It’s a tale as old as film itself: “The book was better. The movie is crap.” I remember hearing these words uttered after Jurassic Park, though at the time, I’d never even heard of Michael Crichton. Even Stephen King’s adaptations get tough treatment, with critics tearing 2017’s It apart– which was a massive box office success. I suspect a time machine would prove that it’s been the same as long as humans have been telling stories, and will continue until we stop. And for 2018, the critics’ target is Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline.
But I don’t f*cking get it.
Maybe that’s because I waited to read the novel until after I saw the film. But I doubt it. I read the Mortal Instruments series years ago, yet still enjoy Shadowhunters on Freeform. The same can be said of my experience with most books turned movie/show.
What is it about some readers that makes them critique every slight change between the book and the screen? How can anyone expect something that took upwards of four hours to read fit perfectly into a two-hour timeframe? And with so many angry purists, all with access to the internet, we hardly get the two hours to finish a film before we’ve heard fifty reasons to hate it.
But I digress, so back to the point:
Is the book truly better than the movie?
Well, let’s break it down into a few categories:
1. 80s References
Both are loaded to the brim with 80s references, but this one goes to the movie. Much like Halliday’s Easter egg hunt, The movie is absolutely packed with hidden gaming, film, and music references. When RPO is released on Blu Ray July 24th, freeze the frame during any scene that takes place in the Oasis, and you’re sure to be treated with new surprises you missed the first time around.
(For a supposedly complete list of Easter Eggs, check out Screenrant’s guide)
2. The hunt
The book really shines here. As I read, I felt I was solving the puzzle alongside the protagonists. Cline does an amazing job of making you feel as if you’re reading a geek version of Indiana Jones. Each clue is hidden so deep in a web of retro details, I have to imagine that Cline himself is some kind of all-knowing genius with a mind bank full of easy-access reference points.
The film was more of an action-based experience. Which leads me to…
I mean, it’s Spielberg, so…
Sorry, Cline, you can’t be expected to compete here. I’m talking a Delorean racing past King Kong and a T-Rex alongside vehicles ranging from Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor to Speed Racer’s Mach 5.
What can ya do?
4. The love story
Ah. This one’s tough, but I have to give it to the movie for character backstory. (Art3mis is wayyy more badass in the film.) Neither version is completely believable, though, as poor Parzival doesn’t bring a much to the table. Sure, he’s clever, but romantically? Dream on, sweet cheeks. In the book, he’s too much of a one-man show, and in the film, he’s in a dazed state of puppy love that the far more mature Art3mis likely wouldn’t have been interested in. Aside from their mutual hatred of IOI and obsession with the 80s, they don’t have a lot in common. That being said, you know I was flipping those pages and scarfing that popcorn, giddy with the anticipation that the two would get together in the end.
The film may have won more categories, but I loved them both, and I had a completely different experience with each one. I felt as if I wasn’t reading the same story I’d watched a month prior. They’re truly too different to compare, though the bones are the same.
If you’re one of those book-to-film nitpickers, I suggest you watch the film first, then read the book, and keep an open mind. You’re bound to like one or both, and even if you don’t, you’ll have at least enjoyed the journey, right?
(But you’re totally going to like them both.)
Do you agree with my breakdown? Take to the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.