Does READY PLAYER ONE Live Up to the Hype?

Steven Spielberg is a cinematic god who deserves nothing but respect. A genius who most of us have grown up with. His recent years have been spent making more serious films but his younger years were dedicated to directing and/or producing some of the greatest popcorn blockbusters in cinema history. Most of these were made during the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Ernest Cline, the author of the novel, READY PLAYER ONE, is the ultimate fanboy, he even wrote the screenplay for FANBOYS. He is my exact age, he is an 80s kid and he grew up with a similar obsessions to science-fiction and pop culture however his obsessions extended to gaming where mine branched to food because #fatbastard.

Cline’s novel is a pastiche homage to the best of 80s pop culture. It is a fanboy book and it was my favourite book of 2017, I LOVED it and could not put it down. A lot of the Easter Eggs in the book, the dedications to fan culture, were centred on Spielberg films among many many more. So I can only image Cline’s reaction when he found out Spielberg would be directing his book. READY PLAYER ONE releases this Thursday 29th in Australia for the Easter holidays. It is releasing from Roadshow/ Warner Bros, runs for 140mins, and is rated M.




In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place. The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spends their days. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the Oasis to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir. When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-aka the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS.




Spielberg is probably the only director who can have the original material decimated beyond recognition and still make a decent movie. I was determined to read the book for READY PLAYER ONE before I saw the movie because I assumed, incorrectly, that he would be one to respect the source material. Not so. If you have read the book this may be hard to swallow.

Notable omissions and Potential Spoilers:

I could go on and on and on about the omissions but these were the few off the top of my head that annoyed me.

  • No Joust
  • No Spielberg Film references (a couple slip in) – Spielberg wanted them omitted to not seem egocentric?
  • No Pac Man
  • No Film Sync with Breakfast Club
  • No School
  • No Spaceship to Other Planets
  • No Star Wars (ok except for the smallest of Easter eggs that Disney would allow)
  • No time spent in Aech’s hang out
  • No living in the security high rise
  • No major deaths
  • No real analog feel to the movie
  • No character development – the movie moves so light speed fast that there is no time for it
  • No Wade in a Loyalty Debt Prison
  • No abundant knowledge for Parcival – they just started sprouting “you know more than anyone Parcival” – but we never saw the study, the incessant behaviour of watching every single piece of Halliday’s life over and over and over
  • No real time spent with Og, he was a mere after-thought
  • And the single most annoying thing that really got to me – NOT ONE SINGLE CHALLENGE WAS THE SAME AS THE BOOK!!!



The above being said if I did not read the book I would have been gushing for this movie. It is epically fast paced and an action blockbuster from a master filmmaker. It is a don’t-worry-about-thinking movie, just strap in and enjoy the technicolour hurricane. The opening scene is one of the greatest VFX car races in cinema history – you wouldn’t imagine seeing Godzilla and the Jurassic T-Rex trying to hunt you down on the race-track. The visuals alone in this scene were worth the ticket price.

Spielberg kept every scene filmed in the Oasis shot on digital and every scene in the real world shot on 35mm – this tiny difference is something I am geeking out over, digital for the digital world and analog for the analog world – sooooo cool! While Spielberg did massacre the story he brought into it some fun elements and returned to old-school Spielberg shooting. I was stoked to see him not make a serious film. I miss the E.T. movies, the Indiana Jones’s, Jaws. While I love his serious work, he knows how to make mass appeal commercial cinema look good. The references in READY PLAYER ONE are so vast I do believe after the fifth viewing I wouldn’t be able to list them. One blade wielding doll stole the show for me however.




But overall, while I loathe the practice, would this not have been an ideal movie to split into two to allow it the full use of its source material and give the characters an opportunity to develop onscreen? Why did Spielberg remove most of his own references? Why did they change all the challenges? Why could Disney not get on board, surely a flyby of the Millennium Falcon would have been impressive!! OK – I will admit, THE SHINING sequence is one of the best movie moments of this and last year. But it was never in the book.

Were all the alterations made because of the inability to get licensing permission for all of the references? Hell, even all of the posters I have used in this article are not in the movie, they are pop culture references to appeal to the book reader and/or the curious punter. They are only relevant if you have read the book because the movie shows little in the way you can enter anything, besides explaining in exposition, or from THE SHINING sequence.

On better thought, why was this not made into a TV series? My god it would have been brilliant!!



The cast has limited actual screen time due to most of the time being spent in the Oasis. I am biased when it comes to Tye Sheridan, loved him onscreen since MUD. Olivia Cooke was fantastic as Art3mis/ Samantha but the Art3mis character was a washed down half-assed version of her book version. Lena Waithe was an impressive Aech but the Aech reveal was more watered down than Art3mis’ character. Mendlesohn was a decent generic bad guy in Sorrento. Mark Rylance was not who I would have ever imagined as Anorak/ Halliday – they really tried to get Gene Wilder to play him but he declined. And the Ogden character was so irrelevant in this version of the story, Simon Pegg could have been much better utilised.



READY PLAYER ONE is one of the best popcorn blockbusters you will see this year. If you have read the book you will be sorely disappointed at the amount of omissions but Spielberg still manages to craft visual splendour that may cause welcomed seizures.





 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.