Besides the obvious Bigfoot, Delorean, and Akira vehicles, other notables in the race were the Mach 5, Batmobile, A Team van, V8 Interceptor, Christine, the Porkchop Express from Big Trouble In Little China and the Trans-Am from Smokey and the Bandit, the RV from Space Balls.
The spell cast to use the Orb of Osuvox is from the movie Excalibur. In modern Irish Gaelic, it's "Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh," which means, "Serpent's breath, charm of death and life, thy omen of making."
Spielberg worked with Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) to oversee the film's visual effects, meeting with ILM for 3 hours three times a week. A significant part of the film takes place in a virtual space based on the Overlook Hotel in the film The Shining. This was mostly a digital recreation of the film using high-quality telecine of the original film, giving them some freedom of new camera angles and shots that could be generated from this recreation. The final film includes a combination of the original footage from The Shining and ILM's additional work. Only a few scenes in this sequence which involved real actors, such as the appearance of the Grady twins, required them to construct a faithful reproduction of The Shining's set for the actors to interact with. Finally, the sequence was post-processed to introduce film grain and other aging effects to make the new footage indistinguishable from the original film. ILM also had to faithfully produce digital recreations of several of the cultural references that appear throughout the film, including the DeLorean time machine, the Iron Giant, Chucky, and King Kong that was modeled after the 1933 version of the character. The Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park was also recreated using the same base model that ILM had previously created during the original film production.
The Zemeckis Cube is named after director Robert Zemeckis. When the cube is activated, the music playing is from the Back to the Future (1985) trilogy, directed by Zemeckis. Alan Silvestri composed the score for both the Back to the Future trilogy and this film.
Steven Spielberg is referenced (along with some of his movies) in Ernest Cline's source novel. Spielberg had stated that he would remove these references, although some like the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the alien ship from War of the Worlds (2005), do appear.
Ready Player One, as in the book, pays homage to popular culture from various time periods, mainly the 1970s and 1980s but also extending to the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s; reviewers have identified well over a hundred references to films, television shows, music, toys, video games, anime and comics from these eras. Cline did not have any issues with these copyrighted elements when he published the book, but was aware that securing all necessary rights would be a major obstacle for a film adaptation. This task was eventually made easier thanks to Spielberg's reputation in the film industry. Spielberg and producer Kristie Macosko Krieger spent several years securing the rights for the copyrighted elements used in the film long before filming began, knowing that some scenes would not be possible without certain copyrighted elements. In the end, Spielberg estimated that they managed to get about 80% of the copyrighted elements they desired, noting that in some cases, the filmmakers were able to secure rights for some but not all the characters they wanted. In negotiating with Warner Bros., they could not secure Close Encounters of the Third Kind from Columbia Pictures, despite the latter being one of Spielberg's first films as director. Blade Runner, which was integral to the plot of the book, was off-limits as Blade Runner 2049 was in production at the same time as Ready Player One; as a replacement, the creative team had the players play through the events of The Shining, which Spielberg was able to secure the rights to as an homage to his friend Stanley Kubrick. While Cline's original work heavily used the character of Ultraman, the rights over the character were still under legal dispute, requiring them to replace Ultraman with the titular robot from The Iron Giant and RX-78-2 Gundam. Spielberg recognized that his past films were a significant part of the 1980s popular culture cited in the book, and to avoid being accused of "vanity", he opted to remove many of the references to his own work. Cline stated that he believed Spielberg wanted to avoid self-references to films he directed, due to the criticism he received for his film 1941, which lampooned his own previous works Jaws and Duel. Cline said he had to convince Spielberg to include some iconic elements, such as the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, which Spielberg conceded as the film was one he produced rather than directed. Spielberg also allowed the Tyrannosaurus rex from his own Jurassic Park to be included. Cline also asked ILM to include a reference to Last Action Hero, one of Penn's first screenplays, without Penn's knowledge.
The music score was originally going to be composed by longtime Steven Spielberg collaborator John Williams. However, due to scheduling conflicts working on another Spielberg film, The Post (2017), he left and Alan Silvestri took over. This was only the third film where Spielberg did not collaborate with Williams.
