Which visions of the future made us crave Lasik surgery the most in 2007? Hint: they involved wimpy cyborgs, blah parasites, boring plagues and "time-famine." Click through to read our picks for the most underwhelming futures of the past year, in both scifi and futurist predictions.
(Note: We're not judging these things on their own merits as entertainment, or science. We're looking at how much we hated their versions of the future.)
The Invasion. In this movie's future, we encounter extraterrestrial life forms, and they're like Prozac parasites. They make everybody ridiculously well-adjusted and devoid of affect. Many people complained about the new upbeat ending, but it would have been great if science had overcome the parasites in a clever, believable way. Instead, we got the magic tacked-on rescue, followed by the easy miracle cure. Blah.
Spider-Man 3. Yet another movie about an alien parasite that changes your behavior. This one causes extreme singing and dancing foolishness, plus bad emo hair. The struggle with the Venom parasite, so intense and disturbing in the comics, becomes campy and dumb. And not unlike Invasion, SM3 has a pat -feeling resolution to the parasite dilemma. Sure, it makes sense that our future holds struggles against behavior-modding creatures, but do they have to be so boring?
Bionic Woman. This TV show should be just our flavor of near-future dystopia. Normally, we love an evil brain-sucking corporation that implants its technology into a woman and then believes it owns her. Unfortunately, BW just isn't bleak or brutal enough to be a fun dystopia. Instead, it's just wishy-washy. The bionics actually make Jaime wimpier instead of stronger. And the evil corporate overlord starts baby-sitting Jaime's sister and washing her dishes. Why?
Chuck. Another NBC TV show about a human who absorbs spy technology, another boring bleak future. Chuck gets the whole CIA/NSA spy database in his brain, but the spymasters who want to use him are ruthless and scheme to murder him as soon as they can line up a replacement. Too bad Chuck is such an annoying squealer that we root for him to die so we can get Chuck 2.0 instead.
I Am Legend. This movie belongs on the "worst" list because of that horrible tacked-on ending, which made The Invasion look like Citizen Kane. First of all, the science-magic device of the mutant's blood containing the anti-plague serum isn't explained at all. And then the salvation of the human race turns out to be this crappy little whitebread New England town, walled in against the heathen plague vampires. Bring back the Partridge Family plague survivors from Omega Man!
Y: The Last Man. In previous years, this comic-book series would have been on our "best futures" list. But it gets on the "worst futures" list for 2007 because of that bogus explanation for how all the men died. Sure, every man on the planet dropping dead at once was never going to have a totally logical explanation. But the explanation we get is just nonsensical, mystical and weirdly anti-science. (There's an alternate explanation involving the Israeli military and a botched bio-weapon, but it's discounted.)
Facebook's Death Grip. We'll all have too many Facebook friends to cope with in the future, net-preneur Jason Calacanis told the Washington Post. Now that Calacanis has thousands of Facebook friends, he just can't deal with all the friend requests and other trivia. So he's outsourcing his friend-management to an intern. In a few years, we'll all be in the "death grip" of overwhelming friend management that will prevent us having a real social life and make us hate our friends. Sign us up!
Future Files: The Next 50 Years by Richard Watson. The reviews and interviews of this book alone make it sound hilarious. For starters, in the future we'll have "ethical bankruptcy" to let us launder our reputations, because all our mistakes will be exposed online. And we'll suffer from "time-famine" and "space-anxiety." D00d! Anti-globalism will crush the European Union. The items in your fridge will talk to each other and formulate a possible dinner menu. Freud, Einstein and Darwin may well be debunked. But global warming won't be much trouble. My favorite part: he doesn't actually know what Friendfinder is. He thinks it's a service that tells you where your friends are currently located. Right. And Alt.com is all about tracking alternate timelines.
The Dark Space by Marianne De Pierres. This space-opera novel takes place in a dark future where humans have colonized Orion. And it falls back on one of my pet peeves: the far-future society that somehow mimics our own past. The human settlers on the planet Araldis somehow live in a crappy copy of Renaissance Italy. Except that it's all cyber, so instead of saying "bambino," they just say "'bino." Which we kept thinking was short for "albino." Oh, and an outer-space God speaks in 1337-speak.
Heroes. And finally, another NBC TV show. (Poor suffering NBC.) We didn't hate everything about "volume two," but the visit to the evil plague future was boring. And the hero-visits-horrible-future trick already happened in season one. This time around, it felt really peremptory, like "here's your horrendous death-future, so suck it bitch." Plus it would be worth losing 98 percent of the world's population to get rid of that boring Irish woman.