Freddy Krueger. The Iron Giant. The DeLorean from Back to the Future. These are just a few of the pop culture touchstones that will be featured in Steven Spielberg’s retro futuristic wonderland Ready Player One.
The film, adapted from Ernest Cline’s novel about a future where 1980s-infused virtual reality is the only escape from the grim, impoverished real world, showcased its first teaser trailer at San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday.
The movie stars Tye Sheridan as Parzival, a kid who is hunting through the digital OASIS for clues that will allow one user to inherit the tech company that controls it. It’s a theme reminiscent of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and if it’s literally underscored in the trailer — the music is a variation on Gene Wilder’s song “Pure Imagination” from the 1971 movie.
On Parzival’s heels is Nolan Sorrento, Ben Mendelsohn’s corporate apparatchik from rival tech firm IOI, who will do anything to win control of this property – including eliminating people in the real world.
The footage showed Parzival in his dilapidated trailer using a primitive VR rig, while hundreds of Easter egg-hunting employees under Sorrento’s control. As he enters the OASIS, he walks into a nightclub floating with ballroom dancers. Among the revelers he passes: Harley Quinn and Headshot from DC Comics.
Within the battle footage, we see The Iron Giant from Brad Bird’s 1999 animated film, stomping through a digital wasteland. (It’s one of the more recent retro characters in the movie, which is set in 2045.)
In another shot, a muscle-bound android avatar leaps through a junkyard and is shown blasting apart a razor-claw-wielding Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Spielberg has previously told EW that he decided not to include references to his own past movies in the film, but he did allow one — the time-traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future, which he executive produced. He told the crowd he didn’t want to be “implicated in grandstanding and grand-larceny.”
Instead of flying an X-wing fighter from Star Wars in the movie, as Parzival does in the novel, the hero pilots Marty McFly’s ride, speeding through Manhattan streets in which wrecking balls are demolishing other players within the OASIS.
Spielberg told the audience he was a little daunted by the task of adapting a movie about two worlds, which is packed with old-school references to old movies, comics, video games, and TV shows.
He broke his rule to invoke his own movie, Jaws, when he talked about adapting the retro futuristic wonderland. “I read the book and thought, ‘They’re going to need a younger director,’” Spielberg said.
Ready Player One will hit theaters on March 30.