Ready Player One?

The film of one of the most unashamedly geeky books has finally come out, and I saw it on its first UK showing.

The book, for those that don’t know, is set in a dystopian 2040-something where life is pretty crappy, and the majority escape reality into a virtual world called the OASIS.  Created by James Halliday, born 1972 and a lover of most things 80s, this full immersion VR exprience is where people work, play, go to school: everything.  Halliday dies, having not found love and with no close friends, and his will leaves everything – his fortune and control of the OASIS – to the person who completes the quest to find 3 easter eggs, each consisting of a key and a gate that need to be found and opened respectively by solving a clue.

The hunt is a full on 80s nostalgia geek out. The story itself works, but for me it was wonderful because it felt so close to the 80s I experienced, growing up as a geek whose first console was an Atari 2600, played Infocom adventure games and programmed a 64.

The trailer for the movie left me absolutely desperate to see the movie.  For starters, the track used in it was a thumping remix of World in My Eyes by Depeche Mode from the album Violator, which may possibly still be my favourite album. (It’s the Cicada remix if you want to find it).  It was fast paced.  It made me think this was going to be wonderful.

I’ve re-read the book in the last couple of weeks and whilst it’s not going to win any literary prizes it still is enjoyable for the story and references even if there are some aspects that are worrying – the stalking of Art3mis, in particular.

The film finished half an hour ago, and I saw it in 3D at an IMAX theatre with decent sound and VIP seating: arguably the best experience at the moment.

But I feel let down.

Why?  Possibly because I had massive expectations of the film, what with the book being so resonant with me and the trailer turning that to 11.  The hype.  The hope.

But it wasn’t as epic as I’d hoped.  It was enjoyable, but not a patch on Paddington 2…

I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, but it’s a lot of little things that disappointed in little ways.  The first easter egg referenced D&D in the book, but here it’s a car chase.  The second referenced text adventures, and the film is not the same…  It feels like it has been geeked down, which is somewhat understandable but is surprising given Cline’s heavy involvement with the movie.

The soundtrack was frankly disappointing.  Zero Depeche Mode, but 1 New Order track (and a Joy Division t-shirt.  Oh, and a New Order technique Tee too) but it should have been more memorable.

The plot has changed massively, and I can see why this was necessary to move things on faster, but…  It’s 2040 and the leader of evilcorp is writing down passwords to a full immersion body suit on a post it note?  There’s too many things that suspended suspension disbelief that I didn’t notice in the book.

I enjoyed it, but I feel it could have been so much more: the mysogeny in the book deserved to go, but not the real nerdy stuff.  I say the mysogeny is gone but Art3mis feels like a prize that Parzival wins still.  It now feels a bit of a let down, but maybe I was expecting too much.

I will see it again with the kids, and undoubtedly buy the blu ray when it’s available.  And I still want a delorian…

But…  Oh.  That’s it.

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