Lesser Known Dystopian Films Relevant For Today - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Lesser Known Dystopian Films Relevant For Today

Dystopia is today.
As pointed out in our Lessor Known Dystopian Novels article, we are now living in, what may have just a few years ago been considered, something of a dystopian society. Covid-19, Trump, Brexit, global warming and a whole host of other worldwide problems and conflicts means life in 2021 is, perhaps, not the rosy existence we might have thought it would be, what with all the technological advancements of the last 50 years that should've made our lives much easier and humanity a more closer community. Unfortunately that is not at all the case. We appear to be more divided than ever, with many so confused by varying sources of dis/information it's hard to know what's right and what's wrong. Perhaps it's no surprise that some just pick a side and go with their flow, blindly believing everything they are told rather than thinking for themselves - case in point, the insurrection in Washington and storming of Congress which was fueled by completely unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, but claims that nevertheless are repeated again and again with conviction to an increasingly incensed fan base who have long given up questioning these "alternative facts".

Filmmakers have long turned to the dystopian genre to depict their vision for our potential future, and many have tried a variety of different strategies resulting in classics like Planet Of The Apes, Brazil, Blade Runner, Silent Running, RoboCop and even The Matrix, but there are a whole host of lessor know movies which are equally worthy of your time. Ones that, given our current global circumstances, have taken on more relevance than when first produced. This article hopes to shine some light on a few...

Southland Tales
It's not easy to enjoy Southland Tales, and the negative reception it received upon release in 2006 (with one reviewer stating it to be "about the biggest, ugliest mess I've ever seen") is hard to argue against. But thematically, Southland Tales is scarily on-point now. Richard Kelly (he of Donnie Darko fame) sets his alternate history tale against a backdrop of a run-riot version of a Patriot Act-like surveillance bill. Post World War III and the destruction of much of Texas, the USA is keeping a much closer eye on its citizens; attempts to censor the internet, requirements of additional id to perform everyday tasks (like voting) and a shift to cut ties with the rest of the world and end any foreign dependency by using American only resources are all fueled by esoteric political rage, with a society not knowing what's real and what may be "fake news" or alternative facts. With a cast including Dwayne Johnson and Justin Timberlake, it's perhaps not surprising that much of the dialogue fails to deliver, but with correct predictions of the slowing of the Earth’s axis and an effort to sink an election involving a relationship with a porn star, Southland Tales will leave you unsure how much is fact and how much is fiction - rather like the world we live in today.

Death Race 2000
The great Roger Corman, never knowingly over-budget, has produced and directed films that range from cult classics to truly terrible pictures. Death Race 2000 fits firmly in both categories. Bombing upon release in 1975 (with Roger Ebert awarding it zero stars), Death Race 2000 found a cult following thanks to the eighties boom in VHS rental and the inclusion of a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone among the ensemble. What Corman predicts here is the explosion of reality TV, and the twisting of its genre to a nihilist, death-obsessed audience looking for escapism from their very real-world problems. Set in a United States where its government has been restructured into a totalitarian regime under martial law, and their leader, only known as Mr President, is obsessed with the ratings, Death Race 2000 now feels more relevant than ever. Then when you factor in that today live streaming your own suicide has taken place, and we live in a society that has been pushed to the limits from a ravaging pandemic, seeing hospitals close to having to choose who receives treatment, you may be left feeling this darkly comical reality TV competition is looking more like a potential mid-season replacement for the coming year!

The Day The Earth Caught Fire
In a very different vein and tone to the previous two films on this list, 1961's The Day The Earth Caught Fire (which we revisited in depth here) arrived against a Cold War backdrop and the very real daily threat of destruction through thermonuclear apocalypse. Change that premise to an over reliance on fossil fuels and the excessive demands we continue to place on our overly populated planet and this film feels like a foretelling of a potentially quite possible, very near future as Earth continues to heat up. It's a sober production that will stay with you, thanks in no small part to the clever cinematography of the day and the tinted lenses and matt paintings depicting the desolate cities and skylines. You'll find similarities in those scenes, specifically the orange hued skylines, with the horrific images that came out of Australia this time last year as the states and territories there, quite literally, caught fire.

The Airzone Solution
Unless you have a copy you'll likely struggle to get hold of this 1993 British dystopian thriller from the pen of Big Finish's Nicholas Briggs, but it's worth trying to track down if you can and not just if you're a Doctor Who fan. Yes, The Airzone Solution (which we looked back at here) features no less than four actors who had previously played the Doctor and was released in Doctor Who's 30th anniversary year, but it's not really Who-in style (although it would perhaps not necessarily feel out of place within the current Chibnall era of the series) rather it's a mature environmental thriller about pollution, with an equally mature political message. Instead of the pandemic of today (or, perhaps, in addition to), over industrilisation has led to a filtration mask being necessary to breath the planet's air. Instead of taking steps to reverse any capitalist policies, in what would be the obvious sensible effort to save the environment and curb emissions, there is an alternative solution proposed. A solution which you can quite imagine the Tory government of Great Britain voting in favour of because one of their donors runs the company.

Watch The Airzone Solution and you'll never grumble about wearing a mask to the supermarket again!

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