|Ready Player One|
|Directed by||Steven Spielberg|
|Based on||Ready Player One|
by Ernest Cline
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$592.2 million|
Ready Player One is a 2018 American science fiction 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. The film is set in 2045, where much of humanity uses the OASIS, a virtual reality simulation, to escape the real world. A teenage orphan finds clues to a contest that promises ownership of the OASIS to the winner, and he and his allies try to complete it before an evil corporation can do so.
Development of the film 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 commencing in September 2015. Filming began in England in June 2016 and was completed in September that year. The visual effects were handled by Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Domain, and Territory Studio, with some pre-visualization work done by The Third Floor. As with the novel, many popular culture references appear throughout the film, including references to The Shining, the Back to the Future franchise, Godzilla and The Iron Giant.
Ready Player One premiered at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas on March 11, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on March 29, 2018, by Warner Bros. Pictures. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised Spielberg's direction, the visual effects, brisk pacing, and the performances of both Sheridan and Rylance. It grossed around $592 million worldwide, and earned a nomination for Best Visual Effects at the 91st Academy Awards, 24th Critics' Choice Awards, and 72nd British Academy Film Awards. Ready Player One was awarded the title of Best Science Fiction Film at the 45th Saturn Awards, and a further two Outstanding Achievement Awards from the Visual Effects Society. A sequel is in development.
In a dystopian 2045, people seek to escape from reality through the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a multiplayer virtual reality entertainment universe created by James Halliday and Ogden Morrow of Gregarious Games. After Halliday's death, a pre-recorded message left by his avatar Anorak announces a contest, granting ownership of the OASIS to the first to find the golden Easter egg that sits behind a locked gate which can only be opened by completing three challenges to acquire the necessary keys. The contest has lured several "Gunters", or egg hunters, and piqued the interest of Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), who seeks to control the OASIS himself by inserting intrusive online advertising. IOI dispatches an army of indentured servants, and employees called "Sixers" to search for the egg.
Teenage orphan Wade Watts' avatar Parzival, an avid Gunter, participates in the first challenge, an unbeatable race, along with his best friend Aech, and Art3mis, a female online streamer whose avatar Parzival has a crush on. Parzival regularly revisits Halliday's Journals, a simulated archive of Halliday's life and hobbies, run by the Curator. Here, he discovers he can win the race by driving backward, and receives the Copper Key from Anorak. Art3mis, Aech, and his friends Daito and Sho, all win the race afterward, later being collectively named the High-5 on the OASIS' scoreboard.
Sorrento asks mercenary i-R0k to learn Parzival's true identity, intending to bribe him to win the contest on IOI's behalf. Wade and Art3mis discover from the Journals that Halliday once dated Morrow's wife Karen "Kira" Underwood. Wade and Art3mis visit the Distracted Globe night club to look for clues, where Wade reveals his identity and confesses his love to Art3mis. They survive an IOI raid in which Art3mis abandons Wade, explaining that her father died in debt to IOI and that she believes Parzival is not taking the contest seriously. i-R0k, having eavesdropped on their conversation, reveals his findings to Sorrento, who contacts Wade with an offer. When rejected, Sorrento attempts to dispose of Wade by bombing his home, killing his aunt Alice and her boyfriend Rick among others. Art3mis' player, Samantha Cook, takes Wade in. Together, they realize the second challenge relates to Halliday's regret of not pursuing a relationship with Kira. The High-5 search a recreation of the Overlook Hotel, where Art3mis asks Kira to dance and wins the Jade Key. Sorrento's subordinate F'Nale Zandor storms the Gunters' hideout, taking Samantha to an IOI Loyalty Center to pay off her father's debt. Wade escapes with the help of the other High-5 users, Helen Harris (Aech), Toshiro (Daito), and Zhou (Sho) in Helen's truck. Samantha escapes confinement after Aech and Parzival hack Sorrento's OASIS rig.
The third challenge is found in Castle Anorak on Planet Doom, where players must guess Halliday's favorite Atari 2600 game to earn the Crystal Key. i-R0k places an impenetrable forcefield around the castle using the Orb of Osuvox, but Art3mis soon disables it. The High-5 lead an army of OASIS players against IOI's forces. Parzival kills Samantha's avatar, allowing her to flee IOI with the High-5 picking her up nearby. Parzival and Sorrento fight in the OASIS with Sorrento detonating the Cataclyst bomb, wiping out every avatar including himself. Parzival survives using an extra life coin he won in a bet with the Curator. He plays Adventure, winning the Crystal Key by locating Warren Robinett's Easter egg. He uses the three keys to enter a treasure room, where Anorak offers him a contract to sign. Parzival recognizes it as the one where Morrow signed over his shares 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.
Ogden Morrow appears, revealing that he is the Curator. Wade decides to run the OASIS with the High-5, inviting Morrow to stay on as a consultant. After Aech sends the police a copy of Sorento confessing to the bombing, he and F'Nale are arrested. As the IOI Loyalty Centers are shut down, the High-5 make the controversial choice to close the OASIS twice a week for people to spend more time in the real world, including Wade and Samantha, who start a relationship.
Lulu Wilson, Letitia Wright, Mckenna Grace, and Jane Douglas of YouTube group OutsideXbox make cameo appearances in the film, with Wright as a rebel who can be seen at Samantha's safe house, Grace and Wilson as students using the OASIS, and Douglas as a Sixer.
Warner Bros. bought the film rights for producers Dan Farah and Donald De Line in June 2010, one year before the book was published. Ernest Cline was set to write the script for the film, which De Line and Farah would produce. Eric Eason rewrote Cline's script, 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. Steven Spielberg signed on to direct and produce the film, which Kristie Macosko Krieger also produced, along with De Line and Farah. 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. In 2016, American musician Moby said he had tried to make the book into a movie, but discovered that Spielberg had taken the role before him.
