Ready Player One (2018)
We continue our list with the most recent metaverse movie in our selection. It is fresh, it is imaginative, and it is more relevant than ever because virtual reality is dominating the game and movie market. This is a real Spielberg popcorn classic, which means it has fun written all over it.
The year is 2045 and the reality is dystopian, but people are not spending their time in the boring world. The virtual world is called Oasis, and it looks like a crossover between an MMO game and social networks. The simulated reality world is a virtual paradise filled with possibilities, and most of the population spends all their time in a video-game. The plot picks up when an easter egg is hidden in the virtual world, granting the treasure hunt winner a big share in Oasis ownership, and our protagonist is called Wade Watts.
Whether you grew up in the 80s, or belong to the social media generation, you’ll enjoy dozens of pop culture references, good humor, and a well-imagined augmented reality multiverse. On a more serious note, at times, the movie seems only about “wow, the video game is so cool” references, and it is emotionally bland in some parts. But, overall, it’s an enjoyable experience and deserves a place on this list.
Finally, this is the one. And he is the One. The father of all metaverse movies. One of the most influential and groundbreaking releases, not just in the metaverse subgenre, but in the science fiction and movie industries as a whole.
It follows Neo (Keanu Reeves), a hacker living a solitary life who feels something is off in the world. He crosses paths with Morpheus, a powerful individual who leads him through a rabbit hole and shows him that his reality is not what he thought it was. And what’s the reality? Machines have taken over human intelligence and human consciousness, and generations of humans are trapped and grown by machines to use as food. They are kept as both physical and mental slaves, since the world they perceive as reality is just a virtual reality world that the machines are running inside the humans’ minds to keep them docile. A scary concept, for sure. And the scariest part? It is actually backed by contemporary cognitive science as a theoretical possibility. Even modern physics confirms it — we may already be in a matrix and be unaware of it.
It is a visual masterpiece, and it may seem like an action movie, but to the trained eye, it is much more than that. The film has numerous layers of meaning and each stream of interpretation brings about great possibilities. It can be viewed as a prophetic allegory of modern man, where technology controls most of our lives, just not in the extreme sense as in the movie (yet). It poses many ethical, philosophical, and possibly gender-related themes (the directors of the Matrix are transgender).
Overall, with a fanbase measured in hundreds of thousands if not millions, a great online community with complex lore supported by comic books, an open world computer game and an animation series called Animatrix, this remains one of the pillars of metaverse movies.
This is the most complex metaverse movie to understand, with stacked virtual worlds on top of one another and different planes of reality happening in parallel. The only reason it is not on the top of our list is that the winner is an absolute monster of art imbued with profound themes of the human condition and reality.
A highly ambitious science fiction project, and an ambitious idea, it focuses on implanting an idea into someone’s mind, where it naturally grows until that person is convinced that it was his idea all along. This is what performing an inception means. The plot follows a team of spies who target a corporate big shot and want to affect his huge business decision by going to sleep and manipulating him through his dreams. New loops keep reappearing, as dreams within a dream start forming, leading this thematical and rhythmical masterpiece to a climactic cliffhanger ending.
Themes such as dream sharing and exploring the subconscious are the connective tissue of Inception. Great atmospheric music by Hans Zimmer is there to complete the picture.
The most fairytale-like and probably the most soulful movie on our metaverse list — a well-deserved third place goes to James Cameron’s Avatar.
Big corporations and scientists took an interest in a planet called Pandora, with a unique ecosystem and a three-meter tall Na’vi race, whose members live interconnected with nature as a huge living organism. Our protagonist is Jake Sully, a paraplegic who gets the chance to walk the planet by mind-controlling a Na’vi-looking avatar while being attached to a machine on the ship. When in his avatar form, Jake has all the physical senses and abilities of a Na’vi. The corporates have an agenda of exploiting a rare element found on the planet, but Jake’s viewpoint changes as he starts living with the Na’vi and growing affection towards one female.
The visuals are top-notch, and flora and fauna of Pandora are worthy of top Hollywood sci-fi classics. It had its fair share of critics calling it cliché, melodramatic and shallow, but the creative world with a decent script and good music prevails. Even though we agree it is a bit childish, it makes the points it intended to make, and it surely feels convincing enough.
Avatar may have been a contender for a higher place on the list, but it does not really have anything revolutionary to offer in terms of the virtual world and metaverse. Bear in mind that the movie came out in 2009, and that mind-controlling beautiful, blue-skinned digital avatars is still cool in anyone’s book. And it is heart-warming.
Tron: Legacy (2010)
We start off with a sequel to a cult classic Tron from 1982. The Tron virtual reality world is one of the first, if not the first imagined virtual world. It is called the Grid and its visuals form a recognizable brand across industries. The Grid is a virtual reality simulation to which the protagonist, Kevin Flynn, is uploaded in a digitized form, where he is met by sentient programs. They obey the commands of artificial intelligence called MCP (master control program) and any user (human) found inside is put into an augmented reality arena to fight for their life in public games.
If you have seen the original Tron digital world, this movie will excite and amaze you. The story continues where it left off, and the style and storyline stayed true to the Tron lore. Kevin is gone, and his son is on a quest to find him and stop evil artificial intelligence called Clu.
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