Ranking the 5 Directors on Ready Player One's Shortlist

Ready Player One was a 2011 novel that landed somewhere between the ultimate nostalgia binge and a gaming geek's wet dream.

Here's the book's official plot description if you haven't had a chance to give it a read yet:

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A full year before the book was even released, WB saw potential in it for a movie adaptation (not that surprising given that the current movie landscape is dominated by nostalgia and geekiness) and optioned the rights.

Zak Penn was assigned to write the screenplay, and four years later, he's turned in a draft that the studio is reportedly very happy with. So happy in fact, that their shortlist of potential directors is basically a "who's who" of fantastic genre directors.

All of them would be pretty incredible choices if WB can land them, but I think some are definitely more fitted to the material than others. Here is how I would rank WB's shortlist, in order of increasing Ready Player One­-ness (accompanied by some cool art inspired by the novel).

5. Christopher Nolan

Nolan was the first name leaked from the studio's shortlist, and if nothing else, I think the fact that he's even being approached shows a lot of confidence in Zak Penn's script. Nolan has basically built a career out of being incredibly ambitious, spending huge amounts of money, yet somehow still managing to produce movies that are extraordinarily popular with both the critics and general moviegoers. WB has so much confidence in him at this point they let him ditch the Batman franchise to work on a $165 million space movie with Matthew McConaughey.

Pretty much any movie that Nolan is interested in directing would be better for it, given that he's an extremely dedicated director who really throws himself into every project that he's involved in.

That being said, I think Nolan is by far the worst choice on WB's shortlist. One of the best aspects of Ready Player One was its sense of fun and, dare I say, whimsy; especially during the main character's early days of exploring the virtual reality. That tone is important in setting up the dichotomy between his awesome VR life, and his shitty IRL one.

As much as I love Christopher Nolan's movies (and I love Nolan's movies), the man does not have a whimsical bone is his body. His films might be grand and epic, but they've always maintained a firm sense of grounding in reality; a sort of grit and practicality that I don't feel like lends itself to a story like this.

And frankly, that's not even touching on the fact that Nolan's sense of humor is not particularly... well let's just say it's not his strong suit (this isn't a car).

4. Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is a very interesting choice as he's spent most of the past 15 years working on some version of The Lord of the Rings. That series has been one of WB's biggest cash-cows, and now that he's finally done with it, it's no surprise that they've approached him for Ready Player One.

I think Jackson's experience working extensively with CG sets and characters (and doing a pretty amazing job with the technology) definitely gives him an edge in this department. Ready Player One's virtual reality setting will undoubtedly require quite a bit of technical wizardry to pull off, so it'll certainly help to have a director who's comfortable in those areas.

That being said, I think Jackson's biggest point against him comes in with the whole Lord of the Rings thing. Those six movies have been the focal point of over half of his creative career, and I think his work outside of that series has suffered for it.

Since Fellowship in 2001, Jackson has only directed two non-LotR movies: King Kong and The Lovely Bones. Both movies were visually impressive, but at least with The Lovely Bones, extremely awkward in its storytelling.

Ready Player One might have a lot of crazy visuals, but at its heart, the appeal is going to be in how the character's journey is handled.

I feel like Jackson is having a hard time readjusting to filmmaking outside of Middle Earth, and throwing him into a project like this would result in big-budget CG spectacle that looks great, but falls flat emotionally.


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Ryan Matsunaga's picture
Ryan is the head blogger at 8CN. He really likes pancakes. You can follow him on Twitter @RyanMatsu
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