Based on the latest trailer, it looks like “Ready Player One” is essentially going to be a meme in cinematic form.
Within its first five seconds, the trailer manages to namedrop Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk, and things only get busier from there, as we get quick references to “Back to the Future”, “The Iron Giant”, Harley Quinn, and even modern phenomena like “Overwatch”.
It almost feels like too much; as if this movie has been created by corporate spreadsheets and charts that involve smashing together as many different popular brands as possible. This, it seems, is memetic overload, as half the fun seems to be watching to see if you can spot something you already know and love from another media.
What’s funny is how the plot of “Ready Player One”, itself based on a novel of the same name, steers into this. The trailer notes that the story here involves participants in a giant online community seeking out an Easter Egg; a hidden reference within their world that will hold some significance to those who get the joke.
This story certainly justifies the reference-laden movie, as everyone watching the trailer is doing exactly the same thing as the characters in the story. We’re all picking the footage apart, trying to spot all the hidden Easter Eggs and references.
“Ready Player One” is set in the future, with sci-fi-esque virtual reality technology, but the story is meant to appeal to young modern audiences.
We’re shown disenfranchised youths with no hope of a future, kept down by money-grubbing corporate empires. We see them disappearing into a version of the internet, where memes rule all, and where people take on artificial avatars based on their favorite characters from pop-culture.
“Ready Player One” aims to make the internet looks cool. It’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, a new idea, but it is one that might – might – resonate with audiences, so long as there’s more here than just a few obvious references.
The problem here is the movie’s director.
Once upon a time, Steven Spielberg rightfully earned a reputation as one of the most talented directors in the world. He made movies like “E.T.” that spoke to young audiences, making us feel like we had a voice.
The problem is, that was a long time ago now. In recent years, Spielberg’s movies have hardly taken the world by storm, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that he’s not even remotely connected to the young generation that “Ready Player One” aims to connect with.
This movie will only work if it has solid, relatable characters, and an engaging story. Pop-culture references aren’t enough, especially considering that if the movie doesn’t have any heart, this will all just feel like a corporate cash-grab based on financially weaponizing niche internet obsessions like “The Iron Giant”.
This movie could, if done right, be the catalyst that online audiences will rally around. It could be the next “V for Vendetta”, giving the world a movie that puts into pictures the anger and frustration felt by a generation of activists.
Or, it’ll end up as a garbage fire; an awkward mess of dumb jokes that come off as cynical and lazy.
Here’s hoping Spielberg has one great film left in him. It would be really nice if this movie turned out to be a big deal.