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things to come

Retrospective Film Review: Things To Come

Sunday 12 January 2014
Words Spindle

Based on H.G Wells’ novel The Shape Of Things To Come, written in 1933, William Cameron Menzie’s film is considered by many to be a landmark in British science fiction – a masterly exercise in visionary production design and a stark foreshadowing of everything from the Blitz, through viral epidemics, to a technologically-driven society obsessed with scientific advancement. 

Things To Come shares much with that other great European science fiction great – Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – certainly in scope and sociological themeology, even if Wells did write a rather scathing review of it in the New York Times in 1927, saying, “I have recently seen the silliest film. I do not believe it would be possible to make one sillier.”

Certainly the black-shirted John Cabal and his posse of techno-saviours that arrive at the obliterated Everytown (read: London) at the halfway mark and demand the surrender of all independent sovereign states with the express desire to begin a “new world order” raises, in this day and age, many an eyebrow. The first act however, greatly unsettles with When The Wind Blows-style prophecy, as the Press warning of imminent war is intercut with busy Christmas high-street preparation. Yet there is still a valid message of the dangers of a race over-reaching itself in its desire to progress that time has not dulled, and the inspiration many a celebrated sci-fi film has taken from Things To Come is noticeably clear.

Words: Ash Verjee