During the race sequence the marquee of a theater can be seen. It reads "Schwarzenegger Jack Slater III". This is a nod to Arnold Schwarzenegger's film Last Action Hero (1993), also written by Zak Penn. According to Penn the nod was unintentional and was included by ILM staff as suggestion by co-writer Ernest Cline. Penn himself didn't know about it before the release of the first trailer.
In the scene where they are discussing Art3mis's possible real life persona, there is a picture of Wil Wheaton on the mirror. In the book, Wil is vice-president of the Oasis user council. He also reads the audio book for this and Ernest Cline's second novel, Armada.
At one point in the movie, the gang goes into a simulation of the hotel from The Shining (1980). In real life, Steven Spielberg was close friends with The Shining's director, Stanley Kubrick. Spielberg even once called the scene where Wendy finds Jack's novel as "a great example of counter intuitive direction".
Halliday's Oasis avatar is named "Anorak." In UK English, it's a slightly derogatory slang term for someone with an obsessive, comprehensive interest in a particular aspect of pop culture, a hobby, or a specialty or niche subject. That level of obsessive fandom is the point of the Halliday character and his creation of the Oasis.
Steven Spielberg made The Post (2017) while he was waiting for Industrial Light & Magic to create close to 1,500 digital effect shots for this movie. Other movies he directed while the previously-made film was in post-production through ILM were E.T. (1982) during Raiders (1981) and Schindler's List during Jurassic Park (both 1993).
The space ship Daito flies in on during the last battle to fight Sorrento is "Serenity," a firefly-class freighter from the beloved but short-lived TV show Firefly (2002) and its film sequel Serenity (2005).
Parzival may be driving the DeLorean from "Back to the Future", but the back-and-forth red lights in the car's front grill are a nod to KITT in "Knight Rider" as well as the Cylons in the original "Battlestar Galactica" (both produced by Glen Larson).
During the club scene, when Parzival and Art3mis meet you can briefly see Commander Shepard from the popular video game trilogy Mass Effect awkwardly dancing which is ironic considering in the game it's a running joke that Shepard can't dance.
Alan Silvestri worked closely with director Steven Spielberg to achieve the right direction for the original musical score that would not only be distinctive but would not allude to any of the film's 1980s and 1990s pop culture references, and also evoke and enhance the film's story and tone of optimism, innocence, beauty and a sense of wonder and old-fashioned adventure that many Hollywood films of the 1980s and the 1990s utilized to great effect. In an interview with "Entertainment Weekly", Spielberg said of Silvestri's musical score for the film, "While all sorts of culturally iconic references populate 'Ready Player One', the score that Alan Silvestri composed is completely and intoxicatingly original. It's bound together by multiple themes that identify plot and character and is infused by such percussive adrenaline and soaring strings that Alan has made 'Ready Player One' appear to fly."
Another major departure from the book is the character of I-Rok, who appears in the movie as a major character as a confidant and co-conspirator of Sorrento, while in the book he's mentioned twice. Once in Aech's private chatroom (where it's revealed Aech only lets him in as he's so awful at gunting he's a laugh to have around) and it's due to his online bragging that he knows Parzival & Aech that leads IOI to the first key challenge on Ludus. Other than these mentions in the first chapter, he doesn't appear anywhere else in the book.
When being quizzed about Halliday trivia, Wade answers Halliday's favorite Goldeneye multiplayer character was Oddjob. The programmers of Goldeneye note that Oddjob was an Easter egg as the autoaim was miscalibrated but unresolved, making him difficult to hit.
The teaser trailer contains Ghostwriter Music's adaptation of the song "Pure Imagination" from the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). It also contains a segment of the song "Tom Sawyer" by Rush.
On August 11, 2015, a rumor began circulating that Steven Spielberg was "courting" Gene Wilder to play OASIS creator James Halliday in his later years, which would've made this the first film Wilder has done since 1999. However, Wilder's dementia had progressed to a point where he could no longer remember lines and couldn't take the part.
