Story

Ready Player One is set in the year 2045 in Columbus, Ohio. In this future, cities have become a hive-like construction of containers stacked on top of each other. Reality coexists with a virtual reality world called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), which was created by the late James Holliday (Mark Rylance). People can interact, work and play in both worlds. Embedded within OASIS is a game called Anorak’s Quest, in which players search for three keys. Each key has a clue to the location of the next key and ultimately the location of a golden Easter Egg. The prize for finding the golden egg is inheriting Holliday’s fortune and becoming the sole owner of OASIS.

Players who hunt for Holliday’s hidden egg are called ‘gunters’. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a gunter, whose OASIS avatar is called Parzival. Parzival’s best friend is Aech (Lena Waithe), a mechanic who can build and fix anything. Parzival’s other friends include infamous gunter Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and the brothers Darto (Win Morisaki) and Soto (Philip Zhao). These five gunters become known as the ‘High Five’ when Parzival discovers the secret to gaining the first of the three keys and his four team mates go on to find the other keys soon after.

Also hunting for the egg is the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI), Noland Sirrento (Ben Mendelson), who wants to own OASIS. Sirrento has an army of indentured players called ‘sixers’. After Parzival wins the first key, Sirrento hires a bounty hunter called I-Rock (T.J. Miller) to discover Parzival’s real identity and kill him. To survive, Parzival/Wade must infiltrate both real and virtual worlds to stop Sirrento from claiming Holliday’s egg and gaining the ultimate prize.

Themes

Science fiction; virtual reality; computer games; friendship; relationships; death of a parent or loved one

Violence

Ready Player One has extended sequences of intense science fiction and fantasy action and violence. Some of the sequences happen in a virtual reality world where blood is shown as an explosion of gold coins and death just means the loss of special weapons, wealth and strength. In the real world, there are scenes that show gun-related violence, multiple violent deaths and large-scale mass destruction. Some scenes show blood and gore and gruesome images.

Here are some examples:

  • Most of the violence in this movie happens in a virtual reality world where players are represented by avatars. The science fiction action and violence is like the violence in games like Halo and Doom. It includes lots of colourful explosions, laser fire and high-tech weapons, vehicles and gadgets.
  • The movie shows a virtual reality car race. During the race, cars, trucks and motorbikes race along roadways in a reckless way. One vehicle has circular saws attached to it, which it uses to slice open and destroy other cars. There are lots of crashes, and cars explode in flames. When a car is destroyed, or a competitor killed, the car or person explodes in a shower of gold coins. Bridges collapse in flames as competitors drive over them, steel-wrecking balls smash into vehicles, and gigantic dinosaurs eat and stomp on vehicles. A King Kong creature rampages, smashing buildings and cars. It also picks up a motorbike and squashes it.
  • A woman yells at a teenage boy, and we hear that both of the boy’s parents died when he was young. In a more brutal scene later in the real world, an older man grabs an older teenage boy and slams him against a wall. The older man then punches the boy in the face and knocks him to the ground.
  • Drones attach bombs to the containers that are used as living apartments and that are stacked several storeys high. The containers explode in flames and crash to the ground killing everyone in and around them. People scream and run in all directions to escape the destruction.
  • In OASIS, all kinds of avatars fight each with laser weapons, power weapons, swords, guns and cannons. The Iron Giant and giant Power Rangers fight each other and cause massive damage to property and avatar life.
  • An avatar’s arm is cut from its body.
  • In OASIS, dozens of armed guards enter a nightclub and start open-firing on patrons. A patron is shot and there’s a glowing spot where the patron has been shot.
  • In a real-world scene, a man covers a teenage boy’s nose and mouth with a cloth, which makes the boy fall unconscious.
  • A woman opens a van door and points a gun at the occupants of the van. There’s a fight between the woman and the van occupants. The woman is kicked from the van and rolls down the road.
  • A woman is imprisoned in a cubicle that holds her avatar as a prisoner in OASIS. The avatar is zapped by a cattle prod for not working.
  • In OASIS a man detonates a device that explodes. This kills every avatar in the game.
  • In a couple of scenes, people in real life wear VR goggles (in the street) and act out what they’re doing in the game. This includes kicking, punching and so on.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Ready Player One has many scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. Children might be particularly frightened by the scary visual images of monsters and zombies.

From 5-8
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Ready Player One has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • A dead man lies in a coffin with two pennies covering his eyes. Suddenly he opens his eyes, sits up and talks.
  • The abdomen of a large avatar pushes outwards until a creature bursts out and lurches towards another avatar. Virtual blood and gore splatter everywhere.
  • During one scene, an elevator door opens and a wall of blood pours out, washing away all in its path, including an avatar.
  • A nude woman (seen from the back) tries to seduce a man, but she transforms into an old woman’s rotting corpse. Her flesh and bones decompose, and she attacks the man with a large knife.
  • A woman dances/floats in the air while zombie-like creatures are on the dance floor. A zombie’s eyes pops out of its socket, and the woman pulls an arm from the socket of a second zombie. A third zombie bends backwards, and we hear the sounds of bones crunching.

From 8-13
Children in this age group could be disturbed by the violent and disturbing scenes mentioned above.

Over 13
Other than the scenes mentioned above, there isn’t anything in this movie to disturb children in this age group.

Sexual references

Ready Player One has low-level sexual references and innuendo throughout. For example:

  • An older teenage boy talks about his aunt having a string of sexual partners. He calls them losers.
  • An older teenage boy refers to a woman as ‘hot’.
  • An older teenage boy tells an older teenage girl that he’s in love with her.
  • A teenage boy says, ‘She’s hacking at your heart to get at your mind’.
  • A woman talks about virtual dating and says, ‘As if that works’.
  • A man talks about his deepest fear, which is kissing a woman.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

Ready Player One shows some use of substances. For example:

  • One scene shows tables with partly drunk bottles of beer and glasses of champagne.
  • A man uses a handkerchief with a drug on it to render a teenage boy unconscious.

Nudity and sexual activity

Ready Player One has some nudity and some sexual activity. For example:

  • Many scenes show female avatars with low-cut tops, exposed cleavage and bare shoulders, backs and midriffs.
  • An older teenage couple are dancing in their avatar forms. The girl asks the boy if he has come prepared. She then asks him if ‘he can feel this’ as she caresses his torso in a sensual way. Glowing handprints appear on his suit.
  • A nude woman sits in a bath. The tops of her shoulders and her back are shown. She steps out of the bath and walks towards a man in a suggestive way, showing her bare back and the top of her buttocks.
  • Two teenage avatars dance and embrace in a club. The girl asks the boy about the sensitivity of his suit. Glowing handprints appear on his arm as she caresses him, and then on his chest and crotch. He flinches.

Product placement

Ready Player One has many references to movies and movie characters from the past 50 years.

Coarse language

Ready Player One has some coarse language and name-calling throughout.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Ready Player One is a futuristic, science fiction Spielberg movie, largely based around nostalgic pop culture from the 1980s. The virtual world of OASIS is actually more interesting and exciting than the real world and its visual imagery is stunning. The movie is well acted and will certainly entertain its target audience of mature teenagers and adults.

The main message from this movie is that reality is far more interesting and important than any virtual world.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:

  • teamwork and friendship – for example, throughout the movie, friendship and teamwork result in greater success
  • self-sacrifice – for example, throughout the movie, friends sacrifice themselves to save others.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like separating reality from fantasy. Time spent in virtual worlds needs to be balanced with more time spent in reality. In particular, younger children can have trouble understanding the difference between reality and fantasy and are more likely to be disturbed by a threatening fantasy world.