The first teaser trailer of the “Ready Player One” movie was released yesterday, and although I’m looking forward to it, I’ll already admit to being downhearted in lots of ways. While the trailer has lots of things going for it – the obvious quality of the special effects, the music, and so on – it also immediately confirms something that Stephen Spielberg said early on in an interview – that a lot of the pop culture references from the book would be replaced due to licensing and/or narrative issues.
I’m caught between a rock and a hard place on all of the references, because they are so important both to “nerd culture”, and to the plot in the book. Just as a small example, it’s obvious from the movie trailer that the Iron Giant is going to replace the obscure japanese mecha from the book – or maybe even Ultraman. I imagine they are the tip of a fairly big iceberg. On the other hand, it’s great to hear Rush in the trailer – because they are a huge part of the book too.
In many cases, there are very good reasons to change the references – the book has the time to go sideways into length expositions about Wade’s research into sometimes very obscure pop culture references from the 1980s in search of Halliday’s easter eggs. You can’t do that in a movie without either boring everybody to death, or making it into three or four movies.
Perhaps the most maddening thing is the army of idiots suddenly commenting on the movie trailer all over the internet that have not read the book, and will not read the book. It makes you want to pick them up and shake them – they are missing out on so much. They won’t understand who the Samurai character is standing behind the Iron Giant, they won’t understand the floating dance scene, and certainly not the key at the end of the trailer.
Here’s the thing though – in many ways reading the book will destroy the movie for most people, because the book is so good, and because there was never any way they could turn the book into a movie – not without gutting it, and changing it considerably – which it appears is exactly what has happened.