In Search of Tomorrow: A Love Letter to 80s Sci-Fi

Alex Winter in In Search of Tomorrow. Courtesy of CREATORVC.

In Search of Tomorrow: A Journey Through ’80s Sci-Fi Cinema is a five-hour love letter to 1980s sci-fi movies and the definitive documentary on the genre.

If you’re a fan of 80s sci-fi cinema, this is the film you’ve been waiting for! It’s the be-all, end-all of documentaries on the genre. It would probably be better for this to be a documentary series. Instead, it’s a documentary of almost five-hours long. It’s a film that celebrates our favorite movies while discussing and breaking down their impact on the world today. Unfortunately, the only way you’ll be able to watch the film is by pre-ordering it. As of now, I do not believe there are any plans to make the film available through digital retailers. This is a shame because it’s already a top contender for the Solzy Awards for documentaries.

There are at least 70 interviewees in the film ranging from actors, directors, producers, writers, visual and special-effects masters, composers, production craftspersons, film critics, authors, and notable experts in the field. Everyone brings something important to In Search of Tomorrow. Whether it’s breaking down a film in question or its impact on the future, no stone goes unturned. Theatrical releases are not the only films up for discussion in the film. There’s also a look at the straight-to-video movies. Everything is discussed in a chronological basis in terms of what year a film is released. If you aren’t feeling the nostalgia by the end of this movie, you’re watching it wrong.

All art is political and this is certainly no different when it comes to movies. During the 1980s, there were some real-world events that influenced movies: not just American politics but the Cold War between the US and Russia. Hell, even social issues made their way into the films, too. The genre offers not only escapist entertainment but social commentary. What better way is there for a filmmaker than to utilize these aspects in their storytelling?

There’s a lot of design work that goes into a sci-fi film. But when push comes to shove, the question you have to ask is how believable is it? Is it something that can theoretically exist in real life? Or is it something that is just so campy that you cannot help but laugh? This also speaks to the importance of all the designers, illustrators, and other artists working on a movie. When you look at the visual effects, sound designers certainly play a role in making sure the sounds are realistic. The sound is one of the important factors in what makes a film a success. Remind the Academy just how import a film’s sound design is!

Speaking of sound, one thing that comes up is how today’s scores kind of work their way into the sound design. They aren’t the traditional melodic scores of the 1980s. Obviously, John Williams is still making the beautiful melodic scores. Listen to one of Hans Zimmer’s scores for Blade Runner 2049 or the Christopher Nolan movies and then listen to all the beautiful music from the 1980s. There is no comparison. But again, the scores one of the aspects that help make these films what they are. The Star Wars movies would not be what they are without John Williams. Nor would any of the Steven Spielberg movies.

Editors are important. When you’re making a lengthy documentary of this sort, editors are really important. In the case of this film, Samuel Way has his work cut out as an editor. There are a countless number of films mentioned and he has to edit the right clip in at the right moment in the film. It’s easier said than done. If there’s a moment where the editing is spot-on perfect, it’s when the film discusses Spaceballs. The way that he keeps cutting in and out of the ship flying through space is just perfect. Again, I want to stress the importance that editors have in making a film. Please remind the Academy.

Of all the years, 1982 is without a doubt the most important year for the genre. After all, this is the year that gave us E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Tron, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, and Blade Runner, among others. Steven Spielberg certainly has a huge impact on the genre. He’s a child of divorce and this is something that is reflected in his storytelling. The broken home is a common theme in many of Spielberg films. During the 1980s, many of his own films reflected his childhood. When it comes to Blade Runner, something I never knew about the film is that Ridley Scott was working through his own grief.

Marketing was so different during the decade. Comic Con was nowhere near the giant that it is today. Social media, not a thing. No YouTube clips appearing online the next day with the stars of whichever film is coming out. All people had were the movie posters in the lobby. Sometimes, there might be a book or comic but the poster is all that there is to go on for most films. Next to the poster art, the VHS box is the most influential for consumers making a decision when renting a VHS tape. Wil Wheaton is not lying when he describes the selection process of renting a VHS tape!

Magazines grew throughout the 1980s, be it Starlog, Cinefex, Cinefantastique, Premiere, or Empire. These magazines exploded because so many people wanted to know facts and information about the films. The studios were paying attention and these magazines got interviews with people involved. Look at how big this world of entertainment journalism/fandom is today.

Some of the film’s highlights include RoboCop, VFX, Flash Gordon, The Space Shuttle, Tron, Creature Effects, Superman II, and Aliens.

In Search of Tomorrow
In Search of Tomorrow. Courtesy of CREATORVC.

Billy Dee Williams wanted to show us his “own personal uniqueness” about “a swashbuckling individual” in portraying Lando Calrissian. The actor shares his memories of picking up his kids from school and other students accused him of betraying Han Solo. Han would never be frozen in carbonite if Harrison Ford was going to return for the next film. He always did one film per contract whereas other cast members were signed on for sequels. Later on, we hear from Billy Dee’s son about appearing in the film and getting to portay Klaatu in Return of the Jedi.

