UncreativeName’s review published on Letterboxd :
Things to Come presents an interesting old fashioned idea that the future will be brighter and more prosperous when we allow science, reason and interconnectedness drive us forward. That the impulse of violence and a focus of building up weapons to conquer robs us of the ability to achieve out fullest as a society. Science and togetherness will be a cure for all of societies ills. It is interesting to see this as a work of fiction from this modern era. Back then they also saw the immediate future as a type of pending dystopia, but they still had the belief to look past it to see how it could sprout a utopia. Unlike today where we can't see past the dystopia or take the utopia as just another type of dystopia. On it's face it is quite the noble idea. Altruism and advancement remains a worthy goal even if our believe in it has radically been skewed since the film was made. Even if it is too simplistic and naive that going from one extreme to the other doesn't provide just another set of problems. And that is what makes Things to Come so fascinating to me. It doesn't hide from any of those disparities.
Like how Wings Over the World sets out to bring upon a unification for all people, but does so by force of strength upon others that don't agree with them and cling to individuality. In order to achieve peace they form a collective where making progress is the only thing that matters but they do so without a chance to achieve an inner peace with a relentless push forward. Or how they create modern structures which use natural lighting and ending the age of windows in an ode to be environmentally friendly while they destroy destroy the environment and reshape the Earth to achieve it. All these contractions are sitting right there to be understood, but the film itself doesn't even seem to acknowledge them. It isn't like it suppresses them and it can't be blind to them since they are right out there to be seen. But instead it's aim seems to really convince you this age of science and humanity is much more important so you kind of turn a blind eye to the means and the pitfalls because of the ends it will achieve.
And that is really the downfall of Things to Come because it makes sure it tells you exactly in no uncertain terms what it is thinking and what it wants you to take away from it. Characters don't converse or speak as much as they are constantly at work with didactic speeches which explains the overall message of the film. It leaves nothing to the imagination and it summarizes it's point of view as often as possible and does so right away from the first frame. It becomes exhausting to be constantly told what you should be getting from a film at every single turn. Some elements of the film haven't aged particularly well too. Calling the town the story focuses on as Everytown is a bit of cornball storytelling that you kind of roll your eyes at nowadays. And even for an older film looking ahead decades the idea of the costume design of the future is rather gaudy. But the thing that doesn't feel like it has aged is the special effects and set designs.
The old school cinematic tricks of miniatures, rear projection and superimposed images don't feel dated at all. The bombing scenes of the town are effective at seeing this town being torn apart by explosions as structures fall and the chaos of people trying to run away and the dead piling up alongside the rubble. And seen from the future it offers up a cryptic view of the same real life event that would befall London in WWII making it even more effective with agreeing with it's viewpoint. The design for the futuristic planes is also quite interesting with a sleek and yet non-menacing design. But it is the production design of the future which is the best part of the entire film. It's view of the futuristic city is quite awe inspiring. The scope of the set piece and the detail nature of everything from the layout to the tech is something that certainly makes you take notice. There is a simplicity to how things look yet also with an elegance of the design and an aspirational element to how it functions. And all of that helps to give Things to Come it's charm as an interesting document to how people thought about and conceived the future during this time. Even if it has giant narrative and storytelling pitfalls.