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Westworld was the film that put Michael Crichton well and truly on the
map as a writer and sometime director to watch out for. His story of an
amazing theme park gone wrong was revisited twenty years later, only
with raptors in the place of cowboys. It could have been revisited a
lot earlier, had Futureworld been a lazy, hurried sequel to it's
successful predecessor. Instead the filmmakers produced something
entirely original that stands on its own with no prior knowledge of the
first film necessary to the average viewer.
The film begins two years after the disaster at Westworld, with the newly improved theme park Delos ready to open its doors again to the rich and influential public. Peter Fonda however smells a rat, and following a tip-off that all is not well he takes a holiday there himself, with his ex-girlfriend and fellow journalist in tow. Of course it would be a short and uneventful film if he turned out to be wrong, so he doesn't. He's right. In fact, things there are worse than he thought, but I won't give it away here. Suffice it to say that it's not only the robot technology that has improved at Delos.
Futureworld plays on the question that audiences raised following the release of Westworld - can you have sex with these robots? The answer is yes, and whilst we're not shown any (this is a family film after all) both the robots and some of the guests discuss it openly. One even quips "Once you've had sex with a robot, you'll never go back!" If Futureworld was a real place, the implications would be scary indeed.
This film seems to have attracted a lot of negative reviews which surprises me, as I felt it was a well paced science fiction thriller. It was produced by American International Pictures, with Samuel Z. Arkoff at the helm, and as such it is a very slick looking film on a very low budget. It never looks cheap, despite some of the costumes looking a little too theatrical. And why shouldn't they? After all, it's a holiday camp, not a re-enactment society.
I would recommend Futureworld to anyone who is a fan of Westworld, or of seventies science fiction in general. I would imagine if you're reading this you probably fit into the latter category!
Series note: As Futureworld is a "later chapter" to the story begun in
Michael Crichton's Westworld, it is imperative that you watch Westworld
before this film.
Set a number of years after the events of Westworld (1973), Futureworld concerns two competitive reporters, Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda) and Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner), who have been invited to cover the reopening of Delos, the "virtual reality" amusement park that went haywire in Westworld. Browning broke the story about the previous mishap, and he's particularly skeptical about the revamped park. Of course, being a sci-fi/thriller film, much of his skepticism is justified.
Director Richard T. Heffron did a lot of work for television both before and after he directed Futureworld, so it is not surprising that the film often has more of a made-for-television "atmosphere" than its predecessor. Delos has been revamped so that there are new lands--including Spa World (similar to today's actual "destination spas") and of course, Future World, where guests take a simulated rocket flight to a simulated space station where they engage in recreational activities such as simulated space walks and non-simulated hobnobbing at the bar. Westworld has become a ghost town (and it seemed to me that this dilapidated state should have been capitalized on as "Ghost World"--that's where I would have chosen to spend my high-priced vacation--but Heffron and his scripters didn't bother). The production design is a bit slicker than it was in Westworld, even if the locations aren't as pleasant (there is no desert--I'm a big fan of deserts). It also looks a bit higher budget, but the impact isn't greater because of the made-for-television feel.
Still, Heffron often transcends that limitation, and there are occasional sequences, such as Ballard's dream, which Browning and a handful of technicians vicariously enjoy (it partially involves a nudity-free sex fantasy) from a remote monitor, that are unusual in their surrealism. Much of the dream is as a silent film, and it features a nice cameo from Yul Brynner, who was the chief villain in Westworld. There are also a number of impressive "industrial" sets--full of piping, cables, large machinery and such, in which Heffron sets a number of exciting action sequences, one remarkably prescient of the climax chase in Total Recall (1990).
Because of the film's intimate connection with Westworld, it's helpful to make a number of comparisons between the two that help explain how Futureworld holds its own (almost, I only rated it a point lower) to its infamous brother.
Both films are largely satirical (in a more formal, less humor-oriented sense of that term), a caricature of many different facets of society, from amusement/recreation to folly, and in the case of Futureworld, more ominous machinations. Delos is a satire of Disney World and similar theme parks, where we can spend leisure time playing roles, fantasizing that we're someone else, in some other time.
Whereas Westworld presented its satire of Disney-like escapism on a more surface level, Futureworld is concerned with the reality under the public façade. Westworld presented a few moments of the behind the scenes reality--technicians attending to computers, maintaining robots, fretting about anomalies--but the bulk of Futureworld consists of Browning and Ballard on a figurative journey to the bowels of Hades, where they'll eventually attempt to "unmask" the devil and destroy his perpetration of hedonistic illusion.
