Get the reference? Ready Player One and the dangers of callback nostalgia

Steven Spielberg’s new film Ready Player One is full of 1980s callbacks and references. But what if the pop culture in-jokes pass you by? Does the film still succeed? As other movies have shown, nostalgia is a difficult thing to pull off

Do you remember Spangles? Those early-’70s hard candy squares that were tougher than gorilla glass and yet could shoot a life-threatening splinter of lemon & lime mayhem through the roof of your mouth with just one misjudged bounce of your Space Hopper. Space Hoppers – remember them? Great, weren’t they? And Speed Racer. Mortal Kombat? Knight Rider? Yeah, all cool. Very cool.

And don’t forget Battletoads, Akira, the A-Team van, the Cabbage Patch Kids, RoboCop, Q*Bert, the Commodore 64, ancient text-based adventure game Zork, that cheesy ‘70s Wonder Woman TV show, Krull, Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor or John Cusack’s boombox from Say Anything.

In fact, don’t forget any single disposable pop-culture tidbit you’ve ever stumbled across, because if you do, you won’t have a clue what’s going on in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Young Adult/Nostalgic eBay Dad/Excitable Millennial YouTuber novel, Ready Player One.


Milton Keynes