Metrograph presents The Future Looks Bright From Afar, an expansive slate of thought-provoking sci-fi cinema, beginning January 5 at Metrograph In Theater. The Future Looks Bright From Afar runs from January 5 to February 25, with select encore screenings to follow. Titles include 12 MonkeysBlade Runner: The Final CutChildren of MenGattacaGhost in the ShellMetropolis, MoonRoboCop – Director’s Cut, Silent RunningSoylent GreenStalkerTHX 1138, Total Recall, and more.

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Metrograph Theater & Dystopian Cinema

It seems almost no one is looking forward to a fantastic future of flying cars much anymore, and many would be relieved to know that there’s any kind of future at all in store for us… but as this series shows, such grim prognostications are nothing new. Bringing together a collection of dystopian and speculative science-fiction films that envisage coming times marked by creeping authoritarianism, government surveillance, and technological “advancement” leading to regressions in human self-fulfillment, “The Future Looks Bright From Afar” offers a look at the many ways in which past generations have described the shape of things to come with fear and trembling.

12 monkeys still image

dir. Terry Gilliam, 1995, 129 min, 35mm
Working from the basic materials of Chris Marker’s 1962 short La Jetée, Gilliam crafted this fantastic sci-fi thriller about a traveler from a virus-devastated future who arrives in 1990 Baltimore to find the origin of the outbreak, only to find the only person who believes in his mission is conspiracy-minded mental patient Brad Pitt. A critical and popular cause célèbre counting Marker among its many admirers.
blade runner
dir. Ridley Scott, 1982/2007, 117 min, 35mm
While so many special effects spectacles are lost in time like tears in the rain, Blade Runner remains the template for imagining the neon-wreathed downer of the future, every bit as influential in its vision as was Fritz Lang’s Metropolis over a half century before. Working from a novel by cult writer Philip K. Dick to create a film that would become the gold standard for sci-fi noir, director Scott shares credit here with “visual futurist” Syd Mead’s design concepts and the late synth pioneer Vangelis’s atmospheric score.
children of men
dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 2006, 109 min, DCP
Based on P.D. James’s novel of the same name, Cuarón’s sci-fi thriller sets its scene in the fallen future Britain of 2027, in a world where humanity has lost its ability to procreate—with the miraculous exception of one woman (Clare-Hope Ashitey), whose perilous journey to a sanctuary at sea in the company of a disillusioned civil servant (Clive Owen) offers the last, best hope for the future. A spectacular feat of virtuoso filmmaking, with the single-take action set pieces orchestrated by Cuarón and DP Emmanuel Lubezki particular standouts.
dir. Andrew Niccol, 1997, 106 min, DCP
Audiences didn’t quite know what to make of Niccol’s directorial debut in 1997, but with the passage of time his vision of a chilly, sterile future where eugenic pedigree determines social status has acquired a deserved cult cachet. Ethan Hawke stars as a young man conceived outside of the breeding program who dreams of space travel that’s forbidden him due to genetic discrimination, with Uma Thurman as the co-worker with whom he falls in love, and a sterling supporting cast including Jude Law, Ernest Borgnine, and Gore Vidal (!).
ghost in the shell
dir. Mamoru Oshii, 1995, 83 min, DCP
“My codename is Project 2501, and I am a life form that was born in a sea of information.” In the year 2029, the world looks like a hybridization of Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York, yielding to entropy and technocracy. Cyborg Major Kusanagi, a perfect specimen of human-brained computer engineering is on the case to track and destroy an omnipotent entity known as The Puppet Master who threatens world order. Her physical and existential journey is deftly detailed by Oshii’s animation, combining traditional hand-drawn cells and computer-generated graphics to create a haunting, awe-inspiring magnum opus.
dir. Fritz Lang, 1927, 153 min, 35mm
Lang’s futurist epic imagines a dystopian 2026 where the proletariat has been reduced to a state of near-automation, until a Maschinenmensch robot simulacra of a real woman is used to sow dissent amongst their ranks. The Babel-like skyline of the film’s city setting and Walter Schulze-Mittendorff’s robot design are wellsprings from which most all subsequent science-fiction cinema may be said to have sprung, oft imitated but never surpassed in vision or soundstage scope.