During the first race the Silvercup Studios building can be seen seconds after King Kong lands on the track. The Silvercup Studios not only created lots of pop-culture productions, but the building itself is where the last fight of Highlander (1986) takes place.
Warner Bros. and producer Donald De Line acquired the adaptation rights to Ernest Cline's novel while it was in galley form in a very aggressive bidding contest, beating rival studios Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox on 21 June 2010, just the following day after the publishing company Random House won the publication rights. Cline stipulated two conditions in the agreement with the studio: he and Eric Eason gets the first attempt to write the script on his book; Cline wants Steven Spielberg to direct it.
Ernest Cline based the relationship of James Halliday and Ogden Morrow on Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. However, Cline said the primary influence for the technopreneur characters are based on:
Nolan Sorrento (Nolan Bushnell, Atari founder)
James Halliday (Howard Hughes and Richard Garriott a.k.a Lord British / Ultima developer)
Ogden Morrow (Harry Knowles, Ain't It Cool News founder)
In the Halliday Journals building, the floors of rows of video arcade game cabinets are only combinations of Pole Position (1982), Asteroids (1979), Millipede (1982), Pong (1972), Missile Command (1980), Tempest (1981), Dig Dug (1982), and one non-Atari game; Ms. Pac-man (1981).
In one scene near the end of the film, a random citizen can be seen wearing a futuristic version of the HTC VIVE VR headset. HTC participated in promotion of the film with VR arcade and home VR releases of Ready Player One VR mini-experiences with the most recently available VIVE headset.
During the High Five's trip to The Shining simulation, Sho mentions that he ended up watching the film through his fingers, hinting at how he's actually way too young to watch something like that. It also explains why he was the one of the group to total his car in the race despite the total lack of obstacles on the correct path, as children are not usually known for their driving prowess.
A passage from the source novel describes Wade's obsession and "research" of Anorak's Almanac, Halliday's journal chock full of references to 1980s books, movies, TV shows, music, and video games. One of the filmographies that Wade studied from the Almanac was Steven Spielberg.
Tracer from the popular video game Overwatch (2016) is voiced by Cara Theobold, who is also the voice of Tracer in the game. Also, at one point in the Distracted Globe club, a Tracer is seen dancing with a woman, a reference to an Overwatch comic book that revealed that Tracer is a lesbian.
Towards the end of the movie, Halliday's final words are "Thank you for playing my game". This is a possible nod/reference to Super Mario 64 (1996), in which Mario says the same thing after the end credits, "Thank you so much for playing my game."
When Wade sees Sorrento's rig while he's a hologram he says it looks like a giant hamster ball this is the same description given in the book to describe Ogden Morrows OASIS rigs at his house that the heroes use at the end of the story.
When showing off Aech's stuff to Art3mis, Parzival mentions a "Harkonnen Drop-Ship" that can go "from Incipio to Arrakis" in a very short time. Incipio is the entry point to the Oasis located in Sector 1 - its name appears on the central jump gate in the beginning of the movie and shortly after that the viewers meet Parzival for the first time as he is walking on Incipio adjusting his hair. Arrakis is the main planet from the "Dune" book series, which apparently exists in the Oasis as well, though it is never shown or mentioned again.
As Wade is explaining the OASIS just after the casino planet part the camera pans over some planets on its way to where all the avatars are spawning, one of these planets is called Ludus which is the school planet that Wade, Aech and I-R0k all attend virtual school on in the novel.
Production was set to begin in July 2016. Screenwriter Zak Penn tweeted on July 1, 2016 that the first week of filming had been completed. In August and September 2016, filming took place in Birmingham, England; this included Livery Street in the Jewellery Quarter area of the city, which was extensively used, including the van chase that takes place towards the film's end. The chase was edited to make the street appear longer than it actually is. The backpackers hostel Hatters, also on Livery Street, was used for internal filming for a basement scene. The Ludgate Hill Car Park lot on Lionel Street, in which caravan homes were partially built was also used and a planned explosion there caused some local business and homes to call emergency services, as no prior notification were given by the production team. Other locations in the city included the former industrial area of Digbeth, in a rooftop scene that overlooks the Birmingham City Centre skyline. Some of the city's landmark buildings were erased and replaced with CGI buildings to create a dystopian Ohio in the year 2045. Principal photography ended on September 27, 2016.
