on 28 August 2014
Made to capitalise/cash-in on the unexpected success of Westworld, Futureworld tries to reach for the stars, but the shuttle doesn't quite make it.
It's not a particularly bad film, it just never quite fulfills the promise of the concept: the futuristic theme park with its vast array of robots was done very well in Westworld, so the sequel needed to try and find a new angle. So, what can else can you do with robots? Well, anyone who has spent any time in the Outer Limits or the Twilight Zone can answer that, as can the original series of Star Trek. If there is anyone who doesn't know what the big reveal is, I won't spoil it for you, but you won't find it particularly startling.
Another item borrowed is the sound effects. A number of very distinctive effects (most notably the tricorder sound) have also come from Star Trek, while the final piece of unoriginality comes in the form of Yul Brynner. Clearly included so that he could be used on the poster and to provide a link to the previous film, Brynner's cameo is so brief as to be pointless. The scene he appears in is largely devoid of context and you are left to work out why we've been shown it at all.
The two leads, while lacking chemistry, work quite well with the material they've been given, making the most of the limited plot. Likewise, with most of the film being shot at the Johnson Space Centre, good use of the location has made some of the visuals quite striking, with the giant door sticking in my memory from when I first saw the film over thirty years ago!
The film has aged quite badly, with overlong scenes and unnecessary exposition coupled with appalling fashion and dated technology. Certainly worth watching as a curious piece of seventies nonsense, but it can't quite match Logan's Run, despite the latter being released in the same year and sharing a very similar aesthetic and style.
The Disc (UK Blu-Ray release)
The picture quality is a marked improvement over previous versions, but it never rises above the mediocre. Some effort has clearly been put into mastering, with no really significant picture damage or dropouts evident, but colours are muted and occasionally muddy, while the image as a whole suffers from a softness that loses any real sense of clarity or definition. The sound is equally unremarkable, with no real standout moments anywhere and an original audio mix that makes dialogue occasionally hard to follow. However, given the history of the film, this is probably the best we're ever likely to get.
The only real letdown on this release is the presentation by 101 Films. There is absolutely NOTHING in the way of extras, not even a trailer. The icing on the cake is that they haven't even bothered with optional subtitles, a mean piece of penny-pinching that even the masters of 'no subtitles', Network, doesn't sink to on its Blu-Rays. Completely unforgivable in this digital age.
One to pick up when it is at a bargain price (£10 is way too much).
on 26 July 2009
Well having seen the excellent Westworld, I took the plunge and purchased the sequel - Futureworld.
Cynically, I could have guessed that this film has little to do with the original, and I would be right.
Futureworld features out of control robots as does Westworld, but here the comparison ends.
The film itself takes a good twenty minutes to get going, and once it does there is some plot to keep you watching.
The main characters are not a patch on those in Westworld however, and really this is one of it's main problems. They appear to be acting, and are not natural. Some of the lines are cringe making and as the other reviewer has pointed out here, Yul Brynner does not star in the movie at all - hence the box image of the DVD is misleading.
Now there is a good 'twist' at the end which I shall let you find out about yourself, however it is wasted due the very last scene - it being so bad, I thought it was a joke! It's as if the director packed his/her bangs and left the set, worn out - which to be honest is how you will feel after watching.
Only buy the movie if you appreciate it is not going to match Westworld in any way. There is little action, and the plot is going nowhere fast in terms of being dynamic and challenging.
The ideas are fine, some indeed are quite original - yet the execution of the idea, is a nightmare.
A great shame.
on 15 July 2014
FUTUREWORLD  [Blu-ray] [US Import] Where ‘Westworld’ Stopped! ‘Futureworld’ Begins!
Do you remember that disaster at Delos a few years ago, when the Westworld robots went out of control and killed a few guests? Well, the entire resort has now been rebuilt and redesigned to be completely fail-safe. To combat the lingering adverse publicity, Duffy, the Delos representative, has offered the IMC Communication Network exclusive rights to the new Delos story. Tracy Ballard [Blythe Danner], the network's top commentator, has been assigned the story with Chuck Browning [Peter Fonda], the newspaper reporter who broke the original ‘Westworld’ disaster story. But as Tracy and Chuck's private tour starts, they get the feeling the entire resort might not be as safe as Delos thinks...
