There is always a risk when you try to predict the future in your movies, especially when the technology at the time for actually showing off the future is a bit limited.
While they may have seemed futuristic at the time, some of our favorite movies have pretty funny or just completely outdated looks at what might have come. WatchMojo shows us 10 examples, and while I've got my own thoughts on this topic and how it's been treated here, check out the video for yourself:
What's actually impressive about a lot of these are the things they did get right. For example, the technology has finally caught up with the science fiction and we've got high quality video chat that allows us to converse with people all over the world from devices that fit in our pockets. While certain elements of this in Back to the Future II and Blade Runner do seem silly, they are grounded in reality enough to not seem that far-fetched (in fact, a better example from Back to the Future II that really missed the mark is the dehydrated pizza, but that's a different story). I actually think the fax machine example isn't the best one, especially with how prevalent fax machines still are in 2015 (Really, we have all the technology in the world, and somehow we're still dialing a number to send a piece of paper). I'll also bet the makers of all of these films couldn't have predicted 30 or more years later that we would not only still have vinyl records, but that they would be making a comeback.
Blade Runner got the payphone part of the equation wrong (and both movies got flying cars wrong — as did many others), but it works for the world that's been built. In some ways, Blade Runner is like an alternate version of our current reality, which is partly why it's still such an enjoyable film. In a lot of ways this is why Alien is still so good. Yes, the technology is dated, but it's weathered and beat-down in a way that allows us to suspend disbelief at just how old it really is. In fact, this was beautifully recreated in the game Alien: Isolation:
The wireframe examples are spot-on, and it's one of the dangers of writing something in your film that you don't really have the technology to pull off. If you're going to be dealing with spaceships or future cities, you have to make sure you get the post budget or have enough connections to actually pull off something that's photo-realistic. We're in a time now when the good CG can be indistinguishable from reality, so if you're trying to cut corners it's one of the first things that's going to date your movie. This is one of the reasons why I think even though some of the movies got the future a bit wrong, they still manage to entertain us because they're so grounded in the worlds that have been created, and they were forced to use lots of practical effects that have stood up better through the years than some of the earlier CG in the late 90s and early 2000s.
For example, while the new Fox show Minority Report certainly doesn't have the budget of the Steven Spielberg film, it's significantly newer and we've got far more advanced computer technology than we had back in 2002 when the movie was released. Even though it's based on a previously-created world, and they do have some money behind it, the show is likely going to feel dated long before the film does, probably due to the way it's shot, but also because the movie did a fantastic job combining practical and CG elements (something we're seeing less of as projects movie to completely CG worlds):
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fLl-DMzxrk
And to add some further fuel to the fire, trailers can actually do a pretty great job dating something that might otherwise not feel that way. Below we've got two versions of the trailer for the film, the first is one of the original trailers, and the second is a fan-made trailer from Taylor Chan:
So what's the real lesson in all of this? Is it to avoid the future at all costs if you don't have the budget (or even if you do)? In my opinion, I think the more grounded films have a better chance of being watchable in the years to come even if they get certain technologies wrong. The right practical effects at the right time can also be a benefit — one of the reasons the space battles of the original Star Wars films still hold up today. You may very well disagree with that, and there are likely cases that don't work, but if you're trying to create something that takes place in the future or on another world and you don't have the resources to pull it off, there's a good chance it's going to feel cheap and take your audience right out of the story. Good acting or a great story can make people forgive a lot (one of the reasons so many of the films above are still loved by so many people), but knowing the limits of what you have at your deposal can save you a ton of hurt in the end. On the other hand, if you're trying to make a B movie on purpose — have at it.
On a side note, not to pick on WatchMojo, but we've still got plenty of professional cameras that are just as big as the one from Death Race 2000, and they're being used on some of the biggest budget projects. The Alexa M, for example, has been used countless times in exactly that way, with a kitted out body on or near the shoulder and the larger recording/processing part worn as a backpack. But this video is meant for a mainstream audience, so I guess nitpicking is a little unfair...
What do you think about the video above and do you agree or disagree with any of the examples? Which futuristic-looking technologies do you feel are more dated than those above?
So what you're saying is that films that use the best of current technology mixed with some art department creativity isn't good enough - filmmakers should just travel to the future and make sure to get advanced technology to feature in their sci-fi films. This is the most nit-picky, worthless shit I've seen. Let's take these films completely out of context and make fun of their technology. If you don't think this happens on a recurring basis, you are deluding yourself. What will people of 2050 think of sci-fi films today? As always this could be summed up in one sentence: It's the story that counts.