A gray Renault AVANTIME crosses the screen from right to left before we see Aech/Helen's truck hiding. The Avantime was a futuristic car brought to the market in 2000 by Renault. The name comes from the French word "avant" that means "ahead" and the English word "time". Only 8,450 units were made at the Matra factory, and just over 5,000 were sold. It still looks futuristic in the year 2045.
Some controversy emerged after Tye Sheridan was cast. Casting website Cast It Talent had advertised that the film was seeking "unknown talent" for the lead role. Several people sent in audition videos in hopes of being cast. When news of Sheridan's casting came out less than a day after the casting campaign ended, the reaction of people who auditioned ranged from understanding that they likely wouldn't be picked to outrage because they felt they had been lied to.
Although the movie is suppose to be set in Columbus, Ohio there really are no scenes (other than the newspaper clippings in Wades room) that would establish this except for one when Wade first meets Samantha in real life and looks out over a city skyline shot from a distance. The skyline shot while generic looking does have 2 identifiable Columbus buildings, the LeVeque Tower and the Huntington Center....which are on either side of the fictional IOI building. The LeVeque tower can be also be briefly seen in the opening shot of "The Stacks" far in the background.
The quote by Halliday "Reality is the only place where you can get a decent meal" is a quip over a similar quote by Woody Allen (the original quote mentioned "a good steak" instead), and often mistakenly attributed to Groucho Marx.
When Halliday is searching for the easter egg you see a Mac LC "pizza box". The original Mac in 1984 created a revolution in both graphic user interfaces, operating systems, the integration between OD and hardware, and computer graphics. The LC, in 1990, was the next revolution on the Mac side and the introduction of OS7 a few months later completely revolutionized the computing interface and was the direct inspiration for Windows 95. It was also hugely popular among creatives in the areas of graphics, video, and 3-D. Naturally, along with a series of gaming stations, Windows PCs, and Linux boxes, the would have been one of Halliday's early stepping stones on the way to creating the Oasis.
In the final battle scene when the rest of the avatars join in the fight, Parzival is seen holding a boom box above his head, which may be a reference to the '80s film Say Anything... (1989), where John Cusack holds a boom box to show how much he loves his girlfriend. This scene has also been referenced in The Simpsons (1989) and many other pop culture outlets. Say Anything was also one of the movies the High-Five clan could've chosen when trying to figure out what movie Halliday went on his date.
During the scene in the dance club where i-R0k tells the girls to leave the booth, the song "Blue Monday" by New Order is playing. In the movie The Wedding Singer (1998) (which is another movie deep in 80s trivia), the same song is playing when Adam Sandler and his co-stars are in a very similar dance club in a nearly identical booth.
The start up screen for the Oasis is very similar to the start screen to the Nerve Gear from the anime Sword Art Online (2012), with colors flying toward the viewer and the logo appearing. Sword Art Online has a very similar concept to Ready Player One, but it is unclear if this was a reference or just a coincidence.
Another 80s reference is the bag of Doritos on the passenger side of the van right after the cataclysm goes off and they find Artemis wandering in the street, and after Wade's uncle Rick punched him and he fell on the floor, a pack of Doritos with the same design can also be seen on the coffee table at the background. unless they remade the iconic logo in a nostalgic re-release of the famous nacho chips, in the year 2045, they'd be toting around (and/or eating) a 60 year (give or take a couple years) bag of Doritos.
The theory Aech gives on who Art3mis could actually be is almost exactly what Wade tells himself in the novel to keep himself grounded (or at least try to) he also tells Art3mis this is who she could be when they are chatting/flirting.
