The excellent new action film Hotel Artemis depicts a near-future Los Angeles of 2028 torn apart by riots over the privatization of clean water. Despite advanced technology, poverty is rampant and your average citizen has to pay just to get fresh water. So, the city riots, causing a “busy night at the Artemis,” the underground hospital for criminals run by Jodie Foster’s “Nurse.” We follow her through one crazy night of chaos that feels like an insanely violent dystopia full of interesting sci-fi gadgets.
But for director Drew Pearce, that dystopia and its technology aren’t the product of science fiction. This is the real future.
“I didn’t think of it as a dystopia at all,” Pearce told Inverse. “I literally considered, ‘What will Los Angeles be like in 2028?’ Honestly.”
Pearce recently sat down with Inverse to talk about how his dark vision of the future came together, revealing how, when he was writing the story, a real-life water crisis in the California city loomed large. So, it provided a means to infuse the story with prescient, realistic societal concerns while also giving the story an organic reason why so many people end up at this strange hospital suffering grave injuries.
“I knew I needed people to be truly fucked up, but the trouble is I also knew I wanted to set it in one night,” Pearce said. Why have a movie focus on an underground hospital for criminals if it’s just another “slow night”? He realized that setting it 10 years into the future allowed him to work with more severe injuries for the cast while also utilizing advanced medical technology that let them “do other interesting things throughout the course of the evening.” Like a badass hallway fight scene featuring microwave laser scalpels, for example.
To make it all fit, Pearce worked with scientists and futurists to “plan out some of the advances that truthfully already exist.” Pearce didn’t elaborate on everyone that consulted on Hotel Artemis, but he did say experts ranged from NASA scientists to Homeland Security and even former SpaceX exployees. The one credited futurist is Thomas Wagner.
“They’re just fascinating because you’ll ask them a question,” Pearce said. “For example: ‘What advances in bone mending will we see in 10 years time?’ And they’ll say, ‘Well polyps are the way forward!’ Essentially coral. And that’s what the bone-mending spray in the movie is — it’s a spray based on coral polyps.” Pearce explained that this type of medical advance has been in development for a while now.
In Hotel Artemis you also see 3D organ printing, injectible injectible nano-tech, and microwave laser scalpels,, just to name a few medical advances. And there’s also contact lenses wiwith built-in cameras to live-stream footage.
What films like Blade Runner “get wrong about the future” — according to some futurists — is that the present day is always a blend of time periods. It’s not as if one day we’ll all wake up and there’ll be exclusively hologram billboards plastered across buildings. “How many cars from this year do you see?” Pearce asked, rhetorically, during our interview, gesturing to a nearby New York City street, “Maybe one right? At any given moment, there are cars on the road from the last 50 years. That’s how the future works… It layers up.”
Hotel Artemis “layers up” by sticking all of this futuristic technology inside a hotel with a design aesthetic that you’d call retro, even by 2018’s standards. There’s a neon sign on the roof that looks straight out of the ‘80s. Every room unlocks with a metal skeleton key, but the doors function like impenetrable high-tech vaults. The rooms are adorned with tacky, peeling wallpaper depicting various nature scenes, but next to them A.I.-controlled robotic arms perform surgery and activate the nearby 3D organ printers as-needed.
Hotel Artemis artfully blends together the past, present, and future of Los Angeles in a fun action flick that vaguely resembles John Wick but has so much more fun with its colorful mix of characters.
Los Angeles served as the ideal location for an action movie that effectively fused together multiple time period to create a distorted — but seemingly accurate — depiction of the future.
“L.A.’s really interesting for that as well,” Pearce explain, “because I love the city, but it’s very alien when you first see it as a European or an East Coaster, frankly. Because it’s not like what we think of other cities. You can’t tell what’s inside a building from the outside of it. It might be the nicest, hippest new restaurant in town, but it’s in a shitty strip mall, you know?”
Hotel Artemis carries those distinct vibes with it into its depiction of 2028 Los Angeles, one teeming with enough violence that it should leave you frightened about what the future has in store for us all.
Hotel Artemis hits theaters on June 8.