Cast: Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner, Arthur Hill, Yul Brynner, John Ryan, Stuart Margolin, James M. Connor, Allen Ludden, Robert Cornthwaite, Angela Greene, Darrell Larson, Nancy Bell, Bert Conroy and Dorothy Konrad
Director: Richard T. Heffron
Producers: James T. Aubrey, Paul N. Lazarus III, Richard T. Heffron and Samuel Z. Arkoff
Screenplay: George Schenck and Mayo Simon
Composer: Fred Karlin
Cinematography: Gene Polito and Howard Schwartz
Video Resolution: 1080p [Metrocolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
Running Time: 104 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Shout! Factory / ORION Pictures
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: ‘Westworld’  was a popular, slick science fiction adventure produced at M-G-M and written and directed by Michael Crichton. It offered up a then-novel concept - a malfunction at a futuristic theme park that results in mass casualties of guests and park technicians alike. The movie was a box-office hit and its producer, Paul Lazarus III, developed a follow-up, although without the direct involvement of Crichton. When M-G-M passed on the property, Lazarus and co-producer James T. Aubrey bought the sequel rights from Crichton and brought their story to famous low-budget producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and his American International Pictures (AIP). The result was ‘Futureworld’ , which wisely avoided the theme-park-run-amok scenario of the first film Michael Crichton himself would revisit that theme years later with his novel and screenplay of ‘Jurassic Park’ . Instead, the sequel delved into a deeper conspiracy plot involving the Delos corporate entity, placing ‘Futureworld’ squarely in the company of other post-Watergate 1970s films that exploited the general mistrust of political, industrial, and corporate institutions.
The film stars Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner, as a pair of reporters invited to review the re-opening of the Delos adult-themed parks, one of which was the 'Westworld' of the original movie. 'Westworld' has been closed down, although 'Medieval World' and 'Roman World' are reopening. New to the Delos theme parks this time around are 'Spa World' and the namesake of the film, 'Futureworld.' Reporters Chuck Browning [Peter Fonda] and Tracy "Socks" Ballard [Blythe Danner] are asked by Delos to come and check things out, so the public at large can be assured that Delos is no longer dangerous (we learn early in the film that over 50 people had been killed by robots as a result of the events happening in “Westworld”).
Chuck Browning is already suspicious about the parks before leaving for the trip, as he has witnessed the death of an informant who was attempting to provide him with information about Delos. Browning and Ballard aren't at “Futureworld” very long before they discover one of the main reasons why things are different. In the original movie, the robots were being controlled by a group of scientists in a large control room...this time; the men in the control room are robots too! But that's just the tip of the iceberg, as the investigative pair will soon unravel an even darker purpose for the re-opening of the parks.
One of the advantages 'Futureworld' has over its predecessor is with its lead actors. Fonda and Danner have good chemistry together and make strong leads. That, however, is pretty much the only aspect of the movie that proves to be better than the original film. Because the viewer already has an idea of what the Delos parks are like, there's no sense of fun and discovery like there was in the first movie. Also, while this film also concludes with an extended chase sequence between a pair of characters, it can't compete with the hunting of the Richard Benjamin character by the evil Gunslinger [Yul Brynner] from the original.
‘Futureworld’ feels as if it were shot on location at an industrial theme park thanks to extensive shooting at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Prominent as "sets" are such distinctive sights as the giant circular latch of the Space Environment Simulator Laboratory (which was also featured prominently in the posters and advertising of the film), and one of the Mission Operations Control Rooms, with its familiar rows of computer monitors facing a large bank of tracking screens. The film was also shot in several other locations in Houston, making liberal use of the late 1960s-early 1970s Modern architecture of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the lobby of Jones Hall, and the tram system at the Houston Intercontinental Airport.
