Hello, hello, my beautiful readers. Nikkie here to get the ball rolling for the month of August.
As I’m sure you may know, the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is getting a movie. There is a whole bunch of information about the movie out there, so I’m not going to reiterate it. But if you want a refresher course, read this CinemaBlend article.
I really enjoyed RPO, and I am beyond curious to see how this movie is going to turn out. A lot of people think it’s a no-brainer because Spielberg is directing, but I’ve seen like two and a half Spielberg movies—plus I’m still not 100 percent sure how a director can be wholly responsible for the success of a movie—so I retain a healthy level of skepticism. I’m not one to completely decry an adaptation of a book or believe that it has to completely follow the source material to be good, but I do allow myself to reserve the slightest bit of judgment when it comes to books I really like. So I guess my point is “We’ll see.”
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. However, what I want to talk about is a ∼*MAJOR SPOILER*∼, so caution to those who tread beyond this point. And don’t blame me if you learn something you weren’t supposed to.
So, the one thing that would automatically taint the movie for me (not enough to NOT see it, but enough for me to be very disappointed going in) is how the movie execs intend to cast the role of Aech. As far as we know, this role remains unfilled. A quick glance at the film’s IMDB page shows no mention of this character, which is madness because Aech is a HUGE role.
Within RPO, main character Wade Watts is a kid who treats the virtual-reality game/world Oasis like its namesake: it is his perfect place where he escapes from real life. Within Oasis, Wade’s best friend is a boy who goes by Aech. They hang out, joke, and search for Oasis creator James Halliday’s literally game-changing Easter egg together, and they do all of this without ever having met in person. But the events of the story cause that fundamental part of their relationship to change. Halliday’s former right-hand man, Ogden Morrow (whose upcoming portrayal by Simon Pegg I lightly question), brings Wade, Aech, and two other players together in an attempt to stop an evil corporation from taking over the game. Aech offers to pick up Wade on the way to the private jet that Morrow has waiting for them, but it’s obvious that the prospect of meeting Wade in person is making Aech uncomfortable for some reason. When Wade steps onto the van that is Aech’s home, he understands why.
Aech is a girl.
Aech’s real name is Helen (so “Aech” as in H). She is a “heavy-set” black lesbian who was disowned by her mother after coming out and for various reasons chose to portray herself as a male on the web (even going so far as to modulate her voice). And it is extremely important to me that she appears in the film as described.
Once again, I’m not the kind of person who believes that a film adaptation absolutely needs to adhere to the source material. Like many sane people, I was offended by all the idiots up in arms over the fact that Rue from The Hunger Games was being played by a little biracial girl, even though she may have arguably been white in the book (which I didn’t read). I’ve had many lively discussions with Super Hubs about comic book characters that could easily swap gender or race or sexual orientation. So I’m absolutely fine with switching things up. But sticking to the source material in this particular instance is something I deem crucial.
Back at the RPO IMDB page, you may have noticed a character named F’Nale Zandor, played by Hannah John-Kamen. When John-Kamen’s participation in the film was announced, her role was not named, so many speculated that she was going to play Aech. This would be less than ideal. Full disclosure: I learned all of this as I was researching for the writing of this piece, so my initial rage was quickly dealt with after seeing IMDB. But now I’m super suspicious. Is “F’Nale Zandor” just a place-holder name until the movie is released and we learn that she actually IS playing Aech, or is this an Aech replacement, meant to prominently take part of the story as Wade’s female best friend? Either way, I’m not 100 percent satisfied. I want Aech to show up as promised!
We’re kind of in a representative renaissance right now. People are demanding more POC and queer characters on their screens, and women are asking for equal representation when it comes to body types being portrayed not only in TV and movies but in ads as well. I don’t mean to make RPO sound calculated, but Aech as written hits ALL of those marks! Sure, some people will say that it’s not enough, that Aech is the vanilla option when it comes to representation, and maybe they’re right. But I still want to see her the way I (and Cline) have imagined her.
In what I hope isn’t horribly offensive to Aech, John-Kamen is way too beautiful and thin to truly embody this character! I imagine Aech/Helen to be average looking. She’s not insanely gorgeous, and she’s not a mole person. She just IS. Now, “heavy-set” is a nebulous term that could mean anything upwards of a size 10 (by the ridiculous standards of the fashion industry), but I imagine she’s in the size 18 or 20 range. We cannot deny that John-Kamen doesn’t match that description, nor do I think we should try to pass her off as such. We could have another Renee Zellweger-as-Bridget Jones situation on her hands, where she gains a bit of weight and we’re told that she’s supposed to be grossly overweight. That’s not what I want for the world or for this character. Having just a normal-looking actress playing the part of Aech is what I desperately want; it is what I will want whenever they finally get the Eleanor and Park adaptation off the ground, and I refuse to believe that that’s an unrealistic thing to want.
As for my conspiracy theory that they might just replace Aech wholly . . . Regardless of what they might or might not keep about Aech’s character, I think it’s very important to retain the reveal that “he” is actually a girl. Readers of RPO will recall how Wade reacts to this. After an initial shock (which anyone would feel after learning that your best friend for years isn’t who they presented themselves to be), he’s basically fine with it. They are both a little awkward, of course—Helen is worried that she may have just blown up her strongest friendship—but they eventually fall back into their old patterns, and all is well. I feel like that provides a better message than the whole “See: guys and girls can be just friends” one that would likely be the focus if Wade’s bestie was shown to be a girl from the very beginning.
As you can see, I really think it would be best if Aech was showcased as her book self. But, of course, take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. Because I’m a book reader, I have a preset notion of what should be the heart of a novel adaptation, so me and mine have a greater sensitivity to any changes that could affect said notion. It’s entirely possible for filmmakers to successfully create a new heart for their adaptation, but book readers will always be a little unsatisfied with the result. So if they replace Aech, it could definitely work within the scheme of the movie—I would just be disappointed at not getting the chance to see the book fully come to life on the silver screen.
Anyway. Those are my two cents when it comes to the Ready Player One adaptation. I really do think that it has the potential to be a great movie, and I look forward to March 2018. But I will also keep my eyes peeled for any developments in casting (or any clarification on who F’Nale Zandor is), and hopefully I will like what I read. In the meantime, sound off in the comments with your thoughts on all this, and you’ll be hearing from Super Hubs soon!
May your TBR piles tower but never topple,