Building off the success of the first bestselling novel, which also became a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, Ready Player Two delivers the same — perhaps overly so — action-packed, deep dive into eighties pop culture as the original.
When I saw the trailer for the cinematic adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, it almost deterred me from reading the novel. But what seemed like an archetypal hybrid of Tron and Divergent is in fact its own body of work, with unique ’80s culture references, vast world building and most importantly, a story centered around a nerdy, ordinary boy. The book follows protagonist Wade in a near future, roughly 2045, where the world is plagued with hunger, famine and climate change. To escape these harsh realities, people enter an augmented reality world known as the OASIS, where anyone can be anyone; regardless of their past status or background, individuals can make a new life for themselves, choosing where they work, how they live and what they eat. We learn that the founder of the OASIS has died and left behind a tournament in which gamers can search the OASIS for three keys that unlock three gates to find an easter egg.
Trying to adapt Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One was going to be a challenge for any director, even a veteran one like Steven Spielberg. Released in 2011, Cline’s debut was filled with pop culture references that were indicative of the decade it was written in, though he also sprinkled in a plethora of ’70s-’90s references as well. Yet because the film adaptation is gracing screens seven years later, what was seen as contemporary back then is now outdated. Spielberg thankfully does not force characters from 2018’s popular zeitgeist to interact with the characters Cline used in his novel. Ready Player One is surprisingly able to revel in the nostalgic excess that made the novel so popular in the past, yet it explores thought-provoking themes about virtual reality, climate change and escapism present in today’s society.