Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 20

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 2

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 3

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 4

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 5

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 6

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 7

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 8

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 9

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 Let us know if you have any luck logging into it, as you’ll need a password.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 10

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 11

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 12

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.

Ready Player One Trailer breakdown 13

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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