Or so we thought – because having seen the film we can confirm that there actually ARE a few Star Wars references in the story, and while they’re not as central to the narrative as they were in Ernest Cline’s book, they certainly have a presence.
If you look closely in the film you can spot R2-D2, an X-Wing fighter and at least the sound of an Imperial TIE Fighter (we weren’t sure if we spotted the ship itself), as well as more references in dialogue when one character calls another “young padawan”.
But perhaps most intriguingly of all, one scene seems to hint at the difficulties of securing the Star Wars IP, possibly poking fun at the process by which Spielberg and his team asked to borrow parts of the franchise.
The reference comes at a point when our hero Wade/Parzival (Tye Sheridan) is offered a tempting proposition from a corporate overlord, which includes millions of dollars, unlimited weaponry inside the virtual Oasis where most of the world spends its time and possession of a certain Kessel Run-besting Corellian light freighter – The Millennium Falcon.
“You have a Millennium Falcon??” Wade responds in awe, and given the demonstrated easy-access he and other gamers have to driving other iconic sci-fi vehicles – even the relatively lowly Wade can afford a virtual DeLorean, and ships from many other franchises can be seen in various scenes – it seems that even within the endless possibilities of the Oasis everyone still has trouble persuading Disney and Lucasfilm to share their IP.
In other words, Ready Player One sees us decades into the future in a dying, near-dystopic society – and the fictional characters STILL struggle to get the rights to Star Wars.
Spielberg himself recently took the time to clear up some of the misconceptions about Star Wars’ presence in the film, saying that despite his earlier comments, Disney and Lucasfilm had actually been more than happy to share rights and it was more his own choice to limit the inclusion of Star Wars.
“It was difficult because we were greedy about wanting so many cultural references throughout the 80s and 90s, but everybody cooperated,” the director told Fandango.
“We didn’t want to use the main cultural icons from any of the Disney Star Wars films because those are ongoing. That’s really part of our contemporary world right now, and even though it began in the 80s, it is so much a part of our real life today, in the 21st century, so we asked for some of the smaller items and Disney gave us everything we asked for.”
In other words, only outdated IPs with no hope of modern relevance were deemed ready for central inclusion in the finished film. Take from that what you will, Back to the Future, Batman, Lord of the Rings, Gundam and Street Fighter fans…
Ready Player One will be released in UK cinemas on the 29th March
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