The publicity of Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, which will hit theaters on March 29, has a strange tonal line. Most present the story of the future teenager obsessed with pop culture Wade Watts as something great and exciting. But once in a while, marketing feels like a surprising cut from the premise of the movie. And I'm not sure where his latest promotional trick, a series of complicated movie posters, is supposed to collapse.
If you're not familiar with Ready Player One, it's mainly developed in a virtual world called OASIS, essentially an amalgamation of giant virtual reality from twentieth-century pop culture. Then, of course, the new images recreate iconic movie posters using the virtual avatars of several Ready Player One characters. (You can see a full summary on Slashfilm.) Half of them seem to be advertising a kind of Bullitt pseudoanime remake. or The Lost Boys: they are conceptually foolish, but made to perfection, like this:
These posters play according to the instinct that Cline's book tries to exploit: "Would not it be great to star in your favorite movie?" (Or, perhaps in this case, "Would not it be great to star in your favorite movie and do you look like the" unthreateningly attractive "member of a strange gang of kids from the valley?")
But for some of the posters, like the Matrix riff, then the aesthetic looks more like something you would get if you gave a teenager a cracked Photoshop copy.
It's crude, uncomfortable … and a pretty accurate description of how fanfiction self-insertion attempts usually appear. In other words, its terribleness makes it great. It is a more interesting and conscious vision of how cultural references confer – or do not totally confer – coldness to the people who create them.
The same goes for this Rambo: First Blood Part II poster, where the avatar of Wade Watts interprets the "deadly resolution" as "slight apprehension" and shows a surprising reluctance to take off his shirt and jean jacket for the sake of precision esthetic .
Ready Player One seems unlikely to mock its own heroes so effectively. But the poster trick at least gives me the hope that this clip of the last trailer was ironic.