Harmony dir. Michael Arias & Takashi Nakamura (2015) Feature-length anime postulating a dystopia based on total healthcare. Padded to bursting point with information dumps (in faux-philosophical voice-over), Harmony tries at once for a SF thriller vibe, a teenage rebellion/right-to-die terrorism plot and an epic tragedy/romance, achieving only a confused mess.
Psycho-Pass, Season 1 (Fuji TV, 2012-2013) Japanese anime that postulates the cyberpunk-esque tracking down and stamping out of latent criminals by state-sanctioned deviants and their police handlers. Dark, stylised, and graphically violent, Psycho-Pass spurns all hint of cutesy to deliver on its premise. A disturbingly plausible near-future dystopia.
Blade Runner 2049 dir. Denis Villeneuve (2017) A sequel that stays genuinely true to the original, both evoking it directly and building on its themes. Most tellingly, Blade Runner 2049 eschews action scenes in favour of character, and makes its murky near-future dystopia a given rather than the focus.
Pawn by Aimée Carter (Harlequin Teen, 2013); audiobook read by Lameece Issaq (Audible, 2013) Carter portrays a near-future American dystopia worth fighting against. Kitty is a strong protagonist but her insistence (however laudable) on doing what’s morally right comes across as just frustratingly silly given the unmitigated and continuous black-and-white villainy of those she’s up against.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Walker, 2008); audiobook read by Humphrey Bower (Bolinda, 2011) A young adult quest with genuine moments of high emotion but also a relentless, dour futility that cries out for—yet in this first book of the trilogy, doesn’t afford—resolution. Bower’s audiobook reading is grist to the grimly dystopian first-person narrative.
The Fifth Wave dir. J Blakeson (2016) A not-terribly acted alien invasion film introducing young adults to the soul-destroying clichés and tropes infesting the genre. While The Others plot dystopian sequels, we learn only that teens (both as characters and viewers) are considered incapable of recognising a plot hole.
Dollhouse, Series 2 created by Joss Whedon (2009-2010) Dollhouse series two carries itself like a show that’s seen cancellation in its future, hastening with dour determination towards a dystopia now seemingly inevitable (although thankfully Enver Gjokaj has his show-stealing acting moments). Much of the original appeal falls by the wayside.
Priest dir. Scott Stewart (2011) In a pseudo-futuristic dystopia, an excommunicated warrior priest confronts inner demons and a newly spawned vampire threat. The premise may not inspire but the plot at least hasn’t been twisted to throttle itself, allowing moody quiet moments to mollify the over-the-top action.
Firefight (A Reckoners Novel) by Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz, 2015) Brandon Sanderson’s take on the superhero genre is to invest comic-book powers lopsidedly, enhancing humanity’s Hyde aspect while leaving Jekyll to tread dystopian water. Firefight is Gotham-bleak in subject, Batman-esque in tone. Once it lures you in, it packs a hefty punch.