5. Total Recall
Another dystopian work that fits the mantra of “don’t ask, you don’t want to know”. Loosely based on a Philip K.Dick novel, this 1990 movie starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, some ropey special effects and a lot of 80s-style incidental music. It’s set on the Earth of 2084, when Mars has been colonized and Arnie keeps dreaming about going there. In this society, you take a vacation by going to a processing plant and having virtual reality vacation memories stuck into your head, so Arnie plumps for a virtual trip to Mars and then realizes his dreams are his actual memories. If you’ve been paying attention so far, you’ll know that questioning the norm never ends well…
As for the society itself, some things are different (the red light district is populated by mutants and people can do freaky things with their faces) but largely it looks like everyone’s just dropped in from the 80s. Maybe it was actually meant to be set, not in 2084 but 1984…
Which could not lead more neatly onto our next dystopia. Big Brother is watching, your thoughts are dictated by the state and the world has been divided into three superpowers, who fight each other all the time and change sides entirely arbitrarily. In George Orwell’s masterpiece, a classic novel of the “futuristic” genre, it is again the act of one man questioning the state that leads to his downfall and imprisonment in the dreaded Room 101. However, by the end of the novel he has once again become a state drone so it works out better for him than for some of our other protagonists. A chilling vision of a future society, but it did entirely fail to predict what actually happened in 1984 – not one mention of Van Halen’s “Jump” and the duet between Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson seemed to be totally off Orwell’s radar. Some shocking omissions.
And now for something slightly different – the future as imagined by Pixar. In this heart-wrenching animation, Earth has been rendered unusable, thanks to the actions of mankind. Garbage is piled in huge heaps everywhere, surrounded by abandoned outlets of the “Buy N Large” corporation. A soulful robot named Wall-E trundles around, shifting the rubbish into cubes and dreaming of having some company. Meanwhile, the human race are circling above the Earth in a giant luxury space cruiser, where every day is perfect. They have evolved so that they’re too fat to move under their own power and just go everywhere on floating chairs but eventually have to learn to walk again. If you look ever so hard, you might spot a subliminal message or two in there…!
2. A Clockwork Orange
But bleak as Pixar’s vision of the future is, it’s nothing compared to Anthony Burgess‘ descriptions in his novel “A Clockwork Orange”. In it, society is overrun by ultraviolent youths such as Alex and his “droogs”. Wearing bowler hats and codpieces, they beat up the old and the vulnerable for fun, all the time talking in their cod-Russian dialect. The drink of choice is “Moloko” -a type of milk with “knives in it”, preferably drunk off tables shaped like women. The book was made into a film by Stanley Kubrick, but he took it upon himself to ban it in case it incited the kind of violence contained within. A dark vision indeed.
1. Back to the Future
So, after so much violence, cloning, dictatorship and murder, it’s refreshing to end on a positive, and not very serious, vision of the future. The future that Marty McFly visits in the iconic 80s movie “Back to the Future II” is all wacky technological advances – pizzas that come in dehydrated form and “rehydrate” in seconds, zero-gravity boots and, of course, hoverboards. As a kid growing up around the time the films were released, you felt pretty confident that, come 2015, this was how life would be. Sadly, that is just two years away and I’m yet to see a single hoverboard – apparently, I’m not alone in feeling cheated!