May 29, 2015 at 8:57AM
Lighten up !
May 31, 2015 at 7:00AM
"..one of the reasons the space battles of the original Star Wars films still hold up today."
Oh no, that happened a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. We're actually the future. That's why those scenes still hold up...
May 29, 2015 at 9:09AM
I think the space battles of the first Star Wars film look terrible for the most part, but I definitely think that Empire and Jedi still hold up. The Battle of Endor, in my opinion, is still the single best space battle ever put to film. I don't think anything else has come close.
May 29, 2015 at 9:27AM, Edited May 29, 9:27AM
i am sorry Joe, but this is one of most discusting contributions ever.
what is the point in commenting that an iPhone is a better communication than the public video phone the bladerunner is using? It is worthless critisism - so many years later. Those comments should have been made at the time of the screening, not now.
The downgrading of people and pictures so many later is an easy win. Such a contribution has no value. It is sad it got attention on NFS.
May 29, 2015 at 10:52AM, Edited May 29, 10:52AM
I could not continue watching until the end. Did they mention "1984"?
Big brother is watching us and we all contribute in the social media.
May 29, 2015 at 10:57AM, Edited May 29, 10:57AM
Lee Van Cleef's mobile phone in Escape From New York:-
May 29, 2015 at 12:54PM, Edited May 29, 12:54PM
All sci-fi is speculative, about the "what if" and the technology is probably dated by the time the movie's released so I just go with it. I love Back to the Future II and Blade Runner because they try to guess what it might be like in the future. Create a world with cool gadgets then let the actors play in it. I love alien because the ship seems real even with some outdated electronics.
Modern sci-fi uses super fancy computer displays with awesome graphics and transparent displays. They probably got it wrong too. Hollywood always gets things wrong. (Seriously, who wants a transparent display?)
I'm currently watching a classic sci-fi show called Space 1999. Some of the sets are wonderful but others are really bad. It's a good show. They've put enough work into creating a world and good stories that it's easy to suspend disbelief and enjoy. I made a movie called Space Trucker Bruce (on YouTube). I didn't have a budget but I tried to make it fun even though it's got some rather cheesy gadgets. The point was to create a world and hope the audience finds it fun if not completely believable.
May 29, 2015 at 2:21PM
That's actually one of my biggest pet peeves about today's sci-fi, everyone seems to use these blue (or green) transparent displays with a bunch of overcrowded geometric shapes and small text everywhere. Sometimes they are holographic.
I think a safe bet for the future is to just think about things that are practical, possibly fun and to keep in mind that people are inherently lazy. Transparent displays are not practial for daily use. They would just be distracting when trying to do stuff on them. Nobody wants to hang their arm out in front of them to use a touch screen display that's mounted upright all day long. That's tiring. Phones and tablets work because your hand or fingers fall on top of them. I think that if filmmakers just spent a little more time thinking through some of these things, they might stand the test of time better. But then we won't know until the future happens.
I do think there are some things which are timeless. A certain amount of physical controls should exist. So long as the human body has hands and feet there will be things where an actual physical button, lever, knob, dial, switch or pedal will be useful. Even if you can also control those things from a trouch screen. We have new interfaces we use more today but we haven't abandoned our physical keyboard or mouse.
You also don't need to spend time overthinking things which are already great. Take the pencil for example. Sure we have mechanical pencils, but we also still have old regular pencils because they just work. They're simpler and even easier than mechanical pencils so we still have a use for them. I wouldn't bat an eye if I saw one far in the future. The same is true of the t-shirt. You can change the material and surface design on it, cut holes in it and so on, but the physical structure of a t-shirt is pretty timeless becaue it's super practical and simple.
There are some things I disagree with in that video. Their are much better examples they could have used and honestly the whole simple geometric maps doesn't phase me a bit. Not everything has to be some realistic 3D rendering. Again, think about laziness and practicality. Even if not laziness than just time constraints. So you do a simple 3D render of the geometry of the terrain. Just because you're in the future, that doesn't mean everything has to look futuristic. If something works for the purpose it's intended, especially if it's not meant to last (like a simple sketch on a napkin) than does it really need to be super complex and futuristic?
Lastly. A good movie is never about the effects, it's about the story. The struggles of the characters. The effects are there to help tell the story. They aren't the story themselves. Even if the guess about the future is horribly wrong, the movie can still be great and entertaining if the story is good and it's executed with some degree of passion.
