Although it is still barely out of its infancy, the popularity of Virtual Reality (VR) is on the rise, as more people are becoming familiar with the term and are getting excited by its possibilities. But what do Hollywood directors think about the format and do they see a real future in turning their blockbuster hit movies into VR media that you can watch in your viewfinder? VR is a form that is struggling even in its most logical application – gaming – as developers are slow to turn to the more expensive format when there is a relativity small base of headsets when compared to gaming consoles and smartphones. VR Movies, however, may gain an advantage as IMAX continues to test ‘location-based’ cinematic pods that can also run on VR platforms such a Gear VR, Google Cardboard, and Daydream View.
Looking at what several big name Hollywood directors have to say, you get a sense of their interest in the format, but there is definitely some hesitation in their enthusiasm. As a director, their primary job is to direct the course of events in a story, guiding the viewer down a path, resulting in an inevitable outcome. The great Steven Spielberg is afraid that the director will lose control of that experience if the viewers can decide for themselves which direction they go in their VR world. Then you have Guillermo Del Toro that has brought the public the blockbuster hit, Pacific Rim, who has a real love for VR and in recent movies like Crimson Peak, he has used accompanying VR experiences. Eli Roth, of Hostel fame, has indicated he may stop making movies and jump into the world of VR because he likes it so much. The Russo Brothers that are responsible for some Marvel wonders indicated that they want VR to be a part of their future. Justin Lin of Fast and Furious and Star Trek fame has already directed one off Google’s 360-degree stories last year.
Some directors have mixed emotions regarding VR, like J.J. Abrams. He is both excited about the new technology, but also cautious about VR – citing it could work in some story formats but not others. Then we have James Cameron who is very critical of VR even though one of his many blockbusters, Avatar, was a technical marvel that heavily used 3D and Computer Graphics (CG) technology. He does not believe that any art form resulting from tech can really be called a movie. Hollywood directors seem to run the whole gambit from very excited about it to a cautionary approach to a complete disdain for VR when it comes to movies. After all, a director wants to direct us into their world, not give us the keys and send us on our way.