Ready Player One

2017’s nostalgia train keeps on chugging along as we take a look and a listen to the trailer for Ready Player One. With Spielberg at the helm of the self-proclaimed holy grail of pop culture by Ernest Cline, expectations for the film are decidedly high. And the trailer has all the telltale signs of a blockbuster: popular culture references, extraordinary CGI, exciting action sequences, loud sound FX, and a few noteworthy actors… The only thing absent from the trailer is an attempt at a plot. In fact, there is so much going on in this trailer besides a discernible narrative that you’d think you were watching a collaboration between Michael Bay and Zack Snyder. Somehow, amidst the chaos, the music finds a way to ground the trailer.

Though the film is indeed directed by Steven Spielberg, the audience will have to adjust to a Williams-less score—the composer was too busy working on another Spielberg film. Nevertheless, the audience’s ears will be in the capable hands of Alan Silvestri, who is known for his work on films including the Back to the Future franchise and the Avengers films.

The trailer opens with strings, followed by silence as protagonist Wade Watts narrates, setting the scene for a dystopian Ohio in 2045. Watts climbs through a stack of cars as percussion takes over the score, cuing an intense string progression that begins to brew at 0:12. Watts starts to don virtual reality gear as he narrates, “They called our generation the missing millions, missing not because we went anywhere, there’s nowhere left to go, nowhere, except the Oasis.” Hopeful strings and faint choral sounds materialize at first mention of the Oasis, immediately colouring the virtual world as a utopia. The movement is equal parts hopeful and dramatic.

The symphonic strings punctuated by deep bass drum accompany a fury of popular culture references as the trailer reveals some of the fictional characters that exist within Oasis, including the Iron Giant, Harley Quinn, Duke Nukem, and Freddy Kruger. At 0:58, the video shifts into slow motion and the music slows, descending by scale degree to a halt at 1:06. A title card that reads “Are You Ready?” appears and as each individual word shimmers a filtered piano plays a note.

This would have been a satisfying ending to the trailer, but at 1:10 the trailer revs up for a second act with Tom Sawyer by Rush. The trailer is cut in such a way that all of the motion is synched perfectly with the music, creating the illusion of choreography. The music cuts abruptly at 1:49 when Watts takes off the virtual reality glasses, robbing the audience of the final note of the chorus and leaving the music unresolved. The trailer ends with the same title card as before, this time reading “Ready Player One” and the filtered piano lingers ominously.

– Andrew Sproule