As things stand now, the future of the world is bleak.
The oceans are rising, heating up and bringing along with them a seemingly inevitable doom we must all face sooner or later.
Not at all surprising then that film fans can see two films that take on that gloom and doom future in theaters right now. Those films are “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Disney’s “Tomorrowland.” Before I continue, I’d like to dispel any ideas that the rest of this piece indicates any sort of significant dislike for “Mad Max: Fury Road” as a whole. In fact, I’d consider “Mad Max: Fury Road” one of the best films I’ve seen all year.
In my opinion, both movies are quality films. That being said, “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Tomorrowland” project vastly different visions for the future.
In “Mad Max”, the immediate world has become a wasteland of sand and salt which showcases the complete disintegration of civilization. A land of struggle and despair.
However, “Tomorrowland” presents a future of collaboration and scientific progress in the face of impending doom. A land of hope, dreams…and life.
This is where I arrive at my biggest problems with a piece by Birth. Movies. Death. editor-in-chief Devin Faraci called “How FURY ROAD debunks TOMORROWLAND.” The truth is, “Fury Road” does nothing of the sort.
In fact, “Mad Max” helps reinforce the vision of the future that “Tomorrowland” says we as a people are currently accepting. We are all doomed. The beauty of the world will turn brown. The insufferable heat will make life unbearable. Most of the people will die. Only a few will survive. Those that do survive will largely suffer from starvation and thirst.
So why bother? We might as well not do anything about it because doing anything is futile. Let’s just hide in our bubbles and live our own lives.
This feeling the human race seems to have towards the future is addressed explicitly by General Nix in the over-ridiculed third act of “Tomorrowland.” Nix suggests that we’ve all accepted that lowly fate. However, at the heart of “Tomorrowland” lies a different message. Nothing is over until we say it is. That includes the fate of the world.
In his piece, Faraci implies that “Tomorrowland” director Brad Bird and his co-writers Damon Lindelof and Doc Jensen have a blindspot in their vision of the future. That “the future is never about the future. It’s always about today.” That’s exactly right. The future is about today and that includes the future “Tomorrowland” wants us to create.
Faraci states that “the shiny future of the 50’s and 60’s that Bird fetishes was the result of two things: the societal trauma of the Second World War and the looming threat of the Soviet Union.” Yes, those things are what inspired those past images of the future we as a society hoped to create. Those two things were also easily identifiable enemies. Enemies we could not ignore in our day to day lives.
Today we face a call-to-action in “Tomorrowland” to tackle an group of enemies that is visible yet much easier to hide from. Climate change and natural resource abuse are leading us to an eventual apocalypse but as soon as flood waters recede or gas prices go down so does our level of care.
“Tomorrowland” challenges us to end that apathy. “Tomorrowland” implores that we must act now. Act now against an enemy that may not lead the headlines every day but carries as deadly a threat as ever seen to man. That enemy? Seemingly imminent extinction.
What causes this Disney film’s message to resonate is that even in the midst of what seems to be certain doom in the world and in the film, something can be done. Not all is lost. The lead character Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) believes that, the determined champion of Tomorrowland named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) believes that and all “Tomorrowland” asks is that you believe too. Believe and then act.
What could possibly better describe a future about today than a call-to-action to do something about the future today? To do something now. To dream and work towards a better future…a better future for all. Not just for those those who were able to survive the apocalypse in a barren wasteland like in “Mad Max.”
This is where “Mad Max” and “Tomorrowland” truly separate. The world of “Mad Max: Fury Road” has accepted the apocalypse and is now fighting against the tyranny that has risen from the ashes. People are fighting and surviving in a gas guzzling wasteland after so many people and so much of their world has perished. However, “Tomorrowland” refuses to accept the apocalypse. The option of the apocalypse never exists thus the world continues to exist. What’s more hopeful and inspiring than the dream of saving the world when the world is still worth fighting for? Nothing.
A centerpiece of Faraci’s argument is that, in this case, the modern dystopia of “Fury Road” provides the more hopeful future. However, Dystopia is hopeful only when the world the dystopia takes place in has crumbled. The optimism “Tomorrowland” wants to instill in us is an optimism that will hopefully lead to ideas that won’t let the world crumble at all. Hoping when there is nowhere to go but up is easier than hoping when hope seems unnecessary or childish. The hope in “Tomorrowland” provides a challenge. A challenge so many seem unable to embrace or accept.
Faraci is correct in that “Mad Max: Fury Road” is a story about survival. Survival after the fact. The fight by Furiosa and Max to topple Immortan Joe and his reign over the people of the wasteland is admirable, unique and inspiring. The emotional effect this story of female empowerment and courage cannot and should not be ignored. In fact, a story like “Mad Max: Fury Road” should be celebrated for its attack on antiquated gender roles and its depiction of a female heroine.
That being said, Faraci is incorrect that the place “Tomorrowland” as a film wishes to create is a “paternal control state, one where everything is provided and the problems are gone.” The whole reason the world in “Tomorrowland” needs saving is because that original “paternal control state” and technological utopia has failed. The land that calls itself Tomorrowland needs saving and free ideas as much as the world does.
General Nix’s vision of Tomorrowland as a place is as antiquated as the gender roles “Fury Road” seeks to destroy. The new Tomorrowland doesn’t have to follow the rules and norms of everyday society because hopefully the new architects of Tomorrowland will erase any need for those societal divisions we encounter today. New ideas create new ways of thinking. Hopefully, those new ways of thinking finally allow the wonders of Tomorrowland to open up to the world as the creators first intended.
The Faraci’s of the world can have their dystopian films that say “Yeah, it’s tough…but you can get through this.”
As for me, I’d like to avoid the “tough.” As Faraci says himself, the futurism of the past was a “future of avoidance.”
Much like the commies and Nazis of the past, let’s beat the threats of today in climate change and the apocalypse.
Let’s dream of a future…together.
“Tomorrowland” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” are now playing in theaters all across the Austin area. Complete theater listings and showtimes can be found here.