The first trailer for Steven Spielberg’s big screen version of 2011’s Ernest Cline novel Ready Player One arrived over the weekend, and we’ve started dissecting its many revelations.
Now before I go too far I’ll say that I’ve only read Ready Player One once, so my memory of how the book differs from what we saw in the trailer is a little faded. Also, potential spoilers ahead but it is mostly just conjecture about what we’ve seen in the trailer.
Introducing The OASIS
The first thing that struck me was main character Wade Watts saying he was born in 2025 while establishing 2045 as a timeframe for his narration. That would make him 20-years-old, which is a little older than his 17-year old counterpart at the start of the book. He began the book’s plot as a high school student attending public school inside of virtual reality. This seems to either mean the narration comes from Watts after his time in high school, or the movie might cut much from the book about school.
Opinions are overflowing on my Twitter feed from people who have thoughts about both the book and film, but what hooked me on the story was its believable description of the OASIS, its appeal as end point for virtual worlds, and how it operates. Unlike The Matrix, which is a virtually inescapable dystopian virtual world, you’re free to leave the OASIS whenever you want. For Watts’ generation, though, the virtual world is better in every way from a world left with too little food, too few jobs, and too many people.
The OASIS is set up as a free-to-join virtual universe with every bit of our knowledge inside it alongside fully realized virtual worlds from all of our favorite pieces of fiction and beyond. The universe is primarily funded by people spending money to get from place to place inside it. I don’t know how much of this carries over to the film, but Watts’ narration succinctly sets up the allure of the OASIS in the trailer:
“There’s nowhere left to go. Nowhere except the OASIS. It’s the only place that feels like I mean anything,” Watts says. “Where the limits of reality are your own imagination.”
And this shot beautifully crystallizes the incredibly fidelity of the VR headsets of the future:
You can hear the tones of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory throughout the trailer. It isn’t spoiling much from the book because this is set up right at the beginning, but the whole idea of Ready Player One is like a mashup of Willy Wonka and VR. The winner of OASIS-creator James Halliday’s posthumous Easter egg hunt inside the OASIS will win control of what is perhaps the most profitable venture in human history — the company itself that invented this virtual universe.
As the trailer progresses we see what might end up being the wildest car chase ever depicted in a movie — putting to shame anything in the Fast and the Furious films. There’s the motorcycle from Akira and a DeLorean from Back To The Future that I hope is being driven by the good guys.
We also see the I.O.I. corporate goons locking into control what looks like a whole armada of race cars with some other vehicles in the mix — they too are in search of Halliday’s egg.
Other breakdowns have mentioned the Batmobile, Christine from the car-centered book by Stephen King, as well as KITT from Knight Rider. I can only imagine they are all racing toward one of the key milestones Halliday’s egg hunt with wrecking balls flying in every direction. If so, this would differ considerably from the book.
As far as characters, we see Iron Giant (which itself has been the inspiration for a landmark VR experience in Oculus Story Studios’ Lost), Harley Quinn, Gandalf, Freddy Krueger, Duke Nukem, Joust Ostriches, Conan the Barbarian, and many more represented throughout the trailer.
What’s Left Unsaid
I think it is telling that the trailer ends with Watts yanking off the headset in shock. The trailer shows us the allure of the OASIS, but we have yet to see how the virtual world and real world affect one another. What happens in the real world as a result of what transpires in the OASIS? The trailer lacks a deeper message Spielberg may hope to unlock about this amazing but alarming future, and we may get to understand that more deeply when we understand why Watts pulled off that headset.
Also, one more tidbit. Many have noted there’s a hidden QR code during a scene when a car rolls. It leads to here.
Oh hey, a little QR code slipped into the Ready Player One trailer.
— Greg Norman (@Raelshark) July 23, 2017
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