5 Reasons why I’m excited.
Warning: This article contains major spoilers for the plot of Ready Player One.
I’m a little late to this party. I know this book was released back in 2011. I don’t think I’d even heard of it before about a year ago; then I happened to see it on the Audible website and I was short of ideas for what book to pick up on my monthly subscription. It looked interesting and I decided to go for it without much prior information.
Since then, I’ve found out that it’s author Ernest Cline’s debut novel and that there was a bidding war over the publishing rights with companies fighting over who would have the rights to it. I guess they knew they had something special on their hands.
I have to say that I haven’t been swept up by a book like this for some time. The first few chapters, whilst important in establishing the world in which the story takes place, became a little grating and I found myself waiting for the story to start. I guess that’s because I was quite familiar with the subject matter and didn’t feel like I needed a lot of this stuff explained to me. Some of the worldbuilding could have been just dropped and left for the reader to pore over. Having said that, I did find the intricate story of how the Oasis had been developed and the history of it fascinating as a concept. It’s a great read with likeable protagonists. The portrayal of JDH as a kind of futuristic Willy Wonka was handled particularly well and the associated themes were woven nicely into the narrative. After the first few chapters, I was gripped all the way to the end. It made my ride to and from work very enjoyable for a week or so and then I finished it off in one long session in the car on my way up North to visit Dad. There’s a lightness and ease to the prose which makes it a very easy book to digest, especially after a few weeks of Tom Holland’s Rubicon. It’s great, but it does require lots of concentration.
There is a film due for release next year, directed by Steven Spielberg. Lots of other directors were considered, including Robert Zemeckis and Edgar Wright
After making my way through the audiobook, I’m feeling very excited about the prospect of a film version. Here are five reasons why:
1. X-Wing fighters, Serenity and a DeLorean (with a Ghostbusters logo on it)
I use these as examples of the massive range of pop-culture references that are present in the book. I’m left wondering just how all of this is going to be realised as it must dip into so many intellectual property sources. That’s why I thought it was great that Spielberg is directing it. He’s probably got the clout to convince people to lease their famous creations into the project, which is a mish-mash of just about every classical sci-fi reference you can think of. The things listed above are just what Parzival keeps locked in his personal hangar, bringing them out for different occasions. What else may be floating around in the infinite space of the Oasis is anyone’s guess. According to the book, there’s a replica of just about every Sci-fi Universe you can name that has been coded into the Oasis. This must have presented a unique challenge to the film-makers. It’s kind of like bringing all those Marvel characters together for The Avengers, only it’s more than that: It’s like doing that with all the DC characters thrown in and Mechagodzilla for good measure. On top of all this, the story includes Parzival making his way through video game versions of War Games, where he plays Matthew Broderick’s character, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail in various roles. There’s something for everyone, including what should be a great soundtrack. I don’t know how they’ve got around this (maybe I should be reading around more to find out but I don’t want to spoil the surprise for myself) but I’m really excited to find out. After all, Serenity already turned up in Battlestar Galactica so these things happen.
2. A Spielberg Blockbuster
Steven Spielberg has never been known to indulge in downtime. This, however, feels like the first ‘popcorn blockbuster film’ he has directed in quite some time. You have to go back to 2008 to find something comparable (in scope) in the form of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Since then, he hasn’t directed an action-packed thrill ride of a film. This one has all the ingredients that could add up to something akin to his best work. The book, the whole story is a homage to the kinds of story Spielberg was bringing to the screen in the 80’s and it seems like a perfect fit to me. Not only that, but there is a great array of talent lined up behind him:
Janusz Kaminski, cinematographer from Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List is on board to ensure some stunning visual style..
Alan Silvestri, composer of the scores to several MCU films, Back to the Future, Flight of the Navigator and my personal favourite: Predator is there. He knows how to make something contemporary but also has a long history of music from the time period the story riffs on so much. John Williams wasn’t available due to scheduling conflicts but I think Silvestri is a good fit.
Writer Zak Penn joins Cline on the screenplay. He’s the man who co-wrote the brilliant story for X-Men 2 among other things.
Guy Bradley, of Casino Royale and Batman Begins (two films which are sumptuous to look at) takes the role of Art Director.
Then there’s the cast: Ben Mendelsohn (you remember him as Director Krennic in Rogue One) will make a great Nolan Sorrento. Simon Pegg fits the bill perfectly as the Great and Powerful Og and the youngsters, Olivia Cooke and Tye Sheridan, come to the project with an impressive start to their careers under their belts.
3. Special Effects
We’re in the right time now for this film to be made well. CGI technology keeps on developing and, when it is done well, can make the impossible seem possible. You only have to look at some of the sequences in films like Doctor Strange, Inception, and Valerian to see what beautiful imaginary worlds can be created. The visual effects in the film should be top notch, coming as they do from Industrial Light and Magic.
I mentioned the story. It delves into everything from Star Wars to anime to John Hughes to Rush. Every popular culture reference is lovingly brought out in the book, from scoring a perfect game on Pacman to the covers of old Dungeons and Dragons manuals. It reminded me of the old Hobbit game we used to play on our old computer:
ME: EAT GANDALF
COMPUTER: I CANNOT EAT GANDALF
ME: KILL GANDALF
COMPUTER: I AM NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO KILL GANDALF
There’s also the scenes inside old movies, as I mentioned above, and the way certain settings are designed to be exact replicas from the sets of old films. This film is going to bring back a lot of memories for people, like an entire world composed of Vector graphics like the old Star Wars games.
I didn’t recognise a lot of the old arcade games that were referenced in the book but I’m guessing a lot of people will.
5. Something apart from a franchise
Finally, how lovely is it to have something come along that isn’t part of this or that cinematic Universe. I suppose in effect it’s part of lots of cinematic universes but that’s the appeal as far as I’m concerned. It’s a simple story that borrows from lots of places (only as much as any story does, really) and does what it does very well. It’s got sympathetic characters and a real sense of gravity in its plot. The plans that IOI have for the Oasis if they gain control of it are quite sinister and that makes the danger feel real. Although they are in a game and the physical stakes are quite low (at least in the final act), the fate of humanity is in the balance in some ways and this comes across well.
So, those are five reasons why I’m super excited for the release of this film next year. I even hear tell that Cline may be writing a sequel and I for one will be queuing up for a copy.
Thanks for reading. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts.
PS – The competition to design the cover of my book, The Ardenna Crossing, was set in motion yesterday. I met some really enthusiastic and talented young people and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Keep checking http://www.richardaustinwriter.com as I’ll be showcasing their work next month. Meanwhile, the editing process continues and I move ever closer to bringing Paul Armstrong’s story into the open.