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Flashback Five: Dark Visions of the Future



With the New Year upon us, it’s a good time to a look at movies set in bizarre futures. These films show what yesterday’s vision of tomorrow looked like which prompts the question: How much of that vision rings true today?

1. The Omega Man (1971; set in 1977)
In 1977, two years after a Soviet-Chinese conflict involving bioweapons, Charlton Heston is the last man on Earth. Holed up in a secure location, he enjoys old favorites like his film print of Woodstock, a relic of a bygone age of peace, love, and understanding. Nostalgia as the great comforter? Still true.

2. Escape From New York (1981; set in 1997)
In 1997, when the president’s plane goes down over a vast federal prison a.k.a. Manhattan, ex-con Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent in. John Carpenter’s action flick depicts NYC as a lawless no-man’s-land. It’s a far cry from the cleaned-up, gentrified hub of commerce of today’s Times Square. So… Not so true.

3. 1984 (1984; set in 1984)
Starring John Hurt as a tormented Everyman, this adaptation of George Orwell’s classic shows a future wherein the government eavesdrops, privacy is nonexistent, and the population is kept in a constant state of fear. Is it an exaggeration or right on the money?  Hard to tell some days.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; set in 2001)
In Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s groundbreaking collaboration, the year 2001 sees permanent bases on the moon, Pan Am trans-orbital flights, and self-aware computers. The movie holds up as art, but sadly we presently have no moon bases and Pan Am went bankrupt in 1991. This future’s not true yet.

5. Strange Days (1995; set in 1999 and a little bit of 2000)
Kathryn Bigelow’s sci-fi thriller, set on the eve of the millennium, revolves around Lenny Nero (a magnificently wormy Ralph Fiennes), who makes his living buying, selling, and acquiring recorded memories captured via illegal technology. Of course, the most bizarre concept in Strange Days is the idea that people would actually pay to see Juliette Lewis front a rock band. Too true in part.

Honorable Mentions: Death Race 2000 (1975; set in 2000), Destroy All Monsters (1968; set in 1999), and Frankenstein — 1970 (1958; set in 1970).

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