Percival was one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, first written about by Chretien de Troyes, then later Thomas Malory and Wolfram von Eschenbach. In the legend and the movie Excalibur (1981), Percival rose from humble beginnings to become a knight. He and the other Round Table knights undertake a quest to find the (largely symbolic in the movie) 'Holy Grail' that will revitalise the kingdom of King Arthur. As previously mentioned, the spell used to activate the Orb of Osuvox is the 'Charm Of Making' from Excalibur (1981). The name Percival in German is 'Parzival'.
Much of Parzival's body language, particularly his dorky swagger upon first meeting Art3mis, appears to be based on Keanu Reeves's portrayal of Ted "Theodore" Logan in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - a film referenced during Parzival's first visit to Halliday's Journal, when Halliday suggests to Ogden Morrow that maybe they should be going backward instead of forward, and adds, "Bill and Ted did!"
In the opening scene, as Wade is leaving his place and "Jump" by Van Halen is playing, David Lee Roth sings "gotta roll with the punches" at the exact moment that the camera passes a woman boxing with OASIS gear on.
In the film, Wade Watts says he got his name because his father thought it sounded like a superhero's name, like Bruce Banner (Hulk) or Peter Parker (Spiderman). Coincidentally, this is not the only film in which actor Tye Sheridan plays a hero with an alliterative name. He also portrays Scott Summers (Cyclops) in the X-Men universe.
The book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was the subject of a podcast called "372 Pages We'll Never Get Back," where comedians Mike Nelson (of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax) and Conor Lastowka (author and employee of RiffTrax) read chapters each week and scrutinized them, concluding they did not care for it. After the release of the film, they performed an episode dedicated to discussing the movie and how it, too, did not meet their standards. Eventually, the film was officially riffed on RiffTrax, by Mike, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett.
When Parzival saves Art3mis, she removes her helmet and throws it into Parzival's stomach. This is reminiscent of when Steve Martin's character in "The Jerk" meets a female biker who, additionally, had red spiky hair much like Art3mis.
Just before Wade and Samantha share The Big Damn Kiss, Wade mentions he is going to take the leap -- referencing how the second clue mentioned how Halliday did not do that by kissing his date. Wade's apology for shooting Art3mis to prevent her discovery by Sorrento is a callback to his being locked out of the hideout when IOI burst in and captured everyone.
The protagonist's initials are W.O.W. (Wade Owen Watts). W.O.W. is the acronym for World Of Warcraft, which the premise for The Oasis is very close to resembling. From W.O.W. Wiki: "World of Warcraft is set in the same universe as the Warcraft series of real-time strategy games and has a similar art direction. World of Warcraft contains elements from fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction: such as gryphons, dragons, and elves; steam-powered automata; zombies, werewolves, and other horror monsters; as well as time travel, spaceships, and alien worlds. World of Warcraft takes place in a 3D representation of the Warcraft universe that players can interact with through their characters." Etc., etc., etc., while gamers also face in-game tasks, challenges, and battles to level up their characters.
During the scenes when Halliday hands over the egg a Commodore 64 disc drive is seen under the desk. Could be related to chuckie egg game from the 80's. Platform game requiring the player to move through 5 levels and the chance to get an extra life and an egg.
The film is not just a science fiction action adventure film it is also a mystery story. The reason for this is because in the movie, Wade setts out to uncover the secrets of The OASIS's deceased creator James Halliday as he sets out to find the Easter Egg which he will become the heir of the OASIS.
Spielberg and his team used VR to step into and explore the parts of the movie that would only exist as virtual, computer-generated environments, the same as they would walk around an old-fashioned physical soundstage. To find out more, production designer Adam Stockhausen, the man in charge of realising the look of the movie's two distinct worlds explained the creative process "They start in the same place, but then it diverges pretty quickly," says Stockhausen of the creative process behind these different worlds. Ready Player One's "real" world scenes were filmed the old-fashioned way, with human actors on real-life, honest-to-goodness physical sets. Meanwhile the virtual environment of the Oasis, where the film's heroes live out their digital fantasies, were conjured with computer-generated characters against computer-generated backgrounds.
