Sorry, but this is going to be a bit of a rant. I really wanted this movie to be good and had very high expectations for it. But it turned out to be a big disappoinment for me and I hated almost every minute of it. If you disagree and think it was actually good, do not hesitate to tell me why, but please do it in a respectful manner.
Before I tell you what ruined that movie for me, here's another disclaimer: I really don't consider myself one of those [use pretentious, elitist nerd voice] "uuuhh ... the book was so much better" people or a movie snob in general. If there's a good story and it worked, why not make a movie out of it. I am all for that.
I read Ready Player One a few years ago and I absolutely loved it! It hit all the sweet spots for me and it is definitely among my all time favorite fantasy / science fiction books. So needless to say, I was very excited when I heard about the upcoming movie about a year ago. My expectations were high. And the first couple of minutes were actually great. The movie started with a flyover camera scene through the trailer park stacks playing Van Halen's Jump and I was like ...
But not long after that, the first quest was introduced. And I almost couldn't believe what I was about to see. I mean, come on: a f***ing car race! Seriously!? I am still furious ...
That was when I realized that this movie would turn out to be a disaster. At least for me ...
(again: a car race ... are you kidding me?!) I don't get it. Why change all the quests? Those were the central narrative of the book and designed with so much "love" and attention to detail. It made sense that people in the OASIS had been trying to solve those quests fruitlessly for years. Not so much in the movie.
The movie was such a dumbed down version of the book, that I almost found it insulting. The quests I have already mentioned and I am not going to lose another word over them. But the same applies for the characters in the movie. All these complex characters from the book got reduced to a bare minimum. Neither did we get enough background for the protagonists, their social life and role in the OASIS, nor was James Halliday and his passion for 80ies pop culture depicted well enough to motivate the whole plot. Also, the portrayal of Nolan Sorento and IOI as these clumsy and stupid villains was just embarrassing.
Additionally, this movie had at least two occurrences of what I call explanation timeouts. This is when one person in a movie needlessly (because the other must already know!) explains what is going to happen next, just so that the audience is kept up to date. This is the poorest form of story-telling and caters to the lowest common denominator, the dumbest person in the audience.
I know this is a tricky one, because you could argue that it was one purpose. But I don't think so: If you have a CGI character (Parzival) that carries the story for more than half of the movie you better make sure that this character does not fall into the uncanny valley. I found the Parzival character absolutely repulsive and hard to look at and refuse to believe that this was done on purpose.
The pop culture references in the movie felt superficial at best. In my opinion, the book was a homage, almost a declaration of love to an era and its (pop) culture. I did not see that reflected in the movie, or only in the most superficial (again: least common denominator) way. Why not make the references go a little bit deeper? Have a little faith in the audience godammit. On the upside: I did appreciate the "updating" of some of the references (Minecraft, Halo, ...).
The whole movie felt weirdly "out of era" to me. But not in a good and probably deliberate way, but more in a "Spielberg can't do better way". It reminded me of naive, family-friendly action comedy atrocities like Independence Day or crap like that. I feel that today's action and fantasy movies are done differently (e.g. Disney/Marvel) in a more clever and less shallow entertainment kind of way. Spielberg and his story-telling is stuck somewhere in the late 90ies or early 2000s as far as I'm concerned.
So yes, I really hated that movie and it left me very disappointed, but I am fully aware that a lot of people loved it. However, I haven't spoken to anyone yet who has: a) read the book b) and seen the movie c) and loved the movie. ... which kind of proves my point so far.
Well, maybe someone will do better in 10 years or so and give this story another (better) try. Or why not create a high quality series out of it? This way they could take their time and tell this story in a pace and detail it deserves.