Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sci-fi that doesn't get the future right

It's always interesting the way filmmakers portray the future. Such was the case when I - finally - got around to watching Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. The movie is set in 2019. And Los Angeles is portrayed in a way that no one here in 2013 - only six years away - would recognize. It’s like the city had gone through a total transformation and become a brutalized bunker-like forest of skyscrapers with Jetsons-like flying machines shooting between them. But these aren’t just skyscrapers. These are massive blocks of concrete with thousands of slits of windows providing a formidable - indeed fascistic - image, which of course is the point. In fact, it’s become a cliché for filmmakers - and sci-fi book authors for that matter - to predict the (near) future as a totally alien environment from what it’s like when they wrote the novel or made the film. And almost always the future is totalitarian. But in reality the topography of current day Los Angeles has hardly changed since 1982, albeit with a few more office skyscrapers in the core and perhaps a bit cleaner air. Blade Runner’s depiction of the city is almost laughable.....Remember 1984? That year is now almost three decades old, and it came and went almost like every other year – no muss no fuss. Yet for decades prior to it 1984 was considered a foreboding date because it was the title of George Orwell's 1949 dystopian classic about an all-controlling totalitarian state. Sure enough the real 1984 seemed pretty much like the year before and nothing at all like how Orwell depicted it (although there were lots of public discussions in the media and elsewhere about how much the government controlled us, etc. etc.).....But there are aspects of the future that sci-fi authors don’t seem to take into account - for example, personal lifestyles. In Blade Runner we see characters smoking cigarettes just like they did in 1982. Yet it’s only a small minority of people who smoke anymore, and less will in 2019. A cartoon like The Jetsons, set in the future, also made the mistake of thinking the nuclear family and gender roles would be exactly the same as they were in the early 1960s, when the cartoon series was made…..BTW I didn’t finish watching Blade Runner. Despite all the hype surrounding this movie I found it almost insufferably boring. 

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