I have now seen this film twice and I’m still struggling to write a review for it. Mainly because it’s so frigging awesome! Not very often (ever, if memory served) do I enjoy a book to film adaption this much. The key to this is possibly Spielberg’s diversions that allow readers of the book to experience the mystery and wonder from that first reading.
I went in very nervous. I even had a sneaky peak at a few reviews; that’s how nervous I was. My 8 year old self who found her love of films through Spielberg and Jurassic Park thought he was the perfect choice to make the film. However, present me who has witnessed a distinct change in his filmic style post Minority Report (This is where I first noticed the change) felt it needed someone like JJ Abrams or Jon Faveau to embrace the geeky fandom elements. I let my 8 year old win over in the end.
I’m glad I did and the second I saw that initial black screen, I knew the film was in safe hands.
As always, the casting is spot on. Spielberg has always had the ability to spot rising talent and featuring them with veteran actors from previous works. Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Lena Waithe are amazing in their roles within the High Five. However, for me it is Ben Mendelsohn and Speilberg’s current keystone Mark Rylance who steal the show playing Sorrento and Halliday respectively. Mendelsohn is a true delight as the head of the IOI.
It is the music that will win people over. Of course it doesn’t reach the highs of Guardians of the Galaxy in epic-ness for playlists, but it certainly does pack a punch. As music is a major player in Ernest Cline’s work (both RP1 and Armada), it’s good to see that it transfers over to the screen.
Spielberg has always been known for his trailblazing ways with graphics, and this lives up to that. The world of Oasis is stunning, breath taking and immersive. There are so many references within each scene that it just begs for repeated viewing.
As I mentioned before, the film diverts from the book quite a lot. It brings the real life counterparts together a lot earlier and this then enables both the Oasis and the real world to progress and give the film some momentum. It also changes the challenges. While some die hard fans may see this as sacrilege, I think it’s a stroke of genius. It removes any ‘they didn’t do this’, because recreations would never please everyone. Instead, what you get is the heart in mouth feeling of awe you got from reading the book the first time. I don’t want to spoil any of the tasks for anyone, but bloody hell that jade key task?! Gah! I loved every moment of it and Aech! Gah! Perfection.
The ending is very Goonies, right down to a in-car squabble between the defeated villians. It’s here more than anywhere I feel a little uneasy about the casting of Simon Pegg as Ogden. The scene loses a little of its power by having such obvious aging used on Pegg. It’s a shame as other sections were okay.
The only other missing piece from this almost perfect adaptation is the absence of Wil Wheaton as a nod to the fans of both the audio book and book proper.