Ready Player One (film)

Ready Player One is a 2018 American science fiction adventure film based on Ernest Cline's novel of the same name. Directed by Steven Spielberg, from a screenplay by Zak Penn and Cline, it stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance. Set in 2045, much of humanity uses the OASIS, a virtual reality simulation, to escape the real world. The orphaned Wade Watts finds clues to a contest that promises the ownership of the OASIS to the winner, and he and four allies try to complete it before a corporation run by businessman Nolan Sorrento can do so.

Ready Player One
Ready Player One (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Spielberg
Screenplay by
Based onReady Player One
by Ernest Cline
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited by
Music byAlan Silvestri
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • March 11, 2018 (2018-03-11) (SXSW)[2]
  • March 29, 2018 (2018-03-29) (United States)
Running time
140 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States[4]
LanguageEnglish
Budget$155–175 million[5][6][7]
Box office$582.9 million[8]

Development first began in 2010 when Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the book. In July 2015, Spielberg signed on to direct and produce the film, with casting for the film beginning in September 2015. Filming began in England in July 2016 and was completed in September 2016. The visual effects were handled by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Digital Domain, and Territory Studio, with some pre-visualization done by The Third Floor. As with the novel, several popular culture references appear throughout the film, with references to The Shining, the Back to the Future franchise, and The Iron Giant appearing most prominently.

Ready Player One premiered at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 11, 2018, and was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on March 29, 2018. The film received mostly positive reviews from critics who praised its visuals, brisk pacing, and the performances of Sheridan and Rylance, but criticized its lack of development among the supporting characters.[9][10] It grossed over $582 million worldwide, as well as earning a nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 91st Academy Awards, 24th Critics' Choice Awards, and 72nd British Academy Film Awards.

PlotEdit

In 2045, people escape from reality through the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a virtual reality simulation created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Games. After Halliday's death, his avatar Anorak offers his shares of Gregarious Games (worth half a trillion dollars, plus control of the OASIS) to the finder of an Easter egg. There are three hidden challenges; the reward for solving each is a key. The three keys open a locked gate. The contest lures thousands of egg hunters, or "Gunters", and Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), who seeks control of the OASIS so he can insert intrusive online advertising. IOI uses indentured servants imprisoned in their loyalty centers and its employees, the Sixers, to seek the egg.

Five years pass, with no one able to get past even the first challenge: a seemingly unbeatable car race. Avid Gunter Wade Watts competes, using the avatar Parzival, along with his best friend, Aech, and Art3mis, on whom Parzival develops a crush. Parzival regularly visits Halliday's Journals, an online archive of Halliday's life run by The Curator. Based on a remark Halliday made, Wade correctly guesses he has to drive backwards. This opens a previously hidden route, which he uses to win. He receives the Copper Key (and a clue to the second challenge). Art3mis, Aech, and Parzival's friends Daito and Sho, are next to win. They are later collectively named the High-5 on the contest's scoreboard.

Sorrento hires bounty hunter i-R0k to eliminate Parzival. Wade and Art3mis discover from the Journals that Halliday once dated Karen "Kira" Underwood, before she married Morrow. Wade and Art3mis visit the Distracted Globe night club to look for clues, where Wade reveals his love and true first name to Art3mis. After they survive an attack by IOI, Art3mis abandons Wade, explaining that her father died in debt to IOI. i-R0k, who was eavesdropping, is able to identify Wade by his first name and the fact he recently bought a deluxe haptic suit. Sorrento then contacts Wade and offers him a very lucrative job, which he rejects. Sorrento then bombs his home, killing his aunt Alice and others.

Wade is taken in by Art3mis, whose real name is Samantha Cook. They realize that the second challenge relates to Halliday's regret at not pursuing a relationship with Kira. Parzival, Art3mis, Aech, Daito, and Sho enter a re-creation of the Overlook Hotel from the movie The Shining, where Art3mis obtains the Jade Key. Sorrento's ambitious subordinate, F'Nale Zandor, storms Samantha's hideout and imprisons her in an IOI loyalty center. Wade escapes with the help of the rest of the High-5: Helen Harris (Aech), Toshiro (Daito), and Zhou (Sho). They hack Sorrento's OASIS rig and free Samantha.

