If you're a fan of the cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000, chances are you know about this movie. If you're not a fan, then this is among the worst b-movies you can find.
This movie is the result of an extremely untalented film-maker's attempts at making a grandiose sci-fi/action film that liberally rips off elements from The Terminator, Jurassic Park, and Universal Soldier.
My first experience with Future War was back around 1999/early 2000's when I was watching the Sci-Fi channel (Remember when SyFy used to be Sci-Fi, and was tolerable?) one Saturday morning and caught the MST3K episode that featured this abysmal movie. Even when I wasn't as keen as to what makes movies “work” back at that age, I knew from the start that Future War was a terrible movie.
Future War takes place in (at the time) current day Los Angeles, California. A man from the future escapes slavery from his cyborg captors and goes back into the past as a “safe haven” from his captors. His cyborg captors also travel back in time with dinosaurs as “tracking animals.” The mysterious man from the future gets acquainted with a nun who's past is shady and an overweight black man, and they team together (along with an overweight, plaid-wearing gang later on) to fight off the cyborgs and their dinosaurs.
The above description should be enough to convince you that this is an extremely absurd movie, but I'll elaborate even further.
Future War is devoid of any well-developed characters. While the Runaway (Daniel Bernhardt) is supposed to be “mysterious,” the execution of his development was terrible, as he's not the least bit interesting or does anything that warrants that I should care about him (his fight scenes against cyborgs and dinosaurs is beyond cheesy).
The supporting cast isn't much better, either. They tried to make Sister Anne (Travis Brooks Stewart) more developed, but again, the execution was terrible as this was mostly done through clunky narration coupled with bland flashback scenes. The other characters are totally laughable. Really, Sister Anne lives with a bunch of fat men and a kid with a bad Moe Howard haircut? Fred (Andre Scruggs) has the personality of flypaper, and the same can be applied to just about everyone else in this movie.
There's zero decent acting anywhere in this movie. The worst culprit is Daniel Bernhardt because he tries to do his best “robotic” acting like Schwarzenegger's acting for The Terminator, but it comes off a laughably bad. With the rest of the cast, I felt nothing coming out of them that made me immersed in the movie.
LACK OF ORIGINALITY
While as previously stated, this movie does rip off from much better movies, it rips off The Terminator the most, with Universal Soldier coming as a close second. There's a scene where the Runaway is taken to an LA police station and a doctor is examining the Runaway's state of mine, and one of the cyborgs starts attacking the police station. This was a blatant ripoff from the iconic scene in The Terminator where the Terminator attacks the police station. The fact that Bernhardt is a third rate Jean Claude Van Damme ripoff confirms my suspicions that they were trying to bank off the popularity and success of Universal Soldier as well. With the fact that there's dinosaurs in this movie, and that Jurassic Park was all the rage in the 90's, it just comes off as a desperate attempt to cash in on that movie's popularity, too.
The special effects for this movie are atrocious, even for a low budget movie. Towards the end of the movie, where the Runaway and his ragtag team of combatants fight off the cyborgs and dinosaurs in a sewer, there's a scene where you can clearly see the strings on the dinosaur puppets. Now if this were a b-movie from the 30's or 40's, it would be a little more forgivable, but the fact that this movie came out in 1997 makes that absolutely intolerable.
The puppets used for the tracking dinosaurs are terrible. Most of them are really just miniatures constantly used in forced perspective shots, and their obvious stiff yet “rubber” look and movements makes them totally unconvincing. Anthony Doublin really should have thought harder when he directed this movie, since any film maker with any wits would have realized the scenes with the dinosaurs wouldn't have worked within their budget limitations, and should have worked with the writers to re-draft it into something more convincing in their budget.
There's a scene near the beginning of the movie that shows the Runaway's escape from a spaceship in the future, and while the effects of the ships in space are a little better than those absurd dinosaur scenes, the way they were filmed was a joke. You don't see Bernhardt's character at all in these scenes, and just makes it look like nothing significant is happening in this scene.
The looks of the cyborgs in this movie are a joke. The two cyborgs that go after the Runaway and his motley crew look like a hulked up Alan Jackson (this cyborg is played by Kazja) with mime facepaint and the other looks like a beefed up Freddy Mercury after a good beating (this cyborg is played by Robert Z'Dar, who also starred in another movie victimized by MST3K called Soultaker). It also doesn't help that the cyborgs' outfits make them look like villains you'd see on the cover art for a bad Atari 2600 game.
The murky sound and picture quality of this movie (and the quality of the special effects) make this 1997 direct-to-video movie look like an untalented film student's final project circa 1987.
Arlan H. Boll's music for Future War is a joke. It's all too clear that he was desperately trying to recreate the minimalist magic oozing from Brad Fiedel's masterful music from the first Terminator movie. There's some compositions made during the action scenes that are so overwrought and melodramatic that they come off as funny.
The sound effects are pretty lame, too. The worst sound effects are for the cyborgs, since they have obvious “robotic movement” sounds edited into the movie, and they sound more appropriate for an episode of