Back to the Future II is my favorite sci-fi movie because of its crazy depiction of the future, which is 2015.
Watching it as a child, the film became a neon-filled promise of self-tying shoelaces, hoverboards, and garbage-fueled flying cars.
Then Real Life 2015 unfolded and the lament of “Where’s my hoverboard!?” rang.
It turns out that director Robert Zemeckis’ fantasy of the future didn’t match reality. Not only are we deprived of those fancy gadgets and a sequel to Jaws 19, but in this 2015 release, we apparently still read newspapers and have fax machines in every room. Fax machines! No Internet. No Twitter. No annoying influencers.
“But what about 2022?” I can’t hear you asking.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been researching old sci-fi movies and books that are set in 2022.
Like digging for currency deep in the couch of pop culture, I managed to find mp4s, mpegs, PDFs, and… other glitchy acronyms that Back to the Future II was sadly missing.
How accurately do these 2022 science fiction stories capture our era of catastrophic scrolling of pandemics, climate disasters and international wars?
Time Runner (1993), movie
Watching a nervous straight-to-VHS movie on a laptop in 2022 is one of the closest things we’ve got to real-time travel.
Star Wars star Mark Hamill is the Time Runner in this Terminator/Time Cop spinoff ripoff. When an alien invasion hits in 2022, Mark Hamill escapes from his space station and blasts himself falling into a wormhole. It ends up on Earth, but it’s an acid-washed, mullet-filled 1992. He tries to warn Senator John Neila (who is 2022’s future “President of Earth”) of the impending alien invasion – but surprise, no surprise – Neila is a secret alien.
If only Mark Hamill had reversed the letters of “Neila”, he would have known! Rookie Time Runner error. To make matters worse, someone tries to kill Mark Hamill’s mother to prevent his birth.
2022 Accuracy Rating: 2/10.
Futuristic spaceship stuff aside, the weirdest thing about 2022’s plot is a race against time to unlock Russian nuclear launch codes to stop aliens. So, in this reality, Russia can help prevent an invasion and a war!
The Secret (2002), novel by Eva Hoffmann
The secret behind the secret in The Secret is that the main protagonist discovers that she is her mother’s clone.
Accuracy rating: 10/10 for every young woman’s nightmare realizing… that you are essentially your mother.
Soylent Green (1973), movie
Contrary to the depictions above, I think Soylent Green is oddly relevant to our times. It’s also a decidedly dark film, perfect for your date with Werner Herzog.
Charlton Heston plays an investigator who tries to solve the murder of a Soylent Corp bigwig. And then something, something… to be honest, I didn’t really pay attention to the detective story. I was more aware of Heston’s glib blue cap train conductors and how the plot is just a vehicle to take us on a journey through the film’s utterly dystopian and chilling vision.
There’s dwindling natural resources, police brutality, the super-rich treating women like “furniture” and…yes, global warming. The opening credits even feature crowds wearing face masks. The only thing missing from this nightmarish checklist is an endless Zoom meeting.
The film is best known for its immortal ending line, spoken by Heston: “Soylent Green is made of (spoiler alert).” I don’t want to give it away if you haven’t seen it. Let’s just say the special ingredient starts with P and rhymes with eople. Oops, I mean rhymes with Sheeple. Shit. It’s people. Soylent Green is made of people. And KFC. Probably.
Accuracy rating: 8/10.
Among the misery, my favorite scene features Edward G Robinson playing an old man who is presented with an apple for the first time in ages. The way his face lights up upon seeing one again is exactly how I felt when my toddler’s daycare reopened after lockdown.
Station Eleven (2022), TV series based on a 2014 novel
Station Eleven is based on a 2014 novel of the same name, written by Emily St John Mendel and depicts the aftermath of a devastating global pandemic. When the novel was adapted into a television series, the pandemic was supposed to kick off on Christmas of – yes, you guessed it – 2020.
Actress Mackenzie Davis, who plays the title character, described the eerie feeling as production suddenly halted due to COVID. The very thing they were playing was starting to unfold in real life.
The series traces the consequences of the epidemic (2021-2022) as well as the fragile recovery in 20 years. Fortunately, the prophetic powers of Mandel and the TV writers were only accurate at the time of the pandemic, not gravity, as Station Eleven depicts the complete fall of civilization and the death of 99.9% of the world. ‘humanity.
The early days of the outbreak are grim and familiar with unsettling scenes of pandemic panic, canceled flights and lost loved ones.
The winter of 2021-2022 depicted in Station Eleven is one of hunting rabbits, practicing knife throwing, and using car batteries to watch old VHS tapes. So not too different from our own desperate times with sourdough-making and Wordle-fueled rage.
However, it’s the scenes set in the future that make the show incredibly touching and emotionally, uh, nurturing. The main protagonist – now an adult – has become the lead actress in a traveling troupe of Shakespearean actors who perform for post-pandemic survivor communities.
I don’t want to spoil the show, but I will say this is one of the best shows I’ve seen so far in 2022.
Accuracy rating: 2/10.There’s a lot more support for the arts and entertainment industries in this fictional post-pandemic world.
Station Eleven shows that post-apocalyptic science fiction doesn’t have to be synonymous with violence and misery. We can have sci-fi stories about hope, humanity, and how art and culture are essential for survival.
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