As it should sound, Futureworld is much more sinister in some ways. Not that Westworld wasn't wonderfully disturbing, but the dilemma in that film arose through relative innocence, with man attempting to better himself and his environment, only discovering too late that his manipulations were backfiring. In Futureworld, the innocence is gone. The Frankenstein-like, God-emulating manipulation of the world has been realized, and through conceit, the powers that be behind Delos figure they can improve not only upon nature, but the artificial control of nature that failed in Westworld, especially utilizing the services of behind the scenes technicians who are now almost exclusively robots.
The villainous motivation behind of all this, which extends far beyond Delos, has an attractive grayness. The aim is still to improve the world, but at a cost of human life. But is it? Supposedly, human life is being replaced at the same rate, the replacements ostensibly being identical biologically, except that they have a different set of beliefs. Although the exact mechanism of all of this is a bit vague (as it needs to be--any attempt at a scientific explanation would probably be less plausible then just saying " . . . and then a miracle occurs"), the plot points fueled by the idea broach a number of very interesting philosophical questions.
If you haven't seen the film yet, some of what I'm saying will seem itself a bit vague, but I'm purposefully presenting it that way to avoid "giving the film away", while still enabling comments on it. Rest assured that the plot is fairly transparent and easy to follow --this is a good script, and Heffron did a fine job directing it so that it brings up serious issues at the same time it provides more than a fair amount of suspense and touches of humor.
A lot of the film succeeds because of good performances from Fonda, Danner and a few others. Fonda and Danner have to effectively play a couple different roles, sometimes making a clear distinction, sometimes purposefully blurring the same, which they accomplish with skill. They also have to undergo a couple somewhat bizarre transformations that aren't explained very well, such as one from rivals to lovers, but somehow they manage to make even that convincing.
This is a fine sequel to Westworld. It isn't essential viewing, but Westworld certainly is, and if you've experienced that film, you may as well see what happens next.
Years after the failure of Westworld, the same company have regrouped
and are planning to open the same theme park again but improved and
totally safe. Chuck Browning, the journalist who originally broke the
Westworld story, is approached by a mysterious man who has information
on this new park but he is killed before he can tell his story.
Looking for dirt under the surface, Browning and colleague Ballard join
the elite group selected for the opening few days at the park and begin
to investigate a world where nothing is what it seems nothing.
Having enjoyed the Jurassic Park rehearsal that was Westworld, I tuned in to this sequel hoping for, at very least, more of same stuff with a clever new slant on it. In defence of the film it does try to do something with the plot and widens it out into a bigger, potentially better conspiracy story but for some reason it fails to really engage. The first half of the film drags like a chain smoker and it seems happy to just bang out sequences that we are supposed to go 'wow' at simply because they involve special effects or robots. This is a terrible first hour because the special effects at best are superimposed men painted red and green to look like holographic chess pieces and, at worst a laughable moment where people sky down the red dust on Mars on rather, they ski down a normal mountain but the whole scene is shot through a red filter! That is not a special effect and even in 1976 I doubt that these 'effects' were enough to stop audiences from getting bored in the first half of the movie.
The second half is a marked improvement but, by then, a lot of damage had been done and a flurry of action and conspiracy was not quite enough to make it a good film. It does have some good scenes but, ironically enough, these feature between the duplicated characters rather than being the effect shots that the producers were clearly banking on being the business side of the film. However, the extent of the threat is never translated to the film and the ending is terrible far too muted to have even the faintest relation to the plot we were being sold just a few minutes before. The film only once or twice has even vague tension and certainly nowhere near the degree that the plot demanded.
The cast are also hamstrung by the material. Fonda looks bemused the whole time and it looks likely that nobody told him what was happening in the film he certainly doesn't look like a man who has just uncovered an evil conspiracy! Danner is also as shapeless and dipsy and she didn't make me care one bit about her. The support cast try hard to look 'evil' and 'conspiratorial' but really they are not given the tools to do the job and just end up scowling! A cameo from Yul Brynner just seems to be totally pointless and resulting in his entire scene just being stupid.
Overall this is a very poor sequel. It tries to repeat the formula from the first film while opening it out into its own plot but it fails in a big way.
The first hour is empty, unspectacular that was meant to be spectacle but wasn't and a second half that has a potentially good plot which is just wasted by a delivery that is so lacking in excitement and tension that you'd think there was no conspiracy or danger whatsoever! Stick to the original.
Futureworld is the sequel to 1973's Westworld. It differed from the first
movie in that while Westworld could be genuinely scary, with the gunslinger
marching down on everyone, (Almost like an early seventies Terminator) this
movie is more like a detetctive story, as Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner try
to figure out what sinister things are going on in Futureworld.
Peter Fonda was acceptable, but Blythe Danner's scratchy voice begins to grate on your nerves after a while. Yul Brynner does show up briefly, but in a contrived appearance.
This movies is mainly notable as one of the very first to use computer animation, albeit on a scale that seems laughable compared to today's movies. Worthwhile to see on cable, but don't go out of your way.
