James Halliday, creator of the Oasis promised to bequeath the Oasis to whichever player solves his obscure riddles. In the end of the first movie, *spoilers*, Wade Watts aka Parzival does just this.
To make a powerful sequel that people will love, we first must understand what made Ready Player One interesting and exciting, and then give them more of those things. So I’ve identified three things that people loved in the first movie:
- Nostalgia for 80s and 90s pop culture references — one review I read called it a trash heap of cultural nostalgia
- The Oasis — a virtual-reality world where anything is possible, you can be anyone and do anything
- Gunting — hunting for pop-culture Easter eggs
I feel a sequel would have to incorporate each of these elements as well.
The movie opens with Wade and friends in some adventure in the Oasis. They’ve created a private world where nobody else can enter, and they can basically do anything. One guy is on a yacht with a bunch of bikini clad women, another is deep sea diving, another is flying around like a bird, and then we have Parzival and Artemis hiking in some rainforest and they come up to this waterfall with a rainbow. This is a completely made up world in the Oasis, so there are no bugs and they have complete privacy.
As they approach this waterfall, Artemis is completely blown away by the beauty. Parzival created this moment and it’s truly a work of art. In the middle of a meadow filled with flowers is a picnic. They sit down, enjoy the view, have some food, and talk about the future. It’s a really romantic setting.
But then, out of the corner of his eye, Parzival sees a black cat, which is weird because he created this world, and he didn’t put any black cats in it. Then, he sees it again. Artemis sees the confusion on Parzival’s face and looks over, but doesn’t see anything.
“What is it?” she asks.
“I think I saw a black cat. It walked by twice.” he says.
“Glitch in the Matrix!” Artemis says.
“I’m familiar with the movie, but why is it here?”
Parzival stands up and follows the cat through the tall grass. Artemis follows. They eventually come upon an impossibly high, terror-inducing cliff. It’s so high they can’t even see the bottom. It’s above the clouds. Again, another thing he did not put in this world.
Artemis is standing with Parzival and asks, “Where did the cat go?”
“I think it went over the cliff.”
Then she says, “There’s only one way to find out” and then dives off the cliff.
Parzival shouts after her, but within seconds she disappears in the clouds. He then looks around, summons some courage, and jumps over himself. He begins to free fall and the wind is racing passed him so fast that he has to squint. His hair is blowing every which way and his clothes are flapping.
As he punches through the clouds, he ends up in a room. It’s Halliday’s room as a child.
Artemis is there as well and they are both looking at each other with confusion. In walks Halliday. He greets them and says, “I have a game for you if you choose to accept.”
Artemis asks, “Is it two player?”
Halliday smiles and answers ‘yes’.
Halliday explains that this game is unlike any other. It’s about temptation. He says a few more words that are cryptic and don’t mean much to them to them at the time, but will make more sense as the game progresses.
Halliday gives them their first clue and they are off to the races.
Now, as they are going through the game, they discover a portal that takes them to another part of the Oasis, a secret world if you will. Thinking this is part of the game, they willfully enter said portal and get trapped there. They respawn but when they go back into the Oasis, they begin to experience other glitches along with many others as well.
As it turns out, the bad guy from the first movie is hell bent on destroying the Oasis and has unleashed a virus into the Oasis, which is causing all sorts of problems. And wouldn’t you know, they have their own Oasis, which they are promising people an unparalleled experience, all for a monthly subscription fee of 3.99, which is an early bird price. If you are late to join, the fee becomes substantially more like 59.99 per month.
Frustrated with the Oasis, and curious about this new world, many people opt to join this new world and take advantage of the deal.
The fact that people are jumping ship doesn’t necessarily matter to Parzival, it doesn’t threaten him in any way. The Oasis for him is not a business so he doesn’t care what people choose to do, whether they login or not, or join some competitor’s virtual world. What he cares about is getting rid of this virus. But every time Parzival and Artemis go into the Oasis, they get jammed up or it glitches, so they end up spending a lot of time in the real world and hardly login at all.
Their entire squad is chilling in some basement somewhere with posters on the wall, a mini fridge, an old school video game console. They’re bored and not really sure what to do with themselves.
One thing that Parzival keeps replaying in his head is the message from Halliday. He must have gone over it a thousand times in his head, studying each line and each word of the cryptic message. But Parzival knows that things aren’t always as they seem. While he was spending so much time with the message, he was overlooking something that was staring him right in the face — Halliday’s room. Something was off about it.
