Get your quarters ready! It’s the must-watch-movie for any gamer who grew up in the 80ies. But is it really that good? Press start.

Skip the movie! Read the book!

I am so glad I actually managed to read the book before the movie came out. If you consider yourself a nerd and if you grew up in the 80ies, then this book is for you. I rarely read a book as fast as this one. The book is great. The movie on the other hand, eeh, not so much.

I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.

Most of the things I like about the book didn’t make it into the movie. The book is all about a big quest. Solve the riddles, find the keys, beat the challenges, win the Easter egg. Those riddles were changed for the movie. To be fair, the riddles had to be changed, since the ones from the book would have been quite boring in a movie. So the first challenge is a race, the seconds takes place in a famous movie, lots of action, fine.

But in the book solving the riddles takes some time, the actual challenges are interesting. In the movie the riddles are dumbed down, solved in a few minutes. Sure, what can you do in 140 minutes running time? But still, I don’t like it. It’s too easy compared to the book. There is no sense of epic quest.

Far worse are the characters. In the book, the main character meets the other gunters/players slowly, one after the other. They have certain interactions with each other. In the film, they are introduced rather early. There are not many interactions. And a lot of plot points get lost.

There is so much else they couldn’t fit into the movie. About James Halliday, about Ogden Morrow, about the OASIS itself. The movie version of antagonist Nolan Sorrento comes across like an idiot and not really menacing. And I hated his enforcer, a stupid character with the stupid name F’Nale. Booh!

The more I think about it the more I loathe the movie. Good thing I decided to keep the spoilers to a minimum or else I would bitch about a dozen other things.

Sure, if you haven’t read the book you can enjoy the whole thing. Next to obvious guest appearances from King Kong, the DeLorean time machine, Chucky or the Iron Giant, there are lots of smaller cameos. All your favorite things in one movie. The more games and movies you know the more innuendos you will find. Tracer next to Chun-Li, Battletoads, Batgirl or a nice throwback to a scene from Terminator 2. I smiled when I saw Artemis wearing a Joy Division shirt. I bet on the second and third viewing you will find even more stuff. Gotta Catch ‘Em All.

The movie works well in installing the same 80ies nostalgia as the book. But the characters and the story itself just can’t compete with the book.

So do yourself a favor: Skip the movie! Read the book!
(And then watch the movie.)

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