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Tuesday January 16, 2001

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Films of the future present

By Shaun Clayton

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The year 2001 is here, and many members of the press have been comparing predictions made in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film, "2001: A Space Odyssey" to what has actually come to pass. In doing so, they have completely missed several other past films that made their own judgments of what life would be like in the present day.

First of all, there is the 1995 James Cameron film, "Strange Days." In this film, set in the last days of 1999, Ralph Fiennes plays a street hustler who deals data-discs containing the recorded memories and emotions of other people. These discs, when inserted into a special machine, allow the user to experience a person's memories as if they had been his/her own.

This technology, of course, has not become a reality. However, the next best thing invented was "Everquest," an online game that allows the player to assume the life of one of many fantasy characters. Although similar, it is still not in the same realm of experiencing an actual person's memory.

In fact, there seem to be only two predictions this film actually got right -one, there are lots of computers in the present day, and two, New Year's Eve 1999 was one big party. However, being that a waste treatment manager could have predicted these things, this film gets no points for premonition.

Sliding back a few years, the 1975 Roger Corman film "Death Race: 2000" deserves some attention. This film details a cross-country race in which the drivers score points by running down people with their cars.

Yes, indeed, this is a little closer to what our present day is like. For instance, there are now TV reality shows in which seemingly normal people do abnormal things (such as stranding themselves on a deserted island while being subjected to eating rat for nutritional purposes).

Further, driving on America's highways and byways has quite literally become a death race, with shootings and 30-car pile-ups as frequent as a gentle breeze. Except, of course, those people aren't trying to win cash and prizes.

Lastly, there is the lesser known 1991 TV-movie, "Knight Rider: 2000." Set in Seattle in the year 2000, it depicts a world in which cops carry ultrasonic stun-guns enabling them to freeze criminals. David Hasselhoff reprises his role as Michael Knight, driving his technologically decked-out, artificially intelligent car, K.I.T.T.

"Knight Rider: 2000"'s vision of a "kinder, gentler" law enforcement certainly was dead wrong. Sadly, the prediction of being able to drive a K.I.T.T. around, turbo-boosting over houses and smashing through the mall by using invincible armor, is just about every child of the 80s' dream.

Really, the only film that comes even remotely close to mimicking our present day is Fritz Lang's 1927 film, "Metropolis," in which he predicts a world integrated with technology all the while filled with endless toil and shattered dreams. Oh well, there's always Prozac.