Speaking of Yul Brynner, his character returns in 'Futureworld' in one of the most pointless and senseless cameos ever captured on film. He appears in the movie for about a minute, utters no dialogue and his only purpose seems to be so that the filmmakers could advertise the return of his character in the attempt to sell a few more tickets.
There's little doubt that 'Futureworld' is a slightly inferior film to ‘Westworld,’ but it deserves credit for at least trying to do something a little different instead of giving audiences a by-the-numbers sequel that follows the same notes of the original. Even with Fonda and Danner as the leads, the film looks and feels more like something made for the small screen than the silver screen, which means it might play a little better on home video today than the way it did in theatres back in the 1970s (where it was considered a flop).
Although by 1976 Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) had been seen in several short animated films, ‘Futureworld’ was the first feature film to incorporate such effects, and Peter Fonda was no doubt the first major actor to have his face "digitized" for the big screen. The 3-D wireframes for the film were created by a couple of graduate students at the University of Utah. One of these students, Edwin Catmull, would go on to become a leading figure in the CGI genre at Lucasfilm, PIXAR and Disney.
Blu-ray Video Quality – While this is no doubt the better of the two films, 'Futureworld' is the best of the bunch on this home video release, there are still some issues with the picture quality as the primary problem being the age of the print. There are evident scratches, dirt, and other defects in the presentation that are evident throughout the entire movie. Some scenes look better in HD than others, but most have a "washed out" look to them and lack the kind of detail, sharpness, and overall "pop" one expects in 1080p. Black levels are also an issue throughout most of the movie, with details often being lost in some of the darker scenes (of which there are many). Although there are issues with the picture, for the most part colours and skin tones are well balanced and the movie retains a film-like look throughout, with a healthy dose of grain that is always present but never obtrusive. The presentation pales in comparison to the work Warner Bros. did on the ‘Westworld’ Blu-ray, but there's nothing too serious here that would deter one's viewing enjoyment, it's just a very average transfer by high-definition standards.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The only track on this release is a 2.0 DTS-HD Stereo Master Audio that (obviously) doesn't provide much in terms of activity or immersion, but is certainly solid nevertheless. Both the dialogue and musical soundtrack, which I actually prefer to 'Westworld,' are clear and well-balanced. When I reviewed ‘Westworld,’ I noted that the spoken word and music soundtrack almost seemed separate from one another, with the score overbearing when compared to the dialogue of the actors. No such problems here, as everything is properly balanced, with no noticeable issues one often hears from older films, like popping or hissing in the track. Subtitles are also available, but only in English.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Theatrical Trailer  [1080i] [3:00] This is the original theatrical trailer for 'Futureworld.' Like a lot of trailers, this one gives away the major plot points, so be sure to avoid it until you have watched the actual film.
Radio Spots [1:00] Two 30-second radio spots for the film.
Still Gallery [1080p] [1:00] A 60 second slide show that consists of preproduction artwork and movie posters for the film. It's a video slide show, meaning you don't need to use your remote control to advance from one picture to the next, but you will need to use your remote control to pause on any one still image.
Finally, ‘Westworld’ was a fun throwback to the kind of fairly low rent sci-fi fare that used to populate drive-ins in the late fifties, albeit gussied up in a lot of techno-speak and proto-futuristic trappings. Ironically, ‘Futureworld’ hasn't aged half as well as ‘Westworld’ has, looking decidedly dowdy and old fashioned, perhaps due to its relatively meagre budget and American-International production roots. Performances here are okay, though one gets the distinct impression most of the major players were wishing they were in some other world, like an A-list film, when they were shooting this escapade. This Blu-ray has some fairly problematic video issues, though the audio is quite good. Fans of Blythe Danner, who never really got her due as a leading actress in films, may want to check this out, one way or the other. But for Michael Crichton fans that are aching for a film about technology running amok in an amusement park facility, the much better bet would of course be the ‘Jurassic Park’ franchise. Despite this slight flaw compared to the original film, I am still glad I have added it to my Blu-ray Collection and if you are a fan of this sci-fi genre, then you will not go wrong, but sadly with the way films are made today, this now looks very dated. Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom