Thursday, June 26, 2008

Things That Came

Watched the H.G. Wells 1936 classic Things to Come. Not a happy movie. I'd always thought it was going to be sort of a future travelogue thing, a bit like a feature-length version of the 1939 World's Fair (speaking of Futurama). But it's not. No, it isn't.

The first act is a ponderous build-up to war, on Christmas Eve, no less. The second act is the war itself - which Wells nails as starting in 1940. But then he fails to stick the landing by having the conflict continue until the early 1970s, at which point, civilization has broken down, from the continued conflict and a resulting chemical-warfare related plague known as the "Wandering Sickness." By 1970, Warlords rule dwindling fiefdoms, trying to scrape together enough parts to get 1930's era aircraft off the ground.

Then hope comes in the form of a group of scientists and engineers - based out of Basra, Iraq, no less - who have decided to rebuild society as a (Karl, here's one for you) Utopian Technocracy. And to basically force everyone else everywhere to fall into line, they come in some seriously giant planes and use something called - no shit - the Gas of Peace on the populace. That sounded so ominous when they first mentioned it that I thought it was going to be part of some mind-control joojoo, but it just turns out to be sleeping gas. Watch Ralph Richardson earn his Knighthood in this scene. Not for acting, mind you. For chewing and devouring whole blocks of masonry.

(Note: actual film in black and white. Accept no substitutes)

Then Futurism masturbates all over the screen in what can only be called the Will to Weld. Dig the music!

Beautiful fucking designs, though.

The last act is set in 2036, when all cities have now moved underground. We are on the eve of the first moonshot, and the labor force - I think? - is angry about it. So they go to damage the launch site, but just get themselves blown up instead. Progress!

So, to sum up: Wells is anti-war but pro-Fascism.


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