The World According To Damien
in a World gone mad – one sane voice emerges…

Damien on… Prediction Movies

The problem with prediction is that the variables inherent in life are exponential. In other words, as events vary from those that would seem most likely, they in turn experience their own variations. Then rinse and repeat.

Thus films whose intent is to portray the future ACCURATELY, rather than simply being “what if” fantasies, have their work cut out – and are more often than not total bollocks.

Of course, the cynic would point out that provided the production’s GROSS is acceptable on its first release, who CARES how ridiculous it looks when the future era it is set in actually comes around?

Anyhoo, let us examine a few examples and see how close they came.

We begin with…

H.G. Wells’ “Things To Come” (1936)

01 Things To Come

Based on Wells’ book of just a few years earlier – and Wells himself worked closely with the filmmakers – it’s earlier passages are eerily accurate. However, as time goes by, this epic spirals into absurdity.

World War Two continues into the Fifties, then the Sixties – which features bombers that resemble Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose”, complete with umpteen propellers (in 1936, Whittle’s jet engine was still on the drawing board) – after which the planet descends into a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

I will save the rest, as you might see it one day.

The point is, as time progresses, the diversion between the film’s narrative and actuality becomes – as stated in para one of this exploration – exponential.

“1941” (1979)

02 1941

Being a comedy directed by Steven Spielberg in 1979, this was not actually a prediction movie – rather a retro, “what if” one, which explores what might have happened had the Japanese launched a major offensive against Los Angles, right after Pearl Harbour.

In fact, there WERE attacks on LA in the early days of WW2, but how significant they were has remained shrouded in mystery – the authorities at the time understandably being loath to start a panic.

Anyhay, this manic movie is generally considered to be Spielberg’s “disaster” movie in more ways than one. But actually, the film made a healthy profit, won awards for its special effects and is not half as bad as its reputation paints it.

Our next look at this genre also varies somewhat from it – in that only the source novel could be thought of as being predictive. The actual film was MADE in…

“1984” (1984)

04 1984

A depressing, dour film, it was not a success – and definitely not a date movie. It was also confusing, since the dystopian future it depicted was now CONTEMPORARY – and had not happened.

George Orwell’s book had been written in 1948 and the author had simply reversed that year. It was never actually intended to be a prediction of what life would be like thirty-six years hence, rather what it COULD be like, socially, politically and practically, in the future generally.

But 1984 was not about this film. It was about Frankie Goes To Hollywood and other Eighties Techno-Pop bands. Pop’s last hurrah.

While the totalitarian state where Big Brother Watches and Security Is The New God did not exist in 1984 – we had to wait until after “9/11”, 2001 for THAT.

Which brings us inevitably to…

“2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

03 2001

After decades of films featuring laughable spacecraft, mostly looking like WW2 V2 flying bombs, with scant attention to technical detail, Stanley Kubrick filmed Arthur C. Clarke’s masterpiece.

And by the ACTUAL year 2001, it all still looked pretty good. The technical details had held up comparatively well. And the traditional business suit WAS still as it had been for many decades before 1968, proving Hardy Amies had been right – while designers of futuristic film apparel for lesser sci-fi films who had gone with vari-coloured Lurex had got it horribly WRONG.

But other aspects had been bedeviled by those inevitable variables, like Pan Am having gone broke several years before – and the BBC not getting lots of digital channels until several years after.

However, the MAIN split between the film and reality was how the momentum in the space programme had plummeted, once the political goal of plopping some men on the moon had been reached.

Thus we finally arrive at…

“2012” (2009)

05 2012

Roland Emmerich’s final film in his “apocalyptic” series was based on the Mayan “prediction” that the World would come to an end on the 21st of December, 2012 (two days ago at the time of typing and we are all still here – well, at least you and I are).

In actuality, the Maya never said any such thing, but in the spirit of never letting the facts ruin a good yarn, Roland spent two hundred million dollars in digital special effects, making it happen.

And while in America (a country already steeped in paranoia) it did poorly at the box office – in The Rest Of The World it cleaned up.

Perhaps the Rest Of The World just WANTED to see California tip into the Pacific.

Nevertheless, at least as far as accuracy was concerned, it was only required to portray society as it would be THREE years in the future.

The prediction aspect was solely about Doomsday and if he had got THAT right – you and I would now be TOAST.

So let us be grateful that these cinematic dips into prognosticated destiny are simply what they are – for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!

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One Response to “Damien on… Prediction Movies”

  1. A very satisfying piece! Shame about Pan Am, and TWA too. I was loo-cleaning at LHR T3 when the two were in business, one at each end of Departures. There was feeling of continuity with the pre-war years when i was not born. We can expect one thing with certainty: last day predictions will continue to pop up; crackpots will believe them, and Earth will (sadly) abide, in all its horror. I never took to Arthur C Clarke. I hated the sloshy end of his 2001 movie. But the first 90% was super. I remember that Charles Chiltern’s Journey Into Space on BBC Light Programme (early thru mid 1950s) had world TV taking the format of one station per major world capital, with no mention of the technology involved. Sputnik, and then Telstar, were still to come. I am glad that things that came does not include us blokes in those short shifty looking things. I admit my legs are quite nice, what with all the cycling, but I catch a chill easily.


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