The Internet Has Some Thoughts on the Trailer for Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’

We all love the ‘80s, but is this movie going overboard?

A still from ‘Ready Player One’ — or, the third horsemen in the cultural apocalypse, possibly

Another year of San Diego Comic Con has come and gone, leaving behind a whole slew of teasers and trailers that will have people buzzing for weeks to come. The newest controversy raging on Twitter? The trailer for Ready Player One, the new sci-fi movie directed by Steven Spielberg, set to be released in March 2018, and based on the 2011 novel written by Ernest Cline.

Ready Player One tells the story of a dystopian near future in which the world’s population uses an advanced gaming system for all facets of life. When the creator of this new world order dies, it’s discovered that he hid his fortune in the form of an easter egg within the game, and — here’s the kicker—only those who share his love of the 1980s have a real chance of finding it. Spielberg called the film’s world “a flash future that is awaiting all of us whether we like it or not.” Cline noted that it will expose people to the coming possibilities of virtual reality. In other words, we should all prepare for the fast approaching day when a virtual simulation of ALF serves as our all-seeing, all-powerful, all-cat-consuming overlord.

Which brings us to the controversy, controversy being the inevitable result of just about any combination of Comic Con + Internet. At first, people seemed to be generally on board with the Ready Player One movie, or at least keeping an open mind, especially with Spielberg at the helm. His work, of course, is a seminal element to the fictional universe’s worship of all things ‘80s. But those positive vibes quickly changed with the reveal of the teaser trailer at SDCC.

The question now — or anyway the question overtaking a certain segment of the web — is whether we’ve reached a saturation point with our nostalgia for recent times, and whether projects like Ready Player One are an indication that we as a culture have lost our capacity for original creation and are completely dependent on and beholden to the recent past, and in fact are spiraling downward into an abyss of retreads, rehashes and kitsch. Or something like that. Entertainment Weekly noted that the trailer alone has over 20 references to other works, including Willy Wonka, Back to the Future, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. While some are excited about this world of homage, dubbing it a mixture of Willy Wonka and The Matrix, others took to the internet and Twitterverse to voice their concerns.

A.V. Club noted that the debate seems to be focused on whether the increasingly mainstream “nerd culture” is a distinct aesthetic or just a collection of pop culture references. Other outlets such as The Ringer and Vogue have criticized the movie’s reliance on nostalgia commodification.

Given that we are living in the era of reboots, with a fascination (read: obsession) with all things late ‘80s and ‘90s, it’s no surprise that shows like GLOW and Stranger Things are doing so well. But is Ready Player One going too far?

Donnie Cuzens, a web developer and writer, voiced his concern over Twitter about the problems associated with nostalgia. “Ready Player One being made into a film is the apotheosis of aggressively weaponised and monetised nostalgia but maybe it’s what we deserve,” he tweeted. Cuzens posts reflect many people’s frustrations with the emotionlessness of references in film — of consumption without thought. USGamer calls the trailer a reflection of the book that’s “about nothing.” While visually enticing and designed to make you say “Woah, cool!” — it lacks deeper meaning.

So, is Ready Player One a sign of the coming cultural apocalypse? A brilliant meta-fiction? The corruption of your youth or an avenue toward the future?

Probably we should all come to a conclusion before seeing the actual movie, just to be safe.

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