Science fiction is a genre with a variety of hats. On one hand, it’s entertainment, on the other, it’s a way to imagine what our future will look like. It’s also a means to escape the problems of our daily lives, and a means of criticizing various aspects of today’s society. Sometimes it’s the only way to ask important questions about sensitive topics like race, gender, and religion. But perhaps its most important role is to warn us about where we might end up if we continue to live the way we do today. Here are five movies in which the warning signs are far from being obvious, but there are there for us to observe nonetheless.
1. Zero Theorem
Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is a socially isolated computer operator, living out his life in a constant commuting between his workplace – an ultra-modern corporation where he completes various tasks for a living – and his home – a converted church, where he expects a phone call from God which will explain the point of it all.
The movie has just a handful of exterior scenes, but they are a perfect rendition of where we are heading to. See for yourself:
With too much focus on gore and shooting, and not enough on the world of tomorrow, Gamer (2009) was a flop. This doesn’t make the idea behind it less attractive – and scary – at the same time. People renting out their bodies to strangers for a living, convicts used as the ultimate mobile gambling platforms in a mix of online games and capital punishment – is this the world we’re slowly heading for already?
Although at first it looks like a crime movie with a sci-fi twist, Surrogates is a film about being isolated – and crawling out of your den. It’s the ultimate merge of virtual reality and cosmetic surgery, where people leave their real bodies behind, choosing to live through their surrogates – idealized, artificial bodies controlled with their minds – and forget about their shortcomings, handicaps, and personality.
4. Various “Harrison Bergeron” adaptations
Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian short story “Harrison Bergeron” shows us a world where equality is mandatory. The authorities will go as far as to force exceptional people to “dumb down” – the beautiful are forced to wear masks, strong and athletic people have to wear heavy weights all the time, and intelligent people have to wear devices that will dumb them down to the average level.
The story has seen several screen adaptations, the most recent being Chandler Tuttle’s 2009 short film 2081. I personally prefer Bruce Pittman’s rendition of the story, with Sean Astin in the title role. It is a unique reminder of how far political correctness can reach if we don’t keep it at bay.