I was originally planning on doing a full post on here saying my thoughts about all of the different trailers that were released at this year’s San Diego Comic Con (Justice League, Thor: Ragnarok, Inhumans, etc), but to be honest my thoughts on them were either too negative or too boring, because this is the only one I really have anything to say about that’s of at least minuscule relevance. The others I can only say are either fine or bad, but this is probably the only trailer that blew me away.
Ready Player One is based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 debut novel set in the year 2044 where, due to the effects of global warming, the world is in a state of social and economic stagnation. To escape from the reality of this world, players enter into a massive online VR game world called the OASIS, where you can play as any character in any world you choose. The book focuses on the search for a hidden easter egg in the game’s code which will grant the finder the entire fortune and corporation of James Halliday, the creator of the OASIS, following his death.
The movie is being adapted with a script co-written by Cline himself and Zak Penn with Steven Spielberg on board as director and producer. I bought this book about a year ago, but I’ve only actually just recently started reading it because of this trailer. The book is full of easter eggs and references to pop culture that most people thought might be difficult to pull off (legally speaking) in a movie. However, the trailer shows that they are not bowing down to that and they are in full force with them. Warner Bros already owns a handful of major franchises on its own and Spielberg has the influence to get the rest on board, so if anyone can do it, it’s him. Anyway, rambling aside, I’ll just go through them. Plot details I’ll probably be a little scratchy on, but I can figure out references.
The trailer opens with a look at Columbus, Ohio (changed from the location of Oklahoma City from the book) and the stacks of trailers that the people here now live in. Here, we’re introduced to the movies main character, Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan), who narrates us into the story, entering his van hideaway where he plays the game. In the background here we can see a few easter eggs: stickers of Q*bert, Batman, and the Garbage Pail Kids, as well as numerous newspaper and magazine clippings of James Halliday, the founder of the OASIS on the left side wall of the van. But when he puts on his VR headset is where the real easter eggs kick in.
When Wade enters into a party area of the OASIS, to his left we can see the DC Comics characters Harley Quinn and Deathstroke walking by. It’s also a likely bet that the many avatars in the background are also well-known characters, but not many of them can really be clearly found other than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian who can be briefly seen on the left. If you listen to the music playing during this part of the trailer, the score is also a version of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a likely reference to the similarities between both stories.
Moving ahead, we can see the zero-gravity dance floor with various characters floating about on it. It’s likely there will be many more significant famous characters here but for now, the only noticeable one I can find is Gandalf who can be seen floating around with his staff towards the centre right.
We then see another shot of Wade’s character standing in front of two other characters avatars, namely the Iron Giant (who Spielberg has stated will have a large role in the film and could also likely be a replacement for the anime mechas in the book as Japan tends to be a bit more tightfisted on copyright) and a character that I think is Kenshi Takahashi from the Mortal Kombat games but might also be Ravager, who is another DC character related (literally and figuratively) to Deathstroke who we saw earlier.
After this, we see Wade’s custom DeLorean from Back to the Future racing through an area that looks like a recreation of the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in New York. Although the DeLorean has been included (a major plot element in the book), Spielberg has said there won’t be other references to his own movies so it’s unlikely there will be any of his other works (E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, etc.) in the movie.
The trailer then moves on to showing us an action packed version of the classic video game Joust, which we can see by the ostriches running across the shot, one of which is turned into an egg by the scorpion when killed, just like in the game. The scorpion itself could either be a reference to the Scorpitron from the game Wasteland, the scorpion from the game Centipede, one of the Zoids toys by Tomy, or the guard scorpion from Final Fantasy VII. I spent too much time doing research on this. The scorpion itself is also being ridden by Napoleon. The historical one.
In the same sequence, we can also see several characters with Freddy Krueger to the right, Duke Nukem in the background, and an unclear character on the left which might be Master Chief or another Halo character because the gun looks similar to the UNSC gun in the next shot although it’s also been suggested it might be a Cyberman from Doctor Who (I don’t really see it myself though). Also notable here is that the characters turn into in game currency that goes to the player when they’re killed, which isn’t much of an easter egg, I just think it’s a really cool effect.
