“First to the egg!”
Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Ready Player One, is a legendary tribute to both nostalgia and escapism that’s bound to be an instant cult classic. Based off the 2011 novel by Ernest Cline, the story takes us to the not so distant future of 2045. A time where society has given up on improving the grim fate of the real world and instead escapes into a virtual universe with infinite possibilities: The Oasis. Created by James Halliday, every person’s desires can be fulfilled by jumping through the virtual gates into a world their own. Whether that is to be the leader on the battlefield, the builder of worlds in Minecraft, or someone aimlessly wandering the shores of paradise, The Oasis provides a tool that connects the world in a way never thought possible.
Pop culture thrives through a plethora of references that include Batman, The Iron Giant, Gundam, and Back to the Future. Spielberg made sure every inch of screen time was chalked full of fandom and geeky personal connections. It’s an extremely entertaining love ballad to all things nerdy. Yet, Ready Player One isn’t just another cookie cutter movie out of the Hollywood pipeline. This film isn’t a Hunger Games, isn’t a super hero movie, or a cheesy reboot. The movie stands on its own and for any true nerd, this film is a gold mine that is one part blockbuster, one part cult art.
Similar to our modern day Internet, The Oasis is the essence of our own creativity and is limitless. That power takes center stage right from the beginning, as Halliday reveals a grand quest at the time of his passing. Leaving an “Easter Egg” in The Oasis, everyone is given the task of finding three invisible keys that unlock the ultimate prize. Fortune and glory will find their way to whoever is first to the egg, giving the winner sole control over both Halliday’s wealth and the future of the entire Oasis. A scoreboard is created and the game begins.
This challenge however, finds itself to be an impossible task, and after 5 years, the world begins to forget the hunt and focus on their own fantasies within The Oasis. The scoreboard remains blank, and many believe Halliday’s challenge will remain unanswered. As the world spins, only two factions remain in the hunt for Halliday’s grand egg. The first are a ragtag population of gamers named Gunters. They pride themselves in their quest for the ultimate glory and see Halliday’s egg as a challenge that cannot be ignored. The other player in this quest is a sinister organization, Innovative Online Industries (IOI). Building itself up from exploiting people’s addictions to The Oasis, the company has devoted all its resources into taking control of the virtual world. Little do they know one Gunter, Parzival (Wade Watts), will stumble into a hidden clue that may very well be the catalyst to an epic struggle that will put the entire Oasis in the fray.
What makes this film work is the understanding of how pop culture shapes our lives. Each generation can relate to their childhoods and memories through the power of what media they grew up with. Think about your favorite childhood TV show or what was at the top of the pop charts when you were in middle school. What toys did you play with and what characters did you grow up idolizing? Every element, whether real or fictional, has a solid impact on how we relate with the world around us. It’s a personal gateway to understanding what ingredients make up the individual.
Ready Player One takes full advantage of that through every single reference, but doesn’t throw it at you like a bloated paid advertisement. Instead, each easter egg is tailored to have both a universal feel and a customized experience all at the same time. A personal favorite was the Jack Slater Marquee seen during the epic race sequence. Last Action Hero, as terribly cheesy as 90s action films come, was a childhood staple of mine and being able to see tribute paid to it was a fantastic surprise. It lasted a total of two seconds, but brought this film right into the childhood feels. That’s an experience that cannot be beat.
Another amazing sequence provides a direct reference to the Stanley Kubrick classic, The Shining. Each piece and element of the eerie Overlook Hotel was reconstructed for this film and it looks flawless. The viewer, along with Parzival and his team, are taken right into the 1980s horror film and provided some unique twists and turns to wrap it all together. The sequence serves a greater purpose than fan service. You’ll have to take a look at the film yourself to see how the demented Steven King tale relates to it all. It’s a scene that will not disappoint, even for those who aren’t fans of the horror genre.
With so many subtle nods and tributes throughout, that there’s bound to be at least one for every viewer regardless of age, tastes, or background. After the film ends, you’ll want to jump right back into it all to catch all the references you may have missed. The best part is, it will reconnect you with a lot of your all time favorite movies. You’ll not only want to watch this film again, but pop open your movie collection, hit rewind, and grab the popcorn. Prepare to dust off some of the old reliable VHS and DVD sets you have on your shelves. Their time has come.
The nostalgia compliments the story, blended perfectly so it doesn’t over power the central plot. It’s a fun, quick paced, and thrilling ride from start to finish, filling in all the classic tropes for a science fiction adventure. There’s suspense, there’s action, along with high stakes and the stereotypical catchphrase or two. Yet there are also more cogs moving, allowing character building through diversity and unity. Teamwork is a powerful tool, and one showcased prominently. So many stories highlight how one person can shape the fate of an entire universe. This film takes it a step further, showing us that we don’t need to go it alone. No fate but what we make. Everyone plays a part and the pushes towards the same goal.
There’s so much to relate to in this movie, and this film is a reminder of how special each of our fandoms are to us. With so many big franchises releasing sequels this year, it’s great to have a standalone movie that is in tune with the geeky film enthusiast. Spielberg has created something magical that delivers in a big way.
Ready Player One releases on March 29th. You can learn more about the movie and find upcoming showtimes by visiting http://readyplayeronemovie.com/