[nextpage title=”10 Pop Culture References from Ready Player One That You May Have Missed”]Ever since it was announced that Steven Spielberg would direct the cinematic adaptation of Ready Player One, fans have been eager to find out which pop culture characters and artifacts would make cameo appearances in the reference-heavy narrative. A large part of the story takes place in the OASIS, a kind of all-encompassing virtual reality universe that gamifies every part of life. In the real world, most working people live in “the stacks,” where trailers sit on top of each other in the slums of Columbus, Ohio as the world crumbles around them, but in the OASIS, they can be whoever they want to be… even if they want to be the Iron Giant.
Even though Spielberg kept references to his own movies out of the film (with the exception of a dinosaur that could be a reference to Jurassic Park), Ready Player One is a loving tribute to geek-friendly pop culture of the 80s, 90s and beyond. It’s a movie that makes nerds feel welcome and appreciated. With this in mind, we’re going to catch you up on 10 Pop Culture References from Ready Player One That You May Have Missed. (And, yes, there will be SPOILERS).
10. Shotaro Kaneda’s Motorcycle from Akira
You can already tell from the promotional materials that Parzival, aka Z, aka Wade Watts, the protagonist of the story (Tye Sheridan), races around the OASIS in the time-travelling Delorean from Back to the Future. But Art3mis, aka Samantha, also drives a familiar vehicle. Her distinctive red motorcycle is the spitting image of Shotaro Kaneda’s bike from the groundbreaking anime Akira. In Akira, Kaneda is the leader of a motorcycle gang in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo who must save his telekinetic friend Tetsuo from a clandestine government project.
In Ready Player One, Parzival drives the Delorean and Art3mis rides the bike during the challenge for the first of three keys distributed through the OASIS by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance), the late creator of the OASIS who will give his creation away to the first person that completes all of his challenges successfully.[/nextpage]
[nextpage title=”9. The Batmobile, Christine, a Tron light-cycle and the A-Team’s van in the Virtual Race” ]
9. The Batmobile, Christine, a Tron light-cycle and the A-Team’s van in the Virtual Race
That initial virtual race features a number of Easter eggs and reference, from a T-Rex that look suspiciously like one of Jurassic Park’s giant reptiles (but then again, there are a lot of movies with dinosaurs in them) to King Kong as the final obstacle, gobbling cars up right before the finish line.
This race is also a treasure trove of pop culture artifacts, as users get to drive seemingly whatever vehicles they want, from whatever era of film and television they want. That means we get a glimpse of the original 1960s TV Batmobile (Batman himself makes a cameo earlier in the movie), the evil car from John Carpenter’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Christine, a light-cycle from Tron and even the van from cheesy 80s TV show The A-Team. There’s a lot to take in during this race, so keep your eyes open.
8. DC characters and Devo during the nightclub scene
Batman isn’t the only DC character to make a cameo in Ready Player One. When Parzival and Art3mis meet up at The Distracted Globe, a zero-gravity nightclub inside the OASIS, they encounter a number of familiar faces. Notably, both The Joker and Harley Quinn make appearances among the crowd, but for our money, the most delightful cameo is the bartender from DEVO, complete with his own Energy Dome.
Did you see any other pop culture icons make an appearance in the The Distracted Globe? Let us know in the comments.[/nextpage]
[nextpage title=”7. Saturday Night Fever Dance Sequence” ]
7. Saturday Night Fever Dance Sequence
Some younger viewers of Ready Player One could be forgiven for not picking up on every single pop culture reference in the movie. One has to wonder whether your average gaming teenager has seen Saturday Night Fever. Nevertheless, RPO makes an extended homage to the John Travolta-starring disco classic from 1978.
When Art3mis and Parzival start dancing in The Distracted Globe, the “floor” lights up (even though it’s zero-gravity) with squares and the Bee Gees take over the soundtrack. It’s a direct reference to the iconic dance sequence from Saturday Night Fever. Perhaps Spielberg hopes this film will convince a few nerds to get out of the house and hit the dance floor.
6. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
In our last reference to the virtual nightclub scene, we think that viewers can probably use an explanation for Parzival’s decision to dress up as Buckaroo Banzai. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is a cult classic, to be sure, but it might not be the most well-known film to be references in Ready Player One.
