Ernest Cline

If you love Ready Player One, the bad news is there is no Ready Player Two, either as a book or a film. The worse news is that the only other novel written by Ernest Cline was notoriously panned by critics when it was published. And now, that book — Armada — is getting turned into a movie.

On Tuesday, Deadline reported that Dan Mazeau is adapting the 2014 Cline novel. Reportedly, Cline took a stab at the screenplay previously. The plot of Armada riffs off of the Eighties sci-fi cult classic, The Last Starfighter. Basically, it’s this: what if a video game was a secret recruitment device to help train people to fight real space battles? Unlike Ready Player One, the novel Armada was not met with positive reviews. Instead, most critics found the book to not only too reliant on tired tropes but also hopelessly lost in the more problematic aspects of gaming culture. Below are just a few examples of what critics said about the book three years ago.

“While the aims of the novel are onanistic rather than malicious, Armada nonetheless demands to be bronzed as the perfect embodiment of the impulses that so often make games—and gaming culture—boring, self-indulgent, and regressive.” — Slate.

“Plenty of the references and geeky arguments in Armada are hilarious, from Star Wars-themed insults to debates about the relative merits of fantasy weapons. But put against such a lackluster backdrop, they can’t drive the novel the way they did in Ready Player One. Instead they make Armada feel even more like a failed attempt to recapture the cleverness of Cline’s debut.” — AVClub.

“If you aren’t familiar with the works referenced here, that stretch of writing is gibberish. The moon base is a “breathtaking site,” according to Zack. But what takes his breath away isn’t the architecture or the scope or the grandeur or the stars in the sky or the isolation. It’s the fact that it reminds him of things he’s seen on the TV before. It’s the insularity that’s breathtaking here, the inability to imagine the world through any lens other than the one he has spent his brief 18 years marinating in.” — Washington Post.

So, if Armada is so disliked by critics, why is it being made into a movie? Well, for one thing, it’s not becoming a movie, yet. The fact that the screenplay is in development is what’s happening. Also, just because the book was considered bad, doesn’t mean the movie couldn’t be good. And yet, if you fall into the camp that was worried by the overreliance of references in Ready Player One, the looming shadow of Armada will be more of the same.