WARNING: CONTAINS GEEKY REFERENCES
Well... where do I start! An adaptation of a book I heaped praise on three and a half years ago (read the review here), this one was always going to be tricky. Not because the book isn't awesome, because it is, but because a lot of the stuff within it would be shite on the big screen. I mean, do you really want to watch a film where the main character plays Pac Man, or Joust? Nah, me neither. How about one where he races in a Delorian against shedloads of other cool, iconic vehicles through a wild, dengerous track that culminates in a face off against King Kong (not to mention the part where a T-Rex chases the cars)? If you think that sounds a teeny bit awesome this is the film for you.
So here's the gist of it: In the next 20 years or so a genius will invent the Oasis, a virtual reality universe that you can basically do anything in. It's quite simply world changing. Said genius dies (natural causes) 20 years on and leaves behind a challenge that invites people to find three hidden keys within the Oasis, and the first person to do so will get the whiole shebang to control as well as oodles (oodles ia a lot) of cash. Fast foward five years an no one's got past his first challenge yet, the race described above. We follow young hero Wade Watts, a poor but very smart kid who uses the Oasis as an escape from real life. Wade wants to find the keys, as do his friends, as do the EVIL (yep - capital letters evil) IOI corporation who basically want to use it to make money off everyone (it's currrently free with no ads). All together - Boooo!!!
So we have Wade, online name Parzival, and his bestie Aitch (a sort of orc who is great at making things within the Oasis), who get thrown together with Art3mis, a die hard enemy of IOI, plus Daito and Sho, two of the Oasis' best fighters. What starts as a fun competition turns deadly serious as they discover IOI has no qualms about taking the fight into the real world, where you can lose much more than your gold and magic items.
As a fan of the book, I was worried about what changes would be made, although with author Ernest Cline co writing the script I wasn't THAT worried. The essential plot has been kept, with a few set pieces as well, including a fantastic climactic battle. Some characters have been subtly altered, others excised completely, and the end result is a very different Ready Player One to that which is on paper. That said, I sat there for two and a quarter hours as entertained as I have ever been in a cinema, glad that I was getting the same amazing story but with brand new twists and turns.
Visually, it's a wonderful experience, with the drabness of real life at odds with the beauty of the Oasis. The VR sections are flawless, managing to look real and at the same time computer generated, if that makes any sense. Characters within the Oasis have real personality and depth despite their generally non human look, and all the other visuals around them are stunning. There's so many nerdy references crammed in that aren't even alluded to this is going to be freeze framed and squeed over for years to come. Best one, though? Definitely "HADUKEN!" - you'll laugh when it happens.
It's hard to see how well non readers of the book will take this film, but if you are one of the already converted just go with the changes and you'll have a whale of a time. Spielberg has crafted one of the most enjoyable films of his glittering career with this one, and whilst it's unashamedly geeky it's hits it's targey audience squarely in the face like a well thrown batarang (yeah, he's in it as well). Hopefull Cline's follow up 'Armada', a less technically challenging tale, will be next.