Unable to visit the virtual room, Parzival packs up the car and takes Artemis and the gang to Halliday’s actual house, the one he grew up in as a kid. The gain entry and the room is still set up exactly as depicted in the virtual world. They almost expect Halliday to walk through the door at any moment.
Upon studying the room, Parzival discovers a clue that puts the cryptic message into context. Using this clue from the real world, they enter the Oasis, and go to a world and see Halliday standing there with a prize — $10,000,000. There’s a huge celebration, I’m talking fireworks and streamers, and Halliday congratulates him. Halliday then extends a tablet in front of Parzival and says, “As soon as you choose to accept this, ten million dollars will be deposited into your account in the real world.”
Parzival is beyond excited as are his friends. Everyone is standing there smiling and are so happy for him. As he is about to press the accept button, Artemis says, “Wait! Remember what Halliday said, this is a game unlike any other. It’s about temptation.”
This gets Parzival thinking. His friends are looking at him like he’s crazy, but he looks at Artemis and knows what the right thing to do is. He chooses to decline the transfer of money. Then he waits. Halliday retracts the tablet with a smile and says, “Congratulations on passing level one, welcome to level two.” Then gives him another clue.
So the movie continues to be this Easter egg hunt filled with 80s and 90s cultural references; however, unlike the first movie, the clues exist in the real world, which then tell the players where to go in the Oasis. It’s basically like Da Vinci Code and National Treasure meets the Matrix. The reason the clues are in the real world is to protect the prize from AI or virus that cannot go there, only humans can.
With the virus inside the Oasis running rampant, it’s a real race against the clock. As they race to find these clues, more and more of the Oasis is being destroyed by the minute.
Each round is like a level and at the end, there’s a prize designed to tempt them to leave the game. The next level is only revealed upon completing the previous level and rejecting the prize.
The first is money, but there are four other levels.
After rejecting all four, they wonder what could possibly be next. They receive their final clue by Holliday and he says something cryptic that again doesn’t mean to them at the time.
One of Parzival’s friends asks, “What’s better than money, power, freedom, and love?”
“What about fame?” someone suggests.
Then it hits him. “The thing that is better than all those other things is time. It’s the one resource that you cannot get more of so how the hell is Halliday going to grant me more time?”
Following a hunch, Parzival and his squad go to Holliday’s place of birth, which reveals a clue that takes them to a secret underground facility once owned by Halliday. Inside they find a system of high-tech looking machines that they’re not sure what they do.
It then occurs to Parzival that this whole thing started at the cliff by taking a leap of faith. He realizes what the last clue means.
“The only way Halliday can grant me more time is by making me immortal, and in what way can you guys think Halliday can make me live forever?”
In unison, they say, “By uploading your mind into the Oasis.”
“But that will mean…” someone says, drawing the obvious conclusion.
“I’m taking a leap of faith,” Parzival says. “With this machine, you can upload my consciousness into the Oasis and I can live forever. Of course, my physical body will die, but I think that’s what Halliday did. Halliday isn’t dead, he just exists in another, non-physical form.”
“Why now?” someone asks. “Why not do it when you’re 80 so you get to enjoy both?”
“If I don’t do it now and fight this virus, then there may not be an Oasis when I’m 80. Also, we spend most of our lives inside the Oasis as is. We only unplug to feed and maintain ourselves. There is some physical pleasure, but that can be had with the Oasis.”
“I’m coming too,” Artemis says.
There are some tears, some hugs, and then both Parzival and Artemis upload themselves into the Oasis. Their dead bodies still hooked up to the machine. Once inside, they meet Halliday himself and the rest of their friends plug in.
Parzival says, “See, this isn’t goodbye, it’s the start of something new.”
So the implication here is that they destroy the virus, restore the Oasis to its former glory, and live happily ever after.
Now, if you really want to get crazy, you could do a third movie that has them trapped inside the Oasis by some super intelligent AI, and the squad has to extract their minds from the Oasis and put them back into the real world. Of course, their bodies are decomposed and gone by now, so their minds are uploaded inside robots.
When they get into the real world, their friends are in their 80s and the world is completely different. Time has moved much differently for them than it has in the real world. This new world could be unfavourable to AI and robots and they find themselves on the wrong side of a human vs machine war. At the helm is that bad guy from movie one and two.
- My Back to the Future 4 Pitch
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- My Wu Tang Pitch