An inferior sequel to ¨Michael Chricton's Westworld¨ sci-fi starred by
Richard Benjamin and James Brolin , here two reporters (Peter Fonda and
Blythe Danner) enter to the new ¨Futureworld¨ theme park (like a
futuristic Disneyland) for adult vacation , a pleasure palace resort
called ¨Delos¨ which offers the opportunity to live in several fantasy
worlds . It's run by powerful people (Arthur Hill and John P.Ryan) and
serviced by lifelike robots that are turning against their creators and
planning to take over the world .
The film gets stimulating in parts , action , chilling twists , thriller , suspense and results to be quite entertaining . It's made big scale and lavish budget but in a serial style of the thirties or forties . Climatic pursuit throughout the corridors of Delos is chillingly mounted and the starring is suddenly confronted samurais and robots , including footage shot at a spacial plant where is displayed dazzling and impressive scenarios . Peter Fonda is perfect as an intelligent and dashing journalist who does jokes with his partner Blythe Danner . Special cameo by Yul Brynner in his final film , he is frightening as the cold android gunfighter who inexorably pursues to Blythe Danner although in dreams but he was killed in the previous film . Director Richard T. Heffron has made an entirely believable scenario which creates the whole images seem admirably exciting , being first live-action movie to use computer-generated 3D imagery . A television series followed in 1980 titled ¨Beyond Westworld¨. Rating : 6 . Acceptable and passable .
I was one of the extras in the movie. Almost each time you see a hand
pushing a button or turning a dial, it is mine. I actually had a line,
but they gave it to John P. Ryan, instead. Arthur Hill played Dr. Duffy
in the movie. He had just finished his TV series, "Owen Marshall:
Counselor at Law." Several times during the movie, people called him
Owen. He always smiled and responded.
Several plot lines were dropped. There were quite a few scenes filmed using identical twins to show how the cloning went. Almost none of this was used.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I re-watched "Westworld" a few weeks ago, and shortly afterwards got
around to re-watching this sequel from three years later as part of a
long-term 70s science fiction project. It's rather surprising that
"Westworld" got a sequel - these days we're used to thinking of the
late Michael Crichton (the director/writer of the original) as a name
that guarantees gold but such wasn't always the case and the first film
didn't exactly set the box office on fire. Plus it had a rather
apocalyptic and cynical ending - the high priced adult amusement park
run by the DELOS corporation is effectively destroyed by humanoid
robots run amok - not exactly fodder for sequels back at a time when
they were a little less common, especially for genre fare like this.
But a sequel was made anyway, and "Futureworld" though no really great shakes is better than it could have been. For one thing it substitutes the western backdrop and fear of science themes for something new - corporate conspiracy - and as a result fits more neatly in with 70s paranoid thrillers like "The Parallax View" than anything else. For another it's got a lot of goofy, fun stuff like robot-boxing and holographic chess (a year before "Star Wars" mind you), and for a third it's got terrific character actor Stuart Margolin as the geeky tech guy who leads our intrepid reporter-heroes (Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner) towards the terrifying discovery that the robots of DELOS are not all just playthings.
The reporters, you see, have been invited by the board of DELOS to get a backstage view of the revamped and re-opened theme park, with the "world of the future" segment that gives the film its title replacing the abandoned WesternWorld. There are some decent action scenes, a weird fantasy sequence that is notable only as an excuse to have a few moments of Yul Brynner returning as the Gunslinger, and the effects seem a step up from the original; and I for one always like chase sequences set in steam tunnels and big underground piles of machinery, which are pretty much the last third of the film, so I was kept going and could overall recommend this.
The biggest problem for me was Peter Fonda, an actor who has developed somewhat interestingly over the years but who sometimes seems like little more than a dull pretty-boy in his early films - a less-talented Robert Redford perhaps. He just never seems to have enough energy or drive or to believe in what he's doing in this role. Two names kept coming to mind watching this - Dustin Hoffman would have brought more energy and an angry intensity to the role of the crusading reporter - or Clint Eastwood could have provided a physical presence and an equally powerful if quieter intensity. Alas I had to make do with Mr. Fonda; I'm sure either of the other two, or most other star actors in their 30s or 40s that would have done better, would have been too expensive. Oh well. Still worth a look for fans of the paranoid thriller genre or the original film - just don't expect anything beyond a couple of hours of vague amusement.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was lucky enough to have seen this movie as a kid in the movie theater. It left an indelible impression on me, in the same way that something like Scanners did. I hadn't seen this movie again for thirty years until last night (yes, that's right, I'm nearly 40-years old). I don't know if it tapped into my uncritical child's mind and awakened all my old primal fears, or what, but last night I had a nightmare. Basically, almost everybody in the world was a robot, chasing me, trying to kill me. I was ripping off their faces and pulling out the circuitry behind to deactivate them. I was stuck in some gigantic building, trying to escape from floor to floor on an elevator, without any success. Needless to say, I woke up with my heart pounding. Still half asleep, I had the panicky feeling that I was in an amusement park filled with humanoid robots. Any movie, no matter how flawed, that can provoke such a reaction from this jaded viewer, gets my respect. Enjoy fellow paranoid sci-fi fans!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS - ONLY READ IF YOU'VE SEEN THE
Futureworld is the weak follow-up to the superb Westworld (7). While points can be awarded for the fact that it tries to do something new with the format, it ultimately proves the adage that less is more.
