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The Shape Of Things To Come is a 1933 Speculative Fiction novel by H. G. Wells, detailing mankind's struggles to survive and reach the future in the midst of global war and societal collapse. The novel was adapted to film in 1936, and the title (and little else) was appropriated for another sci-fi film in 1979.
Original Novel The Shape Of Things To Come
The original novel prognosticates World War II (though in the book the war lasts for a decade or more), which ends inconclusively but decimates all of civilization -- not helped by a horrific plague which nearly effaces the human populace.
Wells then envisions a benevolent One World Order which comes in and, using its monopoly on the world's surviving transportation infrastructure, begins to rebuild society into a scientific Utopia. After a century, the One World Order is peacefully overthrown, after which the utopia is apparently achieved.
The Novel provides examples of:
- After the End
- Balkanize Me: As an aftermath of the novel's version of World War Two, the effectiveness of many countries' governments to enforce their power faded in varying degrees, rendering many regions de facto autonomous.
- Divided States of America: For example Utah, where Mormonism was then declared the state religion.
- Black Shirt: Actual Fascist Italy Black Shirts are still operating some time after the second Conference at Basra in 1978.
- Exty Years From Now
- History Marches On: Subverted when the book (more or less accurately) prognosticates the start of World War II. Then double-subverted when the book's WWII goes on for over a decade and completely obliterates all of human society.
- No Bikes in the Apocalypse: Subverted in chapter 11 Europe in 1960 wherein the Diary of Titus Cobbett is mentioned, written during Cobbett's bicycle ride through the completely devastated Europe of 1958.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The book claims to be adapted from the notes of one Dr. Philip Raven.
- The Plague
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Wings Over The World.
1936 Film Things To Come
Things To Come is a 1936 film based upon the novel. Adapted for the screen by Wells himself, the film follows a concept and plot similar to the book, and is seen mostly through the eyes of cynical but visionary John Cabal (Raymond Massey) or one of his descendants (also Raymond Massey) and centered on a fictional English city called "Everytown".
The film is divided into three distinct segments of history (similar to the novel's division into discreet sections). The first, set in 1940 Everytown, juxtaposes the looming threat of war with a peaceful Christmas celebration, contrasting a bleak outlook with optimism for the future. And then the military is mobilized in response to an enemy incursion, and Everytown is devastated by bombers; the Second Great War has begun.
The war drags on for decades, plunging human society into a Mad Max-style After the End state and unleashing a deadly, contagious and incurable plague. When next we catch up with the residents of Everytown, in the then far-flung year 1970, it has become a shanty, all but overrun by plague-ridden citizens and ruled by a Corrupt Hick who has taken an extremist method for dealing with said plague-ridden citizens -- in stark contrast to a young doctor who, despite the now primitive conditions, is striving for a cure. Into this arrives a stranger: John Cabal himself, who reveals that human society has not been completely wiped out and is in the process of rebuilding itself. The Corrupt Hick, however, is interested only in holding onto his own niche of power, and so Cabal must call down his military allies on the town.
Another montage carries us farther into the future, showing mankind rebuilding his society into a shiny plastic underground city. Now, in 2036, John Cabal's equally visionary great-grandson Oswald is spearheading mankind's first expedition to the Moon. However, a radical dissident opposes the expedition on the basis that human technology and knowledge are advancing too fast (or something to that effect). The dissident's plot to stop the launch fails, and Cabal waxes on about mankind's eternal quest for knowledge. The End.
The 1936 film provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation
- After the End: Eventually morphs into a Trope Codifier for Crystal Spires and Togas.
- Cool Plane: The giant flying wings of Cabal's air force, Wings Over the World.
- Corrupt Hick: The "Chief" of Everytown in the second segment.
- Deadly Gas: Played straight during the war, but the 'gas of peace' only knocks people out, except for The Chief who conveniently dies of a heart attack.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A young man and woman are sent to start life on a new world; the seed of mankind shot into space from a huge gun. Ummm...
- Film of the Book
- Good Old Ways: The dissident, Theotocopulos, in the third segment, who opposes any and all advancement of human society, apparently purely on the basis that it is advancement.
- History Marches On: As with the novel, double-subverted: the film predicts the onset of World War II, which proceeds to go on for a couple decades.
- Identical Grandson: Raymond Massey plays multiple generations of the Cabal family tree. Other roles in the film are treated similarly.
- Infant Immortality: Averted, and hard. At the start of the film a child is marching the streets, playing Boy Soldier with his toy drum and pith helmet; after the city is bombed we see the boy among the rubble. Making it worse, he was the son of one of the main characters.
- Mood Dissonance: The opening scene showcases people preparing for a joyous holiday while placards and billboards proclaim the threat of war. Even the carols on the soundtrack have a decidedly dark cadence.
- Next Sunday AD: The first segment, set in 1940. The rest of the movie takes place Exty Years From Now.
- One Sided Battle: Justified as The Chief's decrepit biplanes are no match for Wings Over the World.
- Patrick Stewart Speech: Cabal gives one to the audience at the end of the movie.
- The Plague: The so-called "wandering sickness".
- Raygun Gothic
- Scavenger World
- Time Passes Montage: Used to link the film's three segments. The first instance is combined with a war-themed Apocalyptic Montage; the second blends with a Hard Work Montage.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Invoked almost word-for-word by The Chief concerning the plague-ridden populace. The fact that he alone thought of this is apparently what begins his rise to power.
1979 "Remake" H G Wells' The Shape Of Things To Come
With the earth rendered all but uninhabitable due to the "Robot Wars" and resultant plague, humankind has colonized the moon with a tres-70 discotastic society. Enter Omus, who has overthrown an outlying drug-mining colony and who wants to be installed as president and dictator-for-life of the human race; to this end, he crashes a robot-piloted ore ship into the moon colony, warning that drug shipments (apparently necessary for human survival, due to The Plague) will cease if he is not appeased.
There are only three people who seem to think that standing up to Omus is a good idea: John Cabal, an old colleague of the villain; his Skywalker-ish son Jason; and Jason's girl Kim, daughter of a senator. Adding to the mix is the robot pilot, whom Kim repaired and reprogrammed after the crash so as to become an ally -- and gaining the ability to teleport in the process. These four brave souls steal an experimental starship (which looks suspiciously like the USS Enterprise after being hit with a steamroller) and set out on a series of mini-adventures to stop the Evil Omus once and for all.
The 1979 film provides examples of:
- After the End: We will live on the moon.
- Brown Note: A high-frequency sonic weapon which can literally pierce your brain like a knife.
- Cow Tools
- Follow the Leader: Emboldened by... well, I'm sure you can guess.
- Heel Face Turn: the Robot Buddy, after being rebuilt by Kim.
- Face Heel Turn: Subverted
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Barry Morse from Space: 1999 as John Cabal; but Jack Palance steals the show as Omus.
- Huge Holographic Head
- In Name Only: Takes more cues from Star Wars than from its own namesake.
- Large Ham: What else can one expect from Jack Palance?
- La Résistance: Governor Nikki's little Redshirt Army
- Load-Bearing Boss: Shortly after Omus' defeat, his fortress collapses.
- Magic From Technology: after the Robot Buddy is repaired, it inexplicably develops teleportation powers.
- The Plague
- Robot Buddy
- Space Clothes