Night vampires, anthropomorphic robots, and questionable moral utopia? Yes please.
Five Desolate Film Futures I Would Like to Visit/Potentially Inhabit Forever
Generally in film and television, the future is portrayed in one of two very polarizing ways: either everything is sleek, clean, neon, flying and seemingly too-good-to-be-true or it’s all desaturated, problematic, death-ridden, and dirty. The logic behind these tendencies are obvious: nobody wants to pay $8.50 to find out that creative minds, when challenged to depict humanity’s progress, merely said “eh, just make it basically the same as it is, now, but with smaller technology.”
If you were forced to count, however, Hollywood has delivered many many more futures where everything just went horribly wrong. What is the reasoning behind this imbalance? I’m not sure. Maybe because these terrifying futures very effectively lend themselves to the narrative format or maybe, after a while, even the greatest writers run out of story ideas for a culture where there’s cool outfits, clean energy, flying cars, and helpful robots.
Regardless, this trend of “make the movie-future different and scary” has always appealed to me in a big, bad way. So I guess you’re now wondering, “why would you ever want to occupy any of these dark periods of imminent fictional human history?”
Well, confused 2009 human, the answers lie below.
(And if you want an over/under for how many times the word “future” appears… I’m setting it at ‘9.5’.)
5. The Matrix
The inclusion of this movie universe only stands if I am permitted to be one of the “red pill” people who are removed from their pink pudding tank thing and have the ability to autonomously plug in and subsequently be virtual Superman. If you can guarantee me Neo-status, I’m totally in; as long as I’m the Jesus of the human race, I’ll play along with the dystopian future. Other than that, I think the latter two Matrix films conclusively proved that everything else in the movie’s “real world” (that being the world away from the computerized façade of reality) was generally quite lame and boring. Experiencing one future underground Friday night muddy tribal cave rave/orgy? Interesting. But a lifetime of that? Blecch.
4. I am Legend
I like being alone. I really do. And if you tell me “Earth and everything on it can be yours and yours, alone… there’s just weird vampire things that come out at night,” there’s no need to even discuss it further. You wouldn’t be able to get “alone” totally out of your mouth and I would have a pen in my hand, standing on your desk, demanding to know where I officially sign up for the role of Legend. I’ll steal that sweet Mustang, get a plethora of weapons, turn my home into a fortress, devote my free time to watching TV rather than some senseless quest for a cure, and I’ll have forgotten about those annoying infected creatures by the time I’m onto the third disc of Home Improvement – Season Four.
3. The Terminator / T2: Judgement Day
Technically, no, these movies are not centered on the post-Judgment Day world, but everyone remembers the glimpses offered up in these two classics so it’s a sound enough referential touchstone for all of us. That being said, this is an obvious choice. Well maybe it’s not obvious, if you’re somehow opposed to “living in constant fear of anthropomorphic robots coming into your ragged home and stabbing you in the brain” but still pretty fun, as far as “potential timelines wherein I could basically live as a video game character and shoot an infinite amount of faceless enemies without any shred of guilt (as they are all heartless machines)” go. I would definitely embrace and subsequently enjoy my meager life much more as I knew the end was always potentially right around the corner. Hey, also: the movies never showed us every single strata of the human resistance. Maybe there’s some underground community of lazy people who just hang out in a remarkably preserved apartment complex in a remote region and live like directionless, passively cynical twentysomethings, merely talking about the war instead of doing anything about it – you don’t know. Hopefully TERMINATOR: SALVATION delivers us a glimpse of that idyllic, laid-back world set against the backdrop of the global war with Skynet. Come on, McG!
This is the only real entry on this list where our species does not hang in the balance due to some sort of plague or malevolent sentient entities. Seriously, tell me: what was wrong with Earth in WALL-E? Not all that much. There’s just more garbage and less (possibly zero) plant life. That’s about it. The humans come back at the end and have no trouble breathing (spoiler alert), so it clearly was not a completely uninhabitable place. Further, there’s cute little trash droids all over the place and spaceships will show up every once in a while! Who doesn’t want that? That is, word-for-word, one of my top dreams. Sadly, however, this future is not perfect (hence why it is merely the first runner-up): with all the trash, you know that place smells dreadful. But, truthfully, aside from the oceans of 700-year-old garbage… not seeing the drastic downside of WALL-E world.
1. Children of Men
The movie painted a very negative portrait of a future without babies. I tend to disagree. No kids anywhere? Um, that’s an opportunity. If the youngest person on the planet is over 18… can you imagine the liberal nature of society?! No need to edit movies for broadcast on cable! No crying babies on airplanes! No soccer moms on the road! I can go on the swings at that local playground without judgmental eyes! Think of how much pop music would improve if every consumer was of a relatively discerning age! Televised sports would not have to edit the players wearing microphones! Gambling, drugs, prostitution are suddenly all universally legal (you know they would be). An Earth with no kids is a beautiful utopia! It’s a very finite and morally questionable utopia, of course, but a utopia nonetheless (and there were still nice/safe places, as depicted in the film, if you didn’t want to live in a gritty and realistic adult world). Additionally, the absolute end of civilization being in sight for everyone would evolve into a good thing. While plenty of people would definitely grow all depressed and hopeless, there’s going to be a plethora of souls fully adopting the “live every day as if it’s your last” mantra, which would be AWESOME in a future-world without not only children but garbage skyscrapers, armies of deadly machines, global vampiric viruses, and widespread nuclear fallout.