Futureworld (1976) — A deadly dull theme park

“Don’t you think it’s dangerous to rely too much on the robots? Don’t you think something could go wrong again?”

Justin’s rating: If it’s like Disney’s Tomorrowland, Futureworld was outdated about six minutes after it opened.

Justin’s review: As amazing as Jurassic Park was, it wasn’t as if this idea came to Michael Crichton out of nowhere. He took a stab at the high-tech-theme-park-gone-awry genre decades before with Westworld, which wasn’t quite as stellar but still was memorable enough to stick in pop culture’s crannies. It also made enough impact to warrant a sequel, Futureworld, which wasn’t from Crichton at all.

I don’t know your general policy on second chances, but if a corporation opened a theme park where robots went all murdery on people — with over 100 killed during a park-wide malfunction — it shouldn’t get another shot at the exact same project. But in the far-flung future of [checks] 1985, everyone’s willing to let bygones be bygones. Now, the Delos corp is operating a successful resort with all of its “we promise they behave now” robots, and people can go explore their fantasies in Medievalworld or Spaworld. You know, for the elderly.

Reporter Chuck (Peter Fonda) gets a tip-off that Delos isn’t on the up-and-up with its new resort, so he heads to Futureworld to investigate alongside another reporter, Tracy (played by Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother, believe it or not). Shocker, Delos isn’t being as forthcoming as it states — but what is the company actually hiding?

The law of sequels says that you best go bigger and bolder, building upon what made the first movie so successful. Futureworld goes the opposite direction, cranking that dial down, because how are you going to beat “malfunctioning theme park robots” anyway? Might as well lower expectations and do it on the cheap. And while you’re bottom feeding, you might as well promote this movie as having the return of Westworld’s Yul Brynner… and then only feature him in a single dream sequence.

“Cheap” is the word that kept coming to mind during this scifi thriller. The costumes, the park, the whole twist (such as it is) comes off as cheap and tacky. I know we make a lot of fun of Star Wars: A New Hope’s outfits, but compared to most of the designs of the ’70s, it was amazingly nuanced and detailed. Futureworld, in contrast, is shabby and laughable to look at, and the soundtrack won’t rest until you are clutching your head and making a high-pitched keening noise of despair.

To be honest, I’m not one to be recommending Westworld for casual viewing, and I sure as heckfire ain’t going to tell you that Futureworld is worth even a minute of your time. You’d be better off getting your amusement park kicks from those parking lot carnival rides.

Didja notice?

  • Giant foam dice are super-exciting
  • This eye-within-an-eye opening isn’t as clever as they hoped it would be
  • This guy is very excited about the idea of having sex with a robot
  • Those are terrible astronaut outfits
  • First 3D CGI in film history

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