish line and grab the first key. It’s like Mario Kart on steroids, with jumps and hazards throughout. Wrecking balls smashing the road, a T-Rex causing havoc and Kong jumping from building to building, smashing things up and taking players out of the game. But nobody can make it to the finish line. It’s a fantastic, dizzy assault on the senses, and the first of many scenes where you find yourself frantically scouring the screen to see how many famous cars and characters you can spot. Parzival himself is driving a DeLorean, obviously. We’re also introduced to fellow racer, and legend within the OASIS, Art3mis, who after being rescued by Parzival, becomes a close friend. Along with Art3mis, Parzival has a number of other close friends within the OASIS – Aech, Daito and Shoto, none of whom he has met in real life. As Parzival finds the first key, and begins sharing that knowledge with his friends in order to work together for the rest of the keys, they become known as the High Five, in recognition of their names being top of the scoreboard.
The bad guy of the movie is Nolan Sorrento, who used to work for Halliday. He, along with his army of employees, are out to try and take over the OASIS for monetary gain and will do whatever it takes in order to make that happen. When Sorrento discovers the real world identity of Parzival, things begin to get very difficult for the High Five who now have to struggle to not only find the keys first, but also evade capture in the real world.
I don’t remember all of the details from the book, so I can’t comment too much on what’s been missed. But I do know that the puzzles surrounding the keys differ in the movie from those in the book. There are also some pretty big elements which don’t feature in the book at all, but the main thing for me was that the overall spirit of the book definitely carries over to the movie. There is some occasional second half drag, but that’s inevitable when there are so many prolonged moments of eye-popping visuals on display in-between. One thing I do remember well from the book is the final act, where Wade calls upon an army of OASIS users to help him and the high five fight Sorrento and his army in order to gain access to the final key. It’s something I always imagined while reading as being absolutely epic if it were ever to be recreated on screen. Luckily, it is. Wow, just wow!! And once again, like with much of this movie overall, I sat there, wide eyed and with a big gormless geeky grin on my face.