I went to see "Ready Player One" tonight with my father. He walked out, bored, and I followed not long after. Spoilers for most of the movie follow.
I found the book to be interesting but deeply flawed from a storytelling perspective because, to skip the long rant, the setting is dead and static and nobody has any creativity or ambition whatsoever but to obsess over old pop culture. In movie format it was fun to see this story brought to life with snazzy CG interspersed with live-action scenes. Compared to the book, it looks like there was an attempt to tie the quest in somewhat with game creator Halliday's past as a reclusive nerd, so that symbolically it's a quest to understand how unhappy the man was in his personal life and to "connect to the real world". I award it points for trying that and for all the pretty colors.
But... it doesn't actually succeed. There's an attempt to show nostalgia moving on a bit from the 1980s, eg. with several references to the 2016 game "Overwatch". (The story is set in 2045.) If anything that kinda weakens the book's theme of extreme stasis without actually showing people creating something new. What's this "connect to the real world" concept though? The quests of take place entirely within the game, and they're completely focused on the creator's personal life so as to continue encouraging people to obsess over a dead man. The hero wins by hanging on the man's every word as recorded in his "journal", which in the movie is now a CG library with obsessively detailed dioramas. The first phase of the quest has been replaced with a car-racing sequence that only makes sense as Halliday wanting to find an heir based not on virtue or work ethic, but on the ability to seize on one line of one conversation nobody else has noticed! At least it's not like the book, where what Halliday really wanted was an heir who's really, stupidly good at 1980s video games.
I also fault the movie for starting off with something like 15 minutes of narration. No, you don't have to do _in media res_ all the time, but this was silly.
The dystopian real world is interesting, but Evil Corporation IOI comes off as exactly that. It also doesn't make sense that all we see of their enslaved workers seems to be people forced to play this video game, not doing anything in the real world. The nickname "Sixers" is also lost on the movie audience; it was a little weird anyhow what with everybody prominently displaying what looks like binary for "5". I liked seeing a nod to the idea that game avatars don't have to be ordinary humanoids; there are some other critters running around. The movie, like the book, completely glosses over the existence of AI technology, and it ditches the notion of it being used for education except to make some brief mentions of there being an in-game school zone called Ludus. So, we end up not seeing people living in the game world for anything but gaming.
Halliday is still presented as a god. The hero kneels before his wizard avatar in awe. The movie makes the point about the real world being so terrible that nobody wants to live in it, which is provocative, but again I fault this story for having a hero who doesn't care.
Overall, it lost my interest despite the pretty flashing lights. Despite the attempt to write a deeper plot than the original book (a surprising thing for Hollywood), it still has the same flaws as the book. I left at the part where Artemis had been captured by the evil corp.
For comparison: I take pride in my own game-themed setting partly because the characters try to live in both worlds and make a meaningful connection between the two. It also presents a more complex setting because there are other things going on than the One Big Game (other AIs, seasteading, secession, fusion, spaceflight) and people have ambitions that are mostly orthogonal to how well the One Big AI does. It's also more upbeat while still having more specific problems than "the real world is a mess", and more adventurous in the choice of game avatars.
|I'm a writer, studying computer science and with a background in many other things. Currently at work on writing and polishing short stories. Check out my novels "Everyone's Island" and "Striking the Root" on Amazon!|