The dream of the ’80s (and also the ’90s) is alive in “Ready Player One.”
Steven Spielberg’s gamified look at the future spends a lot of visual moments in the pop culture past. The film, based on Ernest Cline’s novel, is set in a dystopian 2045. Wade Watts (who goes by the avatar Parzival) and his friends pass the time plugged into the Oasis, the virtual reality universe where the Hotel Overlook from “The Shining” and the Iron Giant exist side by side. Mr. Spielberg relied on a frequent visual effects partner, Industrial Light & Magic, to help bring the Oasis to life.
Video game references make up a big part of that world, but movie references also give fans plenty to parse, whether it’s the DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” the monster from “Alien” or the evil Chucky doll from “Child’s Play.”
“The asset list on this film was daunting, insanely long and super complicated,” the visual effects supervisor Grady Cofer said, referring to the list of effects needed. “But for pop culture fans, it was this dream come true. And from the very beginning, what started happening was, artists would request to work on things. Someone would say, ‘I would love to model the Iron Giant,’ or ‘I love “Gremlins”’ or whatever.” Mr. Cofer realized the production would be fueled by passion.
Here is a look at some key moments and figures that appear in the film, with Mr. Cofer explaining how ILM made them work.In holdover news that isn’t Avengers: Infinity War, Paramount/Viacom Inc.’s A Quiet Place earned another $7.6 million (-31%) on its fitfth weekend for an absurd $159.8m 24-day cume. The $17m horror flick has earned $255.3m worldwide, passing the $255m global cume of Get Out, and it still has China (May 18), France (June 20) and Japan (Sept. 14) to go. So yeah, this one is making a run at $180m domestic by the time it wraps up. And unless Skyscraper catches fire, A Quiet Place will easily be the biggest original release of 2018, at least in North America.
STX’s I Feel Pretty held firm in its third weekend, earning $4.9 million (-40%). That gives Amy Schumer’s $17m comedy a decent-enough $37.8m 17-day total. Needless to say, all of the pre-release “Oh, the problematic!” blog posts didn’t make much of a difference, which is good because while the movie is merely okay it’s also utterly harmless and entirely a personal and specific story. And it again shows that there is still an audience for an old-school “chick flick.”
New Line and Warner Bros./Time Warner Inc.’s Rampage earned $4.62 million (-36%) in its fourth weekend to bring its domestic cume up to $84.7m 24-day total. It won’t hit $100m domestic, but it has already earned $377m worldwide, passing Angry Birds ($352m in 2016) to become the second-biggest video game movie of all time. No, it’s not getting past Warcraft ($433m in 2016), but it didn’t cost $165m to produce either. So, if only by default in terms of the video game adaptation sub-genre, the Dwayne Johnson action-fantasy is a rock-solid hit.
Walt Disney’s Black Panther is getting an Avengers boost, as it earned another $3.146 million (-31%) in its 12th weekend for a new $693.126m domestic cume. It might just crawl to $700m domestic in the next few weeks, and if it does it’ll pass Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($1.43 billion worldwide in 2011) to become the ninth-biggest global earner of all time (after Infinity War passes it by next week). So yeah, be it Wakanda Forever or to Infinity and beyond, Marvel is having a good 2018 thus far.
Universal/Comcast Corp. has two solid studio programmers still doing their thing. Truth or Dare has survived alongside A Quiet Place, as the $3.5 million Blumhouse horror flick has earned $38.2m domestic and $58.4m worldwide. It’s not a barn-burner, but lots of money will be made. Ditto Kay Cannon’s superb Blockers, which has thus far earned $56.1m domestic and $81m worldwide on a $22m budget. Between Blockers and Game Night, there may yet be hope for the high-quality studio comedy.
MORE FROMFox Searchlight’s Super Troopers 2 continued to sink, earning $1.815 million (-51%) in its third weekend. That’ll give the film a still-decent $25.445m 17-day cume, still making it a sleeper hit and mini-breakout sequel with one of the biggest percentage jumps in unadjusted domestic earnings for a comedy sequel from its initial installment. Sometimes, when the fans show up as promised, you only need one weekend to make your money.
Finally, Ready Player One has earned $133 million domestic after six weekends of release. But the Steven Spielberg-directed sci-fi flick has gone bananas overseas, with a $433m overseas cume and a $566.7m worldwide total. That puts it just above Kong: Skull Island ($566.6m last year) and makes it Spielberg’s third-biggest foreign grosser ever behind Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Jurassic Park. Oh, and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs has earned $47m worldwide thus far.
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At the end of Avengers: Infinity War, a gauntlet-wielding Thanos snaps his fingers and effectively dooms half of civilization to death. Captain America watches helplessly as his best bud Bucky dissolves into a pile of dust. Spider-Man sputters “I don’t feel so good,” and bites it in Tony Stark’s arms. Even Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury can’t escape death.
In true internet fashion, fans are commemorating the tragic loss of so many fan favorites (before some of them inevitably return for sequels) as a meme. Paired with Spider-Man’s final words, the joke includes an image of some character disappearing — like, Spongebob, or maybe Jack from Titantic.Memes spread for many reasons — they’re relatable, easily replicated, they’re lovable nonsense. This particular meme is referential humor at its most boring; if you’ve seen Infinity War, you get it. If not, well, you’ve been staring at spoilers without realizing it.
Although the meme has spawned a few creative jokes, like using the iconic Windows logo, it’s mostly just applying it to whatever character or object you want. It’s best appreciated if you’ve seen Infinity War, or at least know how it ends; if not, it’s lost on you. It’s a meme-ified version of Ready Player One, a story that spews pop culture references like confetti bursting out of a crappy, DeLorean-shaped piñata.
These viral jokes work because they’re within reach of anyone who gets the joke, but accessible doesn’t equal lazy — or at least, it doesn’t need to. The culmination that is Infinity War pulled together a decade’s worth of storylines, references, hat tips, and Easter eggs. The least we could all do is put a little effort into its first meme.