It’s 2019, which means we’re definitely living in the future! If you don’t believe me, look out the window and witness all the hovercrafts, all the jetpacks, all the ray guns, all the food replicators! It’s a glorious technical wonderland!
Well, okay, it’s not as glorious as the sci-fi movies would have us believe (although we do have streaming services now!). Indeed, a lot of sci-fi has already proven to be wholly inaccurate. 1984 was nothing like the book 1984. New York was not walled off and made into a prison in 1997 (as posited by John Carpenter’s Escape from New York), nor was Los Angeles walled off and turned into a prison in 2013 (as posited by its sequel). Heck, by Star Trek’s timeline, Khan should have risen to power way back in 1992, and the Eugenics Wars should have ended by 1996. Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive, will be born in 2030, so mark your calendars.
But, given that it’s 2019, now is the perfect time to reflect on what sci-fi movies of the past thought this year was going to look like… and how badly they got it wrong. Let’s take a look!
Blade Runner (1982)
According to Hampton Fancher and David Peoples’ screenplay to Ridley Scott’s cult sci-fi classic Blade Runner, 2019 Los Angeles was going to be stiflingly overpopulated, advertising would rule the landscape, and life in the City of Angels would become a hellish, wet, film noir nightmare. The one thing they got wrong is that the streets would always be wet. You can talk about tears in the rain all you like, but in L.A., you’re going to have to wait a long time for that rain.
Something we certainly don’t have yet – as far as we know – is a visible, enslaved working force of synthetic human beings with artificially shortened lifespans. Cloning technology has developed by leaps and bounds since Dolly the sheep (1996 – 2002), and genetic engineering is on the cusp of some major breakthroughs, but growing our own slaves is still a way’s away. I guess we’ll wrestle with the ethical questions when we get there.
Warriors of the Wasteland (1984)
Originally released in Italy as The New Barbarians in 1983, Warriors of the Wasteland was a shameless Road Warrior knockoff directed by renowned schlockmeister Enzo G. Castellari (The Inglorious Bastards) for about a thirtieth of the budget of your average Hollywood blockbuster. Warriors of the Wasteland was one of three films that Castellari wrote and shot all within the same six month period (the other two were 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx. All three were shot outside of Rome).
In Warriors of the Wasteland, 2019 America has been reduced to, well, a wasteland following a nuclear war. And, as with all post-apocalyptic landscapes, it is being fought over by various dangerous gangs/cults. A gang called The Templars are wiping out Earth’s survivors. Fred Williamson is in it. It’s entertaining in an Italian B-movie sort of way.
The Running Man (1987)
Paul Michael Glaser’s The Running Man, adapted from a 1982 Richard Bachman novel, perhaps predicted the rise of Reality TV. In the 2019 of The Running Man, an evil mega-corporation (and they’re all evil, aren’t they?) broadcasts the world’s bloodiest game show (hosted by Family Feud’s Richard Dawson!) wherein contestants are hunted and killed by colorful WWE wrestler types. The ethics of broadcasting blood sports is only questioned when a charismatic hero – Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course – manages to fight off his hunters.
The Running Man is hardly the first film to deal with the notion of murder serving as game show entertainment. Paul Bartel’s 1975 film Death Race 2000 (set in 2000) dealt with very similar themes and ideas, and even had a similar tone. Incidentally, Paul W.S. Anderson’s 2008 remake of Death Race 2000 (called simply Death Race) was set in 2012. All of these films ask a question that has been hanging over our heads for decades: When will we, as a society, begin televising actual death as mainstream entertainment? The more civilized among us likely feel that day will never come. But some cynics and futurists may have something to say on the matter…
According to Katsuhiro Otomo’s groundbreaking anime film, World War III was meant to commence in 1988 (which was a year saturated with nuclear anxiety), and it would take until 2019 to rebuild Tokyo. By now, Neo-Tokyo has, like in Blade Runner, devolved into an overpopulated hellscape, heartily peppered with filthy streets, seedy bars, horrible DMV-like bureaucracies, and back alleyways run by motorcycle gangs.
2019’s current technology doesn’t match Akira, sadly, and youth gangs don’t ride cool future bikes when they commit crimes – perhaps we got iPhones in their place. Although, if one is giving their imagination free reign, it’s possible to entertain the notion that the government is indeed hiding an enclave of mutant psychic children in a basement somewhere. If you see an ugly, sinewy flesh tentacle extending into the sky from downtown, you’ll know what’s up.
There are two types of people in this world: Those who love Gary Daniels, and those who don’t know who he is yet. For the latter group, Daniels is a British kickboxing champion who has starred in numerous super-low budget B movies in his career, providing his own stunts and fight choreography, and kicking more ass than five Van Dammes. His highest-profile project was probably The Expendables. He was the one who could only be killed after he was set on fire and beaten by several other Expendables simultaneously. That sounds about right.
In Heatseeker, Daniels plays a cyborg kickboxer… and that’s about all you need to know. In the 2019 of Heatseeker, the world’s most popular sport is cyborg kickboxing. Cyborg technology never took off the way movies predicted – we’ll have to be content with miraculous prostheses the way they are – but if we rally, we could likely have a cyborg fighting league by the end of the year.
The Island (2005)
Michael Bay’s The Island – yet another overblown action clunker in a long career of them – tells the story of a utopian sci-fi compound populated by young, hot people who are kept in perfect shape, eat perfect food, wear perfect clothes, and who are not allowed to have sex at all. Only very occasionally does a citizen of this compound go mysteriously missing. When Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor escape the compound, they find the outside world is about the way it looks now. It’s busy, but not awful. Dirty, but not dystopian. With the exception of a few small bits of tech, the world of The Island is pretty similar to real 2019.
Of course, the Johansson and McGregor characters are revealed to be clones of famous movie stars, kept in sci-fi compounds as organ mules (if you’re a rich movie star, I guess you’ll need a bunch of organs on hand just in case). As stated above, cloning technology has not gone quite this far, but in terms of sci-fi conceits, this one seems to be one of the more believable. It’s a pity Bay was the film’s director, as any thoughtfulness about the ethics of cloning was drowned out by cars chases.
The world created by The Spierig Bros. in their kooky horror epic Daybreakers has less to do with tech and more to do with vampire lore. Daybreakers posits a future wherein a vampire plague swept the Earth, and the vampire survivors are now keeping humans comatose in massive underground blood farms. I don’t know any vampires personally (I think), but I imagine they would be tenacious enough to build massive underground blood farms – and the rationing systems needed to keep them going – from 2009 to 2019.
Vampires, Daybreakers posits, aren’t a very tech-forward bunch. They only have shutters and shields to protect them from sunlight and possess none of the awesome phone and hologram tech one might expect from sci-fi flicks.
Co-written and directed by Dean Devlin, Geostorm – a shameless imitation of Devlin’s frequent co-conspirator Roland Emmerich – sees 2019 as a time when climate change has become so bad that Earth came to rely on a global system of weather-altering satellites to keep the planet habitable. Should the satellites ever fail, a geostorm will hit. A geostorm is not just a car model from the early 1990s any longer. Now it’s a worldwide hurricane!
Geostorm is dumb as a bag of hammers, but weirdly entertaining in its idiocy. That Gerard Butler stars as a climate scientist only adds to its bizarre charms. Will we be living under weather satellites this year? Only time will tell.
Have Hollywood’s 2019 predictions lived up to your expectations? Or failed miserably? Discuss in the comments!
Check out our picks for the top 25 cheesy action movies in the video above!