WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for both the Ready Player One novel and Steven Spielberg's film adaptation, in theaters now.
Steven Spielberg's cinematic treatment of Ready Player One is now in theaters everywhere, and fans of Ernest Cline's 2011 novel are quickly discovering the director's vision strays from the source material in several ways. Let's analyze the key differences between the two versions, and see exactly what changed during the story's jump to the big screen.
A-Gunting We Will Go
Ready Player One's central conflict revolves around the mysterious location of James Halliday's Easter Egg, an object that once found will grant its discoverer a vast fortune and sole ownership of the OASIS, a virtual simulation that's also the world's most valuable resource. While this conceit remains in the film, the hunt itself is much more condensed than in the novel, as the filmmakers understandably sought to ramp up the pacing as much as possible.
Instead of needing to locate three keys that have been hidden throughout the OASIS by Halliday, Egg Hunters (or "Gunters," for short) in Cline's book encounter far more obstacles. That's due to each key leading to a special corresponding gate that is similarly hidden by abstract clues. This process essentially doubles the number of trials that occur during the narrative, and with the film already approaching a run time of two hours and 20 minutes, it was probably necessary in order to avoid a bloated final product.
Trials and Transmutations
Although the keys in the film might still be labeled the same as their novel counterparts, the accompanying tests will surely provide surprise readers of Cline's novel.
To obtain the first key, Gunters compete in a blistering race across city streets toward a finish line, with everything from T-rexes to wrecking balls to King Kong standing in their way. The sequence is one of the film's more breathtaking set pieces, with Spielberg and his team taking full advantage of the raw spectacle that a plot device such as the OASIS can provide. That's juxtaposed with the more subdued first trial that occurs in the novel.
After trekking through a virtual recreation of the Dungeons & Dragons module "Tomb of Horrors," protagonist Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) must beat Acererak, the first key's guardian, in a game of Joust. While the original version further plays up the hardcore gamer side of Halliday, who designed the challenges, the racing sequence probably felt to the screenwriting team -- which included Cline himself -- as a way of getting audiences immersed into the action as quickly as possible.
The acquisition of the second key also progresses very differently, as the movie consists of Spielberg's shoutout to one of his favorite horror films: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The lead characters face off against ghouls, axes and floating zombies during a timed exploration of the infamous Overlook in what is a different scenario from the Jade Key obstacle of the novel, which consisted of collecting 19 treasures within the classic computer game Zork.