#101. Things to Come (1936)

I accidentally rented a retroactively colorized version of Things to Come off of Amazon, which added an interesting layer to — a bit of reprieve from — the experience of watching it because, having seen at this point a weirdly huge amount of content on YouTube relating to George Lucas’s own retroactive tampering with the original Star Wars trilogy, I’ve seen footage of him standing before Congress to argue against the colorization of older black and white films back in ’88. And it makes sense that this shouldn’t be done: a black and white movie is lit for black and white, makeup was applied with black and white in mind, it’s how outfits were chosen and sets were designed. So it was interesting, as I sat down with Things to Come, to see if it would look like as big a clusterfuck as one would think.

I’m still not sure if it is. The retroactively colorized Things to Come doesn’t look good, there’s definitely something cheapening about the weirdly solid colors, but I have a feeling this isn’t the sort of sci-fi classic that’s gotten many restorations over time. So maybe even black and white prints would look shoddy. I think I’d have to see this done to something like Casablanca in order to have a real idea of its alleged horrors.

things to come color.jpg
The colorization of movies that were originally black and white does seem to lend their actors a complexion that isn’t quite human.

There’s three chapters in Things to Come: one is set in the modern day, another in the dystopic near future, and another in the utopic distant future.

But I mentioned earlier that being able to focus on the colorization afforded me a kind of reprieve from the story — which isn’t at all boring or dumb or too-painfully relevant [editor’s note from the future: the first draft of this was written in like the second week of Trump’s presidency — which rings pretty strongly through this movie]. It’s just so earnest. I find it extra charming on the basis of that earnestness, that toally straightforward handling of its outlandish space-age morality tale, but it gives me the same uncomfortable vibe, that vicarious cringe, that I get from seeing cosplayers engaging in choreographed light saber battles in the parking lot of some Jacksonville convention. I get it from seeing Civil War reenactments. Something about this totally naked passion for something that’s widely and routinely criticized. I’m slowly getting away from my fear of ridicule, of being squinted at for doing something weird or lame, but I’m definitely still susceptible to it. I don’t think I could ever have mustered the courage to make this kind of movie: spacemen with robes, futuristic regalia, having frank discussions about futuristic politics and technology. I can hear the high-pitched and straining enthusiasm with which loved ones would say, “That was so interesting.”


But that’s a personal issue.

Things to Come is a good movie, the details of which are already proving kinda forgettable, but it’s left a favorable vibe in its wake, apart from the vicarious cringe. I’d recommend it if you’re into some campy sci-fi.

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