'Ready Player One'. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
Wargames, Back to the Future, Tootsie Roll Pops, Atari, ColecoVision, IROC Z, Akira, Robocop, Jurassic Park, A Nightmare on Elm Street. Do I have your attention? If you love ANYTHING pop-culture related from the 1980’s, this movie is for you. On the other hand, If I say the words: “Easter Egg” and the only thing that comes to mind is a white egg dipped in smelly food coloring, you might want to rethink your life choices and sit this one out.
Ready Player One, (based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline), is a tailor-made treat to anyone who spent way too much time behind a joystick, in a movie theater, or being babysat by their television growing up.
The story takes place in the year 2045 where our hero Wade Watts, (played by Tye Sheridan) lives in the way-too-likely futuristic trailer park known as “the stacks”. And yes, that’s “stacks” as in ‘stacks of trailers stacked on top of each other’. A quick look around, and it’s not difficult to understand why Wade and almost everyone else in this future would rather hide in a virtual reality video game called the OASIS, than toil in the real world on the regular. The creator of OASIS: James Halliday, has recently passed away and left a giant easter egg hidden inside the game. Halliday was the ultimate child of the 80’s, so Gunters (Egg Hunters) must immerse themselves in all things 80’s to find hidden keys that unlock clues to the egg’s location. The winner will get ownership of Halliday’s company (worth billions) and more importantly, complete control of the game.
I watched the trailer a dozen times beforehand, heard about the book, and felt prepared for the onslaught of 80‘s pop culture references. Naturally, I did what anyone would do, I had an awkward conversation with myself as I sat down in the theater: “Okay Angie, (what? you don’t refer to yourself in the second person???), we are going to just sit back and enjoy ourself on this first viewing! We are NOT going to get caught up in tagging every easter egg we see!!”
That promise crumbled about five seconds in when I saw my first “old lady” character wearing a Police Synchronicity tee-shirt, followed by Wade wearing a Thundercats belt buckle. (Thundercats, HO!)
Every single second of this film has something that will catch your eyes AND ears. A pin, a car, a sound-effect, a song; even a statue that may or may not have been the same one that once upon a time had pimento loaf stuck to it during detention...(cough cough). Weapons used to level-up in the game like the Holy Hand Grenade or the Zemeckis Cube all pay homage to the movies and movie makers we love. One of the shining moments in this film, pun intended, is when the characters wind up in a spot-on recreation of Stephen King’s "The Shining", complete with the spooky Grady twins and a tidal wave of blood.
The plot to Ready Player One isn’t just a love song to our collective pop-culture addiction, it’s an Arthurian quest for the digital age. As the movie revolves around Wade’s avatar, (named “Parzival”--(Percival in English) --wearing a huge Excalibur on the back of his jean jacket looking for the holy grail of easter eggs, it’s clear we are not in for a SUBTLE ride.
Ready Player One’s audience aren’t the only ones getting caught up in the easter egg hunting and pop culture references. Spielberg and his team might have spent a little too MUCH time deciding on which nods to our collective past be included, and not enough time giving us a story that really moves us. Having not read the novel, this movie has inspired me to do so, as I get the sneaking suspicion much was left out, and I would like to explore this story further.
Is Ready Player One a fun movie? Absolutely. Is it Spielberg’s best? Not even close. Will I go see it again? You can count on it. I mean, after all, I’ve got to catch all the eggs I missed the first time around! I guess, I too, am a Gunter. Like totally, fer sure.