In Part 1, resident reviewer Dorjan explored some classic sci-fi films that held a mirror up to modern society. In Part 2, he continues with his top three on that list.
The Year: 2805
The Plot: In a distant, but not so unrealistic future, where mankind has abandoned earth because it has become covered with trash from products sold by the powerful multi-national Buy N Large corporation, WALL-E, a garbage collecting robot has been left to clean up the mess. Mesmerized with trinkets of Earth’s history and show tunes, WALL-E is alone on Earth except for a sprightly pet cockroach. One day, EVE, a sleek (and dangerous) reconnaissance robot, is sent to Earth to find proof that life is once again sustainable.
The Charge: In the summer of 2008, those wizards over at Pixar Studios presented audiences with an animated version of the future in WALL-E. Saying that Pixar did a great job crafting this story or film is like saying the ‘sun is bright’ or ‘water is wet’. Painfully cute robots notwithstanding, WALL-E paints probably the most scathingly indicting version of the future, that I can remember in recent history and it’s a friggin’ cartoon.
The ‘Mankind Abandons Earth’ plotline is barely a new one (Battlestar Gallactica, Serenity/Firefly, Starship Troopers) but WALL-E takes the story in different direction. Instead of war, poverty or environmental apocalypse, mankind has simply buried themselves under literal mountains of garbage to the point that there’s simply no room left for people to live. Society’s downfall was our own consumerism. By the time you actually meet up with real people in the film, they’re just amorphous blobs that float around all day in hoverchairs that cater to our every waking need.
The Verdict: GUILTY!!
There isn’t one thing about this movie that doesn’t ring true as 100% possible if not probable. WALL-E is specifically commentary on American culture. A society where our main export is garbage. Fifty years ago, we had thriving textiles, crops, automobiles industries with only a fraction of the people. Oddly enough, our only real homegrown industry is arguably the most disposable, entertainment.
Recent studies have shown that the average American produces roughly 1600 lbs of trash a year, that’s about 5 lbs per day. In laymen’s terms, that’s like throwing your car away each and every year for the rest of your life. And while I’m no rabid treehugger, it’s tough to defend the impact that such mass quantities has had on our society.
DEMOLITION MAN (1993)
The Year: 2032
The Plot: Los Angeles in the year 1996. The streets are ruled by acts of violence and terror, nothing and nobody is safe. Simon Phoenix is one of the worst criminals that Los Angeles has ever seen, and only one man can stop him – L.A.P.D. officer John “Demotion Man” Spartan. When John apprehended Phoenix, he was surprisingly found as an accessory to the recent crime and was also sent to the “Cryo Prison”. Revived into a crime free society, Phoenix resumes his murderous rampage, and no one can stop him. In desperation they turn to Spartan to help recapture Phoenix.
The film portrays the future in a quirky, satirical manner. The slightest breach of the law results in an automatically dispensed citation. All restaurants are Taco Bells, which “won the franchise wars” and evolved into fine-dining establishments. Twentieth-century advertising jingles are heard as popular music. Sexual intercourse and french kisses are illegal. In addition, it is stated there are no “non-natural caused deaths” since 2016; when Phoenix murders the CryoPrison warden and officers in order to escape, the police are notified with a “1-8-7″ (Murder-Death-Kill), a code none of them can remember.
The Charge: Much like his fellow macho man of mayhem, Schwarzenegger, Sly also decided to dip his toes into the sci-fi action genre in the summer of 1993. Aside from the equally hammy Wesley Snipes, the film boasted a cast of then unknown actors like Sandra Bullock, Benjamin Bratt, Denis Leary even Jack Black. Very loosely based on the Aldous Huxley short story, Brave New World. Demolition Man gave us a satirical, tongue-in-check, if not neutered version of the future where everyone has a happy-happy/joy-joy existence. Crime, aggression and violence have been all but wiped out. And did I mention that all restaurants are Taco Bell?
The Verdict: NOT GUILTY!!
As fun a time I had and still have watching Stallone and Snipes duke it out in the future. I don’t think that there’s one single person who could ever see a future not to mention an America where there wasn’t guns and violence present. While the movie does its best to give a compelling argument as to why society might choose to go down the road of peace, I know for a fact that it will not be a road that I will ever see in my lifetime. Although, they were right about Ah-nuld getting into politics, so WTF do I know?
CHILDREN OF MEN (2006)
The Year: 2027
The Plot: Set in 2027, when no child has been born for 18 years and science is at loss to explain the reason, African and East European societies collapse and their dwindling populations migrate to England and other wealthy nations. In a climate of nationalistic violence, a London peace activist turned bureaucrat Theo Faron, joins forces with his revolutionary ex-wife Julian in order to save mankind by protecting a woman who has mysteriously became pregnant.
The Charge: Let me just start off by saying that this film is #1 on my list for no other reason than the fact that it felt the most real. In the not too distant future, women have suddenly and inexplicably become infertile. The accusation is quite simple, take away man’s hope and watch them come apart at the seams. Children of Men takes us roughly twenty years in the future where, society has to come to grips with the reality that they are the last generation on the planet and all that implies. The last child, born eighteen years ago had just been killed and people’s reactions are worse than Kennedy, MLK and Princess Diana’s put together. Mankind’s outlook is so bleak that society has just slowly unraveled to the point of near anarchy. There was no alien invasion or nuclear holocaust just the inexorable decline of a civilization with absolutely nothing to look forward to.
The Verdict: GUILTY!!
Ten years ago, I was living in Atlanta when I watched the World Trade Towers collapse right before me eyes on national television. Anyone who has ever lived in Atlanta knows that Hartsfield airport is one of the biggest and busiest international airports in the country. On September 12th, 2001 and for many days afterwards, there was not a plane in the sky. The only word that I ever been able to use to describe that scenario was, eerie. Surprisingly, it’s a sight that has always stuck with me. The aftermath of tragedy, the crushing unavoidable feeling of knowing that things were never going to be the same again. I had to say the only film that ever gave me anything close to that feeling was Children of Men.
There is a scene inside of an old abandoned elementary school is so haunting because it’s a sight that you would never expect to see and it pulls it off so subtly. Even as far as dystrophic movies go, Children of Men is a masterpiece of storytelling, performances and cinematography. (Oh, those gorgeous tracking shots) And somehow, never feels like it comes across as preachy or foreboding. The director Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) said that he wanted to approach the film like a documentary and boy did he succeed.
If we woke as a race tomorrow and realized that there would never be another baby, infant or toddler…ever. I can only imagine how devastating that would be to the human condition. Children are the very embodiment of our future, our hopes and our dreams. Imagine never hearing another child’s laughter or crying for that matter. Take that away and what do we have? Just a ticking clock on extinction. Children of Men feels more like a History Channel reenactment than a fiction film. Compelling from start to finish.