Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Feature, Best Posts Revisited: The Future's So Bright I.....Oh Wait

Is it me, or are we as people fairly pessimistic? The reason I ask is that while I was looking for movies that were set in the future I noticed that movie makers generally seem to assume we're heading for trouble.

Avery had a post on her blog that mentioned the movie Logan's Run, which is what got me to thinking about this topic in the first place. I remember seeing this movie when I was a kid. I don't remember if it was particularly good, but I do remember it. If you haven't seen it, the basic idea is that the futuristic society in this movies kills off everyone once they reach the ripe old age of 30. If anyone attempts to escape this fate and become a "runner" then another character called a "sandman" will hunt you down. The main character, Logan-- a sandman in the beginning, becomes a runner, hence the name of the movie.

What's interesting to me about futuristic movies is that there always seems to be assumptions that the planet will either be totally overpopulated, resulting in a need for extreme population control, or that we will be living in a totally post-apocalyptic society in which humanity will be struggling to survive. Well, either that or the machines will take over. But no matter the future depicted, it usually isn't one we would want to live in.

Another movie that follows the overpopulation scenario is Soylent Green. This movie also uses euthanasia as a convenient form of population control, but also explores other problems associated with too many people. The name of the movie refers to a type of food that has been developed to feed a population that does not have the money, or access to regular food. Soylent green is a sort of cracker like wafer that is supposed to be a combination of soy and lentils which are cheap to produce. And though the main "scandal" of the movie is the fact that Soylent Green isn't solely made of soy and lentils, I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it. Like Logan's Run, Soylent Green is pretty dystopian in nature. The Government is run amok and the poor, pathetic populace at large doesn't really know a thing. Hmmm, maybe they're on to something here.

Mad Max, the movie that brought us Mel Gibson (I'll let you make the judgement call on that) is sort of the flip side of dystopian stories like Logan's Run. Set in post apocalyptic Australia, Gibson is a member of the Main Force Patrol, who's job it is to protect the few surviving citizens from violent motorcycle gangs. To be honest, I don't remember this movie that well. It wasn't my taste at the time but I do remember it showed a bleak vision of the future.

I also remember 12 Monkeys as a very bleak, and profoundly weird movie that assumed most of us probably won't survive very long. Like a lot of futuristic movies, 12 Monkeys assumes that time travel will be possible in the future and that it will be used to try to change the past. Unlike the Terminator movies, our fate isn't at the hands of machines who have decided to take over, but rather the result of a man made virus that wiped out most of the population. The virus is so virulent that the survivors are forced to live underground as it is still possible to be killed if one ventures above ground. The movie does end on an open-ended note, with the possibility that humanity will still be able to change the future. But it is one weird ride.

Omega Man is a more old school version of the same theme in 12 Monkeys. I haven't seen this one, but it came up a lot when I was looking at post-apocalyptic movies to include in this post. Charlton Heston stars in this one as the Omega Man, "the last immune and uninfected person on Earth" according to Wikipedia. Those of you who have seen this will have to tell me if it's worth watching. But the thing that is really interesting to me is that most movies and books about viral/bacterial/chemical infections wiping out humanity were written prior to 9/11 and our current worries of chemical/biological weapons after the Anthrax attacks of several years ago. It could be argued that authors like Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain and Stephen King, The Stand were just a little bit prescient on the subject.

I mentioned The Terminator movies previously, and they are kind of the go-to example of films about machines taking over the world with Battlestar Galactica as the television equivalent. Blade Runner examines the idea of sentient machines without the complete takeover of humanity, though the society depicted in this future isn't particularly rosy either. The Matrix assumes sentient machines will use us as batteries and I, Robot shows us where it all might begin.

And I haven't even begun to talk about the aliens-take-over-the-world scenario. But like all my posts, I run the risk of going on and on and you get the idea. If we were to belive most authors/movie-makers/TV shows, we don't have a heck of a lot to look forward to. I don't know if this is the result of a basic study of human nature, or if simply put, it sells. Some of these movies do end on a hopeful note, though as often as not nothing is expected to change. And the funny thing is, we like it. I know I do anyway. I guess I do hope for a happy ending though. A humanity-will-triumph ending-- only time will tell though...


furiousBall said...

you should watch Fritz Lang's Metropolis if you want to see a fun version of the future.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I remember loving this post when it first posted, and I love it now. I also think there is nothing more fun than post apocalyptic sci fi. Who wouldn't love the world of The Terminator or the world of Mad remember...where civilization has collapsed and there's no gas....and ...oh wait..never mind

Charles Gramlich said...

I liked all these movies you mentioned here. I have a big soft spot for Logun's run. I even bought the books. There were at least 2. The second one was called Logan's world, but I can't get to my shelves at the moment to check them out.

Ben said...

Interestingly enough, the Omega Man was a re imagining of "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson.

Until the movie came out last year, I had only heard of it, but never read it. Definitely worth the time if you have the opportunity.

A word of caution though; the new version that you can buy at Border's and on Amazon is a collection of Matheson's works. However, it doesn't make this clear, so you finish reading "I Am Legend" and the next thing you know, you are totally in a different story because it looks like you started a new chapter. It totally threw me, my wife, and a few other readers that I know off... we couldn't figure out what this new "doll" character was doing in the story world.


Steve Malley said...

It's past the year 2000. I want my shiny jumpsuit and flying car, dammit!

SQT said...


I hear about that one a lot but I've never seen it.


Thanks! Sometimes I just can't think of anything and I have almost 500 posts saved. Seems like a good idea to recycle now and then.


I haven't watched Logan's Run in years, though we used to watch it all the time as kids. I should rent it.


I wrote this post before I Am Legend came out. I thought of updating it, but decided against it. I still haven't read the original Matheson book. Bad sci-fi girl...


I know! I want the hover car-- like in Star Wars.

Heather said...

Conflict makes for exciting drama, and I think that has something to do with "what sells".

Anonymous said...

From these scifi to "Brave New World", "1984", "BladeRunner", and the ones you mention above; many of these themes are all allegories and allusions preparing society for the shape of things to come under World Socialism.

Brian said...

Hey anonymous sleepy head; Soylent Green,Blade Runner and the terminator series all allude to us the wonderous world of futuristic CAPITALISM, thank you now.