As on most projects, the production designer Adam Stockhausen and his team began by collecting reference images to spark inspiration, before sketching ideas and concept art. For the parts of the film set in the real world, the art department turned these sketches into blueprints mapping out physical sets. But for the scenes set in the Oasis, the sketches went to what Stockhausen calls a "virtual art department" involving visual effects companies Digital Domain and ILM.
Instead of being built on an actual soundstage, ILM created the backdrops of the Oasis scenes as three-dimensional computer-generated (CG) constructs. Virtual reality came into the process when the filmmakers wanted to get a better feel for the CG environments than from looking at them on a screen. Spielberg and Stockhausen donned VR headsets to achieve this, entering the virtual environment just like the characters in the movie. VR allowed them to adjust the lighting, consider camera angles and see if the environments suited their purposes in a more immersive way than simply looking at concept art. "It's almost like being on a real set," says Stockhausen.
VR didn't just help the filmmakers plan the virtual environments. They also got a digital preview of the physical sets they planned to build. "When you build a giant set for a normal production," explains Stockhausen, "you build models and you do sketching just to make sure everybody's on the same page. You do everything you can to get everybody to understand the space before you build it." So before a single hammer struck a nail, the team conjured virtual walkthroughs of planned real-world sets such as villainous Nolan Sorrento's office or the IOI rig room.
The IOI rig room is an example of how real sets and CG technology are enmeshed in modern movies such as Ready Player One. It was built as a traditional physical set, but the resulting footage was then enhanced with digital set extension to make it look bigger (and cooler). And before the real-life set was even built, the filmmakers made a VR version to preview what the real thing would look like.
Wandering through the virtual preview of the planned sets not only allowed Spielberg to consider creative choices such as angles and lighting. But it also allowed Stockhausen to make sure the set would meet practical considerations. "It was great to be able to say, does this feel like the right size?" says Stockhausen. "Can we place the action in here and stage it or do we need to make any adjustments? That was tremendously helpful."
Having been used to plan films like this film and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), VR looks set to be a tool that will only grow in popularity for filmmakers. "It's in the early days," says Stockhausen, "but I think it's going to become a routine part of the process."
The main draw for the film, is the dizzying combination of beloved pop culture references, like the iconic DeLorean from Back to the Future racing the motorbike from Akira. Filling the film with suitable references was fun for the filmmakers too, says Stockhausen, who describes "sitting down with Steven and saying if you could race any car from the history of movies what would it be? And making a list of pure Willy Wonka fantasy of what you would want." Obvious stuff like the DeLorean, which plays a big part in the narrative, were first to be cleared by the film's hard-working legal team. Then, later in the process, the detailed high-resolution version of the Oasis was created, and it was in these teeming crowd scenes and in the characters' hangouts the filmmakers could throw in loads of fun blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter eggs. "If you really look closely," says Stockhausen, "there's all kinds of amazing spaceships from different movies in there, and there's all sorts of stuff on the walls."
One early action scene involves the huge race through the virtual version of the Big Apple that might be familiar to moviegoers. "We had a lot of fun seeing what iconic buildings and billboards from 80s films set in New York we could put in just for fun," remembers Stockhausen. To take a random example, look closely and you might see the building from Dustin Hoffman's 1982 comedy Tootsie. Or elsewhere in the film see if you can spot references to The Breakfast Club's library setting in the design of the Oasis' archive.
Even the smallest references had to be cleared by the legal team, which meant the icons seen in the film differ slightly from those mentioned in the book. "There were certainly some things we couldn't get but I don't wanna call them out, because I don't wanna give them the press," laughs Stockhausen. One obvious omission from the book is the classic Japanese character Ultraman, although it was left out because of a long-running dispute over who owns the rights rather than because the creators refused permission. Such omissions were a mixed blessing, says Stockhausen. "Not being able to have that property forced us to do a deep dive on what would the ultimate thing be," he insists. "If we could use any giant robot, what would we want? Each time we couldn't get something it forced a deeper discussion of what would be better."
