Retrospective Film Review: Things To Come

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