Steven Spielberg returns with a new film in theaters this week (at the time of writing this), in the Cold War drama/thriller Bridge of Spies, and already has additional projects scheduled to arrive in 2016 and 2017, respectively. Both of those future Spielberg movies are novel adaptations, as it were: The BFG, a big screen take on Roald Dahl’s book about a young girl’s adventures with the Big Friendly Giant, and Ready Player One, which is based on author Ernest Cline’s best-selling 2011 dystopia/sci-fi novel of the same name.
Ready Player One revolves around a futuristic virtual reality game (OASIS) that, in no small amount, is informed by its creator’s love of popular culture from decades past – including, a number of projects that Spielberg himself worked on (as either director and/or producer) back in the 1980s. Hence, there’s all the more reason to wonder how the filmmaker will approach this story, given just how much it was influenced by his own real-life filmography.
Spielberg, as part of the promotional tour for Bridge of Spies, spoke to USA Today about Ready Player One, called the experience of adapting Cline’s novel for the big screen “very trippy,” given how much its references his own work. Nevertheless, he said that what really attracted him to the project was the vision of the future that Cline’s work offers:
“[Ready Player One is] a crystal ball into exactly what is going to be happening not in 30 or 40 years but in between 5 and 10 years from now, where a virtual world becomes almost like a drug of choice and where we are spending more time in a nonorganic space than we are breathing and eating and interacting in real life.”
The director also mentioned that he doesn’t plan to include too many references to his own film work in Ready Player One (claiming “I may leave most of them out!”); rather, Spielberg is more interested in the virtual reality vs. real world theme of Cline’s narrative, in part as a result of his own experience as a parent:
“[My kids] socialize for about a half hour, and it gets very quiet. I walk into the kitchen and eight or nine girls are sitting around and they’re all looking at their phones, Snapchatting and texting and Twittering and reading. It’s all become so introverted. This movie is going to show why it’s interesting not living in the real world but what we’re missing by not. It’s a cautionary tale but it’s also a big rockin’ adventure movie, too.”
Ready Player One (the novel) takes place in a dystopia vision of the year 2044 and does examine how the virtual world of OASIS affects its younger characters’ outlook towards their own non-virtual reality. It also looks at how nostalgia and popular culture from the past shapes the present, while at the same time examining the complexities of how new technology connects people – in ways that were simply not possible before – and how it can empower them, in the face of an overwhelming ugly reality. That’s to say: it’s a bit disappointing that Spielberg appears interested in approaching Ready Player One first and foremost as a commentary on “kids and their gadgets these days” – given that he has much more interesting substance to draw inspiration from here.
It’s also somewhat disappointing to hear that Spielberg intends to play down Ready Player One‘s references to the many ’80s properties and projects (E.T., Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, etc.) that he had a hand in making, with his film adaptation. The project could offer the filmmaker an opportunity to reflect on his own legacy and the impact it had versus, say, the impact he might’ve intended or even preferred, based on the portrayal of OASIS (and how Spielberg’s movies informed that VR world) from Cline’s own source material.
Indeed, a Spielberg feature film with meta narrative aspects would be an intriguing change of pace for the director, compared to his previous work. It’s for similar reasons that many film buffs continue to hope that Martin Scorsese will eventually go make The Irishman: a project that reflects on Spielberg’s fellow “Brat Pack” filmmaker in a similarly meta-textural fashion (with regard to his directorial career).
However, with that said: Spielberg still knows how to deliver “a big rockin’ adventure movie” and Ready Player One still has the potential to provide a smart, thrilling experience on the big screen. The film is also well over two years away, at the time of writing this, so a lot could change between now and then – including, which elements of Cline’s source material wind up being emphasized by Spielberg and his collaborators with their adaptation. We’ll keep you posted as additional information becomes available.
Ready Player One opens in U.S. theaters on December 15th, 2017.
Source: USA Today