Elle Fanning, Olivia Cooke, and Lola Kirke were the frontrunners for the role of Art3mis; with Cooke announced as having been cast in the role by September 2015. In January 2016, Ben Mendelsohn joined the cast. In February 2016, Tye Sheridan was confirmed to play Wade, after a lengthy casting search for the role. Simon Pegg was added to the cast in March, with Mark Rylance joining in April. By June, T.J. Miller, Hannah John-Kamen, and Win Morisaki had also been cast in the film. In July, Philip Zhao joined the cast, 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.
In October 2019, Doctor Sleep director Mike Flanagan revealed that Jack Nicholson, who portrayed Jack Torrance in The Shining, was approached to appear in the film, but declined the offer due to his retirement.
Production was slated to begin in July 2016, but on July 1, 2016, screenwriter Zak Penn confirmed that the first week of filming had already been completed, meaning that filming began on June 24, 2016. In August and September 2016, filming took place in Birmingham, England, standing in for Columbus, Ohio. 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. Outside of Birmingham, filming also took place at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden and at Solaris House, the former Sun Microsystems headquarters in Surrey. Principal photography wrapped on September 27, 2016.
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Digital Domain, and Territory Studio developed the visual effects, with some pre-visualization work done by The Third Floor. 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. Visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett stated that the VFX team would collaborate with Spielberg and writers Cline and Penn:
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. 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. 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. The Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park was created from the base model ILM had created. 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."
Main article: Ready Player One (soundtrack)
On June 9, 2016, John Williams was initially going to compose the film's score. 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. The official score was released by WaterTower Music as a two-CD set on March 30, 2018, with vinyl and cassette releases projected. 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.
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. 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. In the end, Spielberg estimated that they managed to get about 80% of the copyrighted elements they desired. The production was not able to secure the rights to Spielberg's own Close Encounters of the Third Kind from Columbia Pictures.
The Dungeons & Dragons module Tomb of Horrors features in an important episode of the book, the "Copper Key challenge", but that reference was excluded from the film, where the challenge features a huge car race in New York instead. However, the movie does reference the module: artwork of the Tomb of Horrors demon appears on the back of Aech's van.
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. Penn and Cline also thought that the film could be the opportunity to replace such a lengthy sequence with a more action-heavy one. Once they decided to use The Shining, they were doubtful at first that Spielberg would accept the change, but Spielberg did go for it. 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. 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. 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. Spielberg also allowed the Tyrannosaurus rex from his own Jurassic Park to be included. 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.
Ready Player One was originally scheduled to be released on December 15, 2017. However, on February 9, 2016, the film was delayed to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In January 2018, it was announced the film's release date had been moved up one day to March 29, 2018. 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). Warner Bros. distributed the film worldwide, with Village Roadshow Pictures distributing in several overseas territories. 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.
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. 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. It retained the No. 1 spot on the chart for the week ending on August 4, 2018.
Ready Player One grossed $137.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $454.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $592.2 million. Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film needed to gross at least $440 million in order to break even.
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. 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). 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.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 72% with an average score of 6.8/10, based on 444 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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 64 out of 100 based on 56 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". 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".
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". 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". 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". Alissa Wilkinson, writing for Vox, praised both the quality and quantity of the worldbuilding. 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. 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". Seitz concluded that the film "is a mess, but it is a fascinating and complex one..." 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."
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. 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".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Teen Choice Awards||August 12, 2018||Choice Sci-Fi Movie||Ready Player One||Nominated|||
|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|||
|Visual Effects Society Awards||February 5, 2019||Outstanding Visual Effects in a
|Roger Guyett, Jennifer Meislohn, Dave Shirk,
Matthew E. Butler, Neil Corbould
|Outstanding Animated Character
in a Photoreal Feature
|Dave Shirk, Brian Cantwell, Jung-Seung Hong and
Kim Ooi for "Art3mis"
|Outstanding Created Environment
in a Photoreal Feature
|Mert Yamak, Stanley Wong, Joana Garrido and
Daniel Gagiu for "Overlook Hotel"
|Outstanding Virtual Cinematography
in a Photoreal Project
|Daniele Bigi, Edmund Kolloen, Mathieu Vig and
Jean-Baptiste Noyau for "New York Race"
|Outstanding Model in a
Photoreal or Animated Project
|Giuseppe Laterza, Kim Lindqvist, Mauro Giacomazzo
and William Gallyo for "DeLorean DMC-12"
|Satellite Awards||February 17, 2019||Best Visual Effects||Ready Player One||Nominated|||
|BAFTA Awards||February 10, 2019||Best Special Visual Effects||Matthew E. Butler, Grady Cofer, Roger Guyett,
|Academy Awards||February 24, 2019||Best Visual Effects||Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and Dave Shirk||Nominated|||
|Saturn Awards||September 13, 2019||Best Science Fiction Film||Ready Player One||Won|||
|Best Director||Steven Spielberg||Nominated|
|Best Music||Alan Silvestri||Nominated|
|Best Special Effects||Ready Player One||Nominated|
Ready Player One's depiction of a pop culture-dominated virtual world has drawn comparisons to Meta's investments in the metaverse in the 2020s. Upon the unveiling of the Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset in 2023, many commentators compared its design to the headsets seen in Ready Player One. A promotional video produced by Apple that accompanied the Vision Pro's announcement also mirrored a scene in Ready Player One, in which Wade Watts uses his headset to enter the OASIS.
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". 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 a potential film adaptation. On December 22, 2020, Cline announced that a sequel was in the early stages of development.