‘Ready Player One’ Trailer Breakdown Explains the Iron Giant and 80s References [Updated]
Now that the epic first trailer for Steven Spielberg‘s Ready Player One has dropped, we can dig into just what in the 80s is going on here. Fans of Ernest Cline‘s sci-fi novel, that’s one part love story to pop culture of the 80s and one part action-adventure story, seemed a rather daunting adaptation thanks to a laundry list of references and completely insane action sequences. Spielberg was clearly up to the task, as this first trailer shows. While the first glimpse of OASIS–a virtual world that lets you become literally just about anything you want and do anything you want–was a fantastic introduction to the world 2045, the trailer doesn’t do much to lay out the treasure-hunting story that’s at the heart of the film.
That’s where this trailer breakdown comes in! Fans of the book (and of pop culture in general) will recognize quite a few characters, locations, and even vehicles here, but I’ve gone through the trailer scene by scene to pull things of interest for your viewing pleasure. [Update: Thanks to a trailer commentary from Cline himself, via EW, we have some updated info below!]
Scripted by Cline and Zak Penn, Ready Player One stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance and opens in theaters on March 30, 2018.
For more on Ready Player One, be sure to get caught up with our recent write-ups provided at the links below:
- ‘Ready Player One’ SDCC Panel Recap: Spielberg Teases Big ‘Iron Giant’ Role, Reveals Why He Signed On
- ‘Ready Player One’: First Image Reveals Tye Sheridan’s Protagonist and Easter Eggs
- John Williams Won’t Score Steven Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’
- ‘Ready Player One’: T.J. Miller on His Newly Created Character with a ‘Star Wars’ Obsession
- Tye Sheridan Talks ‘Detour’, ‘Ready Player One’ and What You Learn on a Spielberg Set
Here’s the official synopsis for Ready Player One:
The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger.
Check out the images and trailer breakdown below:
Relatively little time (in this trailer, at least) is spent in the Stacks, a rundown, impoverished section of town that houses people in literal stacks of trailers; think of it like a vertical trailer park. In the book, this place exists on the outskirts of Oklahoma City before Wade (Sheridan) is forced to move to Columbus, Ohio after a fairly traumatic event. The trailer suggests that his life in the Stacks actually takes place in Columbus, so the movie will either change up the setting a bit or this is simply a mis-paired dialogue over a visual. Regardless, the precious Stacks looks pretty impressive here.
Though Wade has next to no money, he apparently has the tech skills to put together a rudimentary VR rig (and keep it running) in order to access the OASIS. Once there, he can become anyone and do anything his heart desires … within reason. You see, though OASIS is accessible to anyone regardless of income, many of the virtual world’s bells and whistles exist behind pay walls put in place by the powerful corporate entity, Innovative Online Industries, or IOI.
Speak of the devils. Wade can’t rig up everything on his own; haptic–or touch-sensitive–gloves from IOI are an integral part of the VR experience.
Here’s a cool look at Spielberg’s version of the interface for accessing the OASIS, sort of a neon hyperdrive from the crappy, real world to the land of digital dreams.
This is one reason Wade, a.k.a. Parzival, trips into OASIS: He can look exactly the way he wants to and, if he can afford it, he can dance with other people in zero gravity, among many, many other activities. When you step into the OASIS, your avatar is the only thing that appears to others. Wade keeps his avatar pretty close to his own appearance while others opt for looking like Harley Quinn or one of the ninja combatants of Mortal Kombat. (Not everything in Ready Player One is confined to the 80s; there are plenty of 90s references throughout as well.)
Update: Apparently the ninja-looking fellow is actually Deadshot, according to Cline’s trailer breakdown. Also, Gandalf can be seen dancing in this scene.
Update: Cline says that there are a bunch of other Warner Bros. characters dancing in this scene as well.
Here’s the Iron Giant, the title titan of the 1999 animated classic by writer/director Brad Bird. The automaton plays a big part in the book, assisting Parzival and his allies in their pursuit of the ultimate Easter egg, the prize to end all prizes: Inheritance of the late OASIS creator James Halliday’s fortune and ownership of his corporation. Wade and his friends race against countless other egg-hunters (“gunters”) to not only secure their own life-changing payday, but to keep the virtual world free from the clutches of IOI and its greedy, nefarious Oology leader, Nolan Sorrento. Spoiler (highlight to read): The Iron Giant appears alongside other giant mecha like Gigantor, Tranzor Z, various Gundams, etc.
