With Ready Player One, Spielberg continues to present a world full of endless possibility.
Steven Spielberg has been at this directing thing for a long time. He has created some of the most beloved films, including Jaws, E.T., and Jurassic Park. What brings out the true magic in these films is how the world is seen through the eyes of children. Children allow us to see things about our existence we could overlook.
Much has been said about Ready Player One and how the film is a return to the roots that Spielberg once planted. The novel of Ready Player One is an ode to the popular culture that he and his friends invented in the 80s. After a string of prestige pictures, Spielberg was ready for an adventure once again.
Spielberg welcomed the chance to return to his era of imagination.
Much has been said of Spielberg shifting gears once he became a parent himself. Village Voice’s Bilge Ebiri said as much in his review for Ready Player One. Ebiri says you can see the change in Spielberg halfway through Hook. That film has a grown man trying to go back to when he was a boy but realizing he can never go back. Ebiri continues to talk about how the future of Spielberg’s work was focused on parenting.
While parenting was a big part of his future work, Spielberg never lost the perspective of children. In Ready Player One, our heroes Parzival and Art3mis are the avatars Spielberg uses to navigate this world of pop culture overload. He can’t go back to when he was a child himself, but through the protagonists, he can tell us to unplug from the internet more often.
Spielberg has said he could never make Close Encounters of the Third Kind as an adult. A father has an otherworldly experience with the unknown and leaves his family. Spielberg uses the children of this picture to nail home the separation of the parents. Roy Neary is wild with his obsession with Devil’s Peak, the place he will have his first interaction with extraterrestrials. This takes a toll on the relationship between Roy and his family. It is not a physical confrontation that comes between Roy and his wife, but it feels like one. The house gets destroyed and the kids are feeling the strain in the relationship between their parents. Spielberg was battling with his own broken family, trying to navigate through his parents’ breakup using avatars in his pictures. Spielberg isn’t Roy Neary in this situation; he is the kids watching as the family crumbles.
In Jaws, Spielberg didn’t center the action around the children but make no mistake, children on the linchpin of this story. No one cares much when adults get killed by sharks, but when children do, Amity Island is on a mission. The fear of sharks feels more visceral in the movie because of effects it has on Chief Brody’s children. They go from wanting to explore the sea to being terrified of ever being in the water again. Brody’s boys witness a child being eviscerated and have an encounter with the shark themselves. This allows Brody to grow and overcome his hatred of water. Not only because of his job but because he feels a responsibility to protect his children.
E.T. allowed Spielberg to interact with an extraterrestrial with the compassion of a child. Elliott is dealing with his own broken family; a mother that can barely provide for her three children and an absent father. Through Elliott’s relationship with E.T., he finds a new form of love he couldn’t find from his parents. The ways Elliott hides his new friend are believable because this is what a child has thought of. E.T. shows the limitless potential in children and how they can be fearless regardless of insurmountable odds.
Spielberg has never lost the ability to view the world through the eyes of children, it has just morphed into something else. Spielberg has never lost the sight of depicting the world through children’s eyes. He continues to make films with children as the focal point. It is through those eyes that the audience can experience a world like no other.