“Be careful what you wish for.”
The immortal go-to phrase deployed in countless situations where expectation and realisation fail to marry in one’s own ideology.
Yet, never has this rehashed saying been more polarising then when applied to Speilberg’s upcoming adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Prometheus Award-winning novel Ready Player One.
Let’s set the scene here.
Since the turn of the Millennium, the retro culture movement has blossomed and grown to such a hysteria that it now impacts the mainstream. The sheer number of remakes and reboots from Hollywood alone are proof that there is a thriving market for revisiting past glories, and box office receipts show there is indeed money to be made in glorifying and modernising iconic IP’s from yesteryear.
Sure, many of these remakes and reboots fail to deliver, becoming an insult to the legacy that spawned their very creation. These failures are viewed as disrespecting the original works, a stain on the legacy and a tarnish on the memory.
It’s fair to summarise then that in the majority of cases, retro-geek culture much prefers to pay homage to the original works rather than reinvent or reimagine them. There are always pitchforks at the ready to react to the next announced reboot.
And to be honest, I do think that is a valid stance and one I often follow myself.
However, on more than one occasion that reaction has proven to be misguided – the recent Jumanjii reboot springs to mind, as does the superb Dredd from 2012. Yet, in my mind, the more successful retro reboots are when it is an evolution of the source material rather than a re-imagining or rebooting – Star Wars, Star Trek and James Bond being the most obvious examples, while on the small screen Westworld, Ash vs Evil Dead and Fargo – all show what is possible when reviving a iconic IP. Without question it is a fraught undertaking to revitalise beloved franchises and it will be impossible to appease all no matter what you serve up, which is an accepted par for the course in the entertainment industry.
So what happens when instead of a reboot we are presented with a film that celebrates the culture of retro?
It turns out we get arguably one of the most polarising reactions I’ve ever witnessed, and all of it a month before the film in question is even released.
Let’s lay out the facts here to explain my utter bewilderment – verging on anger – of the reaction to a films marketing campaign for Speilberg’s imminent Ready Player One adaptation.
At its core, it is a eulogy to the wonders of 80’s and 90’s culture, based on book that is a eulogy to the wonders of 80’s and 90’s culture and targeted at an audience who eulogise the wonders of 80’s and 90’s culture.
Yet some keyboard warriors are embarking on a crusade to call out the producers of this film for daring to market it as a eulogy to the wonders of 80’s and 90’s culture.
That’s how stupid this reaction is.
You can understand the ignorance if this was only coming from people who were completely oblivious to the novel, but many who have read the book are up in arms with faux outrage. I find it extremely embarrassing.
As a corner of the web that was forged on a love of all things retro (it’s kinda in the name), this reaction genuinely upsets me. It is a film that celebrates you and your passions! It’s what you have always dreamed of! Just embrace it and judge the film as a film – nothing more. Don’t get bogged down on the insignificance of the project.
This is not me saying that the film will be brilliant – that’s another debate for after the film is released. As someone who wholeheartedly loved the book, I doubt the film can be as defining or exciting as Cline’s novel.
The story takes place in a not too distant dystopian future where the only escape is to a MMO virtual reality called the Oasis where absolutely anything is possible – including having the DeLorean as your car and the Iron Giant as your avatar. The plot is also heavily focussed on retro gaming, with iconic arcade games from the 80’s being integral to the plot. Basically, it is a geek’s wet dream and by default that should excite them to want to see this film or read this book.
The sheer volume of nods to bygone days in the book is staggering, and I feel the impossibility of acquiring all the IP’s featured due to the financial outlay this would take will somewhat diminish the adventure. Likewise, condensing the story to a two-hour film is a tough ask, as is recreating the wonders of the virtual reality world of the Oasis where the story takes place. No denying it will be a visual spectacular, but there are niggling concerns of CGI overkill similar to the Transformers movies.
That all said, I do believe with Speilberg at the helm and Cline doing the screenplay himself, with the assistance of Zack Penn – not to mention Janusz Kaminski as cinematographer and Alan Silvestri doing the score – it does have the best chance possible to succeed. The cast is also strong and the source material is rich enough to have generic mainstream appeal.
I guess time will tell. Lets judge the film on its merits, not its posters!
As someone who has worked in marketing for over a decade, I personally think the campaign to promote the film is utterly inspired. It is not “ripping off” beloved films, but paying tribute to them. Reimagining posters for Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Rambo, The Breakfast Club, The Goonies, Labyrinth, Bullet, Beetlejuice, The Iron Giant, The Lost Boys and The Matrix are out there – and the point is that any of these films can be recreated in the virtual reality world of the Oasis. They also catch your eye, bring a smile to your face and have got everyone talking. Importantly, they are paying tribute to these iconic movies, not “ripping them off”.
If someone, somewhere had rustled up posters like this, merging the old with the new, they would have been applauded for their creative thinking and embraced by all. When it is the PR machine of Warner Brothers it is all of a sudden insulting?
The default target market for a film like this is the 15-30 year olds, many of whom may be oblivious to the references present, but in my eyes that is a positive thing. It will surely inspire some to investigate the sources of inspiration? And those that lived through the 80’s and 90’s that are circling the 40 mark, this represents a trip down memory lane; a collective rejoicing in the brilliant of the two decades iconic pop culture.
To dismiss this as blasphemous based on posters and trailers alone, without knowing the context of the story, is utterly unbecoming of a geek.
And, frankly, it’s just downright idiotic.
Ready Player One opens nationwide on 29th March 2018.