Update: Cline believes that the characters in this image are Yoshiaki Toshiro, a.k.a. Daito, and Karatsu Akihide, a.k.a. Shoto, two brotherly figures in the OASIS who befriend Parzival as fellow Gunters.
Update: One of the weirdest sequences features “Napoleon, riding atop a mecha-scorpion in a virtual reality version of the 1982 video game Joust, complete with giant attacking warrior ostriches”, as described by EW:
Here’s a fun sequence that lays out the OASIS in a nutshell. Like any video game, you assume control of an avatar that participates against other non-player characters and player opponents alike. In this Ready Player One scene, a very competent and aggressive player takes out a Freddy Krueger avatar (paying homage to the 80s horror film icon), who turns into in-game currency a la Scott Pilgrim. (“Hey look, coins!”) After laying waste to his opponents, the cybernetically augmented beast is revealed as … something … probably our film’s antagonist, Sorrento. It’s possible this is another character entirely, or one of Sorrento’s minions known as “Sixers”, but he gets a lot of screentime in this short trailer.
Update: Not only is that rocket launcher-wielding dude in the back Duke Nukem, the rough looking dude is actually Aech, Wade’s best friend and ally in OASIS. This is a bit odd since, in the book, Aech is described as a “tall, broad-shouldered, Caucasian male with dark brown hair and brown eyes”, not a cyborg Orc-looking thing. Why the filmmakers went in this direction, I have no idea.
Here’s where the trailer plays a little meta game by introducing an insane road race that’s likely part of the overall race to find the Easter egg. In a scene that’s reminiscent of I, Robot, the Sixers (who you can easily spot since their six-digit IOI ID numbers all start with the number 6) suit up and get behind the wheels of their identical vehicles for a bonkers road race through a twisted version of New York City. This is where the movie looks to tap into the crazy fun.
Update: The Plymouth Fury “Christine” from Stephen King‘s novel and the Batmobile also appear in this race, to the sounds of Rush, of course. Also present are “the van from the 1983-87 TV series The A-Team” and the “Interceptor — the modified Ford Falcon driven by Mel Gibson in 1979’s Mad Max.”
Peep an F1 racer and another hotrod, which appears to be driven by Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame in conversation with someone else entirely. Any idea who these two might be?
ur presumed antagonist Aech once more, though this time he’s driving a massive monster truck outfitted with three circular-saw blades that are just perfect for cutting through the competition.
Here we see another non-IOI racer who opts for the Akira-like motorcycle, complete with candy red paint and green light accents. (It does have a sort of TRON light-cycle feel to it as well.) Note the Atari branding, which not only seems to be a big sponsor of Warner Bros. movies (there’s also a big Atari spot in Blade Runner 2049). I’m going to guess that this is Parzival’s greatest competitor, fiercest ally, and love interest, Art3mis.
Update: Art3mis and Akira confirmed!
I’m not sure if this monster truck is the same one driven by the antagonist, or just a fun nod to Bigfoot. The beast debuted in 1979 and gained popularity in the 80s, even finding its way into a cartoon series, Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines.
Speaking of 80s references, here’s a car interior any fan of Back to the Future will recognize in an instant.
And that DeLorean DMC-12 is driven by our hero, Parzival, as you can tell by the vanity license plate.
Whether these scenes are connected or not is tough to tell, but it looks like Wade has either just done the impossible in achieving a victory in the great Easter egg hunt, or he’s had some other sort of emotional interaction online. It’s hard to tell here, but at some point audiences are going to see Wade pull off some heroic stuff. This is just the beginning!
Here’s a glorious teaser to leave for the very end of the trailer. Throughout the story, there is a series of keys the players must discover in order to progress to the next level in the hunt. For years, no one had found the first Copper Key, but as this image shows, clearly someone’s obtained the Crystal Key that appears down the line. A nice nod to book readers and a nice tease for audiences. However, there will be all-new puzzles to solve in the movie version in order to freshen up the story, so keep your eyes peeled for much more in the months to come!
One final Easter egg: I love that the title treatment is a fun little maze, one that ends with the egg itself inside the “O.” Very cool little addition, here.