Ready Player One is the latest movie, adapted from the bestselling novel by the same name, written by Ernest Cline. The movie seems to be going pretty successfully in the box office and, having seen it myself, I can totally understand the hype. The movie is – in my opinion – cinematically really great. The plot has been really well adapted, keeping the general tone of the book yet making it more appropriate for a film medium. Overall, I would say that I loved the book a bit more and being a big booklover, I obviously spotted the differences between the novel I loved so much and its film counterpart while I was watching it. Here are all of the differences that I spotted (so far). Warning, there are spoilers from both the book and movie.
1. Wade is not shown as being poor and we never see Ludus.
Book-readers will remember that in the good ‘ole days, before Wade became OASIS-famous, he spent most of his days on Ludus, the planet where he goes to school. As he tries to live day by day, having barely any money, he isn’t able to afford the travel to other planets. Only after he manages to find the Copper Key does he start to gain some hard cash and becomes free to go wherever. However, in the movie adaptation, his avatar Parzival is seen to be freely roaming around the OASIS from the very first minutes we are introduced to the virtual reality. There is no mention of his poor living conditions and no mention of Ludus being his only sanctuary and school. This was a pretty big letdown for me, since Ludus took on a very important role in the novel and I would have loved to see at least part of Wade’s backstory and how different his life really looked like after he found the Copper Key.
2. The location of the Copper Key is known by basically everyone from the very beginning and Wade is not mentioned to have been the one to find it.
One of the most powerful moments in my book (in my opinion) is the moment when Wade finally figures out the location of the Copper Key and the fact that it actually is on Ludus. In fact, so much of the world-building kind of leads up to this momentous moment and is seen as so ironic that it’s almost a shame that this moment was taken out of the book. In the film, as we are introduced to the concepts of the three Keys which need to be found, it’s mentioned that getting the Copper Key requires finishing off a race which is nigh impossible. Maybe I missed the details, but I’m almost certain that it’s not even mentioned who the lucky person was who even found this out. This is my opinion, was a disappointing change from the book, as I absolutely loved the way Wade cracked the first clue and how he met Art3mis there on his own, and not in a race.
3. There are no Gates
In the book, after one finds one of the three Keys, one has to also venture out to look for the respective Gate (which is opened by the Key). Only after the Gate is cleared, one is given the next clue as to where the next Key is. The movie completely did away with the Gates and simply made the challenges for the Keys extra difficult, giving the person the riddle for the next Key directly after finding the previous one.
4. Getting the Copper and Jade Keys
The challenges (and riddles) which led up to getting the three Keys were all different from the books (with the exception of the last one). Getting the Copper Key in the book required a player to find the entrance to a cave on Ludus which resembled the Dungeon’s and Dragon’s quest “Tomb of Horrors” and playing Joust against its boss. In the movie, the challenge was simply to finish a race (which ended up happening if the player drove their vehicle backwards through the route). In order to find the Jade Key in the book, a person had to act the entirety of the movie “War Games”, speaking the right dialogue at the right time. In the movie however, one had to find Kira (Halliday’s crush) in the recreation of the Shining and dance with her at a recreation of a ballroom dance complete with zombies.
5. The rivalry between the Fivers
The movie portrays the relationship between Parzival, Art3mis and Aech to be quite easy-going and they end up becoming friends pretty soon. However, in the book their relationship was not always that simple. Wade and Aech were best friends in the book, but when Wade finally manages to find the Copper Key, he ends up having to hide his findings from the Hunt from Aech and also Art3mis. In the novel, rules seem pretty clear among gunters: every man (or woman) for themselves. This also includes the other two members of the Fivers, Daito and Shoto. It takes Wade quite a long time to earn their trust and become their somewhat-friends. However in the film, Wade Aech and Art3mis are a happy gang from almost the beginning of the Hunt and Daito and Shoto soon join the squad.
6. Art3mis is
part of “the rebellion”
In the film, after Wade’s aunt’s house blows up (which played out beautifully as in the book), Wade is kidnapped by some obscure man with a face tattoo. He then wakes up and finds Samantha (aka. Art3mis) sitting next to him, asking him to join her rebellion. This rebellion is a group of people who want to fight IOI (seems pretty simple, right?). However, considering that this seemed like a pretty big change from the book, it was executed as well as it could have been. The entire concept of “the rebellion” didn’t really have any other purpose other than introducing Wade and Art3mis to one another sooner and the only other members of this rebellion we ever saw in their group was the man with the face tattoo and some other random people shuffling around in the background (out of focus) in Samantha’s hideout. In my opinion, this didn’t really do the film any justice and only really took away the suspense of Wade meeting his online crush for the first time.
7. Og doesn’t throw a birthday bash
This was a rather disappointing one for me. I was looking forward to seeing this part of the film. However, Parzival and Art3mis do end up going to a popular club together, which I suppose seemed to serve the purpose of being the party location from the book, where Wade tells Art3mis how he feels about her.
8. Anorak’s Almanac is not a journal, but a digital
library of videos
In the novel, the famous book which Halliday wrote, the Anorak’s Almanac is the gateway for gunters to get a glimpse into the intricate and fascinating mind of Halliday while they try to crack his riddles. However, in the film, they did this a bit differently. Instead of a physical book, there is a building in the OASIS which the players can visit and ask for any specific date of Halliday’s life, where they get a full 360 degree video of that specific scene from Halliday’s memories. If I’m being honest, I kinda found this to be a bit strange. However, because a movie has to be a lot more visual than a book, this change did make a bit of sense and was quite interesting. My only question is: how did they manage to get all of those videos? It seems just a tiny bit unrealistic (even with their super technology in 2044).
9. Wade has always lived in Columbus
After Wade becomes famous and gains a nice stash of cash and his aunt gets killed, he decides to move out of The Stacks and go to Columbus, which has the fastest running internet in the world. He sets himself up in a nice fancy apartment with an AI virtual assistant Max which in my opinion, was super entertaining (especially the part where he talks about having to shave off all his body hair for his haptic suit). In the Steven Spielberg adaptation, Wade and his aunt have always lived in Columbus and he doesn’t move away when his aunt gets killed by the bomb. Instead, he stays in his hideout and eventually teams up with Art3mis, Aech, Shoto and Daito.
10. Art3mis goes to the loyalty center, not Wade
In the book, Wade gets himself intentionally caught by the IOI to work off his supposed “debt” in their center. He does this in order to hack into their database and take down the magical orb which is creating a force field around the fortress where the third Gate is. In order to give Art3mis some more screen time, the writers decided it should be Sam who does this in the movie (although it doesn’t seem intentional, in fact it seems like Art3mis has no bloody clue what she’s doing!). She gets caught and eventually manages to take down the orb (by actually going into the OASIS in the end). I think this was probably the most disappointing change from the book. Not because they decided to make Art3mis be the one to do it instead of Wade, but because it would have been so much cooler if they would have left the plot the same (in the sense that Art3mis would have been completely aware of what she is doing). I found it incredibly exciting to read about Wade being caught (the reader having literally zero idea on what was going on) and having Wade be super cool going through the whole process, never stumbling or panicking but knowing exactly what he has to do the entire time. Instead, Sam was freaking out most of the time and had to get help from the other Fivers to escape. This really took away from Art3mis being represented as the badass that she is in the novel and took away from the excitement of the scene.
In the novel, I-r0K was an annoying guy who hung out in Aech’s basement from time to time and then ended up spilling the beans on where Parzival was located. In the film, he ended up taking on a more serious role, being hired by IOI to take care of their dirty work (which included tracking and trying to kill Wade and Art3mis on multiple occasions).
12. Daito doesn’t die
Daito doesn’t end up suffering a gruesome long fall from his apartment as he did in the novel. There is a part of me that is super happy he didn’t die, but then again, I feel like his death (along with aunt Alice’s) served as a way to make the storyline a bit darker and make IOI look a bit more evil.
13. The Fivers fake “kidnap” Sorrento in order to learn Art3mis’s location
While Sam is in the loyalty center, the gang hack into Sorrento’s chair in order to make him believe he’s being kidnapped in the real world (while really he’s still in the OASIS). They do this in order to learn where Sam is being held in the loyalty center. This scene does not take place in the book.
14. Aech’s backstory is missing and her gender isn’t touched upon much
When we learn the true identity of Aech in the book, we also learn about her backstory and why her mother created a male white avatar for her. The sad truth is that she was experiencing both racism and sexism being a black woman. And while Wade is surprised at her being female, he instantly recognizes her as his best friend and the two of them have a sweet moment together. I found this to be incredibly powerful and suspenseful in the book however, they mostly left this out in the movie. There is a moment of “oh wow” when Wade sees that Aech is a woman in real life, but this is immediately ignored afterwards and isn’t touched anymore later on. While I understand why the film-makers maybe didn’t want to make a big deal about Aech’s gender, it was important for the representation in the book and it was nice to see how the novel was able to highlight the issues of racism and sexism in the world and give bring more awareness to the issues. I also felt like in the movie, Wade and Aech never really got their “best friend hugging moment” like in the novel. I mean, they had known each other for years in the OASIS and they never even hug each other? Sheesh.
15. They never go to Og’s mansion
In the novel, the Fivers (minus Daito) end up meeting up at Og’s mansion (per his invite) in order to face off IOI for one last time in the race to the third Gate. In the movie however, the five of them simply drive around in Aech’s van together to battle and then in the end, Aech has to drive away from IOI while Wade is still in the OASIS (all’ Inception first dream level). I was super upset that the movie didn’t feature Og’s mansion. I would have loved to see it in the film!
16. Aech is tech-savvy
In the movie, Aech is seen owning a big garage where (s)he fixes people’s tech. This isn’t mentioned in the book.
17. Only Aech has a big robot in the final battle
After getting the Crystal Key in the novel, the Fivers all receive one big robot which helps them fight in the battle at the end. In the movie, Aech builds a robot in his/her garage and then takes this to battle.
18. Sorrento worked with Halliday and Morrow
It is revealed that Sorrento himself was an intern with Halliday and Morrow when the OASIS was still being constructed. This isn’t mentioned in the books. Instead, Sorrento is simply the head of IOI who desperately wants control of the OASIS.
19. There aren’t as many mentions to the pop-culture that drove the novel forward
Sure, there are some references to movies, tv shows and video games here and there, but the novel was filled to the brim with them. The way that gunters have to literally immerse themselves with nerddom galore isn’t really brought to the screen as much as I wanted it to.
20. The ending
While the ending wasn’t that much different in the movie, there are three things that stood out to me personally. First of all, there was that weird “who are you really?” question posed to Halliday’s AI NPC in the end. I feel like that question seemed too philosophical to me and I didn’t really understand where it was going. (Is it Halliday’s ghost?? What??). Second of all, Wade never gets Anorak’s outfit. I mean common, that was pretty epic in the book. And last but not least, in the film, Wade ends up shutting down the OASIS on Tuesdays and Thursdays in order for people to enjoy the real world more. While this entire “real is better” theme is carried through the book on occasion, it’s not as emphasized as much as in the movie. I feel like that theme carries greater weight in the movie and there is definitely more of a “the OASIS is actually keeping us from reality” kind of thinking at the end.