May 29, 2015 at 9:47PM
That show looks like it was made by somebody who completely missed the satire of the movie and was just like, "What the hell man, why'd you get rid of the crime predictions? That'd be super handy." I facepalmed so hard throughout the whole thing.
May 30, 2015 at 2:50AM, Edited May 30, 2:50AM
Awww man...I love the S.Q.U.I.D. from Strange Days!!
May 30, 2015 at 3:26PM
I do too. I want one. Maybe by the year 1999, we'll be able to buy one of them.
May 31, 2015 at 7:05AM
I completely disagree with the comments about the VID-Phon in Bladerunner, given that public phone tech is designed to be cheap and indestructible and that's exactly what the public phone in Bladerunner looks like. Something that could take a beating and still keep working.
May 30, 2015 at 3:32PM
I also disagree with the "Mother" computer in Alien, as they are on a heavy duty interstellar mining ship that could easily be 50 or 60 years old, so using the original old tech from when the ship was built would be completely normal.
If you've ever seen documentaries on the American and Russian nuclear defense technology, you will see equipment that looks incredibly old still being used today because it is literally bomb-proof and still functions correctly without error.
There are a lot of stupid assumptions made by the creators of this WatchMojo.com video... :-b
May 30, 2015 at 3:51PM
"so using the original old tech from when the ship was built would be completely normal"
Right but their point is, that old ship was build many decades in the future from where we are now, so it's not likely to have a room filled with little lights and an old 4:3 CRT terminal screen. That said, I personally think it's cool.
I guess if we wanted to stretch our imaginations we could view it like a server room where all those little lights are part of individual servers.
May 30, 2015 at 10:59PM
Johnycab is not dated. It would be an improvement over 99% of cab drivers I've ever had.
I look forward to a future with Johnycabs!!
May 30, 2015 at 9:38PM
Yeah, totally. ...and how many times have you heard Siri say, "I'm sorry, I didn't understand your destination..."...etc... It's also silly partly because it was supposed to be.
June 7, 2015 at 7:24PM
This video was so annoying because it's tone, it reminds me of this article. Movies only work with a certain suspension of disbelief...almost all movies...and people just come across as idiots when they laugh at things that were not funny at the time or meant to be. Sure, there are plenty of things in bad movies to laugh at (you know, Plan 9 From a outer Space, and all the movies MST makes fun of...etc...), but modern audiences need to understand historical context. It's like laughing at a Shakespeare play and saying, OMG, they talk so funny!
People just sound small minded when they laugh at little things like this.
Oh, that scene where Dallas is talking to Mother...the LEDs are pretty weak because they don't *do* anything...but I think that scene totally holds up...the sound design makes it feel different than both the time period it was created or even today.
June 7, 2015 at 7:34PM
For example: "Death Race 2000". You make fun of the Camera Size ,yet have No Problem with the Ridiculous Caped Black Spandex Character being interviewed on the Staircase?
You completely miss the point in almost every example you cite in your Showcase of your vast Sophistication "Cutting Edge" Knowledge.
To Claim you know what is out of Date by using the So Tired 10 best/worst/stupidest/Funniest/10 most whatever Formula is a Laugh. The Internet is being Completely overwhelmed by these Useless "List" sites. Got nothing to write about. Have to fill space - "Oh ,let's do another 10 of the... List". So tired.
Rather than talk about past Creativity how about coming up with some of your own ideas ? Even Once.
June 10, 2015 at 6:33AM, Edited June 10, 6:33AM
So on further examination of your Cynical Video it seems you must be from the Anachronistic Ted Turner School of "Let's Colorize everything".
In one of your examples,the 1st Star Wars (often worshiped as a Classic) you show the Pre Raid Briefing on the Death Star & make fun of the Graphics on the Screen. Maybe we could go back in and Re Do ALL the "Special" Effects and make them even "MORE Specialer" & Kool. Right up to your Super Groovy & ever so 2015 "Cutting Edge Baddassery". Cause like, Man in 2020 No One is EVER going to laugh at everyone's every other sentence that includes "Bad Ass" are they?
Well no -because YOU are so much Smarter than They were. And relevant.
To use a SO last week Phrase - "Get Over Yo-Sef Mr. List Maker"
June 10, 2015 at 6:44AM, Edited June 10, 6:45AM