Tag Archive: Ernest Cline


Review by C.J. Bunce

For those who just can’t wait for the home video release of Ready Player One to see what Easter eggs you may have missed, you have a way to find some of them now in Insight Editions’ new book The Art of Ready Player One If you missed it, check out our review of the movie here.  Like the film, the book, too, is a throwback to the 1980s, revealing not only what ideas made it to the screen, but also imaginative visual steps in the creative process along the way.  The best of these include concept art of each key character avatar in its various forms and large images of key environments.

Writer Gina McIntyre pulls together interviews with director Steven Spielberg, novel and screenwriter Ernest Cline, co-screenwriter Zak Penn, production designer Adam Stockhausen, costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone, and other members of the cast and crew to look behind the scenes at the adaptation of Cline’s novel from negotiation of a deal with Spielberg to his initial ideas, development, production, and every step in between to final cut.  Expect The Art of Ready Player One to be heavy on concept art with less screen images.  While it leaves out many spoilers, it also delves into some important surprise scenes and sets, so beware if you’re flipping through the book before you see the film.  Since the film was largely a CGI-created spectacle inside a virtual reality world, readers will also learn more about the latest in performance capture/motion capture effects, including interviews with the young actor leads.

A showcase of the artwork that transformed into costumes, props, film, and CGI images and a look into Spielberg’s creative vision, readers will find rationale for changes from the novel to the film.  The Art of Ready Player One features the work of creators Dan Baker, Alex Jaeger, Kyle Brown, Stephen Tappin, Neil Floyd, Kirsten Franson, Ulrich Zeidler, Jama Jurabaev, Dominic Lavery, Hugh Sicotte, Sam Rowan, Bianca Draghici, Chris Muller, Christian Alzmann, Greg Hill, Adam Baines, Chase Friedman, Aaron Sims, Cooper Surrett, Michael Pecchia, Steffan Reichstad, Stephen Zavala, and more.  Their concept art is often more highly detailed than seen in similar phases of other films.  Most of the images look like final stage, fully rendered storyboards than the initial ideas they actually represent.

Here are some images from The Art of Ready Player One courtesy of the publisher:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After its second week in theaters, Ready Player One is still chalking up sold-out screenings nationwide.  Whether or not you’re a video game fan, and whether or not you read Ernest Cline’s novel the film is based on, it’s a fun way to spend 2.5 hours.  Although his producer credits are hit-and-miss over the past few decades, director Steven Spielberg tends to take on films he loves, and handles them with due care.  Same goes for Ready Player One.  Along with his Oscar-nominated film The Post, Ready Player One proves there’s no slowing down for the director’s success in making good films.  Even if Ready Player One is not as great as the films from the 1980s that it honors (Spielberg’s choice to ignore references from his own films leaves a big, obvious gap throughout scene after scene), it’s a nice story, and a progression of the kind of coming-of-age story the director first created long ago with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  Yet the backbone of the film doesn’t flow from the 1980s, but from a 1971 film classic: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

In the year 2045, Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan (X-Men: Apocalypse), and a group of people he has only met as their avatars in a giant MMPORG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called OASIS, embark on a quest to solve the late OASIS founder’s puzzle in three steps, which would reward the winner with control of the OASIS and the hundreds of millions of dollars the company behind it (called IOI) is worth.  The big win is the authenticity of relationships between Sheridan and his co-stars, including Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel) as Art3mis (pronounced Artemis), Aech (sounds like the letter “H”) played by Lena Waithe (Master of None), Daito (Win Morisaki), and Sho (Philip Zhao) as they work together on their journey.  Cooke’s character comes alive as the high point of the film.  The villains are more textbook bad guys, led by Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), with his hulking minion i-R0K (“I rock”) played by T.J. Miller (Deadpool), and a seriously underutilized Hannah John-Kamen as F’Nale.  i-R0K carries the bulk of the film’s best comedy lines.  Surprisingly the story misses the opportunity to give the viewer enough information to solve the three riddles of the film.  Instead we watch the characters move through a great big fictional world only they know about.  But the adventure is a good ride.  Look for Mark Rylance (Dunkirk) and Simon Pegg (Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Shaun of the Dead) as an interesting odd couple of Gates/Jobs-inspired visionaries.

