The pop culture-saturated novel Ready Player One has been in the process of becoming a movie since before it was even published in 2011. Over the years it’s had a number of big name filmmakers circling it, but it landed maybe the biggest, Steven Spielberg, and now we know when we’re going to see it, though it will be a while.
Warner Bros., Village Roadshow, and DreamWorks put out a press release today announcing that Ready Player One will be released on December 15, 2017, just in time for Christmas, in a few years. There have been so many reports about this for so long that, even with Spielberg attached, many fans of the book were starting to doubt an adaptation would ever actually happen, but this definitely makes it feel real and concrete.
Ernest Cline’s bestselling novel tells the story of a teenager named Wade Watts. In the year 2044, the world is kind of a hellhole where trailers are stacked on top of one another to form horribly unstable skyscrapers. It’s to the point where most people while away their time in a virtual reality world called OASIS. Within this sprawling pseudo-utopia, you can be anyone you want and do anything you want. The creator, the late James Halliday, built a quest into this world, and the one who solves it inherits his estate, making the victor the richest, most powerful person alive. Not only are individuals like Wade after this prize—he, of course, wants it for good—there are also big corporations with deep pockets in the hunt through this expansive virtual realm. It’s kind of like a sci-fi Horatio Alger, up-by-your-bootstraps story.
That’s a complicated enough tale to begin with, featuring a big futuristic world with lots of gigantic set pieces, but the rights are going to be a freaking nightmare. Almost every element of Ready Player One is steeped in popular culture. Halliday was a child of the 1980s, and as such, all of his tasks involve classic video games, old movies, obscure Japanese cartoons, and much, much more. You can’t spit in this world without hitting Voltron or War Games or some other property that someone somewhere owns.
To get all of that on a movie screen is going to either some serious coin or a very clever writer. These cultural touchstones are so infused into the story that to remove them will completely hamstring the narrative. I guess they could change things, like maybe Wade plays the classic arcade game Bac-Man about a giant orange square that eats strings of little stars or something, but that seems dumb.
A lot of names have been mentioned in connection with Ready Player One over the years, including some biggies, like Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright, and Robert Zemeckis, among others. Ernest Cline is adapting his own book, but he’s also had help from the likes of Zak Penn (Pacific Rim 2) and Eric Eason (A Better Life) along the way.
As beloved as the book is, and it has a rabid fan base, it’s going to be interesting to see how it translates to the big screen. One thing we’re curious to see is how they make people sitting around piloting avatars through a fictional landscape interesting and not feel like you’re sitting around watching your friends play a video game. But now we know when we’ll get to see what they come up with, so circle December 15, 2017 on your calendar and prepare for Ready Player One.