Are The Stacks too much for this ageing wizard?
Before I begin, let me say that I am a big fan of Steven Spielberg. A HUGE fan! In fact, I regard him as the best director there has ever been. His back catalogue boasts great film after great film, and the man has already cemented his legacy in the hearts of millions.
Many people have criticised Steven’s films of recent years, saying his glory days of ET, Jurassic Park or Indian Jones (original trilogy) are far behind him. I would certainly disagree with that. But his ‘magic’ has changed somewhat. His latest offerings, and I’m talking Lincoln, War Horse and Bridge of Spies (lets leave The BFG out of this) are far more subtle, character heavy, story driven affairs. They are not bad, they are just a different kettle of fish to his sci-fi and family friendly movies of days gone by.
Ready Player One tells the tale of a genius computer programmer who’s final gift upon death is the revelation of a hidden Easter egg in his greatest creation – The Oasis. Whichever player finds the Easter egg, inherits The Oasis. The story is a kind of mash up between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Matrix. After reading the book a couple of years ago and loving it, it soon dawned on me that this story was completely un-filmable. You see, The Oasis is more then just a computer game, it is a VR universe where players can live out their gaming fantasies. They can even be part of major (80s) movies and reenact them. One example of this is when our hero – Wade, has to become Matthew Broderick in 1983’s War Games. How could this be recreated in a film adaptation? Are they going to get Broderick to return and don some horrible prosthetic vulgarities. Or rely so heavily on CG that it will end up looking like The Phantom Menace? How do you respectfully recreate beloved classics in the modern world and keep that nostalgia?
Is Spielberg ready for such a challenge? If this goes wrong (and it could go spectacularly wrong) then the amount of die hard fans of the book are going to cast a Batman v Superman level of hate all over the internet.
Lets assume for arguments sake that Spielberg is not the man up to the task of bringing this film to life. Then who is? The obvious answer would be JJ Abrams. He has proven repeatedly that he knows how to dip into the nostalgia pot and bring up something that is both familiar and excellently delivered. But he is no innovator. Abrams shines when he has something to build upon. Lets face it there isn’t much original about The Force Awakens, Star Trek or Super 8. He is the king of the reboot. Another option might be a young and upcoming talent such as Gareth Edwards. His background in visual effects would surely mean we would see something spectacular when we are watching this movie in theatres.
At the end of the day Spielberg has something that these people do not yet have – legacy. Ready Player One borrows from huge movie franchises such as Back to the Future, Monty Pythan, Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, Highlander, Airplane…. The list goes on forever. Sooner or later the producers of Ready Player One are going to have to start calling round the many studios who own these intellectual properties and beg them to allow parts to be used in this insanely detailed film. Who better to make that call then Mr Spielberg? His weight in the industry should surely help sway any studios who are not willing to give up their rights so easily.
It’s not going to be Steven himself who writes the script, operates the camera, edits, applies thousands of visual effects. But what he will do is surround himself with the best the industry has to offer (just like he did on Jurassic Park) to bring this extraordinary vision to life. He doesn’t need to be the filmmaker he once was – because its the filmmaker he once was that will get anybody whose anybody queuing out the door to get this project rolling. His legacy is the biggest tool he’ll need to pull this off.