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Film: Days of Futures Past

Roslyn Hull

What the ‘future’ is a matter of perspective.

1984 was the distant future to H.G. Wells but 2001 is in the past for us. Film is an excellent medium for depicting fabulous or frightening future. In reality, we have inventions completely alien to a human from the 1950s but we lag behind our own imaginings, as depicted in movies, in one clear way – flying transport. Almost every sci-fi film shows us scooting around, defying gravity but we have yet to make this a reality.


Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (remember Queen’s video for Radio Ga Ga?), 1927, showed a future where the divide between the classes had become a yawning chasm and Henry Ford’s assembly line is a living purgatory for workers. The uncaring elite cruise between skyscrapers in bi-planes and a mad scientist manufactures a pop idol to rally the masses. Only the manufactured pop idol sounds familiar to us.

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet, 1956, is Shakespeare’s Tempest in outer space, complete with Robbie the Robot as the home help. Nanna on a zimmerframe moves faster than Robbie and his arms are only just longer than a T-Rex’s, so as a housekeeper he is less effective than a Roomba vacuum cleaner. Anne Francis struts around her alien world in bare feet, brief skirts and the obligatory push-up bra whilst all the men wear neck to toe overalls. Hmm.

Soylent Green

Soylent Green, 1973, takes recycling resources and devaluing human beings to a bitter extreme. Food only comes as Soylent Green – a protein packed bar supposedly made from plankton until it is revealed it is made from people. Women are ‘furniture’ that come as a package with your company apartment and big business is untouchable. Chilling, or an accurate prediction?

Back to the Future II

Back to the Future II, 1989, is famously set in 2015 and looking back a couple of years, from our perspective, it is hard not to be disappointed. No hoverboards, no cold fusion powered flying cars, no self-inflating hi top boots, no pennant for the Chicago Cubs (but that did come true in 2016). On the other hand, we don’t have bike helmets that look like cheese graters or Jaws 19 and our PDs are sleeker. Sadly, they got the obsession with plastic surgery right.

The Fifth Element

The Fifth Element, 1997, shows the future as a colourful, many specied crowd scene. Gaultier models manning the MacDonalds drive-thru, blue-skinned divas singing all the octaves, luxurious space liners, instant roast dinners and the ubiquitous flying cars. Sadly the most accurate elements are the violence, the pollution, the obsession with celebrity and the tiny city apartments. Still, I’d take a Leeloo Dallas Multipass ride on this roller coaster any day.

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This article originally appeared in Magazine: Future for Winter 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here



Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author

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