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The Future Is Too Soon
Sci-fi movies are one of my favorites in cinema. i loved MATRIX and the idea of a machine constructed human reality in an unknown future. i enjoyed it Foreigners because it had a heroine, hot soldiers, and a bunch of toothy aliens on a planet in 2179. I admired predatory because he was a sophisticated, ruthless hunter from a technologically advanced civilization. Starship Soldiers featured alien insects that threaten the universe and the last Star Trek the movie had boring time traveling Romulans stuck in the future after being absorbed by a black hole.
All these movies had something in common apart from the same genre. They are set far enough in the future to be believable (except predator, but the alien was advanced so it doesn’t count). However, I have a real problem with sci-fi movies that are too close to our time. Too often I’ve seen perfectly good movies ruined because the technology is too sophisticated for the era.
Therefore, I present the following list of science fiction movies that got the timing wrong:
2001 A Space Odyssey: Arthur C Clarke may have envisioned satellites, but we’re not close enough to send a manned mission to Jupiter. What about malfunctioning computers called Hal? The closest we have to this is the Siri software that Apple installs on mobile devices. Siri can recognize your voice and send a message, but Hal talked to the astronauts, made decisions and steered the spacecraft. I doubt Siri will go psychotic, turn off our life support and start singing Daisy anytime soon.
Terminator – Set in 2018. At this stage, Earth has had its doomsday and robots called Terminators are so advanced that they are indistinguishable from humans. Skynet rules the world, discovers time travel, and sends a terminator to kill Sarah Connor in 1984. That’s only six years away. Someone better tell the roboticists at MIT to call Stephen Hawkins.
Blade Runner – Ridley Scott got it so well Alien but the timing is so wrong Blade Runner. Set in 2019 in a Los Angeles that is crowded, rainy and gloomy. Replicants have colonized other planets, air police units patrol the skies, and the Tyrell Corporation creates valuable android goods that have gone rogue. Only seven years away. The guys at MIT better start cracking that too.
In time – Set in the year 2161, the human genetic code has been altered so that no one can live past the age of 25. Embedded in our futuristic wrists are lifetime credit cards. Whenever you work, buy, or sell something, time credit either adds to or subtracts from your life. People live on borrowed time and only the rich can achieve immortality. The technology to perfect this feat seems pretty absurd in any century, let alone in the middle of the next century.
island – starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. Set in 2019, human clones are bred in an underground facility. Clones are taught that the world is contaminated and closely monitored in diet, exercise and health. They are not allowed contact with the opposite sex and are given menial tasks to perform. A regular lottery gives them hope of winning a life on the Island, a supposedly pollution-free place. However, the draw is a trick. Clones are harvested for organs to be purchased by wealthy clients in the real world.
A contaminated world by 2019 is plausible, but fully functional clones in six years, especially ones that look like Scarlett Johannsen, is a big step for me.
it – Who cares what year it was set. This is a stinker and should have been buried alongside director Stanley Kubrick who died during pre-production. The plot involves a robot who wants to be a real boy – but wasn’t that already covered in Pinocchio? Baby robots, neglectful parents and an android whore – I think I’ve said enough.
Real steel – While human relationships are believable, robots fighting in boxing arenas are not. By 2020 I doubt robots will be able to serve a cup of tea, let alone fight each other in gladiatorial contests.
Who got that right?
Minority Report: Set in 2054 with interactive technology obviously available by mid-century. I’m not sure about the weird siblings before the indentation, but anything is possible.
Galaxy Quest – the contemporary environment, but the sophisticated technology was foreign. Funny send-up of the sci-fi genre that was more believable than many of the films mentioned above.
Repo men – set in 2025 with a very unlikely but still possible plot. Organ and body part transplants are a common medical procedure where many people opt for higher purchase-type payments to pay exorbitant medical bills. Most fail to find the funds, so the Repo men are sent to retrieve the organs. Getting your arms and legs back isn’t fatal, but when they come for your heart, that’s when it’s time to run. Thirteen years away makes it an unlikely scenario, but, as I said, given the scale of black market organ transfers in the world, it’s not out of the question.
Star Wars: Long ago and far away. No matter when it actually happened, you can’t deny that setting a movie in a different galaxy in a different time is the best way to get it right.
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