Futureworld Blu-ray Review
Directed by Richard T. Heffron
Written by Mayo Simon and George Schenck
1976, Region A, 108 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray released on March 26th, 2013
Peter Fonda as Chuck Browning
Blythe Danner as Tracy Ballard
Arthur Hill as Duffy
John Ryan as Dr. Schneider
Yul Brynner as The Gunslinger
The Delos Corporation is back in business and ready to separate wealthy tourists from their money with its excellent interactive attractions at its adult-themed parks, including old favorites Roman World and Medieval World. Westworld remains closed in light of the recent unpleasantness, but the company now offers Spa World and Futureworld for just $1200 a day. This grand re-opening welcomes various international dignitaries as well as select members of the press. Delos is determined to win back the support of the masses and has invited reporter Chuck Browning, credited with bringing to light the events that transpired a few years ago that left fifty people dead at the hands of the animatronics. Browning is joined by television journalist Tracy Ballard and the two have been granted unrestricted access to any and all areas of the parks.
Chuck receives a tip from a Delos whistleblower that trouble continues to plague the company, but the informant is killed before he can provide any specifics. Browning and Ballard are reluctant to team up as they share a troubled past, but know that working together increases the likelihood of uncovering any corporate malfeasance. Despite the best efforts of company man Dr. Duffy to dissuade any suspicions, our heroes remain guarded. Ultimately their fears are confirmed as there is a sinister plot in motion, and it will be up to the vigilant journalists to save the world.
Futureworld is a sequel to Michael Crichton’s Westworld, but without the award winning writer-director’s pedigree. This film approaches the material from the most logical stance of the company learning nothing from past mistakes and re-opening the park to make all new ones. The concept works here just as well as it would two decades later when the same lesson was ignored in Crichton’s Jurassic Park franchise. Despite hitting the ground running with the introduction of several strong plot points, the momentum shifts once we enter the park in favor of a casual stroll through the attractions for the better part of the first hour.
Director Richard Heffron is given the task of bringing this tale to life without the benefit of Crichton’s writing. Working from a script by Mayo Simon and George Schenck, Heffron plods through the tedious middle act successfully enough and enjoys a bit more action during the dramatic conclusion. The biggest problem Futureworld must overcome is the absence of the element of surprise. Audiences are already aware of the trick that the robots should not be trusted. Unfortunately, the story plays out like an extended episode of The Bionic Woman.
Where the film shines however, is in the casting. Peter Fonda (Race with the Devil) really delivers as the suspicious journalist who knows he’s being lied to by authority figures. Blythe Danner (The Great Santini) matches Fonda’s strong will and the two share an immediate on-screen chemistry that feels natural and never hokey. Danner is occasionally a bit too cartoony as the woman every bit as tough as a man, but never sinks the picture into melodrama. If there is one misfire in the cast it is Yul Brynner (The Magnificent Seven), trumpeted in the ad campaign as returning as the murderous Gunslinger from Westworld. This is clearly a clumsy grab for cash, as his role is an ill-fitting silent cameo in a dream sequence that makes zero sense, but I hope he was well-compensated for his time.
Futureworld was likely an inevitable sequel, following the success of the previous film, but the script would have benefitted from one more rewrite. The people involved do their best and succeed at delivering an enjoyable adventure for the most part, yet when the closing credits roll, there are enough remaining questions that would merit a third chapter, but sadly stink of missed opportunity. The marketing campaign didn’t do the film any favors either, as the reveal of the central mystery is spoiled in the theatrical trailer. Fans of creepy faceless robot people will be entertained and audiences viewing this as a double feature with the original will be mostly satisfied, until they consider what else could have been.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 1:85.1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen monitors, viewers will find little to complain about. The image is a bit soft at times and colors muted, but this is still an improvement over previous releases. There are occasional instances of print damage but nothing horrendous.
The film is presented with a default DTS 2.0 HD mix that is satisfying without trying to impress. Dialogue remains free from distortion and English subtitles are provided.
Shout! Factory brings Futureworld to Blu-ray with a series of promotional materials including a trailer and some radio spots.
There is also a stills gallery for your perusal.
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*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*