Starring Raymond Massey, Edward Chapman, Ralph Richardson, Margaretta Scott, Cedric Hardwicke, Maurice Braddell, Sophie Stewart, Derrick De Marney, Ann Todd, Pearl Argyle, Kenneth Villiers
Directed by William Cameron Menzies
Expectations: Moderately high.
[There are spoilers for the ending and stuff like that in Paragraph 4 & 5. Sorry.]
Things to Come feels like the 2001: A Space Odyssey of its day. The film brings speculative fiction to life through thoughtful, imaginative ideas, instead of the ray guns and aliens that Hollywood usually likes to define science fiction by. Things to Come also doesn’t follow a traditional narrative, instead it plays almost like a dramatized history lesson of a possible future (complete with fantastic montages to cover broad gaps in time). There are characters who appear throughout the film, but I found that following their personal stories wasn’t necessary or all that interesting. They were by far the weak link, as I was much more intrigued by the broad struggles of the world presented in the film, and what the characters’ actions meant to human civilization as a whole.
Yes, Things to Come — a film made 77 years ago and less than 10 years after the introduction of sound to cinema — is such an ambitious film that it contains thoughtful social commentary; wild, imaginative fantasy; and groundbreaking production design. The fact that this isn’t the first film to do such things is a testament to our ability as humans to imagine, design and think our way around our limitations. But this also proves one of the film’s prescient thoughts, delivered to us by an elderly grandfather early in the film. He examines an “advanced” 1940s toy and scoffs, wondering if the children would be better off with the simple wooden toys of his era. Convenience and technology are nice when you’ve earned it, but they shouldn’t immediately overwrite the old ways.