Friday, March 28, 2008

Essential Cinema - 23

Things To Come

Raymond Massey
Edward Chapman
Ralph Richardson
Margaretta Scott
Cedric Hardwicke
Maurice Braddell
Sophie Stewart

William Cameron Menzies

H.G. Wells (screenplay / novel)

Georges PĂ©rinal

The future as seen from 1939 England. As war loomed over Europe, the salvation of mankind will not be found in the politics of the past. It is up to the brave new world of science to overcome man's past mistakes.

Beware your leaders and what you are told. Thinking outside the box can lead to a brighter tomorrow. There will always be descent and fear, and learning to overcome it is our only hope.

I had seen this film long ago and recently downloaded it off of the internet (it is in the public domain). This is a fascinating work on numerous levels. Since it is a story about the future as seen from 1939, it has obvious flaws. This vision of the future is both terrifying and whimsical. This film was cutting edge for its day. The special effects are very good as is the story line. The acting suffers a bit in the British theatrical sense, in that it can lean a bit toward Shakespeare.

One of the underlaying themes of the film is that science and technology can solve all our problems, which we now know is not always true. The films other plot line is that charismatic leaders are a curse of human existence and will probably always be with us.

The underpinnings of almost all later science fiction movies can be seen in this film. The set design and wardrobe of "Forbidden Planet", the failings of technology in "2001: A Space Odessy", even the lush landscapes / cityscapes of "Star Wars" owe some amount of inspiration to this film.

The ending of the film leaves the viewer a bit perplexed. While it is optimistic in its ending sequence of reaching for the stars, we are left to wonder if mankind will ever be able to make it. Even as we reach, there are those that are trying to hold us back. This films vision of the future while interesting is also a bit humorous by todays standards. Huge flying machines and guns that could shoot people into space never materialized in the real world, but in 1939 they were considered the next logical step.

Many great British actors are in this film as young men. Cedric Hardwicke and Ralph Richardson are the most recognized and their oratory skills are evident here. Raymond Massey is a curious choice to play the lead character, Cabel. His character almost comes across as the new Christ sent to save the world from its own destruction with the new religion of science.

This is a good piece of cinema history whose themes are still relevant today even if its vision of the future missed the mark.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this one so long ago that I barely remember its existence.

    I used to be a late-night movie zombie. Not so much any more.