Billy Dee Williams on Star Wars creator George Lucas:

“George Lucas was a gift. He changed the whole world of cinema. He introduced all of these new ideas. How do you explain all these experiences. It was meant to be. He changed everything.”

Lucas was certainly one hell of a world creator. He’s right there alongside The Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien. Even after the end of the original trilogy, the saga found a way to live on in new stories in both comics and books. And nowadays, there are no shortage of television series, books, comics, and yes, even more movies. But for now, let’s stick to the Star Wars of the 1980s. This was the type of franchise that nobody had ever seen before and it was a complete game-changer for an entire industry.

Superman II is not a unique case. Studios make changes all the time when it comes to directors. However, this is a pretty big film. However, the stories surrounding the different cuts are legendary in and of themselves. Upon the film’s release, there was no discussion about the changes in directors.  When you replace Richard Donner with Richard Lester, you’re going to get a very different film. Sarah Douglas, who portrays Ursa, comments on her experience. Eventually, Donner would get to make his cut of the film.

You cannot discuss the 1980s without bringing up Ghostbusters. It’s one of the best comedies ever and had a huge impact on cinema. Ivan Reitman really changed the direction of the film with some of his suggestions to the script. “I just look for comedy in the reality of the situation,” says the late filmmaker Ivan Reitman. Reitman just happened to be a filmmaker who was at the right place at the right time.

Time travel films have a way of breaking your brain. What happens to our future when we go back and change the past? Of course, the 1980s have given us no shortage of films about time travel. The Terminator, the Back to the Future trilogy, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure are some of the standout movies. Speaking of BTTF, Bob Gale discusses the recasting and why some scenes work better with Michael J. Fox than Eric Stoltz. Gale says that it’s a human store rather than one about technology. We’re invested in the characters and this is why we still love the films so much today. The sequel creates a time paradox that makes my head hurt. Alex Winter represents the Bill and Ted’s franchise and discusses how both he and Keanu Reeves approached the film. You could probably write a thesis!

I would be remiss if I did not talk about one sci-fi film. It happens right around the 245 minute mark: Mac and Me. It’s an E.T. spoof but the film now has a cult following. If you’ve ever watched any Conan O’Brien late night show when Paul Rudd appeared as a guest, you know about the film. It’s the clip that he always presents of whatever film he is promoting. However, I was Tuesday years old when I learned that Jennifer Aniston also appears in the film. She plays a background dancer.

One complaint is that there are filmmakers and stars who are not interviewed but I get it. They have busy schedules so it’s not always possible. When those people cannot be represented, filmmaker David Weiner makes sure to include someone, be it another actor or someone else working on the film. But if you want to learn more about some of the films and what happens behind the scenes, be sure to seek out the film on physical media because there’s a good chance that bonus features will include a documentary. The other thing is that this could be a documentary series that you can watch over a few days. Instead, it’s one long documentary so if you don’t watch in one sitting, you need to make sure to write down the time when you call it a day. There is just so much material to digest!

The 1980s gave us some of the best sci-movies of all time–In Search of Tomorrow is a lengthy but beautiful love letter to this decade. I’m a child of the 1980s. Many of these films had an impact on my life in one way or another and it’s hard to imagine my life without them. Other documentaries will go in-depth on a handful but In Search of Tomorrow is as definitive as it gets for a single film about the sci-fi genre in the 1980s.

FEATURING: Ivan Reitman, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Weller, Dee Wallace, Nancy Allen, Paul Verhoeven, Bruce Boxleitner, John Carpenter, Walter Koenig, Nicholas Meyer, Wil Wheaton, Adam Nimoy, Jesse Ventura, Joe Dante, Bob Gale, Gene Simmons, Kurtwood Smith, Carrie Henn, Joey Cramer, Alex Winter, Sean Young, Sam J. Jones, John Dykstra, Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, Lance Guest, Nick Castle, Catherine Mary Stewart, Julie Brown, Vernon Wells, Clancy Brown, Sarah Douglas, Barry Bostwick, Mark Goldblatt, Mark Rolston, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Duke, Shane Black, Adrienne Barbeau, Ronny Cox, William Sandell, Deep Roy, Melody Anderson, Dayton Ward, Ike Eisenmann, Randal Kleiser, Steve De Jarnatt, Stewart Raffill, Peter Hyams, Gedde Watanabe, Ed Gale, Robert Rusler, Corey Dee Williams, Craig Miller, Jason Lenzi, Brad Fiedel, Craig Safan, Mark Mangini, John Knoll, Harrison Ellenshaw, Steve Johnson, Eric Kurland, Matt Winston, Ian Nathan, Tim Cogshell, Kerry O’Quinn, Angélique Roché, Oliver Harper

In Search of Tomorrow: A Journey Through ’80s Sci-Fi Cinema is available for pre-order through March 27, 2022. Grade: 5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.