Recently, we’ve had a spate of movies based on video games plots. Over the last year or so, Angry Birds, Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider have all taken to the big screen, with the recent Lara Croft reboot, starring Alicia Vikander, splitting the critics. However, this Easter, the cinema takes things a step further, with the release of a movie featuring the playing of a game.
Instead of a plot based on game characters, Ready Player One focuses on the game players. Set in 2045, it follows the fortunes of player one, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), as he takes on the OASIS, a virtual reality wonderland that is a far cry from the multistory trailer park slum of his real life.
The OASIS is where most of the world hang out most of the time because it can be anything you want it to be, whatever your circumstances in real life. Put on your virtual reality headset and you can be as rich, cool and successful with anyone you have always dreamed of, without any of the usual efforts, cost or natural talent normally required.
It’s a perfect fantasy, until the OASIS creator, James Halliday (Mark Rylance), dies and everything turns a bit Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Halliday announces that he has left a series of Easter eggs hidden within the OASIS and that the first person to find them all will inherit control of the game and the small matter of half a trillion dollars.
Cue a head-on battle between Nolan Sorrento’s evil corporation, Innovative Online Industries or IOI, Wade Watts and his four fellow gunters (egg hunters), helped by none other than The Iron Giant, in which the winner does take it all.
It’s such a familiar idea that the film even features the song “Pure Imagination,” and rumor has it that Gene Wilder, the original Willy Wonka himself, was approached to play Halliday.
Ready Player One, which is based on the best-selling sci-fi novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, was seen to have so much potential that it was optioned by Warner Bros. before it had even gone to print. Better still, it is directed by the master of imagination, Steven Spielberg, who is endlessly referenced in the original book. The film is brimming with classic game and movie references, with everything from the DeLorean from Back to the Future to a host of unforgettable video games from the 1980s and 90s, including Duke Nukem, Tron, Tomb Raider, Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog and Overwatch. Although humility has led to Spielberg toning down the multiple references to his material.
Ready Player One will be released for the Easter weekend, and most game fans will need to see it at least twice; once for the film and a second time to spot all the Easter eggs and oblique pop culture references scattered throughout the film. You could almost create bingo cards for you and your friends there are so many hidden gems to spot. You’ll be aching to freeze frame the screen to take it all in, but that will just have to wait until the Blu-ray arrives.