Whereas Westworld had a childishly simple - yet devilishly effective - plot, Futureworld's plot is muddled and lacks focus. The start of the film is a mock quiz show, reminiscent of the later Running Man which, unlike the original's news report, doesn't make things abundantly clear for the audience. This gives us Jim Antonio as "Ron", the quiz winner who receives a free trip to Delos. While his introduction pre-credits would lead you to believe that Ron would be a major character, he's quickly fazed out about halfway into the film, his blatantly unamusing "southern hick" act not achieving any of the laughs required. I wonder what happened to Ron? Did they bother to duplicate him? Did he become head of the project? Was he killed off? Who cares?
We are then introduced to Peter Fonda, star of Cheesy Rider, sporting a haystack on his head courtesy of the stylish seventies. He's paired with Blythe Danner as "Socks" Ballard, a nickname given to pretend that she has a character or is in any way interesting.
Ultimately, Westworld, for it's "robot-goes-mad-and-kills-people-in-theme-park" is good science fiction. Futureworld is bad science fiction. Robot doubles taking over the Earth. Samurai warrior robots that teleport into a rocket. A device that records dreams. A holographic chess set, which involves Fonda and Danner looking at a board then cutting to a close-up of some blokes dressed up as knights and painted bright red. All it needs is for some nude female aliens to land and say "show us this Earth custom you have called love."
For the majority of the film every time we see something good, it's followed by something lame. We see an impressive rocket set, with a huge, awesome circular doorway. We then see a "Martian ski" setting, which are basically shots of skiing in normal snow, the film print rather obviously tainted red. And like Mars has snow and all...
The initial dream sequence isn't that bad as it features random, spooky images like the girl and her dog. But then it cuts to a protracted chase sequence, which pays lip service to Yul Brynner. You know, the scary guy from the first film? Well, it turns out "socks" has the hots for this brooding slaphead and his element of danger and so fantasises about him. That's right. Bring him back to miscast him. Imagine if Terminator II had a completely different cast of characters and they brought back Arnhuld to do a cameo song and dance routine in a dream. That's what this is like. The scenes of Brynner dancing with Danner are so embarrassing I couldn't actually bear to watch the screen.
Some characters are okay. Stuart Margolin as Harry, and his oddly poignant scenes with his robot friend Clark do carry some weight, though his odd way of telling Danner that he and a pal once slept with some robots and that they "blew some fuses that night" are unsettling. Believe me, this is not a conversation that would appeal to a lady. I should know, I've tried it. On several occasions.
But it's the end where it all comes down. After the main protagonist has been reduced to a laughing stock, we find the real villains this time are robot doubles of the two leads. The fact that you've been watching a film that has such a small budget that Delos is controlled by 1960s oscillators unconsciously tells you that they won't have the budget to do a convincing split screen. So the wooden Fonda tries to shoot himself from long distance, and my God, he's not scary at all - just a rather silly old man in huge glasses and a suit with flared trousers.
The film is 16 minutes longer than the snappy Westworld, and its runtime is built up by dull chases, which are padded with even duller incidental music. But the major, desperate flaw with this just-about-adequate sequel is that there is absolutely no suspense or tension. We know that there's probably something going on, because Fonda tells us at regular intervals. ("There's probably something going on", he says). But the fact that we are not shown this until the final quarter of the movie, and that nothing but his suspicions have alerted us to this fact, mean that a catatonic state is inevitable before the big climax. After the wonderful original, this dated pap comes as a crashing disappointment. 5/10.
Years after the Westworld disaster, the folks who brought you Westworld
haver reformed, reinvested, and now bring you Futureworld.
It sounds more corny than it is. Actually, this is a deserving sequel, with some great elements, and an intriguing story. While some of the original charm is lacking, they more than make up for it with an emboldened story line, and better effects. Not GREAT effects, but better effects.
When the folks who are remaking the classic Westworld get ready for a sequel, I do hope they look to this one to get a few pointers on what to do. This features some good performances, a few wonderful elements, and a solid grasp of robotics (for its time).
I can't wait to see what the remakes can do!
This rates an 8.4/10 (just like the original) from...
the Fiend :.
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