Everybody loves predicting the future, and no medium is fonder of predicting the future than the movie industry. Unfortunately, they’re, uh, really, really bad at it. Sure, there’s still the possibility that killer robots will take over the world in the next couple of decades or that we’ll all one day be living inside the Matrix, but probably not, at least if those future visions are as bad as these eight futuristic movies that got it hilariously wrong.
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Released in 1992, Freejack takes place in the dystopian future (is there any other kind?) of 2009. And in this future, the wealthy manage to remain immortal by hiring mercenaries to go back through time and snatch people from the past. They then take over these past bodies and, uh, somehow live forever? I guess. Ignoring for a moment the hilarity of the mercenaries being called “bonejackers” which calls to mind something completely different than what I think the filmmakers were intending, the last time I checked even rich dudes hadn’t quite mastered the ability to go back and time and straight up steal people. Then again, the movie did star Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are clearly never, ever going to die so let’s not dismiss it too quickly.
In the year 2015, technology has advanced to the point where you can clone everything – food, pets, even people – which naturally leads to hijinks involving Arnold Schwarzenegger because that’s just the way these future things go. Sure, it’s still two years away, but something tells me full-on human cloning to the point that it’s accessible to anyone willing to write a big enough check is just a tad out of our collective reach. I mean, we haven’t even figured out how to keep people from pooping themselves to death in third world countries so it’s not like we’re masters of the human genome. Besides, even if we did figure all this out in the next few years it’s not like we’d use it on somebody cool like Arnold. We’d just end up cloning more Kardashians. Now that’s a dystopian future.
A futuristic musical comedy made in 1930 (yeah… ) Just Imagine takes us to the wondrous future of 1980, where people no longer have names but numbers like LN-18 and J-21, airplanes have replaced cars, people just pop pills instead of eating or drinking and babies are born from vending machines. Also, there is some nonsense about flying to Mars in rocket ships where our heroes tangle with the Martian King and Queen and let’s face it the closest we’ve come to a Martian King is David Bowie. Look, I don’t even need to explain to you why this is all completely ridiculous, do I? Then again, maybe we all really were born in vending machines. It would explain an awful lot.
According to 1975’s Death Race 2000, by the late-‘70s, society had fallen completely apart and the government was replaced by a fascist state, and in this fascist state entertainment came in the form of brutal death races. By the year 2000, people had enough of that shit and conspired to overthrow the dictator (creatively named “Mr. President”) which led to hijinks and the most famous death racer, a dude named Frankenstein being named President. Honestly, this probably would have been better than what actually did end up happening in the 2000 election. After all, President Frankenstein would probably at least be willing to run over a few bank CEO’s and would have had the good sense to stay out of Iraq. Still, for as ridiculous as things actually went, instead of dystopian death racing we spent most of the ‘90s raving and hi-fiving the President for crushing ass, which some would say is the apex of both freedom and Western society.
Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1994 Oscar winning classic took us all the way to the wondrous future of 2004, where time travel had been invented and the cops spent all their time chasing down time travelers and keeping them from fucking up the future Marty McFly style. That’s some pretty ambitious future-predicting right there. I mean, they only gave themselves ten years in which all this stuff was supposed to have all been figured out. Instead, we spent all our time trying to figure out how to get semen out of a blue dress, arguing about politics and watching reality shows – all important advancements in humanity to be sure, but not quite as revolutionary as time travel.
1981’s Escape from New York took the dark position that by the year 1988 crime would get so out of hand that we’d have no choice but to turn Manhattan into a giant maximum security prison, which I guess makes a certain sort of sense when you consider how jacked up New York City was during the ‘70s. But I guess the filmmakers weren’t counting on Rudi Giuliani having all the bums gassed and the porn shops all turned into Disney stores, which is a whole new kind of dystopian, but not quite what Escape from New York had in mind.
Set in 2015, Back to the Future II infamously predicted a future complete with hover-boards, self-drying clothes, and oh yeah, flying cars. Again, we’ve got two years to get there but from the looks of things I think we might fall just a little bit short. Call me crazy. Also, and perhaps even more hilariously, for as ambitious as the rest of their predictions were, when it came to the media and telecommunications, the best they could do was... video phones and fax machines. Oh, and the Cubs won the World Series. I rest my case.
According to 1973’s Soylent Green by the early 21st century overcrowding would have gotten so out of hand that New York would be rolling 40,000,000 strong and people would be sleeping in stair cases and eating synthetic and mysterious foodstuffs made by the Soylent company. Naturally, these foodstuffs turned out to be made from people. Now I know things have kind of gotten out of hand lately, but I don’t think we’ve quite reached the point where we’re all eating the processed remains of our dead grandparents. I know the recession was hard on everybody but shit, a Snickers bar isn’t that expensive yet.
(Previously published on June 21, 2013.)