A global war begins in 1940. This war drags out over many decades until most of the people still alive (mostly those born after the war started) do not even know who started it or why. Nothing is being manufactured at all any more and society has broken down into primitive localized communities. In 1966 a great plague wipes out most of what people are left but small numbers still survive. One day a strange aircraft lands at one of these communities and its pilot tells of an organization which is rebuilding civilization and slowly moving across the world re-civilizing these groups of survivors. Great reconstruction takes place over the next few decades and society is once again great and strong. The world's population is now living in underground cities. In the year 2035, on the eve of man's first flight to the moon, a popular uprising against progress (which some people claim has caused the wars of the past) gains support and becomes violent.Written by
Kevin Steinhauer <K.Steinhauer@BoM.GOV.AU>
When the pilot John Cabal arrives in Everytown in 1970, he is wearing a large half helmet with a clear cover over the lower part of his face and neck. When he is walking with the people of Everytown to meet "The Boss" he is no longer wearing the half helmet. Its possible he may be carrying it but in the following scenes the half helmet is never seen. See more »
A unique example of serious science fiction from the 1930s
There is something particularly engaging about dated science fiction, especially when it is describes a period that is already in the past. "1984" comes to mind as an example, as well as the works of Jules Verne. Another instance of this phenomenon is the film version of H. G. Wells' "Things to Come".
The first part of this film, depicting the bombing of "Everytown" (London) at Christmas of 1940 is particularly chilling because that actually did happen (keep in mind that this movie was released in 1936). The other images, of tank warfare and attacks by massive formations of bombers, are also surprisingly close to the actual course of events during World War II. Only in the use of poison gas was Wells vision a little off, but only slightly. Both sides stockpiled gas and were prepared to use it but, in the end, neither side had the desire to be the first.
The second part depicts the post-apocalyptic world of 1970, dominated by a brutal warlord played by Ralph Richardson. In many respects, this particular Wellsian vision of the future appears remarkably similar to any number of recent "post-apocalyptic" fantasy films, such as the "Mad Max" movies or Kevin Kostner's "Waterworld" and "The Postman".
In the final sequence, the world has been taken over by a sort of totalitarian technocracy. This technocratic power structure is assailed by reactionary forces led by an artist-demagogue played by Cedric Hardwicke. Although this is the weakest portion of the film dramatically, it is the most visually imaginative. Among the wonders featured is a surprisingly modern-looking helicopter, which is astonishing considering the fact that Igor Sikorsky did not fly the first helicopter until four years after `Things to Come' was produced!
The final scenario, of a popular rebellion against technology and progress, is not as far-fetched as it might seem. There are precedents for that sort of thinking even today. The Luddite and Green movements come to mind, and the infamous Unibomber is an extreme case in point.
`Things to Come' may seem dated in many ways, but it's spectacular `art deco' view of the future continues to enthrall. There were very few serious examples of cinematic science fiction produced during the first half of the 20th century. For that reason alone `Things to Come', along with `Metropolis', remains a must-see for any true Science fiction fan.
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