Things to Come takes place over a hundred years and shows the effect of rapidly advancing technology, both good and bad. In the city of Everytown, John Cabal is at home with his family on Christmas when a bombing raid takes place. The city is destroyed and the movie advances through time to the middle of a world war. Cabal, now a pilot, shoots down an enemy in his plane and lands to confront him. They are interrupted by poison gas, and Cabal leaves soon after when the enemy pilot shoots himself. The movie advances again to after the war, saying that the world has entered another dark age. In the ruins of a city destroyed by war and sickness, a warlord known as Chief reigns over a small population that is struggling to rebuild their planes and war capabilities. One day, Cabal lands in a plane and tells Chief of a far away civilization that exists without the concept or war. Chief has Cabal imprisoned when he tries to get them to abandon their violent way of life. A pilot from the city takes Cabal's plane and goes to tell his people of his capture. Later, Cabals people, Wings over the world, drop knockout gas on the city and rescue Cabal, killing Chief in the progress. The movie again advances, this time to a futuristic, utopian city. The citizens of the new Everytown begin to riot, stating their disinterest in progressing further as a society and their intent to stop a rocket launch. Cabal's grandson, the leader of the city, allows his daughter and another guy to go up in the rocket early to avoid it being destroyed by the mob.
Despite strange dialogue delivery by the actors, the movie had an interesting and ambitious concept. War and conflict are at the center of the plot, but rather than focusing on the action and politics of the war itself, it chooses to comment on the fast progression of then modern society.The closing monologue simplifies the main message of the movie: human beings should never stop in it's pursuit of progress. This movie was made in 1934, a time when the world was progressing at a faster pace than almost any other time. The capability of flight was pretty much brand new, warfare was getting more destructive and gruesome, and world leaders and their politics are getting more complicated. It would be only natural to be somewhat scared of human progress in this time, especially after world war I and the technological innovations that were used for killing instead of good. The angry mob at the end obviously represents people's fears with rapidly advancing technology and the ever more complicated world. However, as Cabal said in the end, "All the universe, or nothingness."