|release date||July 13 1976|
|studio||American International Pictures (AIP)|
|director||Richard T. Heffron|
|writer||Mayo Simon, George Schenck|
|starring||Peter Fonda, Blythe Danner, Arthur Hill|
|tagline||Where the only way to survive is to kill yourself|
Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
When the robots in Westworld suffered from a “central-circuit malfunction” and slaughtered a bunch of people, the Delos amusement park shut down. Two years later, the corporate heads decided to re-open the park with a new attraction in place of Westworld: a mock space station called Futureworld. Visitors at Futureworld can enjoy the luxuries of a VIP astronaut while partaking in the debaucheries found throughout Delos – namely, having sex with and killing robots that look and feel exactly like humans. With unshakable faith in their “improvements” and the new park Futureworld to choose from, Delos is once again ready to open to the public.
In order to ignite interest in the park and shirk off their notorious reputation, Delos invites a few select members of the press to Delos before the grand re-opening. Peter Fonda (Wild Hogs) plays cavalier journalist Chuck Browning, who’s joined at Delos by TV anchor Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow’s co-producer). They’re given the VIP treatment by Dr. Duffy, who shows them through the control hubs of Delos. He reveals that in order to eliminate human error, the amusement park is now staffed entirely by robots – with the exception of a handful of humans.
One of the humans still employed at Delos is Harry, one of the head mechanics. His best friend is a robot he named Clark. Harry and Clark share a much more interesting relationship than Chuck and Tracy. Peter Fonda’s one of those actors who makes other actors better in his presence, but him and Blythe Danner have absolutely no chemistry. Their forced intimacy feels like rape and the only time they’re enjoyable as a duo is when they’re arguing prior to their arrival at Delos. He playfully calls her “Socks” and she hates that!
During their first night at Futureworld, Chuck and Tracy are drugged. While they’re asleep, they’re bodies are scanned and an array medical tests are performed. See, the Delos corporation has a comically convoluted plot. In order to protect their park and interests, they’re cloning world leaders. Chuck and Tracy are to be cloned in order to ensure positive coverage in the media. As Chuck, Tracy, and Harry venture deeper into the secret lower levels of Delos, they discover the corporation’s true aims and set out to put an end to this robot madness!
The only returning actor from Westworld is Yul Brynner. He reprises his role as the Gunslinger and harbinger of doom during a brief, curiously erotic dream sequence of Tracy’s. While the first film is a darkly comic, cautionary sci-fi thriller, Futureworld is more of a conspiracy thriller. The theme of robots turning on their makers is strongly present, but unlike the original there is zero action until the climactic clones vs. humans battle. Sometimes the periods of expository dialogue and intrigue work – like when Chuck and Harry are sneaking into the cloning room – but more often then not, the scenes just feel tiresome.
Referring back to Harry and his robot Clark…when the three humans are preparing for their escape from Delos, Harry has to say goodbye to his robot companion. During they’re farewell, they share a brief moment that suggests they had a homosexual relationship. In Delos, robots are programmed to never turn down a human’s sexual advances. Does the same go for male humans making passes at male robots? This was the late ‘70s, why not? Another hint at Harry and Clark’s love is that amongst their work lockers and toolboxes, a single bed is shown.
When Harry walks out of the mechanic’s area, there’s a shot of Clark (without his face on) sadly sitting down and burying his head in his hands. At first it’s sort of ridiculous, but the shot lingers and quickly turns heartbreaking.
I wish there was more of Harry and Clarke in Futureworld, is what I’m saying. It’s a worthy sequel that’s fun in parts and boasts some impressive set design. But Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner phone it in like all hell and most of the movie is a bore.
Futureworld is presented by Shout Factory in solid 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen with DTS HD Master Audio. Everything looks sharp and detail comes through nicely. Fred Karlin’s score sounds terrific on the audio track.
Theatrical trailer, radios spots, still gallery.