Movie: Ready Player One

"Ready Player One"

In the year 2045, people can escape their harsh reality in the OASIS, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. OASIS creator James Halliday left his immense fortune and control of the Oasis to the winner of a contest designed to find a worthy heir. When unlikely hero Wade Watts conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends–known as the High Five–are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a couple of weeks now–not because I didn’t have anything to write about, but because I wanted to read the book first before I wrote down my thoughts about the movie. And I’m glad I did. Because now I can safely say that I prefer the film version to the source material.

Don’t get me wrong: Ready Player One is a good novel. It’s engaging, for the most part, and it has a great story structure. But the Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation is easier to like. And here are my reasons why:

The film is more pop-culture savvy. A lot of movie reviews have cited that the movie adaptation favored films in its quests and easter eggs. And it is true. But what a lot of them fail to mention is that the film is more aware of what’s popular to the mainstream audience. Not everyone is familiar with the old generation gaming platforms, much less their games. There were a lot of references in the book that flew over my head. So I believe that the film strikes a good balance of including what’s popular, while sticking in obscure references that feels like they were taken from the novel.

The characters are given more to do. The biggest difference between books and TV/film adaptations is the fact that the latter needs to cutaway to what’s happening elsewhere. Books have the luxury of pages, where they can focus on their main protagonist while slowly unraveling the development and objectives of other characters. With those pages, books can foreshadow and plant plot devices that they can harvest later on. TV and movies don’t have the same luxury–and are often restricted by budget and time.

With Ready Player One‘s source material, almost all decisive action comes from our protagonist Wade Watts. And, as such, most of the other characters feel half-baked. Love interest Art3mis doesn’t feel real–even during the final pages, when she and Wade finally meet in person. And there’s even less for players Aech, Daito, and Shoto to do. And here’s where the time constraints of a film worked in favor of the other characters. Because we can’t have hours upon hours of Wade just agonizing over clues, the movie utilized the other characters to figure things out faster than Wade does–or have them become a sounding board for Wade to talk things out with. And, in doing so, the characters feel more developed. Although, to be honest, they’re still not developed enough.

Pacing-wise, the film automatically wins because it’s only a couple of hours long. But more than that, it doesn’t fall into long periods of non-activity like the book. In the novel, when Wade is stuck on something, it feels like author Ernest Cline want us to feel just as stuck as he is. There were a handful of instances when I actually told the book to “get a move on” aloud.

Another thing I thought the film did better is the insertion of Ogden Morrow’s character. The reveal of his character felt like a brilliant move in the film–but in the novel, he quickly read as deus-ex-machina. That said, the book does get to expound more on who Ogden Morrow is, and who he became–but that’s the luxury of pages.

When it comes to the actual challenges though, I’m more split. I love that the movie made the challenges more visual and more personal… But I really liked the novel’s way of complicating the third quest. Both the film and the novel underlines the importance of relationships, but it’s the book that highlights its need better.

And speaking of what the book does better– I also think the novel was better at upping the stakes. The movie puts all the characters in one city, while the book has three of them living outside the US. And then there’s the tension. While the film shows early on how formidable the villains are, they become pretty tame as the rest of the movie unfolds. The book actually allows the villains to kill off one of the heroes.

Now with all this said… I feel like there’s enough of a distinction between the novel and the movie version of Ready Player One that they should be treated as separate entities. They have the same characters and premise, yes, and they do have a similar plot structure. But the things that happen in between? The hows and whys that push the story forward? They’re all pretty much different.

But I still like the movie better.

Movie: Super 8

"Super 8" written and directed by J.J. AbramsIn the summer of 1979, a group of friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth–something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined.

Super 8, for me, is another lesson on expectations. Written and directed by J.J. Abrams, produced by Steven Spielberg—this movie had pedigree. You know what it also had? An ending that you will either love or hate. I’m still undecided on which end of the spectrum I fall on.

For all intents and purposes, Super 8 is a monster movie. But it’s one with a lot of heart. And it’s the heart that I’m really having a problem with.

I mean, I don’t have a problem with dramatic moments in monster movies. As two characters discuss in the movie, you only care that people get out alive when you care about said people. And it’s true. But at the same time, a viewer doesn’t forget that he or she is watching a monster movie. And when the dramatic moments take up too much time, viewers start to get restless.

I watched Super 8 with my family, and I could see them struggle to like the film. It wasn’t until later in the movie that they started to get into it; when the creature had really started going all out.

As for me, I liked the quiet moments at the start of the film. Though, I do think the movie took its time in establishing the problems of the main character’s family, and not spend as much time in unraveling it. I liked the closure the movie gave this particular story thread—but I’m still iffy about the process the involved parties went through to get to that moment of closure.

What’s actually keeping me from deciding whether I like the film’s ending or not is the creature itself. From the get go, I think the viewers already know that there’s something more about the creature than it just being a monster on a rampage. Today’s viewers are smarter than they used to be. We’re always looking for the “but…”

But when we actually do come face to face with the creature, I couldn’t help but feel a slight disappointment at how the confrontation went down.

I don’t know how to make the scene better. I’m not saying I do. But I felt as if there was something more that could’ve been done to the scene to give it more impact. The entire journey up to that point was exhilarating, thrilling, even nerve-wracking. And then, during the confrontation scene, it suddenly shifts in tone.

Honestly, I was expecting a different outcome to that scene. It probably didn’t help that the monster reminded me a lot of the one from Cloverfield.

Overall though, I think Super 8 is a good film. Not a great one. Now that I’ve mentioned Cloverfield, I can say that I liked that one better. What I did like about Super 8 though was the coming-of-age story it had with our main protagonists: the kids. That was really handled well.

Have you seen Super 8? What did you think?