Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Four sci-fi films imagined 2019 but how accurate were they?

Blade Runner, The Running Man, Akira and The Island imagined flying cars, giant billboards and reality shows

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner (1982). 
Harrison Ford in Blade Runner (1982). 

Science-fiction has always looked to the future and imagined what the world would look like. Some of the most iconic sci-fi films have been set in what seemed like the distant future of 2019. Well, 2019 is finally here, and it’s time to see how well those movies predicted our present.

1) Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner was directed by cinematic powerhouse Ridley Scott, adapted from a novel by science fiction writer Philip K Dick. The film is set in a dystopian Los Angeles in 2019. The Californian city is consumed by industrial smog, flying cars, and giant billboards. The film had a rough start when it was released in the summer of 1982, but it has now been accepted to be a cult classic from one of the best years in cinema history, in which beloved classics like ET The Extra Terrestrial, Poltergeist, The Thing, and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan were released.

How close did it get?

While we don’t have flying cars (yet), it does feel like we're almost there as transport technology contiunes to accelerate. And while Los Angeles isn’t the cleanest city on earth, it’s nowhere near as bad as the dystopic vision of the film. They certainly got the intrusive nature of advertising today right though. What’s impressive is how well they predicted the existence of massive billboards with moving commercials on large buildings, which are now truly run of the mill in the world's big cities.

2) The Running Man (1987)

Another film based on a book, The Running Man came out in November 1987, and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's also set in the dystopian future of 2019 (what were filmmakers trying to tell us about today?) the plot centres around a reality show in which contestants go up against ruthless killers and compete to stay alive. The film isn’t as popular as some of Arnold’s other sci-fi classics (such as Total Recall and The Terminator), but it certainly packs a lot of action and social commentary in.

How close did it get?

Reality shows are very much a staple of television in 2019: you can’t switch on TV without coming across a show that revolves around a famous family (made famous before or after the show), or shows about quirky and eccentric people, whether they're stranded on an island, or competing to marry one person. Even cooking shows have become more or less reality shows, so it’s safe to say that the film foresaw the enormous obsession America (and the rest of the world) would have with this type of entertainment.

Although there aren’t yet any shows that have contestants fighting for their lives, we could argue that vying to win a large sum of money is in its own way fighting for your life.

3) Akira (1988)

Ask fans of Japanese anime what their favourite films are and you find diverse answers, but Akira seems to stand above the rest for most people. Credited for being the film that kicked off the Japanese anime craze in the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Akira is a very well made film that is adapted from a long running manga series. The film’s story is about bike gangs in 2019 Neo Tokyo. Ravaged by a nuclear bomb, the city is both decrepit and beautiful. Neon signs and tall high rises play a pivotal role in the film’s aesthetic.

How close did it get?

Tokyo today is very much a thriving metropolis, showing a beautiful balance between modern and old Japan. The absence of a nuclear event does make it hard to compare the fiction of the world in the film and the reality of today, but there are still similarities to draw. The film discusses the idea of melding man with machine, and the very apparent downside of that. Today, thanks to modern technology, people who are missing limbs can get the help of high-tech prosthetics to pursue an active life. This seems entirely positive, but what will happen when, soon, artificial intelligence is introduced into the picture and we embed technology into ourselves in even more pervasive ways?

4) The Island (2005)

This film certainly isn’t a classic like the other three: directed by action auteur Michael Bay, The Island was released in 2005, and imagines a 2019 world in which creating clones is as easy as going in to see your dentist. The plot revolves around a prison island that is then revealed to be, spoiler alert, nothing more than a clone body bank for the rich and famous. Not the most interesting or exciting of plots, but Bay manages to make a whole lot of film out of it.

How close did it get?

Advancements in medicine and treating the human body have been growing exponentially year by year. While cloning humans isn’t yet a reality, cloning animals certainly is, and there have been cases of face transplants, artificial heart transplants, and we're sure there's a lot more to come.

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