Films can tell us a lot about the future. Namely, the myriad ways in how the world could possibly end.
Cinema had some colourful predictions for 2020: humanity would have to use giant robots to fight monsters (PacificRim), the Beatles would no longer exist (Yesterday), and a fourth Sharknado would happen. While none of those actually happened, 2020 was still a pretty dystopian year – and this year is not looking much better judging by the sci-fi 2021 has inspired.
Even if they’re not always accurate, futuristic films are a revealing showcase of the world’s views on issues like technology and the climate, and often spell the worst case scenario if we don’t clean up our act.
With the new year just kicking off, we took a look at a number of films set in 2021 to see what this year could possibly have in store for us. To be fair, a lot of these are pretty apocalyptic – but we made it through 2020, so what’s the worst that can happen?
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is just one of a few films that spell Earth’s demise. Before she’d helm Hustlers, Lorene Scarfaria directed this apocalyptic dramedy about two neighbours (played by Steve Carell and Keira Knightley) who venture out to find closure before an asteroid is set to destroy all life in three weeks. It’s bittersweet, if not exactly a hopeful vision of the future. At least this one also has a cute dog.
A Quiet Place
If it’s not an asteroid that wipes the planet, it may as well be aliens. In this equally dire version of 2021, dangerous creatures with extremely sensitive hearing have invaded Earth and will kill any being that makes a noise, forcing what remains of humanity to live in silence.
The Keanu Reeves-starring sci-fi flick is pretty outlandish at first glance, with its dystopian predictions made when the internet was still in its infancy, but a closer inspection reveals some subtle parallels to life today. In 2021, transferring data is no longer safe, as our information is vulnerable to large corporations. Enter Johnny, a “courier” with the ability to store sensitive data using a device in his brain. Sure, it’s zany and very ‘90s, but with constant news of data breaches and hacks, it’s fair to say that Johnny Mnemonic isn’t too far off, if a little hyperbolic.
Comedian Simon Amstell’s mockumentary is a hilarious take on the country’s relationship with veganism. Set in 2067 when the whole of the UK is vegan and eating meat (referred to as “carnism”) is outlawed, Carnage tells the revisionist history of how veganism would become the norm.
Despite only being released a few years ago in 2017, Carnage has perhaps the most eerily prophetic vision of the future. In the film’s version of 2021, climate change grows exponentially worse due to meat consumption and a Swine Flu pandemic devastates the country. Yikes.
Weathering With You
The acclaimed anime feature, Weathering With You, was an astounding success and became the highest grossing film of 2019 in Japan, but it’s also a deeply nuanced take on the climate crisis. Rather than forecast the apocalypse, the film explores how extreme weather changes might incrementally affect our everyday life. In Weathering With You, Tokyo is flooded due to never ending rainfall, dampening the morale of the entire city.
Moon Zero Two
Made in 1969, Moon Zero Two holds the crown for the longest gap between release date and 2021. In the British “moon western”, the moon is in the process of being colonised, while a greedy businessman attempts to farm precious materials from an asteroid. Honestly, we could see this happening, judging by how well we’re treating Earth right now. And though it’s not set in 2021, Ad Astra offers a strangely realistic view of what an airport on the moon might look like.
It’s not all bad news when it comes to cinema’s 2021 predictions. In the delightful Long Shot, Charlize Theron plays a former Secretary of State who successfully runs for president, while her husband (played by Seth Rogen) becomes the “First Mister”. Still, the rom-com doesn’t exactly try to be subtle with its real-life parallels, as Bob Odenkirk plays a former television star-turned-president, while Andy Serkis portrays a media mogul who attempts to sway the election. But with a happy ending and a woman president, Long Shot is definitely the most utopian portrait of 2021.