Why I Liked Ready Player One But Prefer the Book (Spoilers)

“The book is better…” is an oft hurled accusation thrown at the world of cinema. I have no doubt those that love movies over literature tire of being told their medium of choice is always a second class substitute. Normally I stay clear of this conversation and try to appreciate both endeavors on their own merit; however, in the case of Ready Player One the book has been so unfairly maligned by many who have often read mere pages I decided it was worth an entry in my blog. I enjoyed Ready Player One as a fun adventure mystery movie but it is a step down from the book, and the more I thought about it the more changes bothered me. So, here goes…

There are two huge differences between the book and movie Ready Player One. The first is the time spent in the real world. The first third of the book is spent mostly in the real world of the Columbus Ohio stacks. This allows you to get to know Wade as a character in a way that the movie doesn’t. Wade is your classic nerd and in the movie he is much more of a cool, confident character. This helps make his bond and admiration for Halliday feel more understandable in the book. He knows there is something Halliday has to teach him through this quest and that’s what makes him continue when others have long since given up.

The search for the first key is all done in the real world in the book. He puts together all the pieces from the different parts of Halliday’s life and tries to find what is special or memorable about them. This is a lot more interesting to me than a race. In the book there is a book called “Anorak’s Almanac’ which lists all of the things that Halliday enjoyed (something that has been very criticized but never bothered me… It’s all part of the story of Wade researching to figure out the clues). In the movie they have “Halliday’s Journals” and the process of the research there feels easy and so you see less growth from Wade as a person. This makes his end takeaway when he meets Halliday not as impactful as the book’s ending. Wade comes to understand Halliday in the novel as a full person, and even a reflection of himself in many ways

In the book, Wade struggles with the fame he achieves when he gets the key which is interesting for a person who is literally surrounded by pop culture and knows so much trivia (which isn’t really trivia in the Oasis but survival knowledge). Wade is a character I loved in the book and was rooting for where in the movie he is a standard cocky teen male lead.

The other big difference is the changes to all the side characters. In the movie Art3mis is a standard avatar that doesn’t stand out much from the other avatars aside from her telling Perzival that he would be disappointed by her. One of my favorite things about the book is the reason Art3mis stands out to Perzival in the game is she is so confident and real. She is one of the few characters in the Oasis who has a realistic avatar. She doesn’t go with the sexed up version of herself and Wade finds that very attractive. I wish they had worked this into the movie more. She’s a positive yet still kick-butt character and in the YA literature world where every woman has to be a warrior I really appreciated her.

Much has been made about the pop culture ‘nostalgia porn’ of the movie and book. I personally think this criticism is a very surface-level analysis and misses the point. It’s like criticizing a Western for having too many horses. The pop culture is just the setting which the mystery takes place in. It’s not the story but where the story lives. That’s why in the book setting up the Oasis and all of the parameters of Halliday’s quest makes so much sense. We are in the real world and see all the research that Wade has to do so when we see the cornucopia of images in the Oasis it’s not just fun visual candy but clues Wade is ingesting and processing.

For example, in the book the jade key requires Wade to figure out he needs to recite the movie War Games, play a text game Zork (to get the key), unlock a Voight-Kampff machine from Blade Runner and play a game of Black Tiger (to unlock the gate) and more. This was exciting to read because we knew what Wade had been studying and it was unpredictable what would be asked of him next. Thus making the pop culture part of the puzzle/mystery more so than in the movie.

The other thing that wasn’t nearly as effective in the movie as the book is the villain. In the movie they make Sorrento a former intern who is generally resentful of Halliday and the Oasis. In the book it is more the world as a whole that is against Wade with them being envious and trying to stop him from winning. Sorrento is in the book but not as cartoonishly bad as he is in the movie.

Halliday and Morrow’s friendship is a lot more developed in the book and so their separation is more profoundly felt. It’s one thing to fall out of favor with a business associate as shown in the movie. It’s another to lose your best friend from childhood who you played Dungeon and Dragons with (making the first challenge being playing DandD all the more meaningful). Halliday’s clues are about his life not just nostalgia porn IMO.

