'Ready Player One' Trailer Breakdown: An Exhaustive Look At Every Geeky Pop Culture Reference

If you've read Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, you know that it's absolutely steeped in pop culture references. The lead character is a pop culture junkie and there's barely a page that doesn't contain some sort of explicit reference to a geek property. While in the book the main character is all about the 1980s, the latest trailer for the film adaptation shows that director Steven Spielberg has eased up on the references to the movies (some of which were references to his work!) and used other, more current media instead.

It works either way, as Ready Player One is set almost entirely inside a virtual world where anything is possible. We all know from experience (and Minecraft) that when given a sandbox nearly every person will use that power to recreate something else someone has already made.

There is a staggering amount of references here, and we scoured the latest trailer to find every single reference and character we could, although there are undoubtedly more.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 1

Ready, Player One?

The trailer begins by introducing our protagonist Wade Watts, wasting no time dropping the names of numerous superhero names as he walks to his home in the Stacks. This is a lousy neighborhood in futuristic Columbus, Ohio, a vertical trailer park, but who cares when you have virtual reality to escape to? Unlike the book, our protagonists aren't chubby losers (they're quite good looking and thin on screen), but they still can't compete with all the wonders of the virtual world.

But even the real world isn't free of references! Graffiti on a wall near Wade's home features the blue Madball Repvile. Never heard of Madballs? They were weird little monster bouncy balls that were popular in the 1980s. According to their official Facebook page, they have a presence in the film, so we will see if there are more to be found.

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A Trip To the Oasis

Everything is drab and grey and all the people of the town are standing around wearing virtual reality goggles, all plugged into Oasis. Imagine Oasis as a VR Second Life that people actually want to visit, a magical land where there are no worries about copyright infringement and limitless activities to pursue. As Wade puts on his headset we get a tunnel sequence that looks similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

We now meet his avatar, Parzival, who wouldn't look out of place in a Final Fantasy game. His name alone is a reference, this one to the German romance story by Wolfram von Eschenbach. In that classic tale, the protagonist is on a quest for the Holy Grail, in case you were worried that this was actually a more subliminal reference.

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The Race

The first thing to do in this new world? Get into a race. Along with the the many stock cars driven by the baddies of the film (Innovative Online Industries, or IOI) the cars in the race are from all over the spectrum. We've got the truck from the A-team, Speed Racer's iconic Mach 5, Mad Max's Interceptor from The Road Warrior, and Batman adjusting his seat in the Batmobile from the 1960s TV show. More unrealistic is that there's only one of each car – you know that everyone in the race would be picking the one with the best stats.

That hulking figure making his way to a car is Ryu from Street Fighter, just the first of many video game characters to appear.

The Wheels 

As in the book, Wade drives a modified Delorean from Back to the Future, which features K.I.T.T from Knight Rider lights on the front and a license plate bearing his avatar's name. That's a bit different than the book version's Delorean, which has the Ghostbusters logo on the side and proton pack and ghost traps inside, as well as the Oscillation Overthruster from Buckaroo Banzai and a music library stocked with '80s music and movies. If that's not enough, the license plate says Ecto88 and yes, Cline actually made the car. (Remember when I spoke about subtle cultural references?)

Also note that his belt buckle is the Thundercats logo.

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The Bar 

Before we see the race proper, we see Wade walking into a bar past what appears to be DC Comics' Deathstroke and no doubt dozens of other characters hiding in the darkness. He meets his love interest Art3mis (the Goddess of the hunt, natch)  at the bar and successfully demonstrates the haptic feedback suit that Wade was gifted from IOI. Haptic feedback is a very real thing that can let you feel things in the virtual world, and clearly will be a game-changer for the tech.

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The virtual bar is absolutely packed with familiar faces. Commander Shepard (or at least, the inferior male version) from the Mass Effect trilogy facing away from the screen on the left, and Blanka from Street Fighter can be seen directly behind Parzival. A robot bartender wears a Energy Dome Devo hat while serving drinks, and a pre-reboot version of Lara Croft is seen sidling up to the bar on the right.

