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Futurism as Shown Through Tom Cruise and Will Smith Movies

by Julia Vee

Have you ever noticed that Tom Cruise and Will Smith have been in a bunch of sci fi films? If not, maybe it’s just me.

One of my absolute favorite books that I have read this year is All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. For a fan of military sci-fi, this brilliant story has it all. A bloody hopeless future fighting an alien invasion on earth, in mech suits of course. The English translation is already so good, I can only imagine how good it is in the original Japanese. (The English version has a glowing intro by John Scalzi, as well.)

Imagine my delight when I heard there was a movie version. Only, it’s got a different name—Edge of Tomorrow. Now, this article is not a discussion of how the book is way better than the movie. So let’s just start with the tagline of the film poster and how it’s a great hook – “LIVE. DIE. REPEAT.” Immediately, the viewer knows this is a futuristic military film that involves…time loops.

Let’s talk about those battle suits. Gritty, bulky, and hard edged, the stripped down version of the battle suit apparently weighed 85 lbs! The amped up version with sniper rifle and rocket launcher weighed 130 lbs.

And what about those quadcopter dropships? Apparently the movie dropship design was  based on the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. Notable feature of that bird – ability to tilt its rotors to fly as either planes or choppers.

As good as Edge of Tomorrow is, it pales in comparison to Minority Report for futuristic elements. Flash back to this Spielberg film of 2002 and it still holds up for its sleek high tech vision of the future. Most interesting to me were the modes of travel:

  • Solo uncovered elevators that lift individuals up several stories;
  • Jet pods that spiral around the outer edge of the urban stretches;
  • Helicopters that are basically giant flying nautilus shapes.

Never mind the whole mind crime element, the visuals of this film really bring it home how far we are from Spielberg’s vision of how future technology could change our lives.

On to Will Smith. He’s been in a lot of scifiction, post-apocalyptic films. (And he’s in Bright, a cop film where humans live side by side with elves, orcs and other magical elements.) But we’re not going to talk about After Earth, I am Legend, or the Men in Black films.

I, Robot is set in 2035. Now keep in mind, this film is from 2004 so the writers no doubt thought thirty years was a long time away. Plenty of time for technology to shape our lives in such a dramatic fashion. But now it’s 2018. So we’re talking 17 years into the future. Very near future.

The film elements do a great job of keeping things mostly the same. Will Smith still drives a car (but he never seems to have to deal with traffic). The weaponry looks standard, and the cityscape is still recognizable. So the movie saves all of its futurism for the robots. The robots are all humanoid. They walk our dogs, nanny our children, and live with humans in their domestic capacity. The other futuristic elements are reserved for the lab/manufacturing facility. It’s ultramodern, decked out in chrome, glass and bright white walls and flooring.

And though Elon Musk predicted that our greatest threat is from AI, I think it is safe to assume that we are unlikely to have manufacturing of android armies in an urban environment. Rent is just too high.

But the lab design process rings true. I live in Silicon Valley, and I can easily stop imagine that the biotech labs of Milpitas all along the HWY 880 are housed with facilities like that of US Robotics in the film. And Musk is right, the tests of AI (on Twitter bots, etc.) reveal how they go terribly wrong with our present programming capabilities. So it seems more likely that the threat raised in I, Robot is not so much a physical army of robots threatening mankind is not so much in our future but rather, the Skynet vision of the Terminator.


And that concludes today’s Futurism as told through movies segment. Julia Vee writes about Futurism and Fiction on www.juliavee.com.