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Futureworld (1976)

Shout! Factory
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/26/2013

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/29/2013

When there is something -- an event, a trend -- which is currently happening in our world, we think of it as just that -- current. However, sometimes the things we think of as being "current" have been going on for years. For example, we consider "sequelitis" -- the need to make a sequel to every film which is successful -- as a new thing, but it's been going on for decades. It didn't take the money men in Hollywood to figure out that if something has worked once, it will probably work again, and that's why we have movie series beginning as early as the 1930s. So, getting sequels which no one was really asking for is not a new things. And if there's one thing which has endured throughout the years, it's that the sequel is typically an inferior product. Case in point: Futureworld.

Futureworld takes place a few years after the events of Westworld, in which the robots at a high-tech futuristic theme park malfunctioned and killed some of the guests. Delos, the company behind the facility, has re-grouped and is now ready to re-open. Newspaper reporter Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda), who broke the story on the problems at Westworld, is invited by Mr. Duffy (Arthur Hill) to visit the attraction and see for himself that it's safe. He's joined by TV reporter Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner). The pair arrive at Delos and receive a tour, including a meeting with head scientist Dr. Schneider (John Ryan). Chuck and Tracy visit the outer-space themed Futureworld. While checking things out, they find out that Delos has made the park even more automated than before. At first, everything seems fine, but Chuck is skeptical and wonders why so many foreign dignitaries have been invited to the grand opening. He and Tracy begin to dig deeper and soon learn that all is not as it seems.

Westworld, which was written and directed by Michael Crichton, was a very imaginative movie. The story was essentially a dry-run for Crichton's novel Jurassic Park, as it portrayed a theme park where the faith in technology lead to major problems. For its time, the movie presented many forward-thinking ideas and it wasn't afraid to present some mature themes (although none of it was explicit). Being Crichton's first time behind the camera as the director of a feature film, Westworld was slow at times, and like his novels, it let the science part of the science-fiction get in the way of the story.

Futureworld offers a similarly slow pace, but it doesn't have the good story to back it up. Screenwriters Mayo Simon and George Schenk have concocted a fairly straightforward plot here which plays more like a spy movie than a techno-thriller. (It actually feels like something from an Austin Powers movie.) There is a twist in the third act which I supposed is interesting, but it's also rather benign. Going in, many audiences members may suspect a robot malfunction, as seen in the first film. However, the movie never plays upon this fear and there is no suspense whatsoever in that direction. This seems like an odd choice -- Even if it had been cliched, a fake-out with a robot would have been a nice red herring for the film.

The other major problem with Futureworld is that feels low-rent when compared to the first movie. I had to double-check to ensure that this wasn't a made-for-TV movie. The film opens with a press conference announcing the re-opening of Delos. This touches on the events which closed the park in the first place. Would any company really dwell on its failures of the past like this? Adding insult to injury, this scene is filled with clips from the first film, including attacks by the Gunslinger (Yul Brynner). Why would they show this? Where did this footage come from? Brynner appears later on in another sequence which has a
"contractual obligation" feel to it. Those expecting anything from Futureworld will be disappointed, as it merely consists of a huge industrial door and a crude "flight" on a "spaceship". The movie reaches its low point with the skiing on Mars, which is simply ski footage which has been tinted red. A faceless robot who works an assistant to a handy man is shown in the film several times and it never shakes the sense of simply being a man in a costume.

Overall, Futureworld will most likely leave you cold. The presence of Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner (who looks the same as she does today), and Arthur Hill helps to elevate the film some, but it sticks comes off as a less-ambitious rip-off of the first movie.

Futureworld offers one of the worst pet names ever for a woman on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Shout! Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is fairly sharp and clear. There is some grain to the picture, as well as some minor defects from the source material, such as small scratches and black dots. The colors look fantastic here and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, as we can make out textures on objects. The level of clarity is good, but there are some soft shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track stable and well-balanced, but we don't get much in the way of dynamic effects. There were a few moments where the stereo was obvious, but most of the audio comes directly from the front and doesn't wander very far.

The Futureworld Blu-ray Disc contains only a scant few extras. The film's TRAILER is present here, and it's window-boxed at an odd aspect ratio. The Disc contains two RADIO SPOTS which run a minute total. The final extra is a STILL GALLERY which offers concept art of things which we didn't get in the movie. We also get some movie posters, one of which offers the tagline, "Where the only way to survive is to kill yourself". Yikes!

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.