The book also treats Aech very differently than the movie. He/she is more of a nerd who builds things and has a chat room as opposed to a warehouse. In the book none of the High 5 meet until very late in the story but it’s just all more layered, with harder clues, and characters than the movie. Aside from Art3mis giving herself to the loyalty center in the movie nobody else does much to find the clues or beat Sorrento like in the book. You even get a whole sublot with Daito and Shoto being hunted down by Japanese authorities in the book that adds to their story.

The last line of the novel is “It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the Oasis.” This makes sense because Wade was only in the Oasis because of his connection with Halliday. Now that he has finished his quest he’s done. The mystery is solved. All the research, study, thought is done. That is the fun part of the novel and what makes Wade a great character. The movie ends with him as a moderate user of the Oasis and says that real life is important as well. That’s fine but not as satisfying as the ending of the book.

It might seem like I hate the movie Ready Player One but I don’t. I liked it quite a bit; although, it was not as satisfying on the second watch as the first but still good. Unfortunately, they changed a lot from the book and it makes the movie less special as a result. I enjoyed it and will defend it but probably won’t remember it like I remembered the book.

The reason I loved the book is it was finally a YA novel that felt positive and hopeful. Most of these novels are cynical and depressing but here we had Wade trying to make his life better and trying to understand another human being in Halliday. We had him seeing the beauty in Art3mis and she being confident in her own unique identity. All of these things were hopeful and positive. You had fun characters and a mystery that was fresh and new. Yes, there was the nostalgia but that was just the unique setting like the maze in Labyrinth or Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings. It was an imaginative, inventive narrative where good won over evil, and that is hard to find these days. Most YA novels have characters limping towards the finish line having sacrificed all that was important to them at the beginning (cough Hunger Games cough). Not Ready Player One and I loved the novel for it!

So in the end, my opinion on Ready Player One– the movie was good, fun ride that especially kids will love (although The Shining sequence may be over their heads)

But the book was great. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it

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District Tag

My friend over at the Lawn Gnome has just posted a neat tag based on the Hunger Games with different movies/books for each of the 13 Districts.  I’m actually not a big Hunger Games fan (yes I know you can all be shocked…) but you don’t really need to be to have fun with this tag.  So, I thought I would bring it over to the blogging world and give you my picks for both movies and books.

First here is his video:

So here is the tag-
District 1 Luxury: Pick a (BOOK/MOVIE) with lots of opulence.

For movie I will pick Citizen Kane based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, one of the richest men in American history.  It’s wildly regarded as the greatest movie ever made and literally every shot can be studied for its lighting, subject matter, cinematography and everything else.

citizen kaneI had a hard time thinking about a book about opulence but decided on Rebecca by  Daphne Du Maurier.  In it a girl falls in love with a rich mysterious man and when she marries him she becomes the new head of an equally mysterious large grand mansion

rebecca-by-daphne-du-maurier
District 2 Masonry/ weaponry: pick a (BOOK/MOVIE)with a great war or conflict.

There are a lot of good war movies but I’m going to go with a recent great movie, American Sniper. In Sniper I felt like I was down with the marines going house to house looking for people.  It was a totally different kind of war than I have ever seen before and I was really moved by it.

APphoto_Film Review American SniperAs far as books about war in thinking about it I realized most of the books I have read about war are about prisoners or civilians during a war.  As far as actual battle, soldier books the one that came to mind is Shiloh by Shelby Foote. Some people would probably find this book boring because it methodically takes you through one single battle in the Civil War that in Foote’s opinion changed everything.  It isn’t the Antietam or Gettysburg that we know more about but the Battle of Shiloh.  It’s fascinating, gripping, tragic and will make you feel immersed in history like few other books.

shiloh

District 3 Technology: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with a technological twist.