Here we can more clearly see that the character from the previous shot is a large orc (likely one from the Lord of the Rings series) who is shooting at the enemies with the UNSC assault rifle from the Halo game series. The name tag also identifies them as Aech (played by Lena Waithe), who is a friend of Wade’s in the game. Readers of the book will also note that it’s a significant change from the avatar she uses in that version of the story.
Cutting to the new location of the second half of the trailer we move onto looking at a racing game. Playing here is the song Tom Sawyer by Rush, a band that comes into play as a plot point in the novel. The cars on the left look majorly to be ones owned by IOI, the major company featured in the novel, who hire workers to try to find the easter egg. Also on the left, we can see what looks like Mileena from Mortal Kombat, as well as an F1 car which could be a reference to several classic racing games. To the right cars can also be seen as various player avatars, where on the right we can see Christine, the possessed car from Stephen King’s novel and film of the same name. Driving Christine is Lara Croft who we can see talking to Dizzy Wallin, a character from the Gears of War series. If we look further to the right we can also see the van from The A-Team behind them.
Aech from earlier can now be seen driving a modified version of Bigfoot, widely known as the original and probably the most famous version of the monster car. If you look closely at the top of one of the IOI cars it destroys there is a barcode on its hood. This is actually a real code that takes you to a promotional website for the movie.
With this shot of all the various vehicles speeding in, we get a look at Kaneda’s motorbike from Akira, as well as KITT from Knight Rider behind it amongst all of the IOI cars, and the V8 Interceptor from Mad Max on the left.
Here we get a closer look at the Akira bike which has been decorated with the logos of several companies including Hello Kitty, Sega, and Atari. Ernest Cline has confirmed that this is a look at Art3mis (played by Olivia Cooke), another player Wade encounters in the game. Also in this shot, we can see the poster for Splash, graffiti that looks like it spells out “The Warriors”, and in the background, we can also get another look at the Interceptor from Mad Max (although you can’t make out that last one in the gif).
Also in the crowd, we can see Wade driving his customised DeLorean. On this, we can see the bumper sticker which reads “PARZIVAL” which is the name of his avatar in the game, as well as the dates on the time circuits which is shown to be when a specific section of the book takes place. Although very briefly we can also see the taxi from The Fifth Element in the middle of the frame, and to the lower left at the end, we can see a quick shot of the Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch.
Taking off his headset we can briefly see the reflection of Ben Mendelsohn (the glorious MENDO himself) who plays Nolan Sorrento, a high-ranking IOI official and the villain of the movie, after Wade presumably encounters him at some point inside the game.
The trailer cryptically ends with an ominous shot of the Crystal Key, the final of the three keys (the Copper Key, the Jade Key, and the Crystal Key) required in order to unlock the easter egg of the game.
Even the movies logo itself is an easter egg because it’s a maze where you start at the R and try to make your way to the easter egg in the O. If you haven’t got the hint yet, there’s basically a lot of easter eggs, and likely so many more to see in the full movie. In terms of what else might turn up, it’s safe to assume any WB franchises can show up (Harry Potter, Gremlins, Looney Tunes, etc.) and I think also possible that anyone who worked with them on both of the Lego Movies as well as the game Lego Dimensions which also brought together major franchises (so that would potentially include Ghostbusters, Doctor Who, and Portal, among others).
This is probably the one single film I’m most excited to see next year. Seeing this many easter eggs just in the two minutes of footage we have has me really keen to see what else they have in the whole movie. I’ll need to see it at least three times, and I never see movies in the cinema more than once (except for Star Wars). I’m a big fan of the kind of things this references. It makes me feel like a kid seeing them all in the same shots. I don’t even care if the film turns out to be horrendously awful at this point. Just give me all those easter eggs, Mr Spielberg.