In a few days it will be 2008, well into the future. Movies promised us we'd be flying cars to our jobs at the robot factory. Instead, we have to settle for iPods, free online checking accounts and AIDS. Of course, the future wouldn't have been such a disappointment if Hollywood hadn't gotten our hopes so high.
2001, according to our research of the title on the DVD case
Mankind has begun colonizing space (awesome), leading to the discovery of an alien artifact under the lunar surface (even more awesome). An investigative space mission is undertaken with the help of a self-aware murderous supercomputer named HAL 9000 (so fucking awesome we just peed a little bit).
Advanced Artificial Intelligence: The closest thing we had to HAL in 2001 were AOL Instant Messenger Bots, which can "chat" in an irritating, judgmental way. These bots were designed to function at an intelligence level on par with your average AOL user, so let's just say we weren't in immediate danger of a HAL-like consciousness taking over a NASA mission and eliminating its crew members. Luckily, our 2001-era highly-combustible space shuttles were quite capable of killing astronauts on their own, thank you very much.
Innovative New Technology: There's a scene in 2001 in which a character is dozing in front of a flat-panel screen built into the seat in front of him--an impressively accurate prediction of JetBlue and other airlines with TVs in their seat back. Even more noteworthy is that he's watching programming that's obviously from the 1960s, eerily anticipating Nick at Nite.
Widespread Space Travel: It's easy to chide Space Odyssey for its ambitious forecast of turn-of-the-century space travel, but keep in mind that the film was released in 1968, a full year before we faked the moon landing. Nobody could have guessed that the Soviet Union would forfeit the Space Race for fear of getting its dress dirty, and then finally collapse like a little girl. This deprived us the fruits of competition. Were the Soviets still tinkering around with satellites, we'd probably be colonizing Pluto instead of bitterly revoking its status as a planet.
2001 is often celebrated for its clairvoyance, because a few of its inane predications came vaguely true. But, the major plot elements still seem like crackhead visions of the distant future. And the movie's notion that we'd still have attractive flight attendants in 2001 now seems preposterous.
Set In 2004
Jean-Claude Van Damme (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) is a Time Enforcement Agent tasked with making sure people don't use time travel to dick around with the past.
Time Travel: Obviously we didn't actually have access to time travel in 2004. But, what sets Timecop apart is its asinine treatment of the subject. Timecop's major rule is that when you're traveling to the past, you can't come in direct contact with your past self because "the same matter cannot occupy the same space." Right, Timecop. We suppose it can't.
Futuristic Cars: The cars in Timecop are able to navigate by themselves, with a voice activation system so advanced it can understand Jean-Claude Van Damme. Assuming the auto industry would whip up such advanced vehicles in 10 years is like making a movie today that is supposed to be set in 1985 and having everyone driving Model Ts.
Absolutely nothing Timecop promised has come true. At one point, there's a throwaway sequence of a man preparing to masturbate with a VR headset, something we've all dreamed about at one time or another (that is, we've all dreamed of having VR porn. Hopefully your dreams aren't haunted by some guy in a big futuristic helmet masturbating). We probably shouldn't be surprised these guys weren't able to predict 10 years into the future since these are the same people who gambled their movie on the staying power of Jean-Claude Van Damme's popularity.
Set In 2000
After a national financial crisis, America's fascist president has created a sadistic annual Transcontinental Death Race. We've been pro-Death Race for years, but the government refuses to include it as a ballot initiative.
Futuristic Skyline: Even though it's only been 25 years--of financial crisis, mind you--New York has become an incredible futuristic city filled with countless metallic spires and emerald domes. The filmmakers apparently assumed construction would begin on these buildings immediately after filming was concluded. Or, they believed that by 2000 our cities would be replaced by fanciful matte painting backdrops.
Prevalence of Idiotic Violent Death Racing: OK, so we'll give them NASCAR. The only difference is that in the Death Race points are accumulated by running over pedestrians, and the points vary based on the age and gender of the person killed, whereas NASCAR is completely fucking pointless.
Since Death Race is a goofy '70s satire, it's pretty hard to actually criticize them for their embarrassing vision of the year 2000. It's far easier to make fun of a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone, who plays a woman-beater named "Machine Gun" Joe. One thing we could have never predicted at the time is that "Machine Gun" Joe wouldn't even crack a list of the 10 all-time stupidest Sylvester Stallone character names.
They claim an indeterminate "near future," but a careful analysis of the fashions, haircuts, vehicles, and computers seen in this 1987 movie lead us to believe it took place no later than 1988.
After suffering fatal wounds, Officer Murphy is reconstructed as an unfeeling cybernetic police officer. But in a world of crime and corruption, RoboCop might just be the most human character of all-- except for the whole cyborg freak thing.
Cyborg Technology: Although we're still years from ungainly, plodding cyborgs like RoboCop, bionic implants and artificial hearts are inching us closer to that universal American dream: a cyborg sexual servant in every home.
Privatization of Government: The crooked Omni megacorporation is contracted to oversee the police department, leading to large-scale corruption and the cruel manipulation of RoboCop. This is an astute anticipation of the present-day debates over private military contracts. Of course, Blackwater continues to maintain it never deployed cyborgs in Iraq, if you're naive enough to believe their official account.
Detroit Even More of a Shithole: RoboCop shrewdly takes place in Detroit, the only city that actually turned out to have the dystopian future sci-fi movies have been predicting for years. The movie version of the city is so overrun with crime and poverty that the Omni corporation hatches a plan to simply replace it with "Delta City." In reality such a dramatic last resort was never undertaken. Instead, everybody just kind of gave up.
RoboCop is an odd mixture of the incredible (cyborgs, orbiting defense lasers) and the comically obsolete (cathode ray tube televisions, the 1986 Ford Taurus.)
So, even though no specific year is given for its setting, no matter what year you assign it, everything's still going to be completely wrong.