Get ready for dizzying races and chases with the latest CGI and motion capture special effects–so much so that much of the movie feels like an animated movie.  We’ve come a long way from the 1980s version of the subject matter in Disney’s Tron–the first foray into a video game world.  But Ready Player One is similar in tone to Tron and another video game movie of the era, The Last Starfighter–all good family films with positive themes.  Here that’s the importance of community, leadership, and personal responsibility, and the negative side of new and emerging technologies like drones and having more than merely virtual social relationships.

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We first mentioned the movie Ready Player One six years ago in our review of the Ernest Cline novel here at borg.com. Warner Bros. kicked off San Diego Comic-Con with director Steven Spielberg showing the first teaser trailer for the movie. The audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton and currently available free here at Amazon with an Audible sign-up, has been a huge hit with fans, almost taking on a life of its own.  We saw the second trailer last December, and the Easter Eggs started to pile up.

Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, the Back to the Future DeLorean.  Lots of references for gamers in particular.  Warner Bros. released the third and likely final trailer for the film this weekend.  VR is the theme this time around.

Ready Player One stars X-Men: Apocalypse’s Tye Sheridan, Black Panther’s Letitia Wright, Killjoys, Tomb Raider, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Hannah John-Kamen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Ben Mendelsohn, Star Trek and Star Wars’ Simon Pegg, and Bates Motel’s Olivia Cooke.

Here is the third trailer for Ready Player One, with a little help from Willy Wonka:

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Warner Bros. kicked off San Diego Comic-Con’s Saturday events this year with Ready Player One director Steven Spielberg, cast members, and the author showing the first teaser trailer for the movie (if you missed it, we previewed it here).  The audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton and currently available free here at Amazon with an Audible sign-up, has been a huge hit with fans, almost taking on a life of its own.  This weekend the studio released a new trailer for the 2018 release, a future sci-fi vision of the 1980s via virtual reality and a young man’s quest for the ultimate Easter egg.

As readers of the novel would expect, you’ll be looking for “millions” of Easter eggs tucked away in the film.  Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, the Back to the Future DeLorean were the focus of the teaser this summer.  See what you can find in this first full-length trailer.  Is that King Kong or Donkey Kong?  We’re excited to see in this new trailer Killjoys’ and Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Hannah John-Kamen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Ben Mendelsohn, and Bates Motel’s Olivia Cooke joining star X-Men: Apocalypse’s Tye Sheridan, but no sightings yet of Star Trek and Star Wars’ star Simon Pegg yet.

Here is the second trailer for Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One:

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We first mentioned the movie Ready Player One six years ago in our review of the Ernest Cline novel here at borg.com.  Warner Bros. kicked off Comic-Con Saturday today at San Diego Comic-Con with director Steven Spielberg, a few cast members, and the author showing the first trailer for the movie.  The audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton and currently available free here at Amazon with an Audible sign-up, has been a huge hit with fans, almost taking on a life of its own.  But how does the first preview compare to expectations?

Start counting the Easter Eggs now: Iron Giant, Freddy Krueger, the Back to the Future DeLorean.  What else did you find?

Ready Player One stars X-Men: Apocalypse’s Tye Sheridan, Killjoys’ Hannah John-Kamen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s Ben Mendelsohn, Star Trek and Star Wars’ Simon Pegg, and Bates Motel’s Olivia Cooke.

Here is the official HD version shown at Comic-Con, Warner Bros.’ first trailer for Ready Player One:

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atari

If you didn’t live through life with an original Pong video game console or the groundbreaking Atari 2600, then you missed out on the beginning of the video game phenomenon.  Coinciding with the advent of the coin-op video game, the home version ultimately sold 30 million units, making Atari the legendary brand it became to this day.  And it all started with a couple of visionaries and an idea to get a dot on a television screen to be moved using the vertical and horizontal hold.  The history of Atari is interwoven with the early history of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, the founder of the Chuck E. Cheese pizza and gaming parlors, creators who would leave to form competitor Activision, and countless others who finally get their story told in Tim Lapetino’s book, Art of Atari.  We have a preview of the book for borg.com readers below, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

