Home Culture You’ve Gotta See Ready Player One – Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

You’ve Gotta See Ready Player One – Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

by Cory De La Guardia

Steven Spielberg makes Ready Player One test the limits of nostalgia culture and provide a good time for everyone.

Directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg, Ready Player One is one of the coolest movies ever made.  Universal Pictures was so interested in this project that they bought the film rights roughly a year before the book the film is based on was even published.  

This dystopian future film takes place in the year 2045. An immersive virtual reality called The Oasis has become such a big deal that it drives a lot of the real world economy. People perform jobs and tasks crafting items and skins, a seeming extension of the current day micro transactions of video games now.  

Costing an estimated $175 million to create and with an additional $150 million spent on global marketing, the film wound up a moderate success bringing in around $580 million and was well received critically. 

Like most of the world he inhabits, orphan Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) immerses himself into The Oasis.  Recently, the founder of The Oasis passed away and left behind golden keys hidden in riddles and competition. Regularly, members of The Oasis compete in a race to try and win the first golden key.  Eventually, Watts and his crew of friends figure out the secret to the race and actually collects the first key. From there begins a crazy journey into the history of James Halliday, beloved creator of The Oasis and his relationship with the company that runs it, Gregarius Games. The journey eventually crosses paths with Nolan Serrento (Ben Mendelsohn), head of Innovative Online Industries who is hellbent on getting the three keys himself.  Control of The Oasis over to whoever can solve all the riddles and puzzles and secure all three keys. In the end, Watts comes through and wins all three keys but learns the lessons the Creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) was trying to impart.

You've Gotta See Ready Player One - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

It’s Easter Egg: The Movie

The film is awesome to watch there are hundreds of great references and visual Easter eggs littered throughout the virtual world known as The Oasis. Spielberg actually called this the third hardest movie he’s ever made due to the hard work involved with acquiring as many licenses as was necessary in the pop culture heavy story.

He wasn’t even able to get the rights to one of his own films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind from Columbia Pictures.  There are tons of great references that are relevant to the film including the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, The Iron Giant and the Mobile Suit Gundam.  There were also tons of visual  blink-and-you-miss-it cameos from Deadpool, Harley Quinn and characters from the online multiplayer game Overwatch. There were so many little nods and winks that every scene seems littered with characters from every 80’s and 90’s babies pop culture lives.  Seeing these characters interacting and in the background enhanced the experience of the movie and just made it feel more like how something like The Oasis would actually look.  It was visually amazing.

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You've Gotta See Ready Player One - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

We Interrupt this Movie to Bring You Another Movie

In one scene, they go inside The Shining. Yes, INSIDE The Shining. Watts and his friends have to go through the Halliday archives to figure a riddle that leads to the next key. They figure the answer is in his favorite movie. That just so happens to be the 1980 Stanley Kubrick classic.

So when the gang walks through the door, they walk into that movie, complete with Overlook Hotel set and grainy film look. For a moment, the movie becomes another movie. Sure, it changes to CGI fest with the ballroom of ghosts show up, but for a moment Spielberg got to be Kubrick.

You've Gotta See Ready Player One - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

Great Escape leads to Real World Consequences

The movie is just an overall fun movie to watch. It’s the rise of the traditional old school film hero from lovable, scrappy, down on his luck loser to king of the world with a beautiful girlfriend and success and wealth as a reward for his accomplishment.

The film hammers home the real world consequences when Serrento begins attempting to have Wade killed in the real world in order to prevent him from winning control of The Oasis. There’s a fantastic chase scene involving both the real world and Wade operating in the Oasis where his avatar is being affected by trying to manipulate it while being driven around violently on the roads. 

There’s also an element of sadness to the movie as it begins to become apparent that the world is more concerned about what happens in The Oasis rather than in the real world. It starts to remind you a little bit of The Matrix, how what happens in there is just as important to the film as what happens outside it. The story itself is a great coming of age tale. 

What does help separate Wade from those other guys though is the choice he makes when being offered the success. He chooses instead to share the power and wealth with his small group of friends.  The five of them save the world from the evil machinations of Innovative Online Industries, who at that point had an army of users working for them in an attempt to beat the heroes to the third and final key.

You've Gotta See Ready Player One - Essential Cyberpunk Cinema

It All Ends with an Atari

After all of the out of this world fighting and cinematic moments, then big final fight between good and evil is a dude playing Atari. That’s it. We are watching some play a video game inside a video game. Technically, we’re watching a movie about someone playing a video game inside a video game, but suspend a little more disbelief, will ya?

To be fair, it is unexpected and heartwarming. In the end, Serrento blows a metaphorical nuke on The Oasis, killing all players. However, Watts got an extra life earlier in the movie. You know, like Scott Pilgrim did in his movie. That was a good movie. Go watch that too.

Halliday sets up the final key to be not someone who wins at the 1980 Atari 2600 game Adventure, but by finding its easter egg. The first ever easter egg in video game history, to be exact. In it, you find a literal key to open a room revealing the game’s creator. To do so actually means to not finish the game. However, the player generally has more fun, which was Halliday’s point all along. Sure, you may want to accomplish great things, but you should sometimes you should focus on just having fun.

Ultimately, Steven Spielberg delivers on the promise of showing your childhood all together in one movie. There were so many great things to see and take in, that for that reason alone you’ll already want to watch the movie over and over. We haven’t covered the Iron Giant kicking ass late in the film’s major battle.  It’s awesome.

We know cyberpunk movies, so let us tell you what you’re missing. What’s timeless? What didn’t age so well? Share this article, and we’ll make the case for Ready Player One.

Did we miss something here? Was there an unforgettable scene or classic one-liner that just shouldn’t be left out? What are your favorite parts of this movie? Leave us a comment below, and we’ll try to update the article with your suggestions!

Hey, chum. These posts don't write themselves. If you wanna stay in the know, it's gotta be a two way street.*

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