Futureworld

FutureworldSynopsis: Where you can’t tell theimortals from theimachines. . .even when you lookiin theimirror!

An amusement park of the future caters to any adult fantasy. Lifelike androids carry out your every whim. A fun place, right? Not so, as a reporter and his Girl Friday find out while on a press junket to the newly opened Futureworld…

*************************************************************************

Futureworld 7.25

eyelights: the behind-the-scenes look at Delos.
eyesores: the weak finale. the poor construction.

After the terrible event at the Delos resorts in ‘Westworld‘, the Delos corporation invested 1.5 billion dollars to reprogram everything, decommissioned West World, and reopened to the public with a new fantasy destination: Future World.

In Future World, guests (who were now paying a heftier fee of 1200$ per day each) could feel the excitement of being launched into orbit and of living in a space station, along with all the science fiction gadgets and commodities one might expect as entertainment.

Convinced that they had licked the problem at the heart of Delos’ scandalous disaster, the corporate heads decide to open their doors to a few guest journalists and politicians for close scrutiny – believing that this would spread the word that all is well again, and that the Delos resort would finally be the world-renowned marvel its creators always aspired it to be.

However, not everything is as it seems. Even though the two journalist (played here with a minimum of presence and passion by Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner) are already extremely sceptical from the onset, little do they know what is happening deep in the shadows of the Delos corporation and its robotic resort. As they risk their reputations and necks to dig up the dirt, they will discover that Future World is more than they’d ever anticipated.

Personally, I’m a fan of ‘Futureworld’ for its core conceit alone. I love a good conspiracy story. I love that there’s a shadowy side, a mystery to resolve (which had to be expected – otherwise what would be the point of tossing journalists into the resort?), I dug that we got to see it from behind the scenes again (but this time through the journalists’ eyes) and I quite enjoyed that it was set in a futuristic world instead of the Far West.

Discovering Future World itself was enjoyable, not only because it was a fresh environment not seen in the original film, but because there was an attempt by the filmmakers to awe the audience with their vision of the future – or, at least, their vision of Delos’ vision of the future. I enjoyed that the guests would end up manning a shuttle to a space station and that the station would have all sorts of unique features to entertain its guests, including 3D chess matches (predating ‘Star Wars’) and interactive robot boxing matches. It’s all rather unsophisticated by today’s standards, but I nonetheless found it kinda neat.

As with ‘Westworld’, I loved all the behind-the-scenes looks at everything. This time, however, we were privy to information at the same time as our two protagonists unearthed Delos’ secrets – we didn’t see what the corporation was up to first hand. Somehow, this kept things interesting (even after having seen the first one); it created an aura of mystery around the film by carefully peeling away its layers before our eyes. As well, it forced some sort of complicity with the journalists on the audience, instead of making mere observers of them.

The key problems with ‘Futureworld’ are in the script and direction:

The most glaring flaw comes in the form of Yul Brynner. Since West World has been left deserted and unused in the wake of the first film’s massacre, the writers had no logical way of bringing Brynner’s gunslinger back. They could have used the model in a different guise in Future World but, alas, chose to leave him as is, and introduce him in a dream sequence with one of our journalists. Not only did the sequence make no sense whatsoever contextually, but it was an obviously desperate attempt to insert some star power and connecting thread into the movie. Lame.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

Then there’s the notion that Delos is scanning and cloning world leaders and influential players and replacing them with robots. I could easily buy into clones because they would be indistinguishable from the originals. But, in ‘Futureworld’, they are robots, and we can all see very clearly just how artificial they are when they are taken apart – so there is no way that they can play the part of the people that Delos is replacing: at the very least someone would touch them and notice, but they would also likely fail metal detector tests, or weigh an inordinate amount. Pathetic.

Then there’s the ending between the real and cloned characters. This was particularly bad, not because of the concept, which I like, but because the filmmakers tried to make it unclear to the audience who was who and which was which. The problem is, by making the female clone shoot sparks after being damaged by gunfire, they ensured that we knew the truth – thereby ruining the whole ending, in which the heroes try to escape Delos by pretending to be their robotic counterparts. Since the audience knows that they’re the real deal, there is no suspense to be had. Sad.

*MAJOR spoiler alert*

Richard T. Heffron was obviously not a suspense and/or action director; he had a difficult time with three key scenes:

– When Fonda goes to see Frenchie, his informant, he doesn’t know who he is or what he looks like. And yet, one moment he’s at his desk and the next he’s reacting to seeing Frenchie get killed. WTF! Not only is there a huge gap between the scenes, but Fonda couldn’t possibly react to Frenchie’s death if he had no way of recognizing him. Retahded.

– There’s this moment after our two leads are drugged, and taken by Delos to be scanned. Upon their return, the next thing we know is that Danner wakes up from a nightmare (suggesting somewhat unconvincingly that perhaps this procedure was all a dream) and Fonda, who was dressed and on his way out, runs up to her to see what’s going on. What happened in between? Duh.

– Then there’s the final duel between Fonda and a robot. This had to be the lamest chase I’ve seen in a long time, lacking momentum and gravity. Fonda and his counterpart(s) pretty much limped around a boiler-room/industrial area and up the Future World rocket, chasing each other. It was suuuuper slow-paced an completely underwhelming – and likely the opposite effect of what was intended. Booooooo.

Having said this, Heffron and writers George Schenk and Mayo Simon have mostly worked on television, so it’s not surprising that the quality leaves a little to be desired (coincidentally, two of them have barely worked since ‘Futureworld’ – if this wasn’t a career killer, then at the very least this must not have been a great success for them). I’m not surprised one iota that the picture feels like a ’70s TV movie in many ways.

In fact, being a very PG film, it could easily have played on television. I actually had to double-check that it was indeed released in cinemas, because watching it doesn’t help to state its case. Turns out that it was released in July or August of 1976 (depending on what one’s source is). And there’s even claims that, as with many films of that era, there was a longer television cut. Hmmm…

Well, ‘Futureworld’ would have made for a really good TV movie, but it’s a so-so theatrical motion picture: the direction isn’t very good, the story has holes in it, and the cast seems uninspired – and anyone who is nitpicky about these key ingredients would be best advised to steer clear. Still, it is a decent follow-up to ‘Westworld’, it has its share of moments and there are some excellent elements to it – enough so that a short-lived TV series called ‘Beyond Westworld’ came soon after.

I’ve gone ‘West’, and I’ve seen the ‘Future’, but am I ready to go ‘Beyond’? Perhaps someday. Stay tuned…

Date of Viewing: January 8, 2013

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