For as rambunctious as Future World is, it’s awfully dull. This disappointing joint effort comes from directors Bruce Thierry Cheung and James Franco, although considering how successful Franco has been as a director, I wonder if he was hired to guide Cheung. Nonetheless, both filmmakers fail at establishing this tattered reality, which falls somewhere between a hellscape and a subsisting rebirth. The survivors also seem to be an uneven mix of copied characters from other movies.
This part of the world – as we see it – still maintains communities. Prince (Jeffrey Wahlberg) lives in the “Oasis” as he watches his ailing mother (Lucy Liu) suffer from Red Fever. A cure is said to exist at Paradise Beach, but to get there Prince must venture across the “Wasteland” and through its gang of savages including their leader Warlord (Franco). The “Wasteland” villains look like Mad Max extras, while “Oasis” inhabitants are angelic settlers. This is all captured through the lens of Werner Herzog’s go-to cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger, yet the baffling inspiration seems to recall the heady atmosphere of Terrence Malick’s recent pictures.
Future World is unusually flawed, almost as if key pieces got lost along the way during stages of production. The editing, for instance, is problematic. An alluring key character, Ash, played by The Bad Batch’s Suki Waterhouse is completely mishandled by unmotivated choices. Ash is a robot who is rebooted and controlled by Warlord. Ash encounters a common conflict with A.I characters as she becomes more human over the course of the film. However, instead of enduring and solving evocative responses (such as the pivotal turns in Her), Ash starts making decisions at the drop of a hat. These newfound feelings could act as hints towards the gifted strength and intelligence of Ash, but the realizations are much too rushed. Future World couldn’t care less about arcs. Just like a horny prepubescent boy who hacks the parental lock on his web browser, this sleazy film just wants to get to “the good stuff”.
Future World can’t even be enjoyed on a trashy level of entertainment considering how thematically off-putting it is, and how brash it is to the senses. The loud action sequences have been thoughtfully choreographed, but zooms (added in post-production) hijack the viewer’s eyeline; as if the film doesn’t trust its own audience to look at the right thing.
In the grand scheme of violent post-apocalyptic thrillers, Future World is a step backwards for the genre.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie