In the celluloid world, anything is possible, which is why it’s a haven for visionaries and inventors of all types. The laws of nature suspended, mad scientists can reign free, achieving success without the burden of proof, research, or failure. With these freedoms, they’ve actualized genius ideas, some of which our off-screen world could stand to adopt, whether to help us out when we’re too weak not to yield to the snooze button or to make the snooze button last another five years.
Of course, misuse of these powerful machines can lead to terrible things — and in many films have. But the luxuries they afford, both the culturally transformative ones and the ones that just shave a little stress off an average day, are too major to ignore. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the the fictive weapons, trinkets, and tools we’re dying to test drive, below the jump — and even predicted if and when they’re likely to become a reality. Which would you most want to get your hands on?
Everyone’s favorite inventor, Doc Brown, didn’t hurt his reputation by inventing a solution to everyone’s most maddening frustration: time. Back to the Future’s plutonium-powered DeLorean travels through the space-time continuum in style — and even more so after its 1985 upgrade to the second-generation nuclear fusion-powered hovercar.
Drawback: Make sure not to travel to an era without a source to spark the flux capacitor, or you’re stuck.
When we expect to see it: After flying cars, before world peace.
Wallace and Gromit’s morning routine machine
Wallace and Gromit’s world of claymation is one of daily luxury. In The Wrong Trousers, viewers are introduced to Gromit’s morning routine — instead of diligently dragging himself out bed, at the pull of a lever, Wallace is raised out of his bed, dressed by automated limbs, and dropped at the breakfast table, where an additional button launches the instant mid-air preparation of his breakfast. Who doesn’t need a little assistance getting out of bed in the morning? With the help of this claymated Rube Goldberg contraption, anyone who has a dutiful, refined, versatile dog to operate it can wake up with ease.
Drawback: Dutiful, refined, versatile dog not included.
When we expect to see it: We’re surprised it doesn’t yet exist.
Dr. Jack Griffin’s misadventures as the Invisible Man are the absolute worst-case scenario of what could result from this human invisibility wonder drug. So why let one man’s side effect of destructive, bloodthirsty insanity ruin it for the rest of us? Sure, treating himself with monocane led the mad scientist to lose sight of morality and go on a killing rampage, slaying police officers and mercilessly tossing civilians off cliffs, but we don’t see why that can’t be taken care of over the course of a few more drug trials.
A Harry Potter invisibility cloak might seem like a milder solution to the problem of visibility, but ultimately we’ve decided that we cannot, with clear consciences, allow magic to compete against human inventions in this list. Monocane, it would seem, is much more likely a near-future invention than anything concocted in a non-muggle society.
Drawback: One out of one test subjects suffered from murderous insanity.
When we expect to see it: Seeing, here, is precisely the problem. It may already be in use. If not, we’re guessing very soon.
Star Trek’s teleportation devices have been on our wish lists for some time now. Whether to avoid rush-hour traffic, skip town instantaneously, or just dodge a really annoying walk to work, what could be more useful than a machine that dematerializes you into energy patterns and beams you directly to your desired destination?
Drawback: A pretty big one — freak transporter accidents can leave you permanently dematerialized. Is it worth the risk? Absolutely.
When we expect to see it: Definitely before Y3K.
What Flubber (from the movie of the same name) is, substantively, is not futuristic at all: it’s bounce. But with no specified purpose or limitations, Flubber is also the ultimate dreamer’s invention. Simply a portmanteau for flying rubber, it gives off an onomatopoetic connotation of malleability, and that’s what it is both physically and practically. It can be a basketball aid, or an escape plan, or a foundation for other inventions (in a sort of wishing for more wishes manner); it can be anything.
The eponymous movie suggests that the substance Flubber has a chaotic natural disposition, and we see this when it flings itself anarchically around Robin Williams’ house. But it also poignantly demonstrates the idea that mayhem can be harnessed for good — just like any of these uninvented inventions.
Drawback: Chaotic and insubordinate.
When we expect to see it: If scientists were trying, a year? Right now? A decade ago? We’re pretty sure they’re not trying.
The mind-wiping Men in Black invention provides a one-step solution for all fights, regrets, and blunders — simply pretend they never happened. Or rather, forget about them. Unlike mind wipers that appear in such other films as Paycheck and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this machine doesn’t ruin absolutely everything, ever. It simply erases from the mind of its subject the undesired information, leaving them otherwise functional, lucid, and oriented.
Drawback: A highly illogical world; if this device falls into too many people’s hands, which it will, humanity will likely become unaware of many or all of its actions.
When we expect to see it: Legally, never. On the black market, earlier than that.
Electromagnetic shrink/enlarge ray
Though tinkering with his shrink and, subsequently, enlargement rays in his home didn’t work out too well for Honey, I Shrunk the Kids inventor Wayne Szalinski, the machines’ utilitarian benefits are too great to be overshadowed by one negligent scientist’s mishaps. Imagine the possibilities: no overpriced luggage checks, no outgrown favorite pants, efficient crowd control. Licensing would, of course, be a necessary prerequisite of machine operation to keep the Szalinskis of the world at arm’s length.
Drawback: There are certain things we don’t want shrunk. Or blown up.
When we expect to see it: When overcrowding necessitates it: imminently.
A truly universal remote control
An alternative to DeLorean time travel, time control in Frank Coraci’s Click allows remote-control users to navigate time more freely and without the need for bulky machinery or elaborate planning. Sold in the Beyond section of Bed, Bath & Beyond, this remote control zooms users back and forth through time, putting their bodies to “autopilot” while they progress, rather than simply lifting them out of one space-time location and into another. Of course, the mass production of such a device would necessitate clear warnings against overuse, as that’s exactly how Adam Sandler unknowingly wrecks his life. But, in moderation, we can see its appeal. Furthermore, while it is initially described by Christopher Walken, the Angel of Death, as a remote that controls the entire universe, the only aspect this movie explores is time travel; we’re interested in what else it can do.
Drawback: That Frank Coraci did not rewind his life and unmake this movie. Also, you need to make a deal with Christopher Walken, Angel of Death, to acquire one.
When we expect to see it: Never; the idea behind this device is far too general to attract any serious investors.
This scrumptious Willy Wonka recipe could hold within it a solution to the world’s constant battle with hunger. Willy Wonka’s factory would likely hold a monopoly on Gobstoppers as the only corporation with an everlasting recipe, so prices would be set fairly high — plus, all other food industries could potentially be eradicated — but anyone who could get their hands on a Gobstopper could be sated forever. It seems worth a try.
Drawback: Everlasting Gobstoppers’ nutritional value has yet to be revealed.
When we expect to see it: Likely never, as food industry employees would lobby against its invention.
Point of View Gun
Commissioned by Douglas Adams’ Intergalactic Consortium of Angry Housewives, who were tired of arguing with their pigheaded husbands, the Point of View Gun, when fired, has the power to fill a victim’s consciousness with the point of view of the gun’s handler. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy approach may sound like every fluffy anti-war slogan — and, in a way, it’s all of them— but it is also considered a weapon, and a dangerous one, at that. The gun infects its subjects with sympathy, empathy, and understanding, forcing them to abandon their narrow-minded plans and see things another — your way; it is a total takeover of the mind.
Drawback: We believe this is the textbook definition of brainwashing.
When we expect to see it: In the event of desperate political extremism.