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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.[1]

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:

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:

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:


  1. The novel also provided the title for an episode of Lost and the closing sequence of Caprica, amongst other Shout Outs in popular culture.
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