Ready Player One is largely about one of the most popular role-playing games of all time, so why does it appear lacking in the trailer?
Before we begin, let’s remind ourselves that trailers are often, and quite reliably, dissimilar to the final film we see in the theatre. With that being said, I write this post with an understanding that I might be preemptively criticising a film that is three months away and therefore not 100% complete.
Set for a March 2018 release, Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, based off Ernest Cline’s 2011 science-fiction novel, is set to throw some of popular culture’s most iconic characters of the past 30 years into a blender, add in some John Williams music, and churn out what will be one of 2018’s biggest blockbusters.
I’m excited. This is going to be an IMAX feast which will demand multiple viewings on just to see all the big names slotted into the story. A cynical person would call it exploitation of pop-culture’s mass appeal and they wouldn’t be wrong. But who cares? The trailer is alluding to some serious fun.
While we’re definitely in for a roller-coaster ride in March, there’s something about the trailer that has put me off the overall feel of the movie. Namely, it’s lack of depiction of one of the novel’s greatest influences.
Dungeons and Dragons.
If you watch the 2-minute trailer, there’s a lot you might have missed. Overwatch characters, Street Fighter, Akira, Back to the Future and even the horror movie Child’s Play are all featured in this little sneak peak. Yet, so much of the novel emphasises the role that the fantasy role-playing game has on the narrative and characters.
Wade (a.k.a. Parzival), our protagonist, has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things pop-culture from the past few decades, especially D&D. In fact, without giving away any spoilers, it’s an integral part of his journey through the Oasis, the online virtual-reality universe in which he spends most of his time. The enigmatic, deceased Willy Wonka-from-the-future, James Halliday, designed a lot of the Oasis with D&D in mind.
With characters from video games such as Overwatch being included in the trailer, it’s clear that Spielberg is stepping away from the source material and injecting more up-to-date crazes in the adaptation. That’s fine; adaptations are not replicas of the original material for good reason.
However, it’s not as if Dungeons and Dragons is unpopular in 2017. It’s quite the opposite. The table-top game is more popular than ever and spans multiple facets of the entertainment industry. Wizards of the Coast recently stated that its latest book, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, is the fastest selling D&D manual of all time. Say ‘Demogorgon’ to anyone with a Netflix account and they’ll be able to tell you the entire synopsis to season 1 of Stranger Things.
So, where is it in Ready Player One?
The most likely scenario is that Dungeons and Dragons just doesn’t play a huge role in this movie. If so, I’m curious to see what ties the many characters and plot points of Ready Player One when it jumps onto the big screen. From the first trailer alone, it looks as though online gaming is taking precedent. This might be a call for skepticism, considering that video games and movies have, historically, never worked well together. I suppose if anyone could change that, Spielberg is the man to do it.
Ready Player One is set for a UK release on 30 March 2018.