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‘Wall-E’ and other sci-visions of doom

By Patrick Kevin Day, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Cute robots and eye-popping animation aside, Pixar‘s latest creation, “Wall-E,” is also it’s most depressing. Not because we’re forced to witness death on the level of Bambi’s mother being shot, but because of the film’s grim outlook for the future of our planet.

By the 29th century, the film predicts, our planet will be reduced to a vast wasteland of discarded junk -- uninhabitable by anything but robots and cockroaches. That leaves no real hope for our future, eh?

But all may not be lost. Because when it comes to predicting the future, Hollywood is often very grim and very wrong. Moviegoers throughout the last century were treated to a peek at all manner of horrors of what our current times would be like. (Robots run amok! Apes in an uproar!) And more often than not, they’ve been wrong. There’s still no evidence of an ape uprising.

A bad track record hasn’t stopped filmmakers from forecasting the worst for us, and it hasn’t stopped us from paying lots of money to go see these dystopic futures. Here are a few of the most off-base visions of the future that never came to pass. On Hollywood’s schedule, anyway. (Disney / PIXAR)
John Carpenter’s grim and gritty action flick “Escape From New York” (1981) predicted that by 1997, America’s crime rate would have gotten so bad that the island of Manhattan would be turned into a maximum security prison. Unfortunately, Carpenter failed to foresee the late ‘90s renewal of Manhattan, which replaced the world of “Snake” Plissken with the world of Carrie Bradshaw. ()
In “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972), the fourth film in the “Apes” series, cats and dogs had gone extinct by 1991 and humans decided to keep apes as their pets, leading to the great ape uprising in the futuristic Central City (actually the just-completed Century City). In real life, cats and dogs were alive and well in 1991, allowing the world to have the Charles Grodin-St. Bernard movie “Beethoven.” (20th Century Fox)
August 29, 1997: That’s the date predicted by co-writer-director James Cameron in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991) as the day that the complex American defense computer Skynet would declare war on humanity and launch an obliterating nuclear attack, paving the way for an army of skeletal killing machines that occasionally looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Courtesy ILM)
In 1968, director Stanley Kubrick and science fiction novelist Arthur C. Clarke predicted that by 2001, mankind would have a base on the moon and giant black monoliths would guide our evolution into cosmic beings. In real life, a manned base on the moon is still on the drawing board. ()
“Strange Days” was released in 1995, but set on New Year’s Eve of 1999, at the height of millennium madness. The film centered around a form of entertainment known as “SQUID” that involved recorded experiences piped directly into the human brain. In real life, New Year’s Eve of 1999 passed uneventfully as the dreaed Y2K bug, that scientists predicted would wipe out all computers world-wide, proved to be as made-up as the film’s brain candy entertainment. (Marie W. Wallace)
Though no date was specified in “Mad Max,” which was released in 1979, the film was set in a time “a few years from now.” In this near-future, mankind was suffering from a prolonged fuel shortage, which caused a breakdown in society. At present, the price of oil is skyrocketing, but the roads are clear -- for now at least -- of marauding biker hoardes intent on destroying society. It’s just angry suburbanites in their gas guzzling SUVs. (MGM)