As a reader, I’m quite into dystopias. Ever since that first time I read Brave New World I’ve been obsessed with them. I consider it, along with 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, part of an unholy trinity of sorts. If a book has dystopia in the title I will end up reading it at some point. But rather than talking about dystopian books, I’m going to touch on my five favourite dystopias in film or video games, in no particular order whatsoever.
Ok, I lied. This one is first because it’s both one my favourite dystopia and one of my favourite movies. To put it bluntly, Equilibrium is the love child of the three books I mentioned before.
Equilibrium is set in 2072, in a place called Libria. Libria is a totalitarian state ruled by a figure called Father and its denizens have to consume a drug called Prozium to suppress their feelings and emotions. Father considers these as the root of all evil and wars and thus all art is illegal as well. To further enforce this, Father uses the Grammaton Clerics, who chase sense offenders and destroy illegal materials.
The main character is a Tetragrammaton Cleric, which is their highest ranking, called John Preston. In the film, Preston misses one of his Prozium intervals and starts feeling.
Kurt Wimmer wrote and directed this movie in 2002. It has a great cast including Christian Bale, Emily Watson and Sean Bean, among others, but my favourite element of the film is the action scenes. Clerics use a combat style called Gun Kata and that gives way to a lot of cool shoot-outs.
Here’s a trailer to get a feel for the film (though it’s quite a bit misleading); they imply that he’s just taking his revenge because of his wife’s execution, but there’s much more to it than that.
This movie could only have come out of Mike Judge‘s mind, and it shows.
Idiocracy begins in the early 2000s. Joe Bauers, an Army corporal, gets chosen for an experiment just because he’s average. Since they can’t find anyone as average as him they hire a prostitute for that same experiment. They get placed under suspended animation and wake up 500 years later.
The thing is, they wake up to find themselves in a society where everyone is stupid, where people watch TV shows like Ow My Balls! or movies like Ass. Joe finds himself in a predicament because suddenly he’s the smartest man alive, and the President recruits him to fix the issues they have with their crops.
Said president is played by Terry Crews and his name is Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho. Idiocracy was the first thing I saw Terry Crews in so I already have a soft spot for it. Years later Crews reprised the President Camacho role for a series of CollegeHumor shorts. Because he’s mad craic like that.
Beneath a Steel Sky
Beneath a Steel Sky is a point and click adventure. It was made by Revolution, right before they made Broken Sword.
It’s set in Australia and it follows a man called Robert Foster. Foster has lived all his life with a tribe of aboriginals who found him after an accident. When he’s an adult he’s kidnapped and taken to the city, so he has to find out why he’s been taken there and survive. He’s not alone, though; he’s followed by a robot companion he made called Joey.
One of the coolest aspects of this game is that Dave Gibbons was heavily involved in it. In the original release, the game came with a comic book drawn by him. Many years ago a remastered port for iOS came out, but if you want to play this you can get it for free on GOG. It comes with a digital version of the comic book too.
Just one thing. Be vigilant.
Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
And now for something completely different, an album.
For Year Zero Trent Reznor wrote an album set in a dystopian version of the United States in 2022. But he didn’t stop there, as part of the promotion he created an ARG expanding on the story of the game. That ARG involved stuff like USB keys found at Nine Inch Nails concerts containing songs for the album or URLs of websites that had to do with the game.
Trent Reznor also had plans for a Year Zero TV show or movie, but nothing has happened yet.
I can’t talk about dystopias without mentioning my favourite film of all time. Blade Runner. And since Blade Runner 2049 is coming out in a few months, it’s the perfect moment to revisit the film.
There’s so much to be said about Blade Runner than a book could write, and as far as I know there are several already, but I’m cheating here because this is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick‘s Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? However, it takes many liberties with the source material, which is why I’ve included it.
There are lots of things I love about this film; Harrison Ford, Edward James Olmos, Vangelis‘s music, Rutger Hauer‘s final speech… This is one of those few cases where the adaptation surpasses the original. I’m also fascinated by how contentious the making of this film was, which shows in how many different versions of the film exist.
Blade Runner also had a video game adaptation following a different story. It was a very interesting game because depending on what we did the game would follow many different directions. I’m still waiting for this game to appear on GOG or Steam, but I feel like that’s never going to happen unfortunately.
Well, that’s all folks. I could keep going on, but this will do for now. What dystopias have you noticed aren’t in books? Which would you love to see? Let us know in the comments!
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.