The wondrous worlds of Hollywood
With Spielberg’s Ready Player One set to take us on an adventure into a gorgeous virtual world, we take a look at films over the years that have taken us on epic adventures into alternate universes
Cinema, if nothing else, is an escape from the harshness of the real world, a respite from its monotony, a window into the extraordinary. Hollywood has time and again introduced us to strange, beautiful worlds over the last century. With Spielberg’s Ready Player One set for release tomorrow, we take a look back at some of the most famous films that have transported us to worlds far different from ours — some strange, some dangerous, and some downright beautiful.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The film that started it all. When Judy Garland's Dorothy enters the marvellous Land of Oz and the entire film turns from black and white to technicolor, you knew you were in for a fantasy ride of a lifetime. The film's songs (Somewhere Over the Rainbow won an Oscar) added even more charm to the band of misfits that Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow and The Lion were. The film has been cited by many as being influential in their lives with writer Salman Rushdie even going so far as to say that it was his 'first literary influence'.
The Lord of The Rings (2001-03)
An ancient ring of evil, thought to be lost for centuries, suddenly emerges into the hands of a hobbit called Frodo Baggins. What happens next is an epic adventure that spawns the lush greens of Middle Earth, regal lands of Gondor and the bleak desolation of Mordor as the hobbits join hands with men, elves, dwarfs and wizards to put an end to the evil forever. The trilogy, lasting over 9 hours of screentime, is seen as a benchmark not just in visual storytelling but also in how to get a near perfect book-to-film adaptation. The Hobbit trilogy, adapted to a lesser degree of success, added on to the rich world of Middle-Earth that made many wish Middle-Earth were real.
Star Wars (1977-present)
The world of cinema can be divided into pre-Star Wars and post-Star Wars. That’s the impact the film made in 1977 when it first came about. The franchise, now spanning nearly nine released films with two more planned for release, has got to be the greatest space story ever told. From the desert beginnings of Tatooine, to the sprawling metropolis of Coruscant, from the icy Hoth to the underground water city in Naboo, from the swamp of Dagobah where Luke learns from Yoda to the fiery volcanic Mustafar where Darth Vader came to exist… Star Wars made space travel and discovery of new planets exotic and dreamy.
Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Over seven books and seven films, an entire generation grew up with The Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter was to the 2000s what Star Wars was to the 80s and many grown adults still resent Voldemort and his band of Death Eaters for destroying Ministry of Magic records which meant that us Muggles didn't ever receive our letters of admission into Hogwarts. Such was the power of the make-believe world that JK Rowling created. World-over, there are now places that are themed on Harry Potter; places that let people escape into that magical world and order a Butterbeer and wait for Hagrid to enter with a loud boom and say, "Yer a wizard, Harry."
Chronicles of Narnia (2005 - 2010)
A series of seven fantasy novels, there have been three adaptations so far to the silver screen. The impact of the films have been that to this day makes people check the back of their wardrobe to find out if there is, just maybe, an entrance to a magical world ruled by an ice queen. The world of Narnia is a fictional world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals (I am looking at you, Aslan). The books themselves have inspired many works that includes the melancholic adventure Bridge to Terabithia and even JK Rowlin's Harry Potter series. Coraline, the famous Neil Gaiman work that is being in talks for adaptation as TV series as well as feature film, is also quite similar to the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It has even expanded its influence to foreign shores with the creator of the famous Japanese anime Digimon saying he was inspired by the series.
James Cameron's epic sci-fi set in 22nd century on the fictional land of Pandora can well be seen as the precursor to Ready Player One. In this film, the humans colonise the lush jungle moon as they try to take over the resources from the native humanoid species of Na'vi. With its atmosphere toxic to humans, it contains floating mountains, valuable minerals and an integrated system that links all living things. A paraplegic takes over a genetically modified Na'vi virtually and lives a life of love and carefree abandon. No, we are not talking about Brandon Stark in Game of Thrones. Unlike the positive fantasies that are there in this list, this film offered a cruel look at what humans are capable of if they were to find exotic habitable planets. Sequels are in store, and we can’t wait.
Jumanji (1995 - 2017)
From outer space to a magical board game, Jumanji was a film that made every teenager think twice before playing a board game lest it transport you into a fantasy world and have you trapped forever. The film exploited the comic timing of Robin Williams to the full and inspired a similar movie in the form of Zathura:A Space Adventure. Dwayne The Rock Johnson brought the franchise back with a sequel last year, and now, of course, video games have replaced the board games.
The Matrix (1999 - 2003)
When it comes to virtual reality and being stuck inside that world, the first film that comes to mind naturally is The Matrix. Conceived and brought to life by the Wachowski brothers, the story about humans who fight a virtual war against machines who have enslaved humanity was so powerful that to this day the popular culture is replete with scenes and dialogues from the film. Let it be the infamous red pill and blue pill conversation or Keane Reeves ducking the bullets in what has come to be called bullet-time effect, the Matrix made everything you ever thought impossible possible, and if that’s not what why people step into cinema theatres, what else is?