As part of EW’s new cover story on Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, this gallery of new images ventures into the year 2045 and the pop-culture-filled digital realm of the OASIS. So strap on your visor, pull on your haptic suit, and brush up on your geek-culture trivia …
Here we see two of the heroes of Ready Player One in the flesh: Samantha Cook (played by Olivia Cooke) and Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan.) He looks remarkably like a young, beardless Spielberg whenever we see him in real life, and has a genial, geeky personality. She’s a lionhearted revolutionary who knows that control of the OASIS is about more than fun and games.
Here are their avatars in the OASIS: Samantha’s phoenix-haired Art3mis and Wade’s cooler, blue-streaked Parzival, with nary a hint of his real-life dorkiness. She retains one element from real life that another person might eliminate: the red streak of the birthmark over her right eye.
Ready Player One is about the quest to solve a series of pop-culture riddles left behind by James Halliday, the Steve Jobs-like creator of the OASIS, who spent his life obsessing about beloved movies, games, and TV shows from his youth. In the real world, Halliday is played by Bridge of Spies Oscar winner Mark Rylance (seated left). Simon Pegg costars as his old friend and partner Ogden “Og” Morrow.
The keys to the kingdom
Rylance also performs this OASIS figure: Halliday’s wizard avatar, Anorak, who lives on beyond his creator’s demise. Here we see him showing off the three keys that must be found; the first person to collect them will win both his fortune and ownership of the OASIS.
The high five
Although they live in different parts of the world, a quintet of the leading Easter egg hunters (or “Gunters”) join forces to solve Halliday’s puzzles as the High Five. From left: The ninja Sho (Philip Zhao), behemoth Aech (Lena Waithe), Parizival (Sheridan), Art3mis (Cooke), and samurai Daito (Win Morisaki) talk to the Curator, the robot-like keeper of OASIS creator Jim Halliday’s extensive life history.
Life or death
Here you see four of the High Five united in real life, with Wade plugged into the virtual world from inside a delivery van (being driven by Aech). In this scene, they attempt to escape mercenaries from rival tech company IOI, which is determined to win control of the OASIS — even if it means killing those who are ahead of them in the race to solve the puzzles.
Art3mis at IOI
In 2045, if you can’t pay your debts, you don’t just suffer bad credit — you get detained and put to work by IOI in high-tech debtors’ prisons. In this scene, Samantha/Art3mis has escaped and is entering the OASIS through the control center of IOI chief Nolan Sorrento (Rogue One‘s Ben Mendelsohn). Important safety tip for evil-doers: Memorize your passcode rather than leaving it on a Post-It note stuck to your armrest.
Aech in real life
Lena Waite’s Helen (the “H” explains her nickname, “Aech”) looks nothing like her alter ego, but she’s still a fearsome badass as she helps her old pal Wade escape IOI. “[Aech] is sort of like Mr. T meets Michael Clarke Duncan meets Ice Cube meets Rambo,” Waithe says.
Captain of the resistance
Spielberg on the set of the digital resistance’s warehouse headquarters. Behind him appears to be Black Panther star Letitia Wright in a small role as a fellow rebel. As much as Ready Player One relishes a geek obsession with yesteryear, it’s actually a cautionary tale about dwelling too much on the past. “Escape has its pleasurable and medicinal place, but total escape should not be a destination,” Spielberg says.