MAJOR Spoilers For Ready Player One Ahead
In a film full of pop culture references, Ready Player One's recreation of The Shining stands high as the most bonkers - and maybe best. Given the film is based on a book that is positively dripping with Easter Eggs, it should be no surprise Steven Spielberg' s adaptation follows a similar route. But among the numerous shoutouts to movies like Back To The Future, Akira and Aliens, one key sequence, in particular, allows Spielberg to indulge his own inner movie nerd.
Ready Player One is a divisive book, and will no doubt prove to be a divisive movie. For some, Ernest Cline's tome is a loving ode to the pop culture obsessions of the author's youth, and one that uses that nostalgia to inform a traditional hero's journey. For others, its shameless fan pandering wrapped in nostalgia coating; a sugary treat that uses beloved characters and franchises to cover up the lack of a worthwhile story. Those debates are liable to rage on long after Ready Player One has left cinemas, but while Spielberg's film certainly takes a deep swim in the waters of fandom, it does so with a lot of heart and charm.
This is a Spielberg after all, so it shouldn't be a surprise the man knows how to craft an involving blockbuster. The movie lacks the cynical edge many feared from seeing the trailers, and when characters like King Kong or Mechagodzilla pop up, there's a feeling the director himself is having the time of his life getting to revisit some cultural touchstones. This is definitely true of the movie's hunt for the second key, which takes the High Five clan into a stunning recreation of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.
This Page: WTF Was Going On In Ready Player One's Shining Homage?
Ready Player One's Shining Homage
The story of Ready Player One finds lead character Wade Watts entering the OASIS, a virtual reality world allowing players to be whatever they want. The game's deceased creator James Halliday left three Easter Egg challenges in the game following his death, with the completion of the final quest granting the winner control over the OASIS and a vast fortune. Wade solves the first quest, and after parsing clues from Halliday's own memories discovers the second lies within a classic movie.
Each quest is built around a painful life lesson from Halliday himself; in this case, he once went on a date with Karen Underwood, future wife of his business partner Ogden. She wanted to go dancing, but he rented The Shining instead, which didn't set a very romantic mood. Wade (aka Parzival) and the clan entering a digital recreation of The Shining's Overlook Hotel in search of the key, leading to a fun and inventive sequence where Spielberg gets to recreate and remix iconic moments from the movie.
The scene ticks just about every box; the eerie Grady twins are encountered, the team get washed away in a tidal wave of blood from the hotel's elevator, there's a visit to Room 237 - complete with naked ghost lady - and there's even a chase through the garden maze. The scene culminates with the gang coming across a ghostly dance in the Overlook's ballroom, where a recreation of Karen Underwood awaits someone who will give her the dance she was denied all those years ago.
The Shining References You Missed
The Shining is considered an undeniable classic now, but it was seen as a major disappointment in 1980, and somehow earned Kubrick a Razzie nomination for Worst Director. Nobody disliked the movie more than Stephen King, author of the book. Kubrick's adaptation paid little attention to the source material, and King found the movie too cold. This is how Wade deciphers the clue that leads to The Shining from the phrase "creator that hates his creation," referring to King's lingering distaste for the movie in spite of its modern reappraisal.
While Ready Player One hits the key beats expected from an ode to The Shining, it’s the attention to the little details that make it sing, There's the "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" pages that work as a countdown (albeit in the shape of the key), and the yellow ball that lures Aech away from the lobby directly mirrors young Danny being lured to Room 237 in The Shining. The famous ending shot of Jack in the Overlook's Independence Day 1921 photo is replaced with Halliday in Ready Player One, which works as a major clue to the location of the second key.
Some details are changed around of course; there's no Jack, Wendy or Danny, the gang have to dodge murderous zombies (which Wade points out aren't in The Shining) and the geography is all messed up - which is itself a reference to the hotel's intentionally confusing layout in the movie. Fun as it might have been to see Jack Nicholson actually stalking the gang in the scene, it probably would have been a little too distracting in execution.
But this isn't just about a wink and a nod - there's been plenty of The Shining homages in the past, from The Simpsons to happy trailer reedits. Spielberg's up to something more here.
- Ready Player One (2018) release date: Mar 29, 2018