Thoughts on Things to Come...

with some suprising similarities to... The Jetsons !

In our group, we viewed this film and the animated movie,The Jetsons (see our review), two films that on the surface would appear to be complete opposites in terms of mood, tone, theme, and genre. Yet both contained future visions so in that sense, they were worthy of comparison.

Neither film really dealt with the issue of computer-mediated communication technologies per se. But since a recurring theme in examining the social impact of these technologies is that they represent a trend toward a world in which human interaction is increasingly replaced by further mechanization and automation, we still found the themes contained in these movies relevant to our discussion on virtual communities.

While The Jetsons was billed as a "children's" movie (based on the Saturday morning cartoon) and Things to Come was a serious and dramatic indictment of war with a critique of scientific methodology, there were social statements presented in each that spoke to the impact of technology upon society. Both shared a vision of technology as something "cold and impersonal." Both showed technology as displacing workers through an increase in mechanized productivity. Both had common themes which portrayed human beings trying to insert a human element to a technological world. And finally, both offered an optimistic vision of how future generations would be the ones to grapple with "technology gone mad." Below are some of our thoughts on Things to Come and some additional observations on this film as compared to The Jetsons

Things to Come, produced in 1936, and written and directed by H.G. Wells, attempts to suggest a future world, based on the outcome of war. Unlike most movies of this time period, war is not glorified. In fact, audiences are allowed to see dead and maimed victims of war. However, the enemy remained unidentified during all circumstances of war.

I found the women in the film to be strong characters, also unusual for this time period. Through the futuristic journey, women developed a sense of their own power and took an active part in the resolution of the film.

Things to Come was a very entertaining film, although the plot wasn't that easy to follow at certain points. The Christmastime cheer in the initial scenes was offset by dire foreshadowings of war. After the not-so-subtle intimations of impending doom, it was not surprising to see tanks and fighter planes later dominating the landscape. Although the city being attacked was called "Anytown", and the enemy was not specifically named, Anytown sure seemed a lot like London, and the enemy could easily have been Germany.

This Anytown goes through two more transformations in the film. The post-war town looks as if it was part of the Middle Ages, and the ultra-modern future city looks like something out of the Jetsons.

Things to Come had many similarites with The Jetsons despite the different time periods in which the two movies were made. Both of these movies presented examples of future societies with technological advances. Some of the interesting comparisons are as follows:

  • Mechanization: Both of these movies present future societies in which everything appears to be run by one large factory. These factories are larger than present day factories and have no people working in them. In The Jetsons George is the only human who works in the factory, with the important job of pushing the start button. Things to Come shows a few people around the factory, but they are not doing any work. These factories do not seem to have a function other than representing technology.
  • Use of natural resources: Even in the future, societies, as presented in these movies, will rely on natural resources like metals and fuel. In The Jetsons Spacely Sprockets needed metal in order to make parts. These parts seem to have no apparent uses and are only produced in order to make money. A few examples of using natural resources exist in Things to Come . In the post-war society, the people need materials and fuel to build and fly planes. However, in the futuristic 2036 society, the factory and its materials are not as significant. Machines are used to drill for resources, which are not identified.
  • Music: The music in Things to Come was more meaningful than Tiffany's love songs in The Jetsons . The music set the obvious tones throughout the movie. The Christmas scenes at the beginning were interrupted with military or march songs. The upper-class society wants to celebrate and to ignore the fact that the world is on the brink of war. The music does not allow the audience to ignore this fact. The music in The Jetsons , however, while possibly appealing to a young audience, tended to be annoying.
  • Technology: Both movies create futuristic societies which use people movers and communication screens. Mass communication increases with the advent of telecommunication screens and devices. Technology is everywhere in The Jetsons . However, in Things to Come , there are not as many examples of technological innovations. This movie does use the idea of science and technology as a force which has the power and drive to rule the world.
  • Space: The Jetsons has an entire society living in space. Everyone lives on space stations and travels in spaceships. In Things to Come , there are more advanced airplanes not spaceships. However, at the end, two young people are sent to fly near the moon. Instead of a space ship, these people travel in a space gun bullet which resembles modern space shuttles.

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This document was created and is maintained by the Virtual Communities group in Howard Besser's ILS 604 class (Winter 1996).