Ready Player One is an entertaining book that would make for a terrific film if not for licensing headaches.
The story takes place in 2044 and revolves around the poverty-stricken Wade Watts, who’s only escape is trying to solve a decades old game from the late James Halliday creator of the worldwide, virtual reality space, OASIS. Working along the lines of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, if Wade can progress through the VR game, he gets to own OASIS, which is pretty much the equivalent of owning the Internet. The trick to beating the game is to figure out how to decipher the clues that are rooted in Halliday’s love of 1980s pop culture.
And that’s where a movie gets tricky. In his book, author Ernest Cline could pack in 80s references to his heart’s content (sometimes to the detriment of the story; at points it feels like Cline is overloading us with his 80s bonafides). But films have to deal with licensing rights. If he wants to Wade to watch The Goonies at one point or study Back to the Future or puzzle over Gremlins, then those films need to be present to add authenticity. If only there was someone who had access to all of those films and more…
Deadline is reporting that Steven Spielberg has signed on to direct Ready Player One. We previously reported that Christopher Nolan, Robert Zemeckis, Matthew Vaughn, Edgar Wright, and Peter Jackson were all being considered, and while they’re all fine directors in their own right, Spielberg is the ideal choice. He wasn’t just influenced by the 1980s; he crafted the 1980s. His hiring also could also provide the film with a distinctive angle. Wade approaches the 1980s with reverence, but Spielberg might identify more with Halliday, the creator of the 1980s cyberspace. Then again, Spielberg would also understand that movies are a form of escapism, and OASIS is just an extension of that since global warming has destroyed the physical world of 2044.
The story is also getting timelier as technology develops and VR hardware like Oculus Rift begins moving into the consumer realm. Audiences would still be able to understand the movie if it had been adapted years ago, but Ready Player One will touch not only on our culture’s obsessions with nostalgia (another fault of the novel is that it delves into 80s nostalgia with an unquestioning, near-zealous reverence), but also escapism through technology.
However, the big caveat is whether or not Spielberg will actually move forward on the film. He’s currently working on Bridge of Spies and will then go to The BFG. Spielberg’s M.O. is to attach himself to a slew of projects, wait patiently, and then jump in with both feet, which usually provides a series of projects in a short time (Tintin, War Horse, and Lincoln) before waiting years for the next group. Hopefully, Ready Player One will be part of his current burst because he is the best choice the gig.