Nightmare visions of the future. We all love them. From 1984 to Blade Runner many creative types have had their vision of just how wrong the world will get depicted on screen. Disregarding the often quite naïve time frame some of these books, and later films, have predicted the downfall of society (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Is set in 1992, Blade Runner 2019) they generally predict that the future will be a dark place full of thought police, rain, smog and a distinct lack of personal hygiene. In recent years, as technology companies casually pretend 1984 was a guide and not a warning, have depicted the future as being quite bright but with some sort of rich/poor divide and a crazy robot for Will Smith to fight. There tends to be a parallel between real life good times depicting nightmare futures to real life bad times (such as today) and the depiction of a more hopeful and more action packed future. Which is probably why a film such as Idiocracy had trouble getting an audience. Follow the link for me sort of explaining this all a bit better.
Idiocracy tells the story of a very average man named Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) who, after being selected for a soon to be forgotten army cryogenics experiment, finds himself waking up in the year 2505. He, along with fellow test subject Rita (Maya Rudolph), find out that the future isn’t one of these nice hopeful ones where everyone has houses designed by apple and computers that do that flashy air navigation thing like in Minority Report… which is totally not possible real soon. Nope, instead they find that the whole world got a whole lot dumberer. Trash is piled as high as mountains. Fuddruckers is now called Buttfuckers and the slogan for Carl’s Jnr is now “Fuck you, I’m Eatin’”. Also, the most popular show on TV involves a man getting hit in the balls (called “Ow, My Balls”) and the biggest hit film of the year is called Ass, which is exactly what it is… and ass… for 90 minutes. Yep, the world has fallen apart and now Joe is the smartest man on Earth despite all his apparent “fag talk” and tardedness.
I dunno about you but this is a fecking scary vision of the future. Scary because I could kinda see it happening. You see TV shows such as Honey Boo Boo and Geordie Shore and tell me we aren’t headed this way. You only have to work in a customer service role once to see for yourself just how stupid and closed off from the world some people are now. What director and writer Mike Judge has done here is pure sci-fi. He’s taken a ill of modern society and extrapolated its future impact if left unchecked. Much as Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta (not the film… fuck that film) looked at the political leanings of the British Government in the early 80s and created a vision of the future that realised the apparent direction he felt we were headed, Judge has looked at the state of modern education in the US and entertainment as a whole and envisioned a future where they won out over intelligence and the law of natural selection. Putting a mirror up to the modern world is sci-fi 101 and here it is done expertly… mostly.
Rumours abound that the reason this film got no support from its studio, in this case Fox, was because they were concerned it would be a little too much of a jibe at the people they actively market themselves too. I don’t believe this personally. I just think they didn’t get it what was wrong with this vision of the future and so were unsure how to market this serious drama piece directed by some guy that made them millions with one of his funny cartoons. I’m saying the studio was as stupid as the future depicted in the film. You got that right? Yeah? Then you’ll love this film.
Now Idiocracy is flawed in plenty of ways, don’t get me wrong. It is by no means the greatest comedy ever made. Everyone knows that award goes to Vampires Suck with an honourable mention to Bucky Larson… whatever the hell it was called. I dunno… never saw either cos they looked terrible. Idiocracy was made for a minor budget, somewhere around $4million, which really isn’t much for a film that’s going to require unique sets be built. As a result there is a cheap feel to the production, especially when it comes to using green screen to digitally create backgrounds, such as a plane wreckage covered interior of Costco. Mike Judge sells the hell out of the world though. Despite its shonky appearance this is a fully fleshed out vision of a future bereft of smarts.
Idiocracy also suffers from a few logic issues in it’s story progression. Events just move from one to the next with the only usual link being that either Joe has run away from the police or has been arrested by the police, either incident resulting in his traversal to the next location. The plot progression may have worked a little better if the film had been presented as an anthology story of Joe’s travels across the broken future of America which would free it of the need to figure out how to get him from a hospital, to a jail, to a Costco, to the White House and into a monster truck death match/prison rehabilitation contest presented live on Fox television by a shirtless body-builder and someone who has to be Elvira’s descendant. What I’m saying is, the disjointed nature of events would have leant itself better to an episodic format. Judge has never been the strongest writer in the film format though so some slack can be cut. And before you tear into me about Office Space, I love that film, but where is its third act? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I usually avoid reviewing too many comedies due to the issue that arises from humour being entirely subjective, but Idiocracy is one of those rare films that actually can work on many levels. For the self professed smart folk there’s humour in the depiction of how far mankind has fallen. For fans of films such as Epic Movie there’s line “Quiet! Baitn’!” and other such low brow gems. For people like me that appreciate a good fart joke as much as I’d appreciate the works of Yasujiro Ozu there’s pretty much the entirety of the film and everything that happens in it. This is a funny, cutting satire on the dumbing down of modern entertainment and culture in general. I’m seriously waiting for a place like McDonald’s to start offering “Extra Big Ass Fries!!!”. You know a comedy is gold when it is as endlessly quotable as this is too.
Idiocracy essentially casts Luke Wilson as the straight man who becomes the foil of the entire world. Imagine if Ernie Wise woke up to a world where the entire population was Eric Morecambe. I understand that that is a pretty UK centric reference but I believe it is apt. If you’ve ever found yourself despairing at just how stupid some people can be these days then you are Luke Wilson here, the straight man, whilst the object of your derision is the future presented in Idiocracy. Everyone can relate to this as at some point everyone has felt that feeling that some people should have been wiped out by natural selection by now. As a result Idiocracy crafts possibly the most terrifying vision of the future since George Orwell created Big Brother, which has had its name re-appropriated for a TV show for idiots now… Like I said, people saw 1984 as a blueprint. Right, after this I need to watch something that can restore my faith in the future of this world. I wonder what’s going on in science fiction today…