If you’re like many, including Lapetino, you likely threw away the boxes that housed the video game cartridges to your Atari 2600 immediately after getting the game home.  If you missed out on the Atari games altogether, like classic games Breakout, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, Pole Position, Jungle Hunt, and hundreds more, you may not be aware of the role the box art played for early video game buyers.  The artwork on the boxes was much closer to the video game realities of today than the original games of the past, which frequently were as simple as boxes and line barriers with the same dot representing a football, a cannonball, a bullet, or a laser bolt.  But, as the designers interviewed in the book recall, it just didn’t matter.  It didn’t really, as the new form of gameplay was exciting in its own right.  Yet the box art is memorable for many, providing an easy recall to every game from Atari you once owned in an instant flashback.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Lapetino provides interviews with former Atari designers and staff, including those who created everything from the games, to the consoles, and the marketing materials that sold it all.  The artists who created the box art are identified and featured in their own sections.  No doubt Atari fans will likely encounter games they’ve never seen, including countless movie tie-ins.  You might recall the Raiders of the Lost Ark game and the infamous E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, but how about Superman, Dukes of Hazzard, Pigs in Space, and Gremlins?

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Atari box

Atari, the company that brought us the Atari 2600–the game system that revolutionized what it meant to be a zombie–offered families in the early 1970s the benefit of the neighborhood arcade without that annoying quarter-gobbling component.  Adults who shake their heads today at kids zoning out over their smartphone games forget what it was like when they first zoned out over  Combat, Air-Sea Battle, Duck Hunt, Asteroids, Yar’s Revenge, Berserk, Pitfall, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and all their pixelated friends.

When Space Invaders was introduced, kids lined up at Woolco stores for hours on end to play the in-store demo model to try to beat the current high score.  The earlier Pong and Breakout games were revolutionary–and addictive–but Space Invaders was exciting, nerve-wracking, and required a different take on an old skill.  Hand-eye Coordination became a new, finely-honed, almost magical power.  Wielded the best by teenagers.

Then something strange happened.  We got distracted by something else.  Most of us didn’t even notice when Atari vanished.  When modern video games playable on PCs via compact discs came around we all went searching for the original Atari games and for years, nada.  What happened to Atari anyway?

Pac-Man game over    ET video game

If you didn’t track the business pages for Atari back in the 1970s and 1980s, a new documentary will get you caught up.  Atari: Game Over is a nostalgic look back at the first video game designers and how one designer created the first great game for Atari, and later the last, and then vanished into anonymity.  His journey parallels several die-hard fans’ strange and curious search to prove or disprove an urban legend–that Atari lost so much money on the E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial video game for the Atari 2600 (thought by many to be the single worst video game of all time) that Atari dumped at least a million of the unopened boxes in a desert town landfill back in 1983.  It’s also a story of one of the first Dot Com economic busts long before there were Dot Coms.

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Review by Art Schmidt

If I ever meet Ernest Cline in person, I will either shake his hand or give him a big, fat kiss.  Not sure which, but I’m leaning toward the kiss.  Not on the mouth, but definitely in the facial area, along with a big ol’ bear hug. And unlike Lots-o-Huggin’ Bear, I am normally not a hugger.  Not ever.

But after devouring Cline’s first novel Ready Player One, I am inclined to embrace him and accept the ridicule and possible restraining order that might follow. Because I just loved this damned book.  It’s about the dangers of introversion, addictive technology, unregulated corporations, and overpopulation.  It’s about MMORPGs, TRS-80s, Star Wars and D&D.  It’s about Tempest and Rush and Zork and Transformers.  It’s about the Internet and comic books and 1980s pop culture.

But, mostly, it’s about nerd love.

Not two nerds falling in love, though there’s a bit of that thrown in. It’s about love of being a nerd.  Read this book and revel in it.  Nerd, love thyself.

Cline has constructed what might be the boldest, funniest, and by far the coolest tribute to the nerd sub-culture of the 1980s.  His writing is clear and crisp and full of good humor, incredible detail and sharp wit. Revenge of the Nerds was good in its time, but Ready Player One is nerd-tastic.  The opening quote of the book tells you all you pretty much all you need to know:

“Being human totally sucks most of the time.  Videogames are the only thing that makes life bearable.”