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When the Hi-Five hack into Sorrento's immersion pod as OASIS reproductions of their real-life selves, their eyes give off an amber glow. This is a reference to a lighting effect used to differentiate between humans and replicants in Blade Runner (1982).
When the IOI Sixers attack Parzival and Art3mis at the Distracted Globe dance club, Art3mis fights back with an M41A1 pulse rifle from Aliens (1986). She is also seen using a Lawgiver from Judge Dredd (1995)
Samantha changes her Avatar to depict her real-world birthmark before shooting out Mecha-Godzilla's eye so that Sorrento will know exactly who she is, as revenge for her father, who died in one of Sorrento's loyalty centres.
The scene where the Iron Giant disappears into the lava and gives a thumbs up is a reference to a scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) where the T-800 makes the same gesture as it is lowered into a vat of molten steel.
In the novel the character of Ultraman from Ultraman: A Special Effects Fantasy Series (1966) played a crucial part in the climax of the story. However the rights of the character were in the middle of a legal dispute so the film replaced it with the Iron Giant from The Iron Giant (1999).
In the film, the jade key is obtained by living through certain scenes from the movie version of The Shining (1980). In the novel, the copper key is used to open the first gate, which requires the player to live through and recite the entire movie WarGames (1983).
Although Steven Spielberg has stated that many references to himself that are seen in the book have been removed from the film, he has confirmed that Wade will still have his custom DeLorean, which is a prominent element in the Spielberg-produced Back to the Future (1985).
One of the largest differences between the book and film revolves around the copper key. In the film everyone knows where the key is, and a seemingly impossible auto race frequently occurs to obtain it. In the novel many years go by without anyone knowing where the first key is located, until Parzival discovers an area outside of his school that requires him to navigate a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, before beating a demon in a head to head arcade game of Joust. It's shortly after obtaining the key that he first meets Art3mis, who had been trying to beat the demon at Joust for nearly a month.
A vast majority of the movie is completely different from the book. This includes the riddles and location of the keys, the death of Daito, Art3mis meeting Wade in the second act rather than the end, and the characters running from IOI as Parzival finishes the Third Test.
The Atari system at Anorak's Castle is connected to a TV set to channel 3. Early video game consoles connected to the TV by connecting to the two antenna terminal screws using a small switch box. This box had an analog sliding switch which could be moved between TV and game mode and could send the game system signal to either channel 2 or channel 3 to avoid interference with local TV stations broadcasting in the area.
The riddle giving the location for the crystal key is quickly read, but it's solved by IOI before the High Five can decipher it and its meaning is not explained by anyone, leaving some watchers confused. The clue says to divide the "ultimate number" by the "magic number". The ultimate number is 42, as explained in Douglas Adams' 'Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy", and the magic number is 3, as mentioned in a song from Schoolhouse Rock. 42÷3=14, and sector 14 was the location of Anorak's castle. In the book, there is a riddle about the "magic number", but it explained how to open the final gate, not find it. The number 42 is not part of any clue in the book.
The OASIS scenes are filmed digitally (except when entering the world of The Shining (1980)), while the real world scenes are shot on film, heavily emphasizing the celluloid noise. That provides a subtle clue something is amiss when Sorrento's station is hacked, due to the lack of grain in the digital cinematography.
In the novel, Wade finds the Copper Key by adventuring through a recreation of the classic Dungeons & Dragons module "Tomb of Horrors". While that does not take place in the movie, it still references Tomb of Horrors by featuring the iconic "Face of the Great Green Devil" on the back of Aech's van.
The music throughout the Overlook Hotel scenes is the score used in the film, The Shining (1980). Some shots throughout the sequence are taken from the original film as well, most noticeably some shots during the room 237 scene.
Around the time that Anorak/Halliday gives Parzival/Wade the Big Egg, he says the line "I was afraid for all my life, right up until the day I knew my life was ending. And that was when I realized that, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place that you can get a decent meal." This is an uncredited steal from Groucho Marx, who said, "I'm not crazy about reality, but it's still the only place to get a decent meal."
