Things to Come

Things to Come is a 1936 movie adaptation of the book, written by H.G. Wells. This movie continues Wells’ tradition of using powerful science-fiction stories to critique politics. Things to Come focuses on the possibility of war, and the devastating effect it will have for the next century, on England and the world.

There is one powerful scene that can be used as metaphor for the 20th Century till, and beyond, 1936. During the early stages of the war, an enemy pilot who is gassing the country is shot down, and then is promptly attended to by the protagonist, John Cabal. They bemoan the necessity for battling each other, and the enemy eventually dies of gas poisoning, after giving away his gas mask to a young girl whose family he might have killed. This scene exemplifies the rapid rise of the modern state in the 20th century. The state had so much power and influence that they could send ordinary men into battle without their consent and desire. After the carnage of the First World War, the power of the state continued to increase as it controlled economic aims for revival. The movie reflects this increasing power, as years into the future the only widely available goods are weapons, rather than consumer goods.

5 thoughts on “Things to Come

  1. It is interesting that gases and gas masks played such a role in the film. Many leading into WWII, especially the French, believed that a new war would use many of the same tactics as WWI, namely gas. In the end, WWII did not see a huge use of gases as a weapon against other troops, as seen in the film. Gas in WWII was used in the Holocaust. This distinction is important as it demonstrates the fine line between weapons as a means of protection and weapons as a means of ‘extermination’ and monstrosity.

  2. Throughout World War II, many men felt that it was their responsibility to fight, despite the fact that they had no desire to do so. The scene with the gas masks certainly emphasized this issue in a way with which audiences would be able to empathize. Throughout the film, the war continues for so long that people forget why they are even fighting. There is a parallel here between the mindset of most young men fighting in the second World War, and the way that Wells and Menzies portrayed their job as a duty rather than a desire.

  3. This section of the film seemed to exemplify the unity that the common soldiers felt for each other during World War One. Events like the Christmas truce of 1914 show us the feelings that the common soldier had for each other. These men felt that they were being lead to slaughter by the commanders on each side. Men on both sides felt more of a bond with each other then with the generals on there respective side. The relationship between Cabal and the flier seem to show us the common bond these soldiers had with each other.

  4. This scene is interesting because it highlights a general theme throughout the movie: the devastating destructive potential of airpower. In 1909 H.G. Wells wrote a book titled “The War in the Air,” where he predicted the complete destruction of human civilization due to the destructive power that could one day be harnessed through aircraft. Although this story ended up being more closely related to the fighting of WWII than WWI, there were many air theorists at the time who believed that airplanes, or zeppelins for that matter, would eventually develop into something that would ultimately destroy humanity. Towards the beginning of the film there was an elaborate and destructive seen that depicted the carnage of a typical air raid.

  5. I saw this scene much more a moment in the life of a soldier. I think that the director plays off the psychology of war and the effects on the individual. At the same time I do agree that the film exemplifies the rise of the modern state in the futuristic progression of war, however at the same time denounces it as a poor change. I wish that you had explored and explained the topic of state controlled economics more, I think it would have made a good follow up to compare to the soldiers’ plight.

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