The Cold Blooded News:
My thoughts on animated sci-fi epic, “World on Tomorrow”, by Don Hertzfeldt.
I wanted to talk about an awesome piece of science fiction I saw as part of the 2015 Academy Award-nominated animated shorts, called “World of Tomorrow”. Written, directed, produced, animated, and edited by Don Hertzfeldt, a man of many talents and a strange sense of humor, if you’ve watched some of his other features like “It’s Such a Beautiful Day”. Hertzfeldt has produced an imaginative vision of the future that is equal parts wondrous and terrifying, with a twisted sense of humor, but also some very emotionally resonant moments. Don’t be fooled by the childlike simplicity of the draws, this movie is packed with themes and concepts.
The story revolves around a young girl named Emily, who receives a call from a woman claiming not only to be from the future, but a 3rd generation clone of the girl herself! The clone begins to relate to Emily, her “prime” about the future, where technology has allowed humans to obtain near immortality through cloning, or for the lower class, uploading their minds to computers for an accelerated, formless eternity. People also have the ability to re-watch any point in history on their view screens, which is how the clone is able to speak with Emily. As interesting as this sounds, more recent history consists mainly of of people sitting infront of view screens watching over people, a wink towards our own TV culture. Listening to the clone’s robotic, monotone voice, it seems the advancements have done more harm then good for future humanity.
Just when you think this might be nothing more than a prank call, the Emilly clone uses time travel to transport her progenitor to the future. Emily prime finds herself in the “Outernet” a physical manifestation of cyberspace. The Clone then takes Emily on journey through her memories, where we see a colony on the moon and aliens worlds, and more of strange culture that has evolved with these technologies. The clone also reveals the ultimate fate of humanity, and has a request of her prime.
What I enjoyed about it
The film is almost lovecraftian in the way Emily is contacted by this more advanced being, and told dark revelations about but a dystopian future, and a civilization corrupted by its own technology. It reminded me of the “Whisperer in Darkness”, where an alien disguised as the protagonist’s friend reveals the dark truth about the universe, where knowledge makes one worse for the wear. The main difference here is the terrible reality is being explained to young girl who is barely paying attention, and too immature to understand the gravity of what she’s hearing.
Which brings to next part I enjoyed, the film’s dark sense of humor. The Emily clone’s propensity for falling in love with inanimate objects, like rocks and machinery, and later an alien life-form which babbles incoherently. Solar powered robots abandoned on the moon, who were programmed to fear death, and spend their days forever walking ahead of the moon’s dark side while writing depressing poetry.
The film’s simple drawing style is a benefit, taking the edge off and adding humor to scenes that would be otherwise too dark and disturbing, had the visuals been more realistic. For example, the failed time travel experiments which left test clones mushed within the earth’s crust, or surgically grafting grandpa’s face to a clunky, horrible, gyrating robot so that the grand-kids won’t miss him. Yikes! Or Emily Prime’s joyful reaction to “shooting stars” while her clone explains they are failed time travelers who ended up in the atmosphere by mistake and are burning up in re-entry.
Although the film also crosses from dark humor to just dark when the clone relates the loss of her husband and says “I am proud of my sadness, it means that I am more alive”, or how life in the future is a long and lonely existence. Or the fact that the true reason the clone sent for Emily Prime was to retrieve a memory that would bring her comfort in the few remaining days before the world is destroyed by a meteor.
What enjoyed most about the film, was the thought and imagination put into the “World of Tomorrow”. For example, uploading your consciousness to a machine to become immortal, but then dealing the stressful transition to an unending existence without body or form. The idea of creating clones without minds and using them for inhumane purposes like a living museum exhibit or fatal time travel experimentation. Creating an art gallery based around random memory snippets extracted from deceased people.
Experiencing other people’s memories and beginning to confuse them with your own. The time paradox of meeting your clone progenitor as a child, and having the memory of this meeting handed down through genetic memory. Even Emily prime, whose naivete is able to take these revelations in strides had to pause at that little FYI.
So many sci-fi movies today feel so safe and conventional, either due to budget or fear of alienating the audience. This film through in everything, plus the kitchen sink, and built a crazy, yet believable glimpse of a world transformed by technology.
At the time of posting, “World of Tomorrow” is available on Netflix, and highly recommend watching it. Read more about the short over on wikpedia.