The third challenge is located in Castle Anorak on Planet Doom, where players must find out which Atari 2600 game holds the Crystal Key. iR0k places a forcefield around the castle, but Art3mis soon disables it. Parzival raises an army of players to fight IOI's forces. Through trial and error, Sorrento's minions determine the game is Adventure, but when one of them wins, nothing happens. Sorrento activates the artifact Cataclyst, which destroys every avatar, all but one. Parzival survives via an extra life coin given to him by the Curator after he won a bet. He obtains the Crystal Key by getting the game's own Easter egg. After he unlocks the gate, Anorak offers him a contract giving him ownership of his Gregarious Games shares. Parzival recognizes it as the one Morrow signed when Halliday forced him out of Gregarious Games and refuses to sign it. Anorak transforms into Halliday, who expresses his regrets in life and awards Parzival the Easter egg.

Sorrento and Zandor are arrested by the police, having received a recording of the former's confession from Aech. Morrow resurfaces; he is the Curator. Wade decides to run the OASIS jointly with his friends, hiring Morrow as a consultant. IOI's loyalty centers are barred from accessing it, forcing the company to shut them down and free its servants. The OASIS resumes operations, but is closed every Tuesday and Thursday so people can spend more time in the real world.

CastEdit

Letitia Wright and Mckenna Grace make appearances in the film, with Wright as a rebel who can be seen at Samantha's safe house, and Grace as a student using the OASIS.[24][25]

ProductionEdit

Development and castingEdit

 
Director Steven Spielberg (far left) and Ernest Cline with the cast of Ready Player One at San Diego Comic-Con. From third of left: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, T.J. Miller, and Ben Mendelsohn.

Warner Bros. bought the film rights for producers Dan Farah and Donald De Line in June 2010, one year before the book was published.[26] Ernest Cline was set to write the script for the film, which De Line and Farah would produce.[27] Eric Eason rewrote Cline's script,[28] and Zak Penn was hired to rewrite the previous drafts by Cline and Eason (who became uncredited for the final draft), along with Village Roadshow Pictures coming aboard.[29] Steven Spielberg signed on to direct and produce the film, which Kristie Macosko Krieger also produced, along with De Line and Farah.[30] Cline and Penn made several revisions while adapting the novel to film. Most of these changes were to eliminate scenes that would be uninteresting in a visual format, such as when Wade beats a high score in Pac-Man, or recites all the lines from the film WarGames.[31][32]

Elle Fanning, Olivia Cooke, and Lola Kirke were the frontrunners for the role of Art3mis;[33] with Cooke announced as having been cast in the role by September 2015.[12] In January 2016, Ben Mendelsohn joined the cast.[13] In February 2016, Tye Sheridan was confirmed to play Wade, after a lengthy casting search for the role.[11] Simon Pegg was added to the cast in March,[16] with Mark Rylance joining in April.[17] By June, T.J. Miller, Hannah John-Kamen, and Win Morisaki had also been cast in the film.[15][20][19] In July, Philip Zhao joined the cast,[18] with Lena Waithe, Ralph Ineson, Mckenna Grace, and Letitia Wright being revealed as appearing in the film over time prior to the film's release.[14][22][25][24]

In October 2019, Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan revealed that Jack Nicholson, who portrayed Jack Torrance in The Shining (which is featured as James Halliday's second challenge), was approached to appear in the film, but declined the offer due to his retirement.[34]

FilmingEdit

Production was slated to begin in July 2016,[35] but on July 1, 2016, screenwriter Zak Penn confirmed that the first week of filming had already been completed.[36] In August and September 2016, filming took place in Birmingham, England, standing in for Columbus, Ohio.[37] Birmingham filming included on Livery Street in the Jewellery Quarter area of the city, which was used for multiple scenes in the film. Ludgate Hill Car Park lot on Lionel Street, in which caravan homes were partially built, was also used, and a planned explosion there caused some local businesses and residents to call emergency services as no prior notice was given by the production team. Other locations in the city included the former industrial area of Digbeth, and some of the city's landmarks were erased and replaced with CGI buildings to create a dystopian future Ohio.[38][39] Outside of Birmingham, filming also took place at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden and at Solaris House, the former Sun Microsystems headquarters in Surrey.[40][37] Principal photography wrapped on September 27, 2016.[41][42]

Visual effectsEdit

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Digital Domain, and Territory Studio developed the visual effects, with some pre-visualization done by The Third Floor.[43][44] For three hours three days a week Spielberg met with ILM, which was in charge of the OASIS segments and produced the bulk of the visual effects shots, with 900 in total; Spielberg remarked that "this is the most difficult movie I've done since Saving Private Ryan", as three 3-hour long meetings a week were necessitated to discuss the visual effects.[42] Visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett stated that the visual effects team would collaborate with Spielberg and writers Cline and Penn:[45]

What we did at one point was to have a card for every single character that we considered to be a "hero" character within the movie, and we put them up on a board and Steven and everyone else spent hours assigning them to scenes. We'd say, "This is where we want whoever it would be … Batman, Chun-Li, or whoever." And then we went through the whole movie doing that. As the scenes developed, we got an understanding of how many characters we needed.

