Book to Box Office: Ready Player One
Based on: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (2011)
Expected release date (US): 15 December 2017
Directed by: Steven Spielberg with screenplay by Zak Penn
Summary: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenager Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. (Text taken from the back cover of the novel)
Working for it: The movie is not being written solely by Ernest Cline, a writer who at all times would rather tell and not show. The book is full of long plodding descriptions of people, places, and boring activities. Whenever the book begins to get interesting, it’s glossed over. However, a lot of this telling and now showing will be unnecessary on film when we can see Wade’s apartment rather than read ten pages about the contents of it. More than that, the big plus is that Spielberg is taking the reins; he’s a man who knows how to turn a bad book into a great film (Jaws) and a director who has a supernatural gift for creating awe in his audiences.
Working against it: This book has a quite rabid fan base, the kind of fan base who would be up in the arms by any major changes in the plot. The other thing working against it is that Ready Player One spends a lot of time just with Wade, and Wade is insufferable. The movie could live and die on their Wade casting as they have to find someone who can breathe some humanity and likability into a character who has neither.
Wild card: This early in pre-production, it’s hard to tell what the wild card may be. My hope of hopes is that Spielberg throws the book out and just takes the meat of the plot and uses that, rather than having a writer surrogate main character who can do anything, knows everything, and whose smugness is so toxic that you have to wash your hands after reading the book.
Verdict: It’s clear how much I disliked this book, but I have high hopes for the movie. My disappointment in the quality of the writing didn’t diminish how intriguing concept remains. I think Penn and Spielberg can take the interesting world from the book and create something amazing on the screen, but the first step might be to fire Cline and keep him as far away from production as possible.
Featured Image: Broadway Books