Thursday, March 26, 2009

Movies to Come

TCM have been spotlighting the Korda Brothers on Thursday nights in March, and on this last Thursday we get some interesting movies with art direction by Vincent Korda. Perhaps the most interesting (even if not the best) is Things to Come, airing at 10:00 PM ET.

Based on a story by noted science-fiction writer H.G. Wells, Things to Come looks at a British "Everytown", and what happens to it over the course of 100 years, starting from 1936, when the movie was made. The first stop along the way is 1940, when the next Great War has begun. This section is closest to accurate, as it predicts substantial destruction from air raids, just as would happen to London during the Blitz.

However, movies have a tendency to get the future badly wrong, and Things to Come is no exception. It posits that the war goes on for decades, resulting in the destruction of nation-states, with city-states fighting one another in the Everytown part of the world, and the "intellectuals" having decamped to another part of the world, where they form a World Government that's going to force the city-states to stop fighting each other.

If that's bad enough, fast forward to 2035, when Science decides it's going to put the first men on the moon. Unfortunately, though, Science hasn't quite solved social problems at home, and there's a huge group of Luddites who don't want the moon shot to go forward.

The movie is visually quite interesting, especially the scenes in 2035. However, much of the movie also falls flat thanks to H.G. Wells' ham-handedness. He wrote the screenplay in addition to writing the original story, and this provided him an opportunity to insert his own favorite hobbyhorses into the story. This is too bad, since Wells had some rather loopy political views. He favored a World Government; was, like many intellectuals of the 1930s, a complete dupe (if not worse) regarding Joseph Stalin; and even favored eugenics and a reduction of the franchise to those deemed intellectually fit.

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