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The Quest

Then we're pulled out to get the story's plot. The trillionaire who invented Oasis has died and left the world a quest worthy of Willy Wonka. James Donovan Halliday is shown with a pin of the game Simon on his shirt, a nod to a man who loves puzzles. His last puzzle is an easter egg hunt, one that will grant the winner a half a trillion dollars. Much like Wonka, he didn't consider that this quest would make the world go crazy and cause evil organizations like IOI to mass a force to find it, and his puzzles require an insane amount of geek knowledge in order to pass them, or at least they do in the book.

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We see the world reacting in shock to this news, and the easter egg itself, which seems to lie on top of the Double Dragon logo.

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Most importantly? The screen pans past a Wired magazine featuring Halliday, as well as a QR code that can actually be scanned. If you want to get into a little scavenger hunt of your own, you can head to the official website it leads you to at jointhequest.io. Let us know if you have any luck logging into it, as you'll need a password.

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The Bike 

Not to let Wade have all the references, we next see Art3mis's red bike, which is clearly influenced by the film Akira. Later on, we'll see that it's decked out with decals that show off everything she's into. On the front, you can clearly see the Wonder Woman logo, as well as a Ms. Pac-Man decal and one from the video game company Taito. There's also the logo for The Greatest American Hero (a seldom-mentioned superhero TV show from the early '80s that's really only known for its theme song), the Sega logo, and Hello Kitty to wrap things up.

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As she makes her jump we can see a billboard for Delta City (from Robocop) as well as Bigfoot: The Original Monster Truck. Anyone who didn't grow up in the '80s or '90s should know that Saturday morning bigfoot championships were a thing on TV.

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Might as Well?

Van Halen's "Jump" kicks off next and so does all the action, as the big evil corporation hates that Parzival is in the lead and tries to destroy him. They hunt him in the game and in real life, destroying his home in the Stacks and leading him to find the real-life Art3mis.

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The song is timed so that David Lee Roth yells "Jump!" just as King Kong leaps off the Empire State building.

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The Battle

Now the quickest shots in the trailer.

We see Parzival and Art3mis dancing along some floors straight out of Saturday Night Fever, and no doubt linked to some sort of Dance Dance Revolution minigame.

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We see the Joker and Harley Quinn looking up in surprise to some unseen events.

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And we see a massive battle that takes place on a wintery landscape straight out of Hoth, where no doubt the last key for the easter egg will be won.

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On one side of this melee we see the Battletoads leading the charge, and are saddened that there hasn't been a new Battletoads game in far too long. (Rare, please get on that, even if you don't believe me that I beat it.) In this shot, you can also note the big gold guy on the left is El Dragón, a luchador from the little-played Battleborn. Directly behind them is an ostrich rider from the arcade classic Joust. To the right of the screen is what appears to be a solitary ninja turtle, although it could be Tokka from TMNT 2: Secret of the Ooze.

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How does Wade commandeer his forces? With a rousing speech? Well, probably, but also by holding up a boombox à la the big scene anyone remembers from Say Anything.

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In the battle we see Tracer from Blizzard's massive hit Overwatch bellowing a battle cry next to Chun Li from Street Fighter, and the real Commander Shepard ("Femshep") from Mass Effect is visible between both of them. An army of skeletons that's either from Jason and the Argonauts or Army of Darkness (after all, Argonauts might be too old a reference) make up a good portion of this side of the melee.

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In another shot we see Parzival holding the boom box, and see Sagat from Street Fighter bringing his knees to the battle just behind Deathstroke.

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Also: a Gundam!

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Billions of real DVD covers!

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Chucky from the Child's Play stabbing robots into coins! Yes, that means Chucky and Freddy Kreuger are finally in a movie together!

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And how could the Iron Giant not be featured yet again, towering over the battle?

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The Stinger

Stay until the end of the trailer and you'll hear a familiar theme. It makes sense, as the film's composer is Alan Silvestri, who also worked on the iconic tunes of the Back to the Future trilogy.