Will ‘Ready Player One’ Be the Comeback Hit Steven Spielberg Needs?

Matthew Loffhagen
Warner Bros
(Photo: Warner Bros)

Let’s not beat around the bush: it’s been a long while since Steven Spielberg directed a truly standout movie.

Minority Report was the last of Spielberg’s movies to really blow audiences out of the water, and that came out fifteen years ago. In recent years, films like The BFG haven’t exactly made a huge splash, and there’s a danger that the director of Jaws may find his career a little lost at sea.

Apologies for all the oceanic metaphors in the above paragraph, it felt appropriate given the subject matter.

Ready Player One Concept Art
Source: Florian de Gesincourt

Ready Player One is something very different from the legendary director – or, more correctly, it’s different to what he’s produced recently. The movie, itself based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name, is a little more grown up, somewhat less child friendly, and far more introspective than Spielberg’s recent directorial attempts.

In many ways, it seems like the movie that Spielberg was destined to make. Ready Player One is a book that drips and oozes with nostalgia, burning through ’80s pop-culture references in a way that would make even Stranger Things blush.

There’s definitely an audience for this kind of story at the moment, and who better to deliver the movie than the man who defined the ’80s with his bold, innovative, and often nightmarish movies?

That said, Steven Spielberg is no longer a young man. There almost seems to be an expiry date on directors in Hollywood – once a grand, famous Movie Brat reaches a certain point in their career, they seem to forget how to make good decisions.

George Lucas was the first to fall victim to this deterioration, and it must be contagious, because we’ve seen a similar thing happening to Ridley Scott with his awful Alien prequels. Spielberg hasn’t done quite as badly, but it’s certainly clear from the past two decades that he’s stopped making stellar movies, and started, for whatever reason, making passable fare that’s less worth talking about.

Ready Player One seems like the perfect opportunity for a comeback. If Spielberg can hit all the right notes and craft the perfect classic adventure movie out of a script that’s perfectly designed for his particular treatment, we could see the director of E.T. shake off the cobwebs and rise back up to the top.

It’s often hard, though, to see what makes your own creative projects resonate with people. It could be argued that the current crop of younger directors have a better idea of what defined their childhood than the creators who made the movies that inspired them.

JJ Abrams, for example, has built a career out of aping Spielberg’s very distinctive former style. He’s just one of many newer kids on the block that seem to understand the ’80s better than the directors that defined the era.

It’d be nice to see Spielberg put these young whippersnappers back in their place, though. A truly fantastic Spielberg is a joy to behold, and nobody does his particular brand of storytelling better – so long, that is, as he’s on top form.

Good luck Steven, we’re rooting for you.

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