Part of the film takes place in a virtual space based on the Overlook Hotel in the film The Shining. This was mostly a digital recreation using high-quality telecine of the original film, allowing new camera angles and shots that did not appear in the original. Some original footage from The Shining was also used, with ILM's modifications. Only a few scenes in this sequence involved real actors (such as the appearance of the Grady twins) and required reproduction of The Shining's physical sets. The Shining sequence was post-processed with film grain and other aging effects to make the new footage closely resemble the original.[46] During the production of Ready Player One, The VFX team built the sequence the Overlook Hotel in the digital realm. Stanley Kubrick's blueprints were used to recreate the hotel in the film.[47] ILM also had to produce digital versions of the film's many cultural references, including the DeLorean time machine (from the Back to the Future films); the Iron Giant; Chucky; and King Kong, modeled after the 1933 film version.[48] The Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park was created from the base model ILM had created.[48] Digital Domain facilitated pre-visualization (with The Third Floor), motion capture, and virtual sets, and also created 300 visual effects shots for the primarily live-action portions of the film. The virtual sets were powered by game engines and were used congruently with the motion-capture process, with previsualization supervisor Scott Meadows explaining that in real time Spielberg would "put on a headset and scout the sets and make adjustments."[43][44]

MusicEdit

On June 9, 2016, John Williams was initially going to form the film's score.[49] However, in July 2017, Williams left the project in favor of scoring Spielberg's The Post, and Alan Silvestri took over scoring duties for the film.[50] The official score was released by WaterTower Music as a two-CD set on March 30, 2018,[51] with vinyl and cassette releases projected.[52] At Spielberg's request, Silvestri references his own music from Back to the Future within the film's score, as well as quoting music written by other composers including Max Steiner's theme from King Kong, Akira Ifukube’s main theme from Godzilla, and the score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind from The Shining.[53][54]

Ready Player One: Original Motion Picture SoundtrackEdit

No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."The Oasis"Alan Silvestri1:49
2."Hello, I'm James Halliday"Alan Silvestri2:01
3."Why Can't We Go Backwards?"Alan Silvestri4:18
4."An Orb Meeting"Alan Silvestri4:11
5."Real World Consequences"Alan Silvestri3:30
6."Sorrento Makes an Offer"Alan Silvestri3:34
7."Welcome to the Rebellion"Alan Silvestri3:14
8."High 5 Assembles"Alan Silvestri4:24
9."Orb of Osuvox"Alan Silvestri3:45
10."Sorrento Punked"Alan Silvestri3:57
11."Wade's Broadcast"Alan Silvestri5:51
12."Arty on the Inside"Alan Silvestri2:33
13."Looking for a Truck"Alan Silvestri5:36
14."She Never Left"Alan Silvestri2:41
15."Last Chance"Alan Silvestri3:20
16."Get Me Out of This"Alan Silvestri1:35
17."Hold on to Something"Alan Silvestri5:14
18."This Is Wrong"Alan Silvestri3:49
19."What Are You?"Alan Silvestri3:29
20."There's Something I Need to Do"Alan Silvestri5:01
21."Main Title"Alan Silvestri2:26
22."End Credits"Alan Silvestri8:04
Total length:1:24:22

Ready Player One: Songs from the Motion PictureEdit

No.TitlePerformed byLength
1."I Wanna Be Your Lover"Prince5:48
2."Everybody Wants to Rule the World"Tears for Fears4:12
3."Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)"The Temptations3:49
4."Stand on It"Bruce Springsteen3:06
5."One Way or Another"Blondie3:27
6."Can't Hide Love"Earth, Wind & Fire4:09
7."Blue Monday"New Order7:24
8."Stayin' Alive"Bee Gees4:45
9."We're Not Gonna Take It"Twisted Sister3:38
10."You Make My Dreams"Hall & Oates3:11
11."Pure Imagination (feat. Merethe Soltvedt)"Bryan Nguyen2:33
Total length:46:02

Cultural referencesEdit

 
Director Steven Spielberg was reluctant to include references to his own movies for the film, but would eventually include references to Back to the Future and Jurassic Park.

