I’m pretty excited about the movie adaptation of Ernest Cline’s novel-length love letter to video games, ‘80s tech and pop culture, Ready Player One. The novel is set in a future where life is essentially divided into two spheres: a utopian online virtual world, and a shitty, grimy dystopian reality. Shooting has started in Birmingham, England, and we got a first glimpse at some of the ramshackle cars of a crappy future.

For being set in such a grim future (it’s set in the year 2044) the novel is a lot of fun; it’s a dystopia, sure, but we’re not talking The Road here. Essentially, there’s a global virtual universe called the Oasis that most people live and work in, causing the real-world to fall into a sort of disrepair of disinterest.

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Couple that with a global recession and lack of fossil fuels, and you have a recipe for a gritty, bleak reality. Of course, no dystopia is so bleak that cars can’t find a way to exist in it, and we can see from these shots of the filming currently happening, there’s a good selection of interesting clapped-out shitboxes in the film.

Let’s see what we’ve got!

First, it’s notable that the only official image from the film released so far takes place in a vehicle, a van in a junkyard that the protagonist, Wade Watts, uses as his secret HQ:

It’s tricky to ID the van itself, but based on the scale and the roof ribs, I think it’s some high-roofed Sprinter variant. Perhaps it’s a wider 2020 model we don’t yet have.

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Most of the other cars seen so far come from people in the Birmingham area; one vlogger shot a nice compilation video of the shooting currently happening that’s full of good, miserable cars:

Digging into the video, we can see such filthy, sad treats as this JDM Nissan Cube:

Based on the lights, bumpers, and some other details, this isn’t quite the same as the Cube we got in the U.S. I suspect it’s supposed to be some kind of unknown-to-us-now electric car in this context, as the book suggested that most vehicles in the world of 2044 were electric, and, generally, pretty slow. Though it looks like it could be a 30+ year-old Nissan Cube, maybe converted to some alternative fuel.

There seem to be a lot of these postal vans that are showing up in the shoot. That makes sense, since in a world where most people live and work almost exclusively online, ordering physical things (food, equipment to remain in a virtual world, sex robots, etc) will require a robust delivery service, so perhaps one of the few beneficiaries of this possible reality would be the U.S. Post Office.

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That large iris-opening portal on the side of the van is interesting; I’m thinking it may be some sort of docking port for automated cargo filling?

The novel’s primary antagonists are from a massive corporation called IOI. That means that the markings on these military-looking vehicles isn’t 101, or some novel, symmetrical lighting design. It’s IOI. It also makes sense that the most advanced-looking vehicles would be operated by a large corporation and not regular people, who don’t seem to be spending much money on cars.

Most people seem to be stuck with cars like this:

A miserable Mitsubishi i-Miev , sporting a rakish opaque rear-quarter-window customization. Similarily grim is the car right next to it:

... a sad Nissan Leaf with triangular taillights.

There’s a better shot of that IOI futuro-Hummer-like thing (a commenter wants to be clear that this is based on a Land Rover, just so you know). I bet it’s powered by some diesel running on a biofuel made from human wastes, or something.

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I’m also happy to see one of the staples of cars-modified-to-be-sad-future-cars, a Renault Avantime. Remember Children of Men?

This is not a car-future I think any of us wants to see happen, but I can’t deny the lurid appeal of looking down the rusty barrel of an automotive landscape I never hope to actually see.