By John Messer, E23 Reviewer

Ready Player One logo

Image provided for reuse by Flickr.

Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” came out this past weekend to much anticipation. The film is based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, so the usual suspects of book fans were there to praise and scrutinize. However, those ignorant of the book had a lot to say about the film before it even released. The trailers proudly showed off the story littered with pop culture references, which caught the enthusiasm of some and the ire of others. Predictions from all camps were flying, discussing if the film would be a cash-in dud or at least decent.

What’s the final result?  It impressively avoids the massive failure it very easily could have been. The book remains more interesting, as predicted, but the movie works on its own.

The “Ready Player One” world is set in the near future. A video game and virtual world known as the OASIS has dominated the culture, and an easter egg hunt for half a trillion dollars and unlimited authority over the game has led to a strange tilt in society. The deceased creator of the hunt was obsessed with ’80s iconography, so with so much on the line in the competition, the world has become obsessed too. Everyone spits out ’80s lingo, references the decade’s media and dresses in mimicry of the Reagan-era style.

“Ready Player One,” the movie, is surprisingly not bad. Despite a healthy splattering of plotholes and lackluster performances, the visual effects and at least manageable plotline keep it from being a disaster. The references so many feared are real and present but don’t hog the limelight too much. A lot of care was put into replicating the sense of wonder that sold the book, so at least the general vibe of the book is still intact.

As much as I’d get a sick sense of glee from doing so, I won’t list all the differences between the book and movie. Just know there are many. It isn’t enough to make them feel wholly unlike each other, but it is enough to warrant question. Certain things have to be changed in the story for an adaptation; everyone has to admit that. But many changes the film made seemed random and often created large plot holes. If something didn’t make sense to you, it’s likely because the film did something the book either didn’t do or explained better.

Nonetheless, the film is fun to watch. The action scenes are visually dynamic and the camera work is very well-done. Spielberg’s talent shines through whatever strange studio notes must have warped the script, and the final product is a great popcorn flick. It’s really worth seeing on the big screen. The ’80s-heavy soundtrack is also done better than expected; take notes “Suicide Squad.”

Should you see it? Sure. It’s fun, engaging and not as cringe-worthy as it has every right to be. If you read the book and are the type to be inherently upset about alteration, take the film with a grain of salt or otherwise avoid it. It’s fun to discuss too, with how it hides little references in the background of so many scenes.

And OK, allow me one indulgence. Every single riddle/challenge in the easter egg hunt is completely different in the books. Maybe it was to work around the limits of just how much intellectual property Warner Bros. Pictures was willing to license, but regardless, it was disappointing. 

Still, go see “Ready Player One” if you’re already in the mood for a movie, even more so if you’re a media nut. It’s a geek love letter directed by master nostalgia manipulator Steven Spielberg. If that doesn’t interest you, I’m not sure what will.

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