There are a number of societal signals that let us know when a trend, an issue, or a threat has migrated from the fringe to the center of a collective consciousness. Having Hollywood take notice and transform the meme into meaningful motion pictures is one such signal. From USA Today:
The global drought that threatens food and water supplies for billions is spreading into the sci-fi future depicted in mainstream films as well.
The Antonio Banderas-led Autómata (in theaters and on VOD on Friday) is set in a 2044 future nearly devoid of water, and Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones(Oct. 17) has a similarly bleak outlook in an unspecified future.
Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (Nov. 7) has already tipped its hand in trailers showing a dust-covered world, part of the overall picture of an exhausted, uninhabitable planet. Robert Pattinson and Guy Pearce roamed a barren landscape for a stolen car in the futuristic The Rover (just out on Blu-ray/DVD). And Mad Max: Fury Road (May, 2015) takes place in a similarly bleak landscape.
A lack of water is on filmmakers’ brains for good reason.
“Water is one of the important themes now for human beings. As a result, it’s one of the very important themes of science fiction,” says Automata director Gabe Ibáñez. “People are very worried about the water situation. It affects all people. And we know this is going to be a problem in the next century, so of course it’s going to play out in movies.”
Jessica Yu, director of the 2012 documentary Last Call at the Oasis, says documentary makers may feel pressure to not go “too far” in warning about the world’s precarious water supply. The picture can be too alarming for the audience.
But when it’s science fiction, the unforgiving landscape of the future instantly taps into human fears and is a powerful storytelling device.
“It’s something that has dramatic impact because of its roots in reality. We don’t need to invent alien invaders to destroy the Earth,” says Yu. “Environmental disaster as part of the apocalyptic future definitely holds sway with audiences.”