Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One was bound to be full of changes. Given all of the rights clearances that would be needed to feature the book's many, many pop culture references, fans were fully aware that some things would be cut by necessity. The film does indeed feature a very different pop culture landscape, but there were some major changes to the storyline, too.
Spielberg seems to have modernized Cline's nostalgic adventure in every way. The plot is more progressive and inclusive. The infamous Easter Egg quest has been drastically simplified. And the highly anticipated pop culture references have been updated to appeal to a modern audience.
Overall, Spielberg seems to have been aiming for an accessible story that anyone can enjoy and understand. Each change makes sense in context with real-world constraints like budgets and content ratings. The film places an emphasis on positivity, choosing to forego heavier topics in favor of the quirky friendship stories that helped Spielberg rise to success. Here's our breakdown of the biggest changes between the Ready Player One novel, and the movie.
This Page: Wade and the Contest
Wade Is Way Different In The Film
In the movie, Wade Watts is already right in the thick of the contest from the beginning of the film. He has earned enough money to have his beloved Delorean, and has decent armor and weapons. In the book, Wade has to start from the ground up. He is disadvantaged in the search for Halliday's keys because he can't afford to actually go looking for them. The film portrays Wade as being poor (he lives in the Stacks and hides out in a junkyard to sign onto the OASIS) but he seems to have more resources at his haptic-gloved fingertips than he does in the book. When we first see Wade enter the OASIS, he jumps on a treadmill and starts wandering about the virtual world. Book Wade would have to spend time on a modified exercise bike generating his own electricity before being able to plug in.
After finding himself suddenly famous, book Wade leverages his notoriety into financial gain. He becomes a spokesman, peddling virtual items in the OASIS. It's this, and not letting his identity slip at the nightclub, that leads to IOI finding him in the real world. IOI does blow up the Stacks after they discover Wade's identity, but then things get ... dark.
In the book, Wade goes into hiding and cuts himself off from the world outside. He assumes a new name and walls himself in a new apartment, spending all of his time in the OASIS. He never goes outside, has everything delivered, is deeply depressed, and orders virtual prostitutes. Parzival even falls out of touch with Aech for awhile. Though it makes for an interesting read, cutting this may have been the right call given the film's PG-13 rating.
The Contest Is Much Simpler In The Film
Nearly all of the quests for the Copper, Jade, and Silver keys have been changed in the film. The three Gates have also seen drastic changes. The film begins with an epic race that forces the players to dodge King Kong and a T-Rex. After finally gaining the first key, Wade immediately uses it to unlock the next clue. In the book, Wade had to beat Dungeon & Dragon's Acererak in the Tomb of Horrors in a game of Joust to gain the Copper key. He then had to reenact Matthew Broderick's role in WarGames to open the first gate.
The second gate and key saw major changes, as well. Stanley Kubrick's controversial adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining plays no part in this challenge in the book version. Instead, Art3mis (who still beats Wade to the second key in the book) must complete the text-based game Zork to receive the Jade key. Wade then passes a Blade Runner replicant test and completes the arcade game Black Tiger to open the second gate. In the film, the High Five navigate the Overlook Hotel and Art3mis asks Halliday's crush, Kira, to dance.
The third challenge is closest to the film. Wade does need to find the Adventure Easter Egg in Halliday's castle - but not before returning an epic guitar to its altar by playing the right Rush song to retrieve the Crystal key. The third gate was opened by beating Halliday's high score in Tempest, reenacting Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and bringing along two other Crystal key holders. It took three people to open the third gate in the book.
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