A movie with a technological twist I will go with Gattaca.  A science fiction film with tremendous heart and great performances about a society who has created genetically perfect people known as valids who are considered superior to traditionally conceived people who are invalids.  Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law are great in it.

gattacaI’m going to give a little shout out to The Giver by Lois Lowry which is such a moving book that turned into a rather pedestrian movie. Kind of like Gattaca a perfect society has been created where all the best choices have been determined and diversity in the slightest is eliminated. People’s senses are lulled except for a man named The Giver who knows all that has been forgotten about human experience.  Jonas, our hero, becomes the apprentice to the Giver and as he see’s the world in a whole new way it makes you think about your own world and the choices you have made.  Great book.

giverDistrict 4 Fishing: Pick a water based (BOOK/MOVIE)

I love to swim so movies in and around water are some of my favorites.  Since you all know I love Finding Nemo, Little Mermaid and Song of the Sea let me dive a little deeper (excuse the pun…) and pick something more obscure.  I love the little British movie On a Clear Day about a man who decides he is stuck in his life and is going to swim the English Channel.  As an open water swimmer I relate to his story but on a slightly smaller scale

on a clear dayFor my swimming books I will do another obscure read that I think would make a great movie- The Great Swim by Gavin Mortimer.  This tells the true story of Gertrude Ederle, Mille Gade, Lillian Cannon, and Clarabelle Barrette who were the first women to swim the English Channel.  It is fascinating for the stories of the 4 women, their personalities and histories, but also the differences in the press and celebrity then and now. A great read! great swim
District 5 Electricity: Pick a powerful (BOOK/MOVIE) .

The first film that came to my mind when I thought of powerful movies is Hoop Dreams.  This is an amazing documentary by Steve James where he follows the lives of 2 inner city boys who dream of becoming professional basketball players.  It is heart wrenching and it goes places fiction couldn’t go.  It’s so profound about how our dreams are our inspiration and also our undoing at times.  It’s about everything that makes up a life. It’s without question one of the best movies ever made.

Hoop_dreamsposterOne of the most powerful books I’ve ever read is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.  It tells the true story of Dutch old maid Corrie and her sister Betsie who are sent to Auschwitz for hiding Jews from the Nazis.   Her sister is unflappable in her determination to be grateful and positive in the absolute worst of situations while Corrie is a bit more of a realist, a little more sarcastic.  In the end her message of courage, faith and forgiveness is one I will never forget.

hiding place
District 6 Transportation: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) that takes place in many locations.

A movie that takes place in many locations I will go with the movie that has a map showing the characters zip around the globe- Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Just in the first few minutes he goes from Boston, to Nepal, to Cairo.

raidersThere are a lot of travel narratives I love so I could have picked any of those but I will pick Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose about the Lewis and Clarke expedition. Kind of like Shiloh, Undaunted Courage is a historical narrative without any fiction.  Just the history but it is gripping, well researched and gives you a new appreciation for America in its raw form.

undaunted courage

District 7 Lumber: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with manual labor.

This isn’t farming but if you consider cooking manual labor then I love Babette’s Feast. It’s a Danish film about a woman who is a refuge and is welcomed in by 2 women and their friends who abstain from luxuries and eat very bland food.  She wins the lottery and gets a chance to cook the way she has dreamed of. It’s a beautiful movie about work and how when we find out what we are supposed to contribute to the world that is when we are really fulfilled even if it is just cooking one meal.

babettes feast2

I could have picked Grapes of Wrath for my movie as well but thought I’d have a little variety.  Nobody does a setting like John Steinbeck.  You can feel the dust and sun pounding down on the Joads family.  It is a book that is depressing in a way but it is also very unpredictable with a complicated notion of right and wrong and characters who wish they could work more than the land allows them too

grapes of wrath
District 8 Textiles: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with amazing clothes!

The movie with amazing clothes I thought of is  Anna Karenina with Oscar winning costumes by Jacqueline Durran. The entire visual style of this movie is so inventive and different.  Joe Wright with his amazing cast and production values elevate it beyond the typical costume drama.  A lot of that goes back to the amazing costumes.

anna karreninaThe best book about clothes I am going to go with Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisenberg (I love the movie too) which is a great book/movie about work. Andy must learn to work with the devilish Miranda Priestly.  It’s a story about what you will sacrifice for work and how little choices bit by bit you can lose your soul to the office.  It’s also very funny with a lot of satire about the fashion world and everything else.

