A dystopian future in films - just for entertainment?
Last week I decided to watch the film Divergent, (and the next day was so addicted, I absolutely had to watch part two: Insurgent). In this action-packed movie, the remaining population that have survived a devastating war are separated into groups, or ‘factions’, depending on their main personality traits (honesty, bravery, intelligence, selflessness and peacefulness). Similarly, the huge hit series The Hunger Games shows people divided into districts that each produce their own resources for the dictator state, ‘The Capitol’. In both films, these groups are created to maintain peace between the citizens and the state, and to increase productivity.
Although this may not be the most likely future that awaits us, there are plenty of apocalyptic possibilities that are repeatedly shown in modern-day films (skipping over the bloodthirsty zombie stories). Take, for example, the film Elysium that portrays an extreme separation of rich and poor, where the wealthiest people live on a sort of satellite outside of Earth, where there is no disease and no imperfection. All the other humans live in overpopulated slums on what remains of our dirty planet, all resources being exploited for the good of the rich. Then we have the brilliant Wall-E, where humans have similarly left Earth to live on a space-vessel, this time leaving no humans behind, but instead piles of waste on a polluted planet. So it’s the responsibility of robots like adorable Wall-E to try and clear away the destructive human damage. Next there’s the devastating disease that wipes out almost everyone in I Am Legend, or the totalitarian rule in V for Vendetta, where inhabitants of the United Kingdom are spied on by surveillance. These are just a few of the dark possibilities we can see in modern-day futuristic films, of course not forgetting the frequent success of world-dominating robots!
So what is the purpose of these countless dystopian and often depressing films? Firstly, they can of course be extremely entertaining and exciting. We see a different world to what we know and often get to watch mankind fight against extinction - far more exciting than the portrayal of a perfect future would be. Secondly, these films can also be thought provoking and can encourage us to think about how we behave and what possible consequences this behaviour could have on our planet. Sometimes they also highlight aspects of our current life that we are perhaps in denial about, or underestimate. For example, how the gap between the richest and poorest in the world is already staggeringly high and increasing. Or how much waste is created every day around the world, or how online surveillance from certain governments is constantly tightening.
Although these films might be predominantly made for entertainment, they are often more than just this. So maybe it’s time to take note of the message behind the special effects and try to avoid a similar future!