Part of what makes science fiction films so interesting is their portrayal of the future. And it’s not just the societies that have formed, the laws that have been passed, or the wars that have been fought – it’s specific, identifiable events that change the course of history dramatically. The genre of science fiction has been around for over 100 years, and being that it’s currently 2010, we’ve been able to live through many of the times that at one point were considered the distant future. While it’s unfair to criticize a science fiction film for incorrect predictions – especially since most films in the genre are metaphors for something greater than the story itself – it’s also fun to see what predictions have and have not come to fruition. Of course, with regard to specific dates, it’s virtually impossible to predict the future, but nevertheless, let’s take a look at five specific dates in science fiction movies that didn’t turn out as shown.
By the way, Back to the Future II‘s future is 2015, so we can still hold onto hope for hoverboards.
September 25, 2010 – Demolition Man
According to Demolition Man, which takes place in 2032, the last murder committed in the city of Los Angeles occurred on September 25, 2010. The LAPD is powerful and efficient and, thanks to literally freezing dangerous criminals, is able to clean up the streets of Los San Angeles. That is, of course, until Simon Phoenix is thawed out and escapes custody.
I haven’t checked the recent crime report from Los Angeles, but I think it’s a safe bet that, unfortunately, there are going to be more murders.
August 29, 1997 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Anyone who’s a fan of the Terminator movies surely remembers Sarah Connor screaming and yelling at anyone who would listen that August 29, 1997 is Judgment Day, or the day that Skynet launches a nuclear attack in order to exterminate all of mankind. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened, but later Terminator movies, as well as the criminally underrated Sarah Connor Chronicles showed that Judgment Day can’t be stopped – it can merely be delayed. So those of you rooting for the robots, keep your chins up.
January 12, 1997 – 2001: A Space Odyssey
There’s a lot in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece that never comes to fruition, but perhaps most significant is when an artificial intelligence whose power rivals the human brain becomes operation on January 12, 1997. The HAL 9000 is “born” in Urbana, Illinois on this date, and is capable of not only performing more efficiently the same functions that a human can perform. but of experiencing real emotions and insight. HAL, it can be argued, is as alive as you or I.
As of today, no AI has passed the Turing Test…but it’s really just a matter of time before one does.
Sometime in 2009 – Children of Men
I wanted desperately to find the specific date of Baby Diego’s birth and death in Children of Men, but even the newscast in the movie itself shows 2009 and 2027, respectively. At 18 years old, Baby Diego was the youngest person in the world, and the world collectively mourned when he was stabbed to death in 2027. Obviously, babies have been born post-2009, so the apocalyptic future as shown in Cuaron’s film isn’t going to happen. At least not soon.
We’re never told what causes women to stop having babies, but then again, that’s not important. What’s important are the choices people make once that concept is fully realized.
July 4, 2005 – Southland Tales
This trainwreck of a movie from Richard Kelly (yes, it has some cool ideas, but it’s a disaster) begins at a Fourth of July barbecue in Texas when two nuclear attacks are simultaneously launched against the state. The reach of the Patriot Act is expanded significantly, the government gains complete control of the Internet, the dominoes fall, and the end of the world begins. World War III may be a very real possibility someday, but it wasn’t catalyzed by any attacks on the United States in 2005.