The_Devil_Wears_Prada_coverDistrict 9 Grain: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) where food is hard to come by.

Interestellar is a really good choice but since The Lawn Gnome chose that I am going to go with Cast Away. Tom Hanks is brilliant as the man who is shipwrecked on an island and must learn to survive.  When he gets fire it is a triumphant moment and the depth of feeling we get for a volleyball is profound. The film is weakened when he returns back to civilization and becomes more trite but the hungry part is great.

cast awayI couldn’t really think of a good hunger book so I will go with the oldest of standby’s The Bible.  When the Children of Israel are starving and God sends them manna in the wilderness which was sweet as milk and honey.  This kept them alive for 40 years but only if used within the guidelines set out by God.  If those rules were broken it became rotten and bug infested.  A great reminder that God will bless us if we are obedient and seek to follow Him.

mannaDistrict 10 Livestock: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) with an animal in it.

Got to go with Babe, one of the best family movies ever made IMO.  A sweet simple story with real heart and humor about the pig that wants to be a sheepdog.

babeFor books I will pick Black Beauty by Anna Sewell which is a simple book about a horse’s life as he passes from one master to another.  Some are cruel, some kind but always engrossing. She really does pack a ton of story into the life of a horse.

black beauty
District 11 Agriculture: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) where a character comes to a harsh gritty reality.

I will say Les Miserables. Fantine realizes the lowliness she will stoop in order to save her daughter. It is only a last gesture by a kind man that saves her story from being 100% tragic but it is a harsh gritty reality for sure.

fantine

For a book I will go with a play, A Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.  It’s a gut wrenching story of a man who realizes his life is a failure, his son is mediocre and it is his fault.  I normally don’t like downers but since it is a brief play and its characters are so vivid I have always been drawn to it.  I love movies, books, plays about work and this is certainly one of the most sobering. I guess you could call it a cautionary tale. DeathOfASalesmanDistrict 12 Mining: Pick a dark and sinister(BOOK/MOVIE) !

Well there aren’t many dark and sinister movies I like as you all know. There’s a few ghost stories I like and some funny scary movies like Ghostbusters but all of those have a certain lightness about them.  Maybe since I haven’t talked about it yet on the blog I will go with Strangers on a Train.  It’s a Hitchcock about two men who decide to murder for the other person.  It’s creepy and weird and one of his less well known films.

strangers on a trainAs few dark and creepy movies I like, there are even fewer books.  I could pick the old Grimm’s Fairytales but I will pick a very creepy scary children’s book called Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace about a girl who is orphaned and sent to live at the home she remembers fondly of her aunt and uncle.  Now it is a strange home for the elderly but everyone is controlled by the evil Mrs.Meeching.  Any of you read it?

peppermints in parlor

I forgot about District 13 which is appropriate because it’s The Forgotten District: Pick a(BOOK/MOVIE) that’s “under ground” that not many people know about.

I will go with a film I bet none of you have heard of it is Lili starring Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrar. It is a lovely story about a girl who can’t seem to relate to anyone except for some puppets but she forgets the man behind the puppets a brooding ex-dancer who lost his moment in the spotlight. It’s got stunning dance sequences, Caron is at her best, Oscar winning music and a surrealist art direction.

liliAs far as underrated books there are a lot but I love a little book called The Delicacy and Strength of Lace by James Wright and Leslie Marmon Silko.  It is the correspondence between these two poets as they became friends through writing to each other.  I love letter writing and love poetry so it is the hat trick of things Rachel likes.  I also love that it isn’t romantic but merely a friendship over words.  It’s out of print but if you can find a lovely little read.

delicacy

Because he does both book and movie reviews I am going to tag Richard at https://velociraptor256.wordpress.com/.

Another blogger with an eclectic blog I will tag is the POMAD https://pomadness.wordpress.com/

And finally my book club leader and fabulous book blogger who also occasionally blogs about movies Suey’s Books. http://sueysbooks.blogspot.com/

If you are tagged you can pick both or just do books or movies.  Have fun!

And anyone else who wants to do it go for it!