Do you remember that disaster at Delos a few years ago when the Westworld robots went out of control and killed a few guests? Well, the entire resort has now been rebuilt and redesigned to be completely fail-safe.
To combat the lingering adverse publicity, Duffy, the Delos representative, has offered the IMC Communication Network exclusive rights to the new Delos story. Tracy Ballard (Blythe Danner), the network’s top commentator, has been assigned the story with Chuck Browning (Peter Fonda), the newspaper reporter who broke the original Westworld disaster story.
But as Tracy and Chuck’s private tour starts, they get the feeling the entire resort might not be as safe as Delos thinks...
Following the success of Westworld, MGM started to develop a sequel, although without the participation of writer/director Michael Crichton. However, MGM soon found itself focusing on the release of another science fiction project, Logan's Run, and the sequel found itself in "turnaround" (where the rights to a project are sold to another interested studio), and American International Pictures wound up making 'Futureworld.'
The film stars Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner as a pair of reporters invited to review the re-opening of the Delos adult-themed parks, one of which was the 'Westworld' of the original movie. 'Westworld' has been closed down, although 'Medieval World' and 'Roman World' are reopening. New to the Delos theme parks this time around are 'Spa World' and the namesake of the movie, 'Futureworld.' Reporters Chuck Browning (Fonda) and Tracy "Socks" Ballard (Danner) are asked by Delos to come and check things out, so the public at large can be assured that Delos is no longer dangerous (we learn early in the film that over 50 people had been killed by robots as a result of the events of Westworld.)
Chuck is already suspicious about the parks before leaving for the trip, as he has witnessed the death of an informant who was attempting to provide him with information about Delos. Browning and Ballard aren't at Futureworld very long before they discover one of the main reasons why things are different. In the original movie, the robots were being controlled by a group of scientists in a large control room…this time, the men in the control room are robots too! But that's just the tip of the iceberg, as the investigative pair will soon unravel an even darker purpose for the re-opening of the parks.
One of the advantages 'Futureworld' has over its predecessor is with its lead actors. Fonda and Danner have good chemistry together and make strong leads. That, however, is pretty much the only aspect of the movie that proves to be better than the original film. Because the viewer already has an idea of what the Delos parks are like, there's no sense of fun and discovery like there was in the first movie. Also, while this film also concludes with an extended chase sequence between a pair of characters, it can't compete with the hunting of the Richard Benjamin character by the evil Gunslinger (Yul Brynner) from the original.
Speaking of Mr. Brynner, his character returns in 'Futureworld' in one of the most pointless and senseless cameos ever captured on film. He appears in the movie for about a minute, utters no dialogue, and his only purpose seems to be so that the filmmakers could advertise the return of his character in the attempt to sell a few more tickets.
There's little doubt that 'Futureworld' is an inferior picture to Westworld, but it deserves credit for at least trying to do something a little different instead of giving audiences a by-the-numbers sequel that follows the same notes of the original. Even with Fonda and Danner as the leads, the movie looks and feels more like something made for the small screen than the silver screen, which means it might play a little better on home video today than the way it did in theaters back in the 1970s (where it was considered a flop).
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Futureworld' launches onto Blu-ray in a standard Blu-ray case and housing only the BD-25 single-layer disc, which has been encoded for Region A. Although there are no other inserts, the opposite side of the cover slick (which you can see on the inside of the case) features a nice shot of the Gunslinger in action. Upon loading the disc, it goes straight to the main menu, with video from the movie playing on the screen and menu selections along the bottom fourth of the picture.
While this is no doubt the best 'Futureworld' has ever looked on home video, there are still some issues with the picture – the primary problem being the age of the print. There are evident scratches, dirt, and other defects in the presentation that are evident throughout the entire movie. Some scenes look better in HD than others, but most have a "washed out" look to them and lack the kind of detail, sharpness, and overall "pop" one expects in 1080p. Black levels are also an issue throughout most of the movie, with details often being lost in some of the darker scenes (of which there are many).
Although there are issues with the picture, for the most part colors and skin tones are well balanced and the movie retains a film-like look throughout, with a healthy dose of grain that is always present but never obtrusive. The presentation pales in comparison to the work Warners did on the Westworld Blu-ray, but there's nothing too serious here that would deter one's viewing enjoyment, it's just a very average transfer by high-def standards.
The only track on this release is an DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo one that (obviously) doesn't provide much in terms of activity or immersion, but is certainly solid nevertheless. Both the dialogue and musical soundtrack (which I actually prefer to 'Westworld's') are clear and well-balanced. When reviewing Westworld recently, I noted that the spoken word and music soundtrack almost seemed separate from one another, with the score overbearing when compared to the dialogue of the actors. No such problems here, as everything is properly balanced, with no noticeable issues one often hears from older films, like popping or hissing in the track. Subtitles are also available, but only in English.
This appears to be a Blu-ray-only release from Shout Factory; therefore, all the bonus features are exclusive to this release and are detailed in the HD Bonus Content section that follows.
'Futureworld' is too predictable and not imaginative enough to recommend for a purchase, but I think the chemistry of the lead actors and the fact that the movie actually tries to expand (rather than repeat) the story of the first film are good enough reasons to give it at least one look. Mark this one down for a rental.