Science fiction has an obsession with showing us how we’re inevitably going to drop the ball any day soon.
These metaphorical fumbles frequently lead us into a deep dysfunctional dystopia where we’re all ruled by racoons and our only hope is a giraffe named Bob who is yet to realise his importance because he has a slight stammer and is lactose intolerant. Farfetched yes. Impossible no.
One of the largest debates that has carried on throughout the history of cultural theory is whether life imitates art or does art imitate life? Is it that in creating these works of fiction we see something wrong with the world today in order to make comment upon it, or in creating them do we doom the world to follow in the footsteps of the ‘heroes’ we have created?
Although the modern comparisons of George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are thrown around at whim whenever current events get too close their respective dystopian visions, there are a few other surprising films that got the future more right than you would think.
I hate to disappoint you but Back to the Future got it horribly wrong. You can see this just by looking outside right now. We were promised a utopian dream of hoverboards, (actual) meals in 30 seconds and self-fitting clothes. However, other films have hit the rusty nail on the head far more insightfully and grimly than Marty McFly’s comparatively fun adventures in the future.
When Mike Judge decided to drop Private Joe Bauers into a future where everyone had the average IQ of a ripe watermelon he never realised that his film would become a prophecy rather than a sideswipe at 2006. With TVs playing the latest episode of Ow, My Balls! and people being executed by a monster truck phallus all while a WWE superstar runs the United States of America, his vision isn’t such a huge leap into the unknown.
What with us crowning ‘selfie’ the word of the year in 2015, TV celebrating stupidity on a 24 hour loop and the cretinous George W. Bush being elected the leader of the free world. The only solution is to take all of the warning labels off things and let social Darwinism save us from Judge’s nightmare.
A rather underrated performance by the late Robin Williams, but one that packs a much harder punch now than on first viewing in 1992. The film has Michael Gambon as Lt. General Leland Zevo vying for control of his dead father’s toy empire. He envisages a future where kids will be waging adult wars. Whilst they are playing with their toys, they’re actually manoeuvring weapons on a far off battlefield.
Right now in the real world, two soldiers are sitting in an air-conditioned crate out in the Utah dessert pointing an Xbox controller at a screen and when one squeezes the right bumper a hellfire missile will be released from the wings of a hunter drone he’s been steering with the D pad. “Is that a Jihadist training camp or a primary school?” “Who cares bro. Bare XPs, noobs!”
The Truman Show
In a nightmarish vision of the future Truman Burbank is confined to the set of his very own reality TV show. His every move is watched by cameras, all of his friends actors, his life fake, his narrative was set in place a long ago with some handy product placement spliced in along the way. The Truman Show gave us the beginnings of the constructed reality TV genre that has become a staple of our guilty TV viewing habits. However, unlike his real life equivalents that the film has inspired, Truman is actively trying to fight against his captors looking for an escape across the water to the island of Fiji.
Against the film’s warnings, being a reality TV starlet is now the preferable career of generation Z (or whatever the hell the youngsters are calling themselves now, are we back to A now? Or maybe A2) with young people now queuing up to get themselves in front of the bright lights in the hope of basking in the warm glow that flickers from the candle of fame.
Ed Harris as Christof the megalomaniac executive producer of the show is perfect as the overlord of Truman’s quaint hometown, seeing it fit to manipulate him into an array of situations that will cause the most distress and create drama for the viewer at home. In this sense Christof shows us a glimpse into the world of the production staff on shows such as Big Brother, peering into the contestants’ souls and creating the tasks and situations that will allow them to be crushed for our viewing pleasure.
It’s only a matter of time before reality TV finds the format that is one step closer to The Running Man or The Hunger Games. Bring it on, may the odds be forever in your favour.
Pixar are the kings of filmmaking for children yes? No. For too long we have been judging the subsidiary of Disney on its colourful animation rather than the frightening depictions of what is to come. On board the Axiom spaceship humans stare at computer screens all day long, a large faceless corporation used to control all of consumer culture on Earth and piles of trash clutter the horizon across the dead planet that Wall-E has been left on.
Meanwhile in the real world, people each day are one step closer to having constant screen burn across their faces, a new branch of Buy N Large (or insert any large multinational store) opens across the street each day and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch grows by several hundred feet in the time it’s taken you to read this article (in the cruellest twist of irony we are now planning on cleaning it up with a lonely autonomous robot… Scary? Yes.)
This is by no means a complete list, there are many other examples of films from around the world that took not only their themes, but also their aesthetics from gazing into a crystal ball with a modern problem in mind that they could see accelerating beyond our control. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to put my tin foil hat back on and get back to my fall out shelter. You’ve had your warning.
For more cult movie madness and slightly wayward film analysis, check out our movie features section including our favourite films to watch at our grandmother’s house in the 1980s.