Within the Information’s weekly Solved! column, we glance into a vital pop-culture query you’ve been burning to know the reply to – and settle it, as soon as and for all
The factor concerning the future is that sooner or later it turns into the current. Put a timestamp in your sci-fi and you might be laying down a possible rake to step on when actuality catches up. We’ve breezed previous the dates of breakout shoot-’em-up Escape from New York (set in 1997), seedy VR nightmare Unusual Days (1999) and hoverboard hellscape Back to the Future Part II (2015). Now all three movies look like quaint interval items as an alternative of predicted futures.
So what makes a prescient science fiction movie? A cosmic fairytale reminiscent of Star Wars won’t rely, even when final December some fanboy bodgers knocked up a crackling lightsaber in the actual world. However George Lucas’s first movie, THX 1138, set in a soul-crushing totalitarian future when conformity is enforced by faceless android police, remains to be in with a shout, particularly if issues maintain trending the best way they’re.
The perfect science fiction doesn’t simply think about the subsequent nice leap, be that the rise of synthetic intelligence (2001: A Space Odyssey), genetic engineering (Gattaca) or driverless automobiles (Total Recall). It additionally extrapolates how these paradigm shifts would possibly have an effect on us dumb meatbags. However may anybody have predicted how the web would rewire our minds? The Nineties felt filled with cyber-thrillers clearly jazzed by this new period of interconnectivity. However most have been hung up on visualising it by way of fancy goggles, reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in 1995’s Johnny Mnemonic, stumbling by the imply streets of 2021 New Jersey with 320 gigabytes of scorching knowledge sloshing spherical his head.
Some sci-fi movies are fortuitously prophetic – Akira predicted that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics could be cancelled again in 1988 – however others actually work at it. In 1999, Steven Spielberg assembled a nerd herd of futurists and requested them to think about what Washington DC could be like 50 years therefore. The outcomes have been pumped into 2002’s Minority Report, which went huge on but extra driverless automobiles, invasive promoting and gesture-controlled tech. Even when the precognitive crime prevention stuff was a bit woolly, Minority Report’s imaginative and prescient of 2054 nonetheless feels textured and lived-in.
However is there an much more prescient sci-fi movie? Final 12 months the probably nominee would have been the unique Blade Runner. Replicants and flying cop automobiles should still be a method off, however teeming humanity scuttling round underneath bleak skies felt very present even earlier than somebody had the good thought of splicing footage of California wildfires with the 1982 film’s austere “Los Angeles November, 2019” title card. However wanting on the flaming wreckage of 2020, the sci-fi movie that actually predicted our blighted zeitgeist is 2006’s Children of Men, a zombie film the place the zombie is the UK, staggering haphazardly towards doom.
Alfonso Cuarón’s hardscrabble dystopia is about in a 2027 world knocked sideways by an infertility plague reasonably than a Covid pandemic, however every part else about it feels upsettingly now, from the demonisation of refugees to the scuffed video screens and militarised streets. Clive Owen’s reluctant hero Theo – an emotionally shattered semi-alcoholic in a grubby London 2020 fleece – has by no means felt extra relatable. Nonetheless, amongst all of the despair it encompasses a killer “pull my finger” joke and ends on a be aware of the tiniest shred of optimism. Maybe we’ll be OK in any case.