How Effective Was Fox’s Dark Angel at Predicting Life in 2019?
Dark Angel was ahead of its time in more ways than one. The Fox television show created by James Cameron ran for just two series at the start of the 21st century, but it gave Jessica Alba her breakout role as a genetically-enhanced super soldier. Its plot and direction were of the kind that may have been received more sympathetically if released after superheroes took over television and cinema screens.
It certainly feels like the kind of show that would now get commissioned by Netflix for multiple seasons, yet Dark Angel suffered second-season syndrome and was promptly cancelled. Its legacy remains strong, with the show boasting an impressive 7.4 rating on IMDb, averaged from almost 29,000 contributions. Given that the show was set in 2019, this is the perfect time to reflect on that legacy while analyzing just how prescient Cameron was at envisaging life in 2019.
Dark Angel’s 2019
Most of us will struggle to predict what happens next year, let alone decades in the future. Setting shows in a supposedly realistic future is a bold move, given that it will inevitably invite scrutiny when that time arrives. When October 21, 2015 came around, many were quick to analyze the insight of Back to the Future II. While CityLab pointed out 30 things that the movie got right or wrong about 2015, most of the correct predictions are quite broad and the lack of flying cars and hoverboards in 2015 was impossible to ignore.
Admittedly, Dark Angel is set in a post-apocalyptic Seattle, so the creators had a fair bit of creative license. This makes it difficult to compare the aesthetics of a 2019 city with Dark Angel’s perception, although its cars are firmly grounded. Similarly, the continued reliance on landlines and pagers would seem jarring if the rest of Dark Angel’s 2019 was supposed to be modern, but the lack of technological development fits perfectly with the post-apocalyptic qualities of the show.
Cameron is renowned for using strong female leads in his work, with Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley two notable examples. Alba’s Max Guevara joins that list, with her portrayal of the genetically enhanced super soldier widely considered to be one of the strongest elements of the series. It may have taken the Marvel Cinematic Universe 21 movies to utilize a female lead, with Brie Larson in the titular role of this year’s Captain Marvel, but Cameron was unafraid to give Alba the platform from which she launched her Hollywood career.
The character of Guevara would perhaps resonate even deeper with a 2019 audience more accustomed to watching characters with special powers. Captain America invites comparisons, given that he and Guevara were both given their strength by government intervention. Guevara has exceptional strength and speed, allowing her to dodge bullets and make impressive leaps. Enhanced senses also allow Guevara to see in the dark and hear from great distances.
Those are quite standard powers, but Guevara also has more niche abilities that make her stand out from the comic book crowd. In one episode, Guevara uses her genetic ability to predict the winning numbers in a game of roulette that took place in a mobster’s casino. Whether in a physical casino or in one of the many variations of Betway online roulette, the aim of the game is simply to predict where the ball will land after spinning the ‘little wheel’. This gave Guevara something of an advantage. It would have been interesting to have seen Guevara explore these predictive powers in more depth.
Ahead of its time
The writing team for Dark Angel tapped into Guevara’s power of foresight to some extent, with the well-rounded constructions of the show’s characters more associated with a 2019 show than media from 2000. Dark Angel may have been launched during the heyday of shows like Friends, but the contrast could not be any starker. The Independent collated then moments from Friends that have proven problematic for a more socially-conscious audience in 2019. While some justify that as Friends being a product of its time, Dark Angel showed that it was possible to be more progressive at the very start of the 21st century.
The show featured diversity in both sexuality and race. Watching the Wasteland notes how Max’s best friend, Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller), was presented as a gay woman of colour in a completely matter-of-fact manner. While Dark Angel may not have predicted any technological or fashion developments, the series exemplified many of the qualities that television shows now strive for in 2019.
Dave has over 20 years experience in the digital industry, and is founder and editor of Geektown. Obviously a huge geek himself, he can often be found in front of the latest tv show or movie, on various video games, or with his head in a comic book.