In Search of Tomorrow, 2022.
Directed by David A. Weiner.
Starring Lance Guest, Clancy Brown, Sean Young, Wil Wheaton, Catherine Mary Stewart, John Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau, Paul Verhoeven, Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Kurtwood Smith, Jenette Goldstein, Joe Dante, Carrie Henn, Bruce Boxleitner, Shane Black, Dee Wallace, Mark Rolston, Barry Bostwick, Ivan Reitman, Billy Dee Williams, Ronny Cox, Bill Duke, Alex Winter, Jesse Ventura, Gene Simmons, Bob Gale, John Knoll, Oliver Harper, Corey Dee Williams, Adam Nimoy, Brad Fiedel, William Sandell, Stewart Raffill, and Ed Gale.
If you’re a fellow Get Xer who grew up on 70s and 80s science-fiction films, you’ll want to check out In Search of Tomorrow, a massive five-hour documentary that explores sci-fi cinema during the 1980s. Many well-known actors, actresses, writers, directors, and others were interviewed for the film, which is on sale now through August 7th. It’s available on digital and Blu-ray and well worth your time.
I recently saw a tweet that asked aspiring screenwriters to pitch themselves as writers using existing movies as comparisons. A friend from high school responded: “Raised by Indiana Jones and Star Wars, along with my siblings Back to the Future and The Goonies.”
If that quote gives you a warm feeling inside, then you’re squarely in the demo, as they say, for In Search of Tomorrow, a five-hour (yes, five-hour!) documentary that digs through sci-fi films of the 1980s while also exploring the cultural, technological, and socio/political trends of that time.
It takes you through that decade year by year, using a series of what I’d call micro-featurettes about select films released that year, followed by one of several discussions of different aspects of moviemaking at the time, such as that era’s ascendance of practical effects while ushering in the nascent days of computer-generated images.
The documentary also does a good job of establishing context for that decade, touching on movies from the 70s and 90s to explain where 80s sci-fi cinema came from and where it was headed. Wil Wheaton of Star Trek the Next Generation fame is more or less your host for the documentary, popping up repeatedly to comment on various movies and trends from that era.
I don’t think the list at the top of this review covers every single person who was interviewed for this gargantuan documentary, but it hits the highlights for sure. Director David A. Weiner and producers Robin Block, Jessica Dwyer, Derek Maki, and James Evans clearly did the hard work of securing a lot of interviews; I can’t imagine how much effort was involved in sifting through all that content and putting together this film.
Many participants speak to not only the films they were involved with but also movies and people they admired during the 80s. In Search of Tomorrow touches on pretty much all the major movies of that decade while delving into plenty of minor ones too, including some that I’ll confess I’ve never heard of. A repeated visual motif uses a wall of images that I assume were meant to evoke VHS covers as the camera zooms in on the particular movie that will be discussed next.
You may wonder about some of the inclusions and omissions (for me, Mac and Me getting a micro-featurette while Brazil was barely touched on in a couple quick clips was an interesting choice), but those are minor quibbles. To anyone who really makes a big deal about the filmmakers’ choices, I can only say: Make your own documentary, then.
I watched the film on a Blu-ray disc that looked very nice on my setup, and I noticed that most of the movie clips were high-quality too. (It looked like they procured pre-Special Edition clips for Return of the Jedi, which was a nice touch.) The movie trailers that were sampled varied in quality, but that’s not a surprise given the fact that a lot of old film trailers aren’t really worth restoring.
The Blu-ray also includes a physical booklet that has messages from Weiner and Block, who was executive producer, along with photos of many participants and a checklist of the featured movies. The disc’s menu allows you to quickly access any year or any of the interstitial chapters that you want to revisit.
The sole bonus feature on the platter is a discussion with Weiner and Block that’s moderated by host Rocco T. Thompson and runs a little over an hour. It was conducted via Zoom or some other videoconferencing solution, which isn’t a surprise given the pandemic that was happening while they created the movie and is still persisting today (The fact that they’re in different time zones probably played a role in that decision too).
It’s an in-depth discussion about how the project came about and their approach to it. Toward the end, Weiner answers a question that was on my mind while examining this disc: Yes, there is plenty of extra material from the many interviews he conducted, and it’s being saved for a potential sequel, much like he followed up his In Search of Darkness documentary about 80s horror films with a second installment.
I had been wondering why there wasn’t a section for cutting room floor material on the disc, but now I know to watch my email inbox for news of In Search of Tomorrow: Part II. I’m eagerly looking forward to it. In the meantime, make sure you grab your copy of In Search of Tomorrow before the sale ends August 7tj.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★