Ready Player One pays homage to popular culture from various time periods, mainly the 1970s and 1980s but also extending to the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s; reviewers have identified over a hundred references to films, television shows, music, toys, video games, anime, and comics from these eras.[55][56][57] Cline did not have any issues with these copyrighted elements when he published the book, but was aware that securing all necessary rights would be a major obstacle for a film adaptation. This task was eventually made easier thanks to Spielberg's reputation in the film industry.[31][58][59] In the end, Spielberg estimated that they managed to get about 80% of the copyrighted elements they desired.[31] The production was not able to secure Close Encounters of the Third Kind from Columbia Pictures.[60]

In the book, the Dungeons & Dragons module Tomb of Horrors covers a notable importance, but is not included in the film; it was excluded despite Cline being a fan of Tomb of Horrors, but artwork of the demon from the module is featured on the back of Aech's van.[61]

Similarly Blade Runner, which was integral to the plot of the book, was shelved as Blade Runner 2049 was in production at the same time as Ready Player One and the producers at Alcon Entertainment feared that Spielberg's film could damage the commercial prospects of their film; as a replacement, the creative team had the players play through the events of The Shining, which Spielberg was able to secure the rights to as an homage to his friend Stanley Kubrick.[31] Penn and Cline also thought that the film could be the opportunity to replace such lenghty sequence with a more action-heavy one. Once they settled to use The Shining, they were doubtful at first that Spielberg would accept the change, but Spielberg did go for it.[62] While Cline's original work heavily used the character of Ultraman, the rights over the character were still under legal dispute, requiring them to replace Ultraman with the titular robot from The Iron Giant and RX-78-2 Gundam.[63] Spielberg recognized that his past films were a significant part of the 1980s popular culture cited in the book, and to avoid being accused of "vanity", he opted to remove many of the references to his own work.[64] Cline stated that he believed Spielberg wanted to avoid self-references to films he directed, due to the criticism he received for his film 1941, which lampooned his own previous works Jaws and Duel. Cline said he had to convince Spielberg to include some iconic elements, such as the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, which Spielberg conceded as the film was one he produced rather than directed.[65] Spielberg also allowed the Tyrannosaurus rex from his own Jurassic Park to be included.[48] Cline also asked ILM to include a reference to Last Action Hero, one of Penn's first screenplays, without Penn's knowledge; a movie marquee in the Manhattan race segment bears the name "Jack Slater", the character Arnold Schwarzenegger played in that film.[66]

ReleaseEdit

TheatricalEdit

Ready Player One was originally scheduled to be released on December 15, 2017.[67] However, on February 9, 2016, the film was delayed to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.[68] In January 2018, it was announced the film's release date had been moved up one day to March 29, 2018.[69] The film had its world premiere at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas on March 11, 2018 (as part of the South by Southwest Film Festival).[5] Warner Bros. distributed the film worldwide, with Village Roadshow Pictures distributing in several overseas territories.[70] Around the same time the film was released, massively multi-player online game platform Roblox held an event based on it. The winner of the event was the user r0cu.[71]

Home mediaEdit

Ready Player One was released on digital copy on July 3, 2018, and on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD on July 24, 2018.[72] The film debuted at the top of the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, a tracker of combined domestic Blu-Ray and DVD unit sales, for the week ending on July 27, 2018.[73] It retained the No. 1 spot on the chart for the week ending on August 4, 2018.[74]

ReceptionEdit

Box officeEdit

Ready Player One grossed $137.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $445.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $582.9 million.[8] Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film would need to gross at least $440 million in order to break even.[75]

In the United States and Canada, Ready Player One was projected to gross $40–50 million from 4,100 theaters over its first four days.[7] It made $12.1 million on its first day, including $3.75 million from Wednesday night previews. It ended up grossing $41.8 million in its opening weekend (for a four-day total of $53.7 million).[76] The film made $24.6 million in its second weekend, finishing second behind newcomer A Quiet Place, and $11.5 million in its third weekend, finishing in fourth.[77][78]

Critical responseEdit

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 72% with an average score of 6.8/10, based on 437 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Ready Player One is a sweetly nostalgic thrill ride that neatly encapsulates Spielberg's strengths while adding another solidly engrossing adventure to his filmography."[79] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100 based on 56 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[80] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, and those at PostTrak gave the film an 82% overall positive score and a 65% "definite recommend".[75]

