Monday, July 18, 2022

Watch Party Watch: Futureworld (1976)

Behold - Paltrow's mom getting with a Robo-Brynner

Watched:  07/15/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Richard T. Heffron

When I was in maybe 8th grade, my brother and I rented the original Westworld, declared it "rad as hell" and pondered renting the 1976 follow-up Futureworld.  If a movie about robots going berserk in the old west was cool, wouldn't the follow up be even better - in a sci-fi playland?

Well, I remember us telling my dad we were going to rent Futureworld, and my dad saying "Sometimes sequels aren't as good as the original.  Like this one."  In retrospect, I realize this means sometime my dad had tried to watch Futureworld.  

For Houstonians, this movie provides an extra treat as a bunch of it was filmed around town.  Thrill to seeing the underground tram at G. Bush International!  Say "isn't that Jones Hall?" as the leads enter Delos.  Wonder where they are in the Johnson Space Center for great stretches of the film, and why NASA agreed to this shit!

The movie stars Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner (and I think I was the only one watching who knew who Danner is).  Fonda looks perfectly happy playing a macho journalist who gets to be right a lot.

The movie is mostly bizarre because it 
  • posits the idea, much like Jurassic World, that despite the fact they tried this, it went horribly wrong and applying more of the attractions will solve the problems of the first go-round
  • Sets up multiple storylines and abandons the shit out of them
    • Gameshow contestant who plans to bone a lot of robots last scene feeling shy about a robo-a-trois
    • Japanese tourists wanting to use their own sword in Medieval Land
    • Middle-aged lady pondering getting plowed by robots
    • Going skiing on Mars, which everyone seems nervous about
    • Where the steam-tunnels fellow goes and what happens to him
    • Westworld is abandoned for some reason
    • What the robots are actually up to
Delos is trying to re-open their robo-murder parks and invites the journalist who did the most coverage of the prior debacle to come cover the grand re-opening as proof that it's now perfectly safe since they fixed the murder-spree bug.  They promise full access to the whole park and behind-the-scenes environment, but immediately start trying to dodge.  Because of course some shenanigans are underway.

The film keeps up with all the above storylines for about the first 2/3rds of the movie, and then decides what we really want to see are industrial tunnels for like 45 minutes.  They spend a 1/3rd setting up an amazing and appealing world of Westworld 2.0 where gravity is not an issue, holograms exist, people can be drugged and hypnotized into believing they are someone else entirely (which... terrifying) and robots are super horny for you, whoever you are.  Which really makes me wonder why Delos didn't just make sex-bots for the consumer market.  

Anyway - eventually Fonda figures out that Delos' entire staff is made up of robots instead of humans and their scheme is to replace key officials with robots to further their robo-genda.  Which necessitates lots of running in tunnels and the most tedious chase scenes you'll ever see.  It's boring AF.  

Inexplicably, the film stops cold for five minutes for an extended dream sequence about Blythe Danner in a mansion being pursued romantically by Yul Brynner's robo-gunman from the first film, despite the fact there's no particular reason Danner should be aware of this robot. 

It's so @#$%ing weird, but gives me some insight into how we got to the Can You Read My Mind? sequence in Superman: The Movie.  

We are introduced to a guy who has saved an older model robot and befriended it, and apparently they share a love of bringing sex-bots down to the steam tunnels and partying.  It's a shockingly touching part of the film, and the movie just shrugs it off.  

This movie is weird - it feels like someone got ahold of the script and decided everything that worked in the first film should not happen and we should just rewrite the back half of the film, abandoning all of the interesting questions raised by a robo-sex farm that defies physics and instead said "Fonda.  In a sport coat.  With pipes.  That is what the people want."

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