Steven Spielberg is gearing up to direct Ready Player One, and on the surface it sounds like a fascinating marriage of director and material. For those who haven’t read Ernest Cline’s novel, it’s like a mash-up of The Matrix and Willy Wonka that following a young man who must win control of a VR landscape by passing tests based on the VR world creator’s love of 1980s culture. Spielberg seemed like an exciting choice because he helped shaped the 1980s, which could make Ready Player One an uniquely introspective feature.
However, it turns out that Spielberg is more fascinated by the anti-social component than the 80s ephemera that litters Cline’s book. Speaking to USA Today, Spielberg says, “but I’m not making this movie to remind people of my ‘80s movies. I may leave most of them out!” Which is fine, but then he goes on to say that his interest is more about what he’s seeing from these darn kids today:
“They socialize for about a half hour, and it gets very quiet,” he says. “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,” Spielberg adds. “It’s a cautionary tale but it’s also a big rockin’ adventure movie, too.”
So does Spielberg want to make not only the cinematic equivalent of “Why don’t you kids go outside and play?” but then undermine it by showing how cool that VR space can be? I agree that VR is increasingly becoming part of our lives, but frankly, so many other directors could have taken that approach. I was hoping that Ready Player One would show us Spielberg speaking as a filmmaker who’s been influencing the past three decades, but it sounds like he’s speaking as a parent whose concerned about what he’s been seeing for the past three years.
Ready Player One opens December 15, 2017, and stars Olivia Cooke.