Things to Come ★★

My immediate reaction to Things to Come is essentially the same as it was to Avatar - a big budget spectacle with a too-preachy message and a fairly dull story. While I did appreciate the anthological structure to Things to Come, the stories of each of the time periods (present-day war, dystopian fiefdom, and futuristic utopia) were littered with overly dramatic, overly talkie, and overly dry characters that I really couldn't care less about, let alone the sheer horror I felt imagining having these types of people running society. Without a lick of intentional humor and a surprising lack of overt optimism until the end of the last act, the film beats the horrors of war over your head while simultaneously lauding it as an impetus for progress. The last straw of unintentional irony was the use of 'peace gas' - was H.G. Wells trying to tell us that the only solution to end war is to wage war on war itself?

All of this is not to say that the special effects were unimpressive, even if the over-reliance on them probably would have been wiser spent on characterization and fleshing out the plot of each era. The present-day war provided some wonderful property damage (even if the human toll was mostly glossed over), the air battle models and cloud effects in the middle era were intriguing, and the 5-minute prologue into the utopia era was a much needed dramatic break (even if it did feel overlong and all the build-up of the far-future manufacturing process ended up producing what was basically vinyl siding).

Things to Come is lauded by most for its story and special effects, which, for a product of its time, I can absolutely understand why. I, however, did not much care for the lack of energy in the plot and characters alike - it feels like Korda (producer) and Menzies (director) were more concerned about how the effects would end up and that the dialogue and inter-era scene structures were an afterthought. Still, besides the special effects, the film is notable for presaging WWII, its 1934 prediction of a major war occurring in 1940 was only about a year off. Let's hope its prediction of 2026 fashion is nowhere near as accurate.

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