Virtual Reality (VR) is having a renaissance. It's been around for more than twenty years, indeed visionary films like The Lawnmower Man, The Matrix, Existenze also the controversial Prodigy's 'Smack My Bitch Up' music video, introduced audiences to its sci-fi-esque possibilities, albeit, at the time, imagined.

However, for around a decade VR has been consigned to the cutting room floor until real technological and gaming advances have given filmmakers and studios the confidence to back a new and complex vein of VR, as evidenced by films like Inception, Tron and this year's Hardcore Henry. But with excitement comes hesitation amongst filmmakers who are as capable of embracing technological advances, as they are of shunning them for more classic methods.

As with many technological entertainment advances, the gaming industry is leading the way; currently VR completely enhances the gaming experience to great effect, players want to be in control. This is of course understandable, controlling your environment or at least believing that you do so is a much more immersive experience which allows for complex decision making and the illusion of winning; it also goes to the heart of the gaming experience which is based on the idea of VR; even if you aren't playing a strictly VR-enhanced game, the very fact that you are playing a first-person narrative experience allows you to 'feel' as if you are on the edge of VR.

In contrast, VR in film can seem restrictive; immersing yourself into a cinematic world seems enticing but actually controlling your own narrative clearly detracts from the director's vision or means that his vision must be spread across many possible pathways and narrative options. If a viewer is able to control their own cinematic narrative then being inside a VR film becomes more of an 'experience' than a film, perhaps akin to immersive theatre.

Earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying, "I think we're moving into a dangerous medium with virtual reality, it gives the viewer a lot of latitude not to take direction from the storytellers but make their own choices of where to look. I just hope it doesn't forget the story when it starts enveloping us in a world that we can see all around us and make our own choices to look at." Whilst this may seem like a somewhat traditional view of VR technology and filmmaking, Spielberg does perhaps have a point, mainly what need is there for a director in a purely VR film, when the viewer takes that role. Or is Spielberg being reductive and seeing the problems where there might be cinematic possibility?

More positive statements have come from Aardman Productions (Shaun The Sheep, Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run), who are currently rumored to be in talks with BBC about potential VR projects: "with film, filmmakers traditionally like to lead the viewer on a journey which is predetermined for them. With VR, viewers are essentially being let loose in a story to explore it for themselves. This requires a whole new film grammar, which is certainly exciting, the potential, but does turn the tables on the filmmakers." Their use of the term 'film grammar' is revealing; VR cinema calls for a reassessment of the traditional filmmaker roles. Even the concept of actors, especially lead actors, is called into question by VR technology; indeed TV show Defrost, which premiered at Sundance last year, stars a dummy in a wheelchair with a VR camera on its head; a shockingly new protagonist.

VR has also been appearing at film festivals since 2012, namely when Sundance introduced its New Frontier strand; now most of the world's most important festivals have opportunities for VR filmmakers to showcase their work. Furthermore, the release of technology such as Occulous Rift, a portable headset, where viewers are immersed in a 3D space, has plunged us further into sci-fi territory; especially as it now includes a free application, Oculus Cinema, which allows the Rift to be used to view conventional movies and videos from inside a virtual cinema environment, giving the user the perception of viewing the content on a cinema sized screen.

Furthermore Oculus Cinema has a network mode, in which multiple users can watch the same video in the same virtual space, seeing each other as avatars and being able to interact and talk to one another while watching the video. The Rift also offers the opportunity to view new types of media that are impossible to view on regular monitors such as 360° 3D videos.

The effect of burgeoning VR technology on cinema has been threefold; it has impacted narratives, the very way the films themselves are produced, and the way that films are viewed; clearly a technology as expansive and impactful as this isn't going away. But how can we ensure that some of what makes cinema so powerful isn't lost - namely the director's vision, the very narrative of the film and the lead actor's performances? Well, only time will tell if we do indeed manage to protect those facets of film or indeed if a new hybrid compromise is struck. But cinema has survived constant change and technological advances; the early nineties saw the rise and success of CGI and amid all of this furor, classic filmmaking still continued, however, might VR be more dangerous as it has the potential to allow the viewer so much power? Surely part of cinemas' enduring appeal is the relinquishing of control on the part of the viewer, to spend a precious few hours inside someone else's head, to learn and to be surprised; ultimately if we are projecting our own thoughts onto a VR film by controlling the narrative, can we ever escape into escapism?