The new film Ready Player One has a strange, nesting-doll nostalgia, and it’s due in large part to director Steven Spielberg, the man whose iconic movies are responsible for so many of the original novel’s references. And just like many of the films that get shout-outs in Ready Player One, the movie itself might be the start of a new franchise. In other words, a Ready Player One sequel is a real possibility, so the ode to ’80s pop culture might continue on for years to come.
Spoilers ahead. Set in the dystopian future of 2044, Ready Player One follows Wade Watts, a young man escaping the corporate-owned, energy-starved, overpopulated misery of the real world by spending time in an online haven known as OASIS. Created by James Halliday, OASIS is a fully immersive virtual reality nearly everyone spends time in, the world’s largest and most stable economy. In his will, Halliday let people know he’d hidden an easter egg in OASIS, and whoever found it would gain control of his entire fortune, as well as OASIS itself. The hunt’s been on for some time when Watts discovers the first key of three pointing to the easter egg, putting him on world Scoreboard and attracting the attention of IOI, a company determined to find and monetize OASIS. When Wade won’t join them, IOI company CEO Nolan Sorrento decides to destroy him, forcing Wade to go into hiding.
From there the hunt is on, with Wade joined by comrades in virtual arms to find the remaining keys before IOI does. In the end (major spoilers ahead), Wade emerges triumphant, having earned the Easter Egg, control of OASIS, and most interesting, access to a Big Red Button, a kill-switch that would wipe out OASIS completely. Now, why would the creator of OASIS even put in that feature, if there wouldn’t be an important decision hinging on its existence down the road? Perhaps some sort of moral decision focusing on fixing the real world vs escaping into virtual fantasy — a shocking twist for a follow-up movie, entirely devoted to the power of nostalgia.
Even before the original book was officially optioned for a film, rumors flew around that author Ernie Cline was working on a sequel. It was known he was writing Armada, a completely separate novel strongly mirroring ’80s movie The Last Starfighter, in which a young man discovers the video game he’s the best at was actually preparation to fight in an alien war. The movie rights for that were snapped up mere months after Cline completed it. But back in 2015, screenwriter Zak Penn set the internet aflame by vaguely mentioning that Cline was indeed working on the novel’s sequel in an interview with DenOfGeek.
And in 2017, Ernie Cline officially announced a Player One novel sequel, adding that part of the motivation was seeing Spielberg take up his story. “[Ready Player One] would’ve been a different story if I had not grown up watching Steven’s movies, and I not only got to collaborate with him to bring the first story to life, but then to bounce ideas off him for the sequel? It’s just the most gratifying thing in my life,” said Cline, as seen in a Facebook video.
Still, the author made sure to get the sequel down on paper before the film came out, explaining to The Hollywood Reporter that “I’m trying to write a sequel to the book and not to the movie, because the movie has changed things.” Cline clearly understands that any sequel he writes will be viewed closely with movie potential in mind, but he’s trying to focus on creating something first and foremost for readers to enjoy. What’s really surprised him is the speed with which Hollywood jumped on his work.
“I’d always intended to write more in the series, but I never imagined the movie would get done before I finished writing them,” said Cline. “So, I had to kick it into high gear.”
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The author told CinemaBlend that he wanted to please fans of the original novel, but was constantly conscious of writing something that could be a fun foundation for a sequel. Most importantly, he talked more about what the sequel would hold. Ready Player One mirrored Cline’s own journey of the hero, and he wants the sequel to continue in that vein, saying, “It won’t be about a contest, but it will deal with all of the same characters and kind of the situation. What’s really interesting to me is that kind of what’s happened to Wade in the story in the first movie has happened to me in my real life….Now I can take what I’ve learned through the experience and hopefully translate it Wade’s experience in the sequel.”
Fans likely won’t have to wait long for a sequel once Cline’s done typing, as it’s pretty likely that, as with Armada, Ready Player One‘s sequel will be snapped up soon as he’s done. But if there’s one things fans are already familiar with, it’s waiting on a beloved franchise.