In a review for RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico wrote that the film's "overwhelming" nature and non-stop action will likely thrill fans of pop culture; while he observed narrative weaknesses, such as a lack of depth among the supporting characters, he felt that they ultimately do not hinder the film from working "on the level of technical, blockbuster mastery that Spielberg helped define".[81] Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman called the film a "coruscating explosion of pop-culture eye candy" and found the sequence based on The Shining to be "irresistible". However, he criticized Spielberg's separation of fantasy and reality, and he said the film has "more activity than it does layers".[82] IndieWire's Eric Kohn characterized the film as "an astonishing sci-fi spectacle and a relentless nostalgia trip at once" and praised both the sequence based on The Shining and Penn's screenplay, particularly with respect to Mendelsohn's character. Nevertheless, he remarked that the film "drags a bunch in its final third".[83] Alissa Wilkinson, writing for Vox, praised both the quality and quantity of the world-building. She also commented on just how dystopian the future portrayed is, where the main characters fight to save the OASIS and the escape from reality it represents, with arguably less concern for the problems of the real world.[84] Film and television critic Matt Zoller Seitz praised Ready Player One and noted the undercurrent of sadness present in the film, stating that "I don't think Spielberg gets enough credit for making sad films that most people interpret as happy, and complex films that are immediately dismissed as simple or confused".[85][86][87] Seitz concluded that the film "is a mess, but it is a fascinating and complex one..."[88] In March 2019, a year after the film's release, Seitz determined that with Ready Player One's images commenting on capitalism and popular culture, the film was the second-most "interesting [and] substantive" big-budgeted fantasy in 2018 after Black Panther, admitting that "I still think about [Ready Player One] a lot, especially concerning the world around me."[89][90]

Monica Castillo was more critical of the film in her review for The Guardian and drew attention to the absence of character arcs, the lack of resolution for plot holes in the novel, and the bloating of scenes in the film by trivia.[91] Alonso Duralde, writing for TheWrap, found the usage of pop culture references lacking, and found his experience watching the film as "feeling bombarded with images, bored by the lack of an interesting story, and irritated with my own cultural past. I've never been much of a video-game player, but by the finale, I was ready to 'Leeroy Jenkins!' my way out of the theater".[92]

AccoladesEdit

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Teen Choice Awards August 12, 2018 Choice Sci-Fi Movie Ready Player One Nominated [93]
Choice Sci-Fi Movie Actor Tye Sheridan Nominated
Choice Sci-Fi Movie Actress Olivia Cooke Nominated
Choice Breakout Movie Star Nominated
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 13, 2019 Best Visual Effects Ready Player One Nominated [94]
Visual Effects Society Awards February 5, 2019 Outstanding Visual Effects in a
Photoreal Feature
Roger Guyett, Jennifer Meislohn, Dave Shirk,
Matthew E. Butler, Neil Corbould
Nominated [95]
Outstanding Animated Character
in a Photoreal Feature
Dave Shirk, Brian Cantwell, Jung-Seung Hong and
Kim Ooi for "Art3mis"
Nominated
Outstanding Created Environment
in a Photoreal Feature
Mert Yamak, Stanley Wong, Joana Garrido and
Daniel Gagiu for "Overlook Hotel"
Won
Outstanding Virtual Cinematography
in a Photoreal Project
Daniele Bigi, Edmund Kolloen, Mathieu Vig and
Jean-Baptiste Noyau for "New York Race"
Won
Outstanding Model in a
Photoreal or Animated Project
Giuseppe Laterza, Kim Lindqvist, Mauro Giacomazzo
and William Gallyo for "DeLorean DMC-12"
Nominated
Satellite Awards February 17, 2019 Best Visual Effects Ready Player One Nominated [96]
BAFTA Awards February 10, 2019 Best Special Visual Effects Matthew E. Butler, Grady Cofer, Roger Guyett,
Dave Shirk
Nominated [97]
Academy Awards February 24, 2019 Best Visual Effects Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and Dave Shirk Nominated [98]
Saturn Awards September 13, 2019 Best Science Fiction Film Ready Player One Won [99]
Best Director Steven Spielberg Nominated
Best Music Alan Silvestri Nominated
Best Special Effects Ready Player One Nominated

FutureEdit

When asked about a sequel to the film, Cline stated: "I think there's a good chance that, if this one does well, Warner Bros. will want to make a sequel. I don't know if Steven [Spielberg] would want to dive back in, because he would know what he is getting into. He's said that it's the third-hardest film he's made, out of dozens and dozens of movies".[100][101] Co-star Olivia Cooke, and presumably the rest of the cast, is "contracted to sequels".[102] Cline wrote a book sequel, titled Ready Player Two, which was released on November 24, 2020, stating in the acknowledgments that he had consulted Spielberg on the final draft of the book and where to take an adaptation.[103] On December 22, 2020, Cline announced that a sequel was in the early stages of development.[104]

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