Like many cult films, Buckaroo Banzai flopped when it came out in 1984, but its odd mix of comedy, science fiction and adventure has proven popular for movie buffs in the decades since. The original film features the titular Bonzai (Peter Weller) as a jack-of-all-trades cool guy (a scientist, a pilot and he plays the guitar) who saves the world from aliens that come from the aforementioned 8th dimension. Check it out if you’re in the mood for a movie that’s chock-full of good vibes.[/nextpage]
[nextpage title=”5. The T-800’s Thumbs Up from Terminator 2: Judgment Day” ]
5. The T-800’s Thumbs Up from Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Again, we already knew that the Iron Giant, the titular character from Brad Bird’s animated cult classic, would be making an appearance in Ready Player One. What we didn’t know, however, is that Spielberg would use the big iron bot to pay homage to another metallic 90s icon. After sustaining damage in the final battle around Anorak Castle, the Iron Giant is lowered into a pit of molten lava, at which point it gives the camera a quick thumbs up, referencing the demise of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in James Cameron’s iconic Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Don’t worry, though. The T-800 made its way back to the big screen for three subsequent films, and we’re sure that if Ready Player One warrants a sequel, we’ll see the return of the Iron Giant, too.
4. Blink and you’ll miss ‘em cameos from Robocop, Spawn, Gundam and Bender
When people enter the OASIS, they can take on whatever avatar they want, which means that every time we pan across a crowd of people inside the virtual reality utopia, we’ll see a handful of familiar faces. Early on, you can see Robocop casually strolling along in the background. If you look closely throughout the film, you can also snag a glimpse of Spawn (on the big screen for the first time since 1998!) during the final battle. Some fans were particularly chuffed that an early model Gundam makes an appearance.
Bender from The Breakfast Club also makes a brief cameo. The films of John hughes are actually a key reference in the film, as Watts uses trivia about Hughes’ beloved teen films to test villain Nolan Sorrento’s (Ben Mendelsohn) geek credibility. As it happens, Sorrento passes the test, but only because he has a team full of true nerds and pop culture lovers whispering the answers in his ear. It turns out that all of Hughes’ films feature teens from Shermer High, a fictional school just outside of Chicago.[/nextpage]
[nextpage title=”3. THX 1138 in the IOI worker camps” ]
3. THX 1138 in the IOI worker camps
Inside the OASIS, Cline and Spielberg make copious references to several pop culture artifacts, but there is also one key reference for the “real world” depicted by the film: George Lucas’ THX 1138. In the Star Wars creator’s earliest film, Robert Duvall lives in a world policed by android police and drugs, where the people are expected to perform laborious tasks. Cline references this in the original novel, suggesting that some of the workers “looked like extras from THX 1138.” Spielberg picked up from there and seems to have designed the real world dystopia on his ol’ pal’s debut movie.
People who lose too much money in the OASIS are sent by IOI, an evil corporation that wants to seize the entire superstructure, to work in “loyalty camps,” which are a kind of debtor’s prison wherein people are locked up and forced to perform labour inside the OASIS. Right down to the fact that IOI employees and prisoners are only referred to as numbers, it’s clear that Spielberg has drawn more than a little inspiration from THX 1138. Perhaps that makes up for the lack of Star Wars references in the film.
2. Chucky and Madballs as weapons
Of all the pop culture references in this relatively family-friendly affair, one of the most surprising is a killer doll from the Child’s Play franchise. Chucky has more-or-less turned into a hyper-violent, sardonic version of his older self in recent years. The most recent entry of the franchise, Cult of Chucky, features the killer doll sharing a joint with Andy, his long-time foil. But the original Child’s Play films still pack a punch. The image of a children’s doll with a butcher knife is still freaky, all these years later.
Even freakier, maybe are Madballs, a gross-out toy popular in the mid-to-late 80s. The toy is simple… a rubber ball with a gross face. In one scene during the battle royale in Ready Player One, a madball is used to blow up one of IOI’s ships. Goodbye![/nextpage]
[nextpage title=”1. Goro, Halo Spartans, Lara Croft and Tracer in the Final Battle” ]
1. Goro, Halo Spartans, Lara Croft and Tracer in the Final Battle
More than a movie about pop culture, however, Ready Player One is a movie about video games, and video game characters get their own due in the final battle. Users in the avatars of Lara Croft (recently seen in her own big screen outing), the Spartans from Halo, Goro from Mortal Kombat and even Tracer from Overwatch appear in the final battle, overcoming the odds to take control of the OASIS from IOI and Nolan Sorrento.
The inclusion of some of the more recent character suggests that Spielberg is prepping the world for the pop culture influence of current video games. Will we still remember Overwatch in 2045? This movie is betting that we will.[/nextpage]
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