dir. Duncan Jones, 2009, 97 min, DCP
Nearing the end of a three-year stint spent mining on the far side of the moon, alone save for a robot companion, Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) begins to suffer from disorienting hallucinations—hallucinations that lead to a rover crash, and to disturbing, reality-altering revelations concerning his employers at Lunar Industries.
dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1987, 102 min, DCP 4K
“I’d buy that for a dollar!” For a few improbable, wonderful years, beginning with this runaway hit, the perverse imagination and earthy gallows humor of Verhoeven seemed to sync up perfectly with the desires of the American multiplex-going public. In dystopian Detroit, private sector Omni Consumer Products have taken over policing the public and made the ultimate law enforcement machine from the leftover pieces of police officer Peter Weller—but they didn’t bank on their invention taking his fight on the streets to the boardroom, climbing his way up the ladder of corporate crime.
silent running
dir. Douglas Trumbull, 1972, 89 min, 35mm
2001: A Space Odyssey’s special effects maestro Trumbull made his directorial debut with this beguiling, visually stunning work of environmentalist-themed science fiction, set in a not-so-distant future where mankind has successfully sterilized Earth and eliminated the natural world, which now exists only in a few interplanetary greenhouses circling the rings of Saturn. When orders are received to jettison the last living plant life from these crafts, resident botanist Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) makes other plans, and a white-knuckle race to save the last remaining flora begins.
soylent green - metrograph theater
dir. Richard Fleischer, 1973, 97 min, DCP
Charlton Heston’s anguished delivery of the “punchline” of Soylent Green is the one aspect of the film that’s persisted in popular culture—if you know, you know—but the rest of Fleischer’s thriller, loosely based on Harry Harrison’s 1966 dystopian sci-fi novel Make Room! Make Room!, is just as angry and fervent and compelling; a detailed imagining of a future world of diminishing expectations, bottomless corruption, and packaged nostalgia being offered up as a cold comfort to the living. Edward G. Robinson, in his final onscreen role, goes out on a scene of self-administered euthanasia that just might break your heart.
stalker - metrograph theater nyc
dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979, 162 min, DCP
Tarkovsky’s stunning, haunted sepia-toned sci-fi masterpiece follows a scientist and a writer who, living in a broken-down totalitarian dystopia, recruit the help of a “Stalker”—a kind of post-apocalyptic Sherpa—to guide them on a voyage of self-discovery, passing through the bleak, otherworldly Zone in hopes of finding therein a haven that will fulfill their secret desires. An enigmatic, austere, and utterly immersive experience that combines religious allegory and political prophesy, and has kept cinephiles debating its meaning for some 45 years.
THX - metrograph theater
THX 1138
dir. George Lucas, 1971, 86 min, 35mm
Lucas’s visually stunning debut feature takes place in a bleak galaxy far, far away from the swashbuckling brio of Star Wars, in an oppressively pristine 25th-century future where humanity has been medicated into submission and chemically neutered to maximize work output. (Sound familiar?) With Robert Duvall as the titular dissident who goes off his meds and promptly becomes a love vigilante, much to the dismay of the android police programmed to keep the rabble in line.
total recall - metrograph theater
dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1990, 113 min, DCP
Back in the days when the system would still occasionally let a visionary blockbuster slip through, gleefully perverse Dutchman Verhoeven teamed up with an Austrian-born weightlifter who was then the biggest action star in the world to make a big-budget adaptation of a mind-bending Philip K. Dick story. The result: painful nasal probes, Sharon Stone, cartoon bloodshed, three-breasted Martian sex workers, a litany of quotable lines, and a piece of cinema history. The Metrograph theater is bringing forward the cult favorites and classics in science-fiction.

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