Did ’70s Sci-Fi Cinema Nail Our Looming Brave New World?

Logan’s Run. Image courtesy of MGM

In the 1970s, Hollywood was hell-bent on scaring the bejesus out of audiences with futuristic dystopias, churning out iconic, outrageous, science-fiction stories that imagined—and warned of—horrific “things to come.” But just how accurate were these filmmakers’ visions, most of which were believed far too insane to ever come to pass? Hold our Moscow mule!

Premise: It’s 2018, and there are no more wars and no more borders—just as John Lennon imagined! Except the entire world is now a global corporate state run by the monopolistic entities of Energy, Luxury, Housing, Communication and Food. But, wait! We still have violence—and it’s a sport! The only sport. Yes, rollerball has replaced nukes, drones and baseball, and Houston team captain Jonathan E. (James Caan) thinks it’s all fine and dandy—until the Executives tell him it’s time to retire. Stubborn Jonathan refuses and instead starts digging into history—specifically, the Corporate Wars (the last wars on record)—but he finds the corporations have removed all of the books from libraries and replaced them with Cliff’s Notes summaries instead. Easy A, dude! Pretty soon, Jonathan discovers that rollerball wasn’t created to end wars or to entertain, but to model to the masses that individualism is futile. There’s no room in that model for a star player such as Jonathan E., but there’s still one rollerball game left, and J-boy intends to go down fighting. Er, rolling. . . . Balling?
What came true? While no one expects anyone to kill baseball besides Derek Jeter, we hope you’re enjoying all of the stuff provided by the four most influential companies on the planet, such as produce from Amazon Pantry and Whole Foods Market, solar power from Apple Energy, entertainment from Google-owned YouTube, and sharing all of your personal info (whether you know it or not) via Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms. THIS. IS. FINE.

Premise: It’s 2022, and the Earth is wrecked. The oceans are dying, there’s year-round heat and humidity thanks to greenhouse gases (a.k.a. that pesky “climate change”), and because of overpopulation, pollution and depleted resources, everywhere is a third-world country and everyone is homeless—which at least evens things up, we guess. Oh, wait, there’s still the 1 percenters who’ve built little condo castles for themselves, where they tower above the unwashed proletariat, play video games and enjoy rare delicacies such as steak, strawberries and Scotch. For everyone else, it’s crackers, baby—and Soylent Corp. is there to provide! When you’re not being scooped up into riot-patrol garbage trucks or euthanizing yourself to the tunes of Beethoven and archival footage of Bambi and babbling brooks, you’re definitely in the market square snapping up the new “superfood from the sea,” soylent green wafers. Detective Frank Thorn (Charlton Heston), who has never known any world other than this, also thinks things are fine and dandy—until his elderly pal Sol (Edward G. Robinson) lets him in on a little secret that gives the phrase “eat the rich” a whole new meaning!
What came true? Hold on while we finish our bottle of Café Chai Soylent “meal replacement” drink. Wait, is that a hair?

LOGAN’S RUN (1976)
Premise: At some point, we blew it all up, and the human race now lives in fancy domed cities powered by the sea and run by an invasive supercomputer named SIRI (this is not a typo). All of the domers are young, sexy bohemians who enjoy the ultimate slacker life in giant malls that feature everything from laser plastic surgery to sultry sex workers who are delivered faster than anything from Amazon Prime. The catch, of course, is that you have to kill yourself in the mass-suicide ritual of Carrousel when you turn 30; otherwise, Sandman Michael York will laser-blast your perfect little body to bits. The one hope for “runners” who don’t buy into the culty game is escaping to Sanctuary, a mythical place where you can actually grow old (yay?)—even if it means living in the crumbling Capitol ruins with about 80 million pussycats. Do we really need to add the grab ’em line?
What came true? Gen Z and millennials have had it up to HERE with the older crowd and aren’t about to toddle off into the malls quietly. Some type of revolution is clearly afoot, and we wholly support it! Just remember that Gen X, old as we are, can still be useful as the creators of your favorite programming, Rick and Morty and Bob’s Burgers. So please, just let us vape our legal cannabis in peace because science makes sense, family doesn’t. (That line reads better when you’re lit, btw.)

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