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Fans of the novel Ready Player One certainly knew that the adaptation was going to force the movie to make significant changes to the source material, but a new image shows just how far that goes. A new still from the upcoming film shows two of the story's lead characters, Wade Watts and Samantha Cook, together in the "real world." This is a major departure from the original Ernest Cline novel, as those characters don't meet face to face in the book until the very end of the story.
The focus of Ready Player One is all inside the virtual world called the OASIS. As such, all of our main characters primarily exist as avatars within that world. The only one that we ever see as a real person until the novel's third act is protagonist Wade Watts, and he doesn't meet the person behind the avatar known as Ar3mis until the tail end of the story. However, a new image which has been revealed by Empire shows actors Tye Sheridan and Olivia Cooke together. Cooke is actually wearing a VR headset and her haptic gloves, so we know this isn't taking place inside the OASIS. It's unlikely that an image from the end of the movie would be released at this point, and even if somehow this was from the end of the film, the setting would indicate that the end of the movie has been drastically changed. Either way, the Iron Giant isn't the only thing changing for the movie.
Ready Player One is a story that is full of pop culture references and since many of those references have rights owned by numerous different companies, it was to be expected that some of them would change from the page to the screen. However, this change goes far beyond that. While Parzival (Wade Watts OASIS avatar name) and Art3mis spend a significant amount of time together inside the virtual world, the fact that they've never met in person is a significant story point in the book. The fact that young people tend to live in isolation and only interact with each other online is part of what the world is about. However, the image also shows countless other young people in the background.
The image also gives us the impression that we'll be spending a lot more time outside the OASIS in them movie than we do in the book. There are really only three significant parts of the book that take place in the real world at all and none of them look like this moment.
The fact that these two characters actually know each other will clearly change their relationship as know it. To be fair, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If I'm being honest, the Parzival/Art3mis relationship was one of the weaker points of the novel, and perhaps this change was made in order to strengthen this weak link in the story.
At this point, it seems that so much about Ready Player One is changing that a list of what remains the same may be a shorter list. We know that the Back to the Future Delorean will be there and The Distracted Globe nightclub was in the trailer. That's at least two things.