Things to Come

Everytown, UK, circa 1970

Everytown, UK, circa 1970

H. G. Wells wrote Things to Come (1936) is a wild wide of speculative science fiction. I do wonder what people in 1936 thought of it. The plot revolves around war, never ending war that starts on Christmas in Everytown, UK. The world war drags on and leads to a plague causing civilization to decline. By the 1970s the plague is over but a tyrant obsesses over continuing the fighting. This maniac, dressed in a tattered WWII era uniform which he accessorizes with a barbaric animal skin, bullies and rages mostly against the scientists and aviators in his city. Yet he’s no match for the league of engineers and scientists of Wings over the World who live in a prosperous, sane society where logic and reason rule.

After the Wings over the World defeat the brute and his ragged army, we leap to 2045, where every building is sleek and people dress in Jetson-like attire with the one difference that men wear sleek, short Roman looking skirts or shorts. The head of the government is played by an actor who plays a rational man in 1936, and the emissary of Wings over the World in 1970. He’s the progeny of these earlier men. His personality, regal and scientific, is the same from generation to generation. He’s keen to send his daughter and a young man up into outer space via a high tech canon. A rebel tries to stop this voyage railing that this constant movement to progress is bad for society.

The set is brilliant. In the 1960s and 70s Everytown is falling apart. Every wall is decaying. Not one object is new or in good shape. The tyrant’s coffee pot has lost its handle. People use old cars as carriages drawn by horses. That’s the best metaphor for how the war has impacted society. In the sleek, 2040s era everything’s shiny and sleek. No doubt this set inspired subsequent futuristic films.

Everytown, UK, 2045

Everytown, UK, 2045

Since history didn’t exactly pan out the way Things to Come envisioned. The film amused me more than than anything else. The characters we’re to align with are so earnest in their dire prophecies. Unlike 1984 or The Brave New World, I don’t see any metaphoric parallels in civilization. It’s more of an example of early sci fi than a film with a message for me.


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