Flying Cars and Talking Apes: Five Far-Flung Futures of Cinema

Science fiction is a medium that can be seen as a predictive barometer for where humanity is headed. These predictions for our society are many, varied, and include both our greatest hopes, and the sum of our fears. We all wish for things like flying cars and weather control, but  it’s just as believable that we’d destroy ourselves with killer robots. In any event, it’s fun to think about what our world will be like in the “future”, whether it’s utopias, dystopias or a mixture of the two. Below is a list of five future societies from sci-fi cinema, in which you may or may not want to live.

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Planet of the Apes: A future where a hierarchy of apes is in charge, creating a civilization on top of the remnants of our own? Brilliant! That is, unless you’re human. In this society, humans are rounded up in fields and given lobotomies if they present an aptitude for speech. On slow days, the humans are put in cages where they are sprayed with water and abused at the pleasure of their captors. If you happen to be an ape, your day may consist of political inequities and religious dogma. At least the buildings look like a mixture of Fraggle Rock and Moab, Utah. That’s kind of cool…right?

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Blade Runner: Having been to Los Angeles a few times, I can tell you that this film is pretty accurate in its depiction. Except that there are actually more replicants on the streets of L.A. than this film would have you believe. Blade Runner shows us a future that exists in perpetual night, draped in sheets of neon and acid rain.This future L.A. is a place where it’s citizens wear  day-glow colors stitched in 1940s designs. Deckard’s Los Angeles seems like it would be a cool place to visit, maybe grab a noodle bowl, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

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The Mad Max Films: Outside of the works of Paul Hogan and Yahoo Serious, my knowledge of Australia is extremely limited. However, I am familiar with the Mad Max films and their depiction of a post-apocalyptic wasteland. This is a future where people fight every day for survival and deformed bikers and degenerates in jeeps roam the countryside in search of gasoline and settlements to pillage. The keys to living another day include opportunism and a willingness to kill. If you manage to survive this radiated outback without becoming someone’s saddlebag, you can pretty much count on looking like a one-legged slab of beef jerky with hooks for hands.

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Demolition Man: This future is essentially a utopia created by people giving up free will for the greater good. Apparently everyone lives in perfect harmony after giving up sex, alcohol, fast food, smoking and by also replacing toilet paper with three seashells. Sure the whole setup is built on a delicate precipice wherein the society’s cultish leader releases a murderer into the city, in an irresponsible attempt to scare everyone into submission. But that’s a small price to pay for peace…isn’t it? Pass the ratburger and Budweiser please.

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The Fifth Element: Remains the only future on the list that actually looks like it would be fun to live in. We’ve got a handle on interstellar travel. We’ve made contact, and do business with other galactic species. Uniforms for fast food workers and flight attendants look streamlined and futuristic. We can cruise the stars in a space yacht, while listening to the operatic talents of a blue alien. Sign. Me. Up.  I mean sure, there’s still crime, and there are shape-shifting mercenaries, evil corporations and a giant dark planet that threatens to swallow Earth whole, but it’s a small price to pay for the flying car.

So these are five versions of the future cinema has given us, what are some of your favorites?

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Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com