SF elements: VR games
Society has all but collapsed, but everyone is happy playing in the OASIS virtual reality. Wade [Tye Sheridan] has just got a full body suit, not just a headset, so is fully immersed as his avatar Parzival. The creator of the OASIS has left various puzzles and challenges: the first person to solve them and reach the end will inherit the OASIS itself. When Parzival solves the first puzzle, things stop being a game, as he suddenly finds that the sinister Corporation is after him, in VR and in reality. Wade and his VR friends are in a race against time, against the Corporation, who want to take control of the OASIS.
This is the film of the book, and is good fast paced imaginative fun. On the technology side that is – provided you have a fair knowledge of 1980s computer games. The “human” plot is the standard boy meets girl, girl shows no interest in boy, girl is hiding a secret she thinks boy won’t like but boy doesn’t care now that he knows her, boy and girl (plus an underwritten team of sidekicks) save the world together.
Unlike some other VR plots, this has answers to some of the “trapped in VR” issues: so here there is a reason why Samantha [Olivia Cooke] can’t escape when trapped by the Corporation. For the most part, there aren’t any eXistenZ-like confusions about reality v. VR, because most of the OASIS is clearly an artificial environment; however there is a nice Inception-like scene tricking the Corporation boss. Although people know they are in no real danger in the OASIS, they have a good reason that they don’t want to “die”: they will then lose all the gaming “coin” they have accumulated. Maybe this greater “realism” here is due to the protagonists being teenagers rather than adults; teenagers are presumably more VR-savvy and need such questions addressed. Despite these pleasing aspects of plausibility, however, I remain to be convinced by people at the end walking around outside in the real world whilst fully immersed in their VR experiences. And I am puzzled by the economics of the real world. Even if everyone escapes to VR most of the time, presumably they still have to eat: where do they get the money for food? They all look fit and well-fed.
Worth watching for the visuals and action and semi-coherent plot. But don’t expect a lot of depth.
reviewed 29 March 2018