Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Sci Fi Top 100, #83: "Things to Come" (1936)

Movie Stats:
Released 1936 (UK)
British, in English
Director - William Cameron Menzies
Stars - Raymond Massey, Ralph Richardson

Plot Summary:
After a decades-long worldwide war, followed by a disease that kills half the remaining population, a group of scientists/engineers/rational thinkers arise to unite the planet. Massey stars as both John Cabal & his descendant Oswald Cabal and Richardson co-stars as The Chief, the dictator of a post-war community.

Violence, minor gore.

Bad Stuff:
It’s very dull. I know I’ve been complaining about this a lot lately, but I appear to have hit a boring patch.

It’s so preachy. I felt like, “I get it already, war is bad, human nature is awful, scientists/engineers are the smartest people on the planet, blah, blah, blah.”

So much overacting! Oh the drama! Much scenery chewed!

Good Stuff:
It may have been preachy, but it wasn’t exactly wrong. War is bad, human nature is awful, and scientists/engineers are pretty dang smart. I liked that its view of the future wasn’t utopian. No matter how advanced humans get, they’re still only human, with the accompanying human frailties.

Again, it’s something I’ve mentioned a lot lately, but I’m fascinated by how “of its time” this movie is. The pessimism, the fear mongering about war, the focus on the dark side of human nature, the fatalism - even if you didn’t know this film came out of Europe during the Great Depression, you’d know.

I love Raymond Massey’s voice. Is that shallow? Oh well.

The Verdict:
I didn’t care for this one. It takes way too long to get to the point, which it then bludgeons you with. It has absolutely no subtlety. The acting is subpar - a frequent problem, in my opinion, for films from the 1930s, when they were still figuring out how to transition to “talkies.” There’s little about it that I would consider sci fi. It’s also fairly depressing. I was impressed, however, with how creepily accurate it was about The Blitz. At the time this film came out, WWII hadn’t even started yet (official start is considered 1939, when Germany invaded Poland), so I’m not sure how H.G. Wells, author of the adapted screenplay (which was based on his book), correctly anticipated the air bombing of London in 1940. Anyway, that’s still not enough to make me recommend this film to you.

I give it 2 stars.


Patricia said...

Chuck Klosterman was on Filmspotting recently (this summer?) and they were discussing what movies film historians would remember 200 years from now. Klosterman made some sort of point about how movies don't tend to age well because the stylistic things--even like how we talk--change so much that then the film seems kind of alien to future generations, even just a few generations later. It was a very interesting discussion.

Here's the link:

Filmspotting of late has gotten incredibly chatty, with most episodes easily crossing the 90 minute mark. This is one of those long episodes.

balyien said...

Oh, that sounds really interesting! I'll save it to listen to for the next time I'm cross stitching.

I can definitely see where he's going with that argument. Unless you watch a lot of movies from each time period, you don't really get how much filmmaking evolves over the years. Like, if you watch a one-off from the 30s, you may not get all the things that intrinsically make it a 30s film, which may put a damper on your appreciation of it.

Gosh, this is making me wish I'd had time in my schedule during university for film appreciation classes.