Sigh. This is some lame sci fi.
Even the best science fiction stories are often
thinly-disguised morality plays about the logical extension of what
we know about such topics as overpopulation, pollution, space
travel, and the underside of human nature. It usually turns out to
be bullshit, of course. When the future actually arrives, it is easy
to see that the future world they imagined in the past was not about
the future at all but about their own time. A good percentage of the
time people predict pretty much the opposite of what really happens.
Science fiction writers of the past, for example, once imagined a
future world filled with ever more gigantic, noisy, and polluting
machines. The real development of machines made them ever tinier,
quieter, and more efficient.
The tendency of futurologists to be consistently
incorrect is explained by a sociological (and mathematical)
phenomenon called regression, which is to say that once anything
gets too far from where most people want it, it gets pulled back by
a centrist tendency. Take Central Manhattan, for example. If you
wrote a science-fiction story in 1980 after studying the development
of Times Square from 1955-1980, how would you imagine Times Square
to look in 2005? The answer is basically that you would get it as
wrong as possible. The fact that the area got ever more sleazy and
dangerous in that first 25 year period was not a trend that could be
extrapolated into the following quarter of a century. Eventually,
the area got too far from what average people consider acceptable,
and various social forces forced it to regress toward the mean,
toward "normality." In fact, it is pretty much the same now as it
was back in 1955, except it has been updated with the technology of
2005. It's all commercial and touristy and white-bread, and there
are times when you almost wish the place still had the old porn
theaters, street hustlers, junkies, 'tutes, and rip-off joints.
Daybreak has that same kind of problem. It was
written in the early days of the AIDS scare, and it envisions our
time to be sharply polarized into the plague-free ruling classes and
the diseased, who are forcibly removed from society and quarantined.
Rebels fight against the marginalization of the victims. The AIDS
victims are treated like Jews in areas under Nazi control. For
example, the heavy-handed script made the Nazi parallel by combining
the yellow star and the concentration camp tattoos into one stigma -
a giant P tattooed to the chests of plague victims.
Of course, none of that happened. The United States
did not become more sharply divided regarding AIDS. If anything, the
exact opposite happened. Medicine did its share, tolerance did its
share, education did its share, prominent heterosexuals like Magic
Johnson started to turn up HIV+, and we gradually became better at
treating the disease, preventing it, and dealing with its stigma.
HIV+ people now walk among us, live long lives after they are
diagnosed, and are not universally turned into social pariahs. This
film got pretty much everything as wrong as possible.
In many cases, we forgive sci-fi films their
wrong-headedness if they give our imagination some exercise. I
suppose the future may turn out to be nothing like the way it is
pictured in Blade Runner, yet that film employs art and action and
invention and a touch of poetry to bring us into its alternate
world. Daybreak, in contrast, has nothing to offer in the realm of
imagination. This cheap made-for-cable movie presents a future world
that looks and sounds exactly like the one we live in - or lived in,
way back in 1993. People wear the same 1993 clothes, and drive the
same 1993 cars, and live in 1993 apartments, and use 1993
appliances. The only difference between Daybreak's world and the
real world is that AIDS is far more virulent.
The damned script can't even keep its POV consistent
and thoroughly developed. The rebels believe that the government is
wrong to quarantine the victims, and is lying about the disease, yet
we see people ravaged by the disease, and we see that the rebels
fear contracting it. We know it must be contagious (the rebels admit
this), and we can see its effects. So if the government ministers
are lying, what are they lying about, exactly? The script never
really explores any of these questions.
So what does the film have to offer? Not much.
Underneath its half-hearted sci-fi veneer is a routine kind of Romeo
and Juliet love story between the rebel leader (pre-fame Cuba
Gooding Jr.) and a "healthy" girl who had previously been hanging
around with the modern equivalent of the Hitler Youth.
So Daybreak is sort of like West Side Story with a