That quote is from one James Halliday, eccentric software game developer and multi-billionaire in the year 2044, when the book is set. Halliday is the creator of ‘OASIS’, a Massively-Multiplayer Online (MMO) ‘game’ which is like World of Warcraft, Star Wars Online, The Sims, and Second Life all rolled into one and injected with one-point-twenty-one gigawatts of The Schwartz.  I say ‘game’ in quotes because OASIS is portrayed as much more than a simple never-ending experience point crawl; the OASIS is a refuge for hundreds of millions of people around the globe, gamers and socialites and even workaday folks, an escape from an oppressive and depressing reality full of poverty, unemployment and homelessness.  Corporations set up strip malls and call centers inside the OASIS to both cater to the users there and so their workers can telecommute daily via the interface.  Public schools are run through OASIA; there is an entire planet (a no PVP zone, of course) where schools are built across the landscape and students attend high school online.

The OASIS contains an entire universe, full of thousands of worlds, places for people to adventure, socialize, or just plain hang out.  The rights to the massive MMORPGs and popular pen-and-paper games we have today are purchased and incorporated into the OASIS so that there is a small worlds called Greyhawk, Azeroth, Toril, Dorrak, Tatooine and even a planet called Gygax (I pumped my fist in the air in honor of the late Game Master General when I read that one).  Ancient video games, such as the Zork series, the AD&D Gold Box games, and every other adventure game world you can think of are also there, tucked away in small corners of the massive virtual reality.

By the way, the OASIS is free for everyone.  Profits come from selling space to businesses and virtual real estate to users who wish to build their own clothing, bling, homes, hangouts, and fortresses inside it. Some people even have their own asteroids and small planets.  But the user community at large can access it for free.  That James Halliday is one great guy.

But sadly, James Halliday is dead, and without heirs he has a titanic fortune and his software empire up for grabs.  But he had one last message for everyone, triggered on his website when he dies: he spent the last ten years of his life devising a challenge within the OASIS, a game within a game, wherein the first person to find three keys and open three gates and solve the puzzles that lie behind said gates will inherit his fortune, his company, and sole ownership and control over the OASIS.

And so the joyride begins. And what a ride it is.

The story follows Wade Watts, named by his comic book-loving father because he thought it sounded like a super hero’s secret identity.  Wade dedicates his life to solving the riddle of Halliday’s quest before anyone else.  His adventures are the stuff of legend, going from nobody to superstar, battling the forces of evil and trying to woo the hand of the girl of his dreams.  Or is she?  This is virtual reality, after all, and no one and nothing is what it really seems…

The clues for the grand quest are immersed in the deceased software designer’s favorite things: cult movies, video games, classic rock, Japanese monster flicks, and Dungeons and Dragons.  And if you like any two of those things, you will like this book. If you like any three of them, you will love this book. And if you love four or more, you should stop reading this and run out and grab this book.  I downloaded it to my Nook one afternoon and finished it the following night.  And I had a huge grin on my face the entire time. 

Irrelevant Tangent Warning: if you don’t like any of the things I mentioned above, you should just stop reading this immediately and forget the title of the book altogether.  That way you won’t be tempted to see the movie when it comes out.  Yep, Warner Bros. snapped up the movie rights mere hours after the book rights were sold.  Cline is writing the screenplay for the movie; he’s got experience with that as he wrote the screenplay for the movie Fanboys as well.

Complicating our hero’s conquest are the other ten million people he’s competing against.  Oh, and the rival software corporation that lies, cheats and steals to win the prize so it can monetize the OASIS and crush all other competition.  Oh, and the riddles themselves.  The first one takes five years to decipher, by which time most people have given up.  Wade discovers the clues to the riddle and embarks on a quest to find the first of the three keys.  He soon discovers and then adventures through a classic D&D module, ‘Tomb of Horrors’.

Watching Wade sneak around through the dungeon, his avatar ill-equipped for such a difficult journey, while he reads through the printed version of the module in another window to avoid all of the traps and monsters is an extremely clever scene and a nerd’s delight.  So is our hero jetting around in space in a modified Firefly-class starship he christened the Vonnegut wearing a +5 vorpal sword and contemplating the best use of an artifact which allows him to turn into Ultraman once per day for three minutes.

Then again, most of the book itself is a delight.  I would highly recommend Ready Player One
to anyone.  And you don’t have to be a nerd, or a child of the 80’s, to enjoy it. You don’t have to like Japanimation or John Hughes movies or The Empire Strikes Back or Space Invaders or Duran-Duran.

You just have to like to read, and to laugh.  What are you waiting for?