Tron, The Matrix, Inception: Before Ready Player One, here are seven films that explored the world of virtual reality

As Ready Player One gears to hits the screens, we take a look at some movies that created a whole new virtual world.

Abhinav Jai Singh March 29, 2018 19:38:57 IST
Tron, The Matrix, Inception: Before Ready Player One, here are seven films that explored the world of virtual reality

The misery that humanity dwells in is glaringly evident. Death, despair, destruction and endless suffering is as much a part of human existence as the ever-growing technological capabilities, or the rapid consolidation of wealth and power. This brutal reality has been a fodder for filmmakers for years, giving them the perfect premise to showcase a depraved world where the only reprieve is fantasy, or a single man's heroic acts.

Ready Player One, ace filmmaker Steven Spielberg's newest offering, walks along similar a path. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is set in the year 2045 — a time when the world is on the brink of chaos and collapse. Set in Columbus, Ohio — 'the fastest growing city in the world' — people find meaning in a meaningless world through an expansive virtual reality universe named OASIS.

Ready Player One movie review: Steven Spielberg's film is a fun action adventure filled with pop culture references

As Ready Player One gears to hits the screens, we take a look at some movies that created a whole new virtual world because its characters were tired of living in the real one.

Tron (1982)

Long before the Y2K problem was even a thing, there was the Steven Lisberger directed science-fiction cult classic Tron. Released at the nascent stages of the '80s, when computers were just beginning to become common in the United States, Tron captured the mystical appeal of the mechanical beings that ravaged through the world. Many didn't understand how a computer functioned, or the extent of its intelligence. The puzzling nature of computers was perfectly presented in Tron, a movie starring Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan, and Barnard Hughes.

The story revolves around Kevin Flynn, a former employee of the software corporation ENCOM who runs an arcade. Flynn has been trying to find evidence that ENCOM's Ed Dillinger stole four video games he created by hacking into their mainframe computer. Dillinger's supercomputer, named Master Control Program, controls the systems and foils Flynn's efforts. Flynn's former girlfriend, Lora, and computer programming expert, Alan Bradley, help Flynn break into ENCOM with the security program TRON. Things don't go as expected, and Flynn finds himself in an electronic world — ruled by the Master Control Program and his evil henchman Sark — where computer programs are the alter-egos of their creators.

Total Recall (1990)

Right at the start of the '90s, Total Recall was released. The movie, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, seemed like an innocent tale about a construction worker, but was much more than just that. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Total Recall told the story of Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger), who is haunted by a recurring dream about a journey to Mars. Quaid is hopeful of finding out more about his dream, and buys a holiday at Rekall Inc., a company where implanted memories are sold. Something goes horribly wrong with the memory implantation, and Quaid remembers being a secret agent fighting against the evil Mars administrator Cohaagen.

Total Recall also starred Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside.

The Matrix (1999)

The good old nineties have given us some irreplaceable movies, but very few of them has had the same impact on popular culture as The Matrix. Directed by The Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix was an excellent mix of dystopia, religion and spirituality, philosophy, and technology.

The Matrix exemplified the tiredness that stemmed from being alive, and presented us with a question that boggled our minds: "Have you ever had a dream you were sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?"

The story revolved around Thomas A. Anderson — a man who leads a dual life. By day, Thomas is an average computer programmer; by night he is a hacker known as Neo. He is being targeted by the police when he is contacted by Morpheus; a legendary computer hacker branded a terrorist by the government. Morpheus awakens Neo to the real world: a wasteland where most of humanity has been captured by machines that imprison their minds within an artificial reality known as the Matrix. Neo, as a rebel, must return to the Matrix and confront the agents: super-powerful computer programs hell-bent on destroying Neo and the entire human rebellion.

eXistenz (1999)

What happens when a creepy video game nightmare comes to life? That's exactly what eXistenz is all about. Directed by David Cronenberg — the man behind Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers and Crash — eXistenz told the story of Allegra Geller, the leading game designer in the world. Geller is testing her new virtual reality game, eXistenZ, when she is attacked by a fanatic assassin with a bizarre organic gun. She flees with a young marketing trainee, Ted Pikul, who is suddenly assigned as her bodyguard. Unfortunately, her pod — an organic gaming device that contains the only copy of eXistenZ — is damaged. To inspect it, she talks Ted into accepting a gameport in his own body so he can play the game with her.

eXistenz stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law, along with Willem Dafoe.

Also read: How Ready Player One director Steven Spielberg made us fall in love with movies and then ruined them

Paprika (2006)

Watching Paprika is an astonishing, bewildering, mesmerizing, and an absolutely mind-bending experience. Directed by Satoshi Kon, this anime science-fiction movie received widespread critical acclaim, and has also been called an inspiration for Christopher Nolan's Inception.

Paprika's story revolves around three scientists who fail to secure a device they've invented, the D.C. Mini. This device allows people to record and watch their dreams. Chaos ensues when a thief uses the device to enter people's minds when they are awake, and distract them with their own dreams, and those of others. Chiba, Tokita, and Shima — assisted by a police inspector and by a sprite named Paprika — try to identify the thief as they ward off the thief's attacks on their own psyches.

Paprika was based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's 1993 novel of the same name and stars the voices of Megumi Hayashibara, Tōru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, Tōru Furuya, Akio Ōtsuka, Kōichi Yamadera, and Hideyuki Tanaka.

Inception (2010)

If there's one director who can make instant classics, it's Christopher Nolan. And Inception is a prime example of that. Nolan employed simple ideas to weave a tale so complicated and unnerving, thousands were left confused by what they just saw. Because of its iconic ending scene, many believed that there will be a sequel to Inception, but that has not been the case. Starring an excellent cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, and Michael Caine, Inception was a box-office success making a total of $828 million worldwide.

Inception's story is about Dom Cobb, an absolute best in the dangerous art of stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state. Cobb is a coveted player in the world of corporate espionage, and is also an international fugitive. He is offered a chance at redemption if he, and his team of specialists, are able to plant an idea into someone else's mind, also known as inception. What they are unaware about is that no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare them for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move.

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph is arguably the best Disney movie of the 2000's. It's better than Tangled, Moana and Zootopia, and it's definitely better than Frozen. Wreck-It Ralph doesn't get the appreciation it deserves, and that's a shame because the concept behind this movie is truly one of its kind.

The story is about Wreck-It Ralph; a character inside a video game. Ralph longs to be as beloved as his game's perfect good guy, Fix-It Felix. When a modern, first-person shooter game arrives featuring the tough Sergeant Calhoun, Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. Ralph sneaks into the game wanting to win a medal, but soon wrecks everything. He accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade. Ralph's only hope is Vanellope von Schweetz; a young trouble-making 'glitch' from a cart racing game who just might be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a good guy.

Directed by Rich Moore, Wreck-It Ralph features the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch.

Also read: Steven Spielberg calls Ready Player One his great escape movie, says 'the film fulfilled all of my fantasies'

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