In the scene where Halliday and Parzival are in a recreation of Halliday's childhood bedroom, the space wallpaper on the wall with the door is the same wallpaper seen in Chris Knight and Mitch Taylor's dorm in Real Genius (1985).
In the scene where Halliday awards his Easter egg in his childhood home, young Halliday is playing a console game on the floor nearby. The system he is playing is the Colecovision, the game he is playing is Gorf, and the level he is on is the final boss, Flag Ship. And yes he beats the boss, which is why we see he has 1 life left, and avoids the projectile fired from the enemy ship, even though we immediately see the words "game over" appear before he stands up.
In the novel, it's revealed that Helen (Aech) is gay. This never mentioned in the movie. However, it is alluded to retrospectively when considering the Shining scene in room 237, when the 'naked bathtub lady' comes onto to Aech, who responds by saying "You know what? I'm gonna go with it". At this point in the movie, it's still assumed Aech is a man.
Every Sixer that appears in the movie has a unique number, which is never reused, with the exception of #665312, who makes three distinctive appearances (and dying every time): 1) He gets a closeup in the IOI war room just before the first Copper Key race (in which all Sixers apparently die); 2) When IOI plays the "Shining" challenge, he is seen being killed by the naked hag; 3) In the final battle he is the first one to be killed by Chucky.
When Wade first meets Samantha (Arty's real-life counterpart), he discovers she has a birthmark on her face. Initially, she hides it under her hair out of embarrassment. But as she and Wade fall in love, her hair slowly moves away from her face. First, it's simply tucked behind her left ear. Later, it's in a low ponytail. In the final scene (after the High Five gain control of the OASIS and Wade and Samantha are happily living together), her hair is up in double buns.
There are clues that the Curator is more than an NPC (non player character). The first happens when he mistakenly thinks that Art3mis was speaking to him when they were checking for the first clue. The movie also makes it seem like he can only attend to one visitor's requests at a time.
One of the lapel pins on Halliday's suit during his death video is a miniature of Simon, a popular electronic game from Milton-Bradley in which you needed to match lights by pressing four buttons in the same sequence they lit. Although a very popular game in the 1980s, the pin represents the game in its "modern", 21st century version (black disc shaped, with the buttons in each quadrant).
In the video where Halliday is revealed to be dead, he has quarters over his eyes. Later in the film, the Curator gives Parzival a quarter that grants its user an extra life in the OASIS. This is a hint to Halliday's fate in the film: Although his body is physically dead, his spirit lives on in the OASIS until a worthy heir is found.
The curator shows his hand twice without Parzival noticing. The first time is after he's asked to show the office party again, he responds with 'You want to go back'? (referencing the need to reverse at the start of the race) and after Parzival tells Art3mis that Kira is the key to the second clue, he exclaims "You're right", but they think he's just referring to the fact that they've just seen the only reference to Kira in the entire Halliday archives.
When Parzival is talking to Halliday in Halliday's attic bedroom, we see a shot of a young Halliday playing his Atari 2600 and on the floor Big Trak can be seen. Big Trak was a toy vehicle from the '80's that could be programmed to follow inputted coordinates to a final destination. With it's trailer attached it could go to the kitchen, have a sandwich placed in the trailer and could then return to you complete with lunch!
When Artemis disguises herself as Goro (from Mortal Kombat), she uses a puppet from Alien to burst out of, then cut away, the "Goro suit". The puppet on her arm is a design very similar to one of the puppets made by Corey Feldman's character in "Friday the 13th part IV". Corey Feldman, of course, starred in Spielberg and Donner's "The Goonies". Jason, the killer from the Friday the 13th series, makes a cameo in one of the battles.
When IOI breaks up Parzival and Artemis' date at the club, the ensuing battle plays out very much like one of the training battles in Orson Scott Card's novel "Ender's Game". Harrison Ford plays a general in the film adaptation of "Ender's Game", and we are all familiar with Spielberg and Ford's collaborations in the past.