I watched the movie about a week and a half after I finished the book. At first, I wanted to watch the movie quickly, before I forgot details about the book. Only a few minutes into the movie, I thought it might have been better to have waited several months (or more) to watch the movie. Maybe forgetting the details of the book would have allowed me to enjoy it in its own right. I understand that movies adapted from books have to be changed for various reasons, whether that’s to shorten the story, to add excitement, or even because a lot of what happens in the book is internal (which would be fairly hard/boring to show). And there are other reasons too. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!
In my review of the book, I gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 5. It’s intriguing to me that the movie actually gave me more appreciation for the book. I’d probably rate it higher now. As with other posts I’ve made, some of my notes about what I didn’t care for in the movie are personal preference. Some of them, though, are places where I don’t think the movie did justice to the book, or even where I felt the movie just didn’t do well in general. I am going to give my notes, but without too much detail, mostly because my list is a little too long to go into much detail here. These are by no means all of the differences between the book and the movie, just the ones that bothered me. Also, I’m splitting these notes into things that aren’t too spoilery (shown first), and then notes that I feel would spoil either the book or movie enough to give a proper warning for.
Note: There are a lot, so it probably seems like I’m ranting. Well, I am. Again, I am well aware that movie adaptations are often very different from the book. If you think I’m being unfair, that’s fine. I didn’t realize how many notes I had about this until I started writing them down, and I considered cutting it short. But in the end, I decided to keep them all (and frankly, there may be some I forgot). So read on, or jump ship right now; it’s up to you!
- From the very beginning of the movie, the atmosphere didn’t feel right to me. When I read the book, I got a feeling of desolation and isolation in the real world, especially where Wade lived. People didn’t go out much, because they could do much more from the comfort of their couch (and because the real world was fairly dangerous). But we first see Wade outside of his “home,” and it’s pretty lively. People are shown outside a lot during the movie, and it just felt wrong.
- The book was heavy in 80s pop culture references. The movie expanded that to just general pop culture, but even that was very light (I get that a lot of this might have been copyright issues, but it’s still worth mentioning).
- In the book, Wade started out overweight (spent most of his life in a virtual environment, after all), but had a physical transformation once he gained the means to be active while also in the OASIS. There was no change of this sort in the movie.
- Also, in the book, Wade started out completely destitute. The things he had to do to make any progress in the OASIS showed ingenuity and a real struggle. This was barely touched on in the movie.
- Because The Hunt had gone on for years already when the book started, everyone who was hunting (called gunters) knew pretty much everything there was to know about Halliday, his life, and every book, movie, video game, song, or TV show that he liked. In the movie, Wade was explaining how he’d figured out a clue to other gunters often, and it really bothered me that he knew so much more than the others.
- Though I said in my original review that the time that Wade was alone (pushed away his friends) was not a time I enjoyed, I realized watching the movie that I missed it when it didn’t happen. Most likely, that means I didn’t enjoy it because it was depressing (which it was meant to be), not that it was a bad story element.
- I loved Ogden Morrow’s role in the book. In the movie it was kinda…meh (and it seemed like a waste of Simon Pegg).
- It really bugged me that they called the IOI gunters Sixers, but had absolutely no explanation as to why. It wouldn’t have been difficult to explain it. Even not coming from a book, it was an unnecessary lack of explanation.
- Similarly, in the book, the first 5 gunters to find the first key were known as the “High Five,” because of their positions on the almighty leader board. When watching the movie, I’d completely forgotten about that until some time in the last 20-30 minutes when Wade uses that term to reference those 5 characters, and I actually sat up and said, “Wait, what?! How are we supposed to know what he means by that, when this is the first time anyone’s said it?”
Before I go into the spoilers, I want to mention a few things about the movie that I liked:
- The visual effects in the OASIS were great. Much better than I could imagine in my head, I’m sure. I also enjoyed the way it looked when characters accessed things from their inventory and such. I’ve had dreams about actually being inside a game world, i.e. being my character, and it reminded me a bit of that. (Is that weird?)
- There were some nods to some of the things in the book that weren’t used in the movie at all, which was nice. Seeing the planet Ludus early in the movie, for example, made me smile.
Below here are the rest of my notes, which have what I would consider spoilers. Read on at your own discretion.
- I understand why they boiled the amount of challenges in the book down to 3 (1 for each key), but the challenges themselves could have still been much more interesting. Plus, the 3rd challenge we barely even got to see, so after the Sixer who played Adventure fell through the ice, and the IOI woman said something about not winning, I was really confused. My husband pointed out that she was quoting from the riddle that we barely saw earlier. I was annoyed. The challenges, and how they were solved, were my favorite things about the book, so this alone was enough to make my enjoyment of the movie pretty low.
- Wade said he wouldn’t work with a clan in the movie (which was also a big deal in the book until it was absolutely necessary for them to work together), yet he gave a tip to one friend after finding the 1st key, and then basically solved the 2nd challenge with the others all together. They might as well have just dropped the “no clanning” thing completely.
- In the book, the IOI was pretty powerful and scary. All-reaching kind of thing. But in the movie, they needed help from some random thug to track down Wade in the real world. I-r0k in the book was a fairly flimsy plot device, but he was even worse in the movie. An attempt at comedy relief, maybe, but he just made the IOI look less threatening, and hearing an internet-speak name like “I-r0k” come out of the main bad guy’s mouth made him seem less intimidating too.
- The High Five met so early in the movie, it really took away the feeling of leaving the virtual world behind and stepping out into reality. There was more drama behind these meetings in the book. And though Daito’s death in the book was sad…I weirdly felt like the lack of it diminished both his character and Shoto’s in the movie.
- I had a very difficult time with the scene where they tricked Sorrento by making him think he was in the real world. Suddenly the virtual world can look that real? Maybe I would have been more okay with it if they’d shown even just a small bit of that earlier in the movie, in some innocuous scene.
I’ll leave on a positive note, something else that I liked, but was only made possible in the movie because of one of the changes I mentioned above (also a bit of a spoiler): After Wade and Art3mis meet in real life and he tells her he’s not disappointed, she adds the large birthmark that is on her face in real life (which she’s ashamed of) to her avatar in the OASIS. This change wasn’t dwelt on, but I really appreciated it.
Have you read the book? Seen the movie? What are your thoughts on either, or both?