Back to IndieWire

‘Ready Player One’: 16 Key Differences Between the Bestselling Book and Steven Spielberg’s New Movie

Steven Spielberg's ambitious take on the bestselling Ernest Cline novel borrows some of the biggest plot twists while deviating in many other ways.

ready player one

“Ready Player One”

7. Art3mis’ Background

Oh, and about Art3mis. In Cline’s book, she’s a well-known OASIS personality and gunter with skills that match — and, in some cases, surpass — that of Wade, so it’s somewhat fitting that she get a much bigger role in the film. But the direction of that role is a little surprising: she’s also a member of a real-world resistance that is determined to bring down the nefarious company Innovative Online Industries (IOI) for some very personal reasons, and it’s explained that Art3mis is only into playing because she’s so eager to use her win as a way of sinking the company.

That resistance is a new addition to the mythos of “Ready Player One,” and it provides a different way to get a sense of the current real world conditions that are not heavily explored within the film.

8. Who Is I-r0k?

Aech’s hideout chat room in the book is a popular space for other gunters in the OASIS, including the big-talking I-r0k. Mostly harmless in Cline’s novel — the author writes that “the guy fancied himself an elite gunter, but he was nothing but an obnoxious poseur” — he gets one heck of a makeover in the film, rendered as a (still-boastful) gun for hire who does odd jobs for evil IOI head Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), who eventually hires him to find (and maybe destroy) Wade.

“Ready Player One”

Jaap Buitendijk

9. Relationship With Aunt Alice

Wade’s relationship with his Aunt Alice is relatively limited in Cline’s book and there’s not a whole lot of affection between the two. Their living together in the stacks is mainly a function of their current low status and financial backing — they just don’t have anywhere else to go. The film opts to build in more familial bonding between the two, and even allows Alice (Susan Lynch) the chance to talk about some of her biggest dreams, like owning an actual home. The end result for Alice is the same in both the book and the film, but the more complex relationship adds a sweet dimension to Wade that was missing in Cline’s novel.

10. Sorrento’s Background with Halliday and Morrow

One compelling addition to the mythos of the OASIS and why Sorrento is so hellbent on making the entire operation his own: the movie imagines that he was actually an intern to Halliday and Morrow (care of some iffy CGI used to age Mendelsohn down a bit) and was around when they were cracking the original design of the OASIS. A glorified coffee-fetcher — as explained through one of those neat “Halliday’s Journals” clips — Sorrento’s disdain for the technology and the people who created it comes into a much sharper relief, thanks to a little twist on his origin.

11. Halliday and Morrow’s Background

Sorrento’s background might get a boost in the film, but Halliday and Morrow’s is vastly diminished. Introduced in the book as best friends since middle school, Cline’s novel delves into how their childhood friendship blossomed into a fruitful professional partnership in their older years. The eventual break between the pair serves as a both an alluring mystery and compelling piece of emotional information, but the film removes most of that backstory, instead focusing on their bond as adults. Those kid years? Never mentioned. (Neither is the cultural force that first bonded them: “Dungeons & Dragons.”)

“Ready Player One”

Jaap Buitendijk

12. Meeting Kira

Removing the backstory of Halliday and Morrow also effectively voids the book’s introduction of the woman who would go on to become Morrow’s wife (and, by all accounts, the great unrequited love of Halliday’s life): Karen, AKA Kira. In Cline’s novel, she’s a British exchange student, “a quintessential geek girl,” who arrives during the trio’s junior year of high school. Just like Halliday and Morrow, she dug all the geeky stuff that marked the culture of the eighties (heck, she even loved D&D), and while that endeared her to Morrow, it really endeared her to Halliday, who never got over her, despite never actually making a move. Later, she became one of the first employees of Halliday and Morrow’s Gregarious Games, a whipsmart geek with lots of talent in her own right.

