Easter is this weekend, so it’s a perfect time to talk about Easter eggs, don’t you think? Today, we dive into what parents need to know about Ready Player One before heading to the theater. ( Please note the last two points in the list contain spoilers .)
1. What is it about?
In the year 2045, everyday life has become so poor that the populace spends most of their time in a virtual world, built by a famed game designer, James Halliday. The Oasis, as the simulation in known, hides a contest that Halliday announced the day he died. Follow his clues, find three keys, and win his Easter egg, which includes 500 billion dollars, and ownership of the Oasis. The hunt is on and privateer egg hunters (gunters) not only have to solve the puzzles, but also do battle with the ruthless Innovative Online Industries, or IOI, a corporate conglomerate, intent on monetizing the Oasis.
2. Will I like it?
Probably. The movie is quite a bit different than the book (see spoilers in point #10, below, if that interests you), but the movie does a pretty good job of standing on its own. It is a very fast-paced film, packing a lot in before the credits and thanks to this quick clip, the 140 minute run time is almost over before you know it. The premise for the story is still there and it’s a wonderful one, fantastically imaginative and fun. Most of the movie’s many references are visual, making repeat viewings an absolute necessity for fans. Book readers will be thrilled with a nod to the Flicksync simulations that is seen here in the race to the second key and creates the movie’s best moment. It’s an ambitious endeavor, tackling a big story and, as a result, the narrative is a bit tenuous at times. On the whole though, it’s an enjoyable film, even as a thinner version of the original story.
3. Will my kids like it?
I imagine they will. The pace is suitable for a generation raised on Adderall and, while they may not recognize all (or many) of the references in the film, they will likely still have a good time with the story. Much of the movie plays out like a cartoon and kids will welcome the tropes from the media they’re familiar with. It is worth noting that there are a lot of intense and sometimes scary scenes, if your young one is bothered by those.
4. Do I need to have read the book to enjoy it?
No, I don’t think so. But you’ll really need to pay attention to the first 10 or 15 minutes of the movie. The setup includes the rules and overarching structure of the Oasis, contest, and background for the story. These are spit out, rapid-fire, so you really need to tune in to the first part of the film.
5. When is a good time for a bathroom break?
Ready Player One clocks in at a bladder-busting two hours and 20 minutes, not including previews. The pace of the plot is very quick, they are condensing a lot of story into those frames and there really aren’t many of those minutes that are wasted. However, there are two opportunities for a quick dash to the restroom. The first, about 45 minutes in, when Parzival and Art3mis first arrive at the dance club and the second, about an hour and a half into the movie when they are in Aech’s workshop.
6. Is the rating appropriate?
Ready Player One is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, bloody images, partial nudity, and language. The violence is what you might expect in a video game, for the most part. When injured, the player either sheds coins or disintegrates. The language isn’t pervasive and the partial nudity is a very brief bare butt.
7. How’s the music?
The music probably did more to create a sense of nostalgia in the movie than anything else, beginning with Van Halen’s Jump and touching on another half-dozen-ish pop hits from the 80s. However, there’s such a visual and audio barrage coming from the screen, the music is pretty easily forgotten.
8. Do I need to stay to the end of the credits?
No. Once the credits start rolling, there are no later scenes.
9. I can’t wait to see the movie. I’ve read the book six times, how can I pass the time until my showtime?
10. How different is the movie from the book?
The movie is dramatically different from the book and I won’t get too deep in the weeds here, but I’ll touch on some of the larger differences. None of the key or gate challenges from the book appear in the movie and the gates are excised entirely — it’s just a race for three keys. Additionally, Parzival, Art3mis, Aech, Daito, and Shoto team up almost immediately — while saying they aren’t a clan. Finally, while the book is driven by staccato-like reference-dropping, mentioning everything from the Zapruder film to Galaga, the cinematic version feels lesser in that regard. There are a lot of visual references, many of them shown just for a few frames. No doubt, more and more things will be picked out as more people see the movie (and more still when it gets to Blu-ray), but the film seems far less than the nostalgia-geek-fest of the book, which is unfortunate.
11. The band Rush was a huge part of the book. How big of a factor do they play in the movie?
Sadly, their presence is just above zero. There is a poster on a wall and Aech’s 2112 shirt, both already shown in stills from the movie. But there’s nothing else — no music on the soundtrack, no reference to the band or their music in the dialogue, no visit to the planet Syrinx and the city of Megadon. Bummer.