In the film, Kira is introduced (via Journals memory) as a woman that Halliday actually did go on a date with, though it never panned out and she eventually (somehow?) went on to meet and marry Morrow. She figures prominently in the second challenge — it’s Kira that the players are tasked with rescuing from the game — but that’s the extent of her involvement.

13. Daito and Shoto

While the Japanese gunters do show up in the film, the darker elements of their story are axed. In the movie version, the pair are still just friends who other gunters initially think are IRL brothers, though now they quite happily collaborate with the rest of the group during the final two challenges. And that whole subplot about Daito’s real identity being sussed out by the IOI, leading to them murdering the guy in the real world? That’s gone, too.

The Final Act

14. Who Goes to the Loyalty Center (And How)

In the middle of Cline’s book, Wade makes the decision to go underground after a terrifying meeting with Sorrento makes it clear that his existence as Wade Watts isn’t a safe one. He uses the money that he earned inside the OASIS (plus a low-maintenance job working support for IOI) to set himself up in a swanky apartment in downtown Columbus, complete with every convenience he could possibly desire, all the better to spend nearly all of his time inside the OASIS trying to find the second key and keep one step ahead of his nemeses as IOI.

Eventually, Wade makes the purposeful decision to get himself drafted (as his fake identity, Bryce Lynch) into IOI’s indentured servitude, in order to infiltrate their systems and take them down from inside. After clearing the second gate, he’s hauled off to the IOI Indentured Employee Induction Center, where he uses his skills (and some black market wares) to break into their systems and break out of the building.

In the movie-world of “Ready Player One,” the clunkily named IOI Indentured Employee Induction Center has been restyled as a “Loyalty Center,” though their functions remain basically the same: trap maxed out IOI employees or customers, force them to work in near-slavery to pay off a debt they will never crack, repeat. It’s not Wade who goes inside that Loyalty Center, either; it’s Art3mis, who sacrifices herself when a bunch of IOI heavies show up to resistance headquarters. Once inside, she attempts to break her way out, eventually finding herself forced into working as a “Sixer” during the film’s big final climax.

“Ready Player One”

Jaap Buitendijk

15. How Much Morrow Counts

The events that lead up to that big final climax is very different than what is detailed in the book. In Cline’s novel, once Wade breaks himself out of the IOI Indentured Employee Induction Center, he and his friends meet the real-life Morrow — by way of Aech’s private chat room that he’s apparently been lurking in for quite some time — who then invites the team to his Oregon home to use his super-swanky equipment to battle Sorrento and his Sixers in the run for the final key. That’s where, in the book, Wade first meets Art3mis and Shoto, and Aech actually picks him up for a quick trip to a private airport in Aech’s tricked out van (marking their own first in-person meet).

The group all descend upon Morrow’s Oregon abode, where they fight alongside each other and use Morrow’s stuff to dominate the last big challenge. The movie imagines it quite a bit differently, with Wade and the rest of the High Five entering the battle while zinging around together in Aech’s van, while Art3mis enters the game as a Sixer before making herself known to Wade. Much of the actual challenge is the same, however, including the importance of the game “Adventure,” the reveal that a quarter Wade earned long ago grants him an extra life, and Sorrento’s use of a planet-killing artifact called a Cataclyst. Wade and his friends emerge victorious. Wade’s avatar meets Halliday’s inside the OASIS, where he gives him the Easter Egg, and grants him full control of the virtual reality system.

16. The End Result

Upon earning the Easter Egg and taking control of the OASIS, book-Wade makes a startling proclamation, which serves as the final sentence of the novel: “It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS.”

While the film ends with Wade (and Art3mis, real name Samantha) enjoying the real world (in Wade’s very fancy loft, apparently paid for with some of that sweet OASIS money), it doesn’t hit nearly as hard as the book’s final pages does. They may be logged out at that moment, but Wade tells us in voiceover that, in the hopes of pushing people to spend more time outside the OASIS, he’s made the choice to close it down — for two days a week.

“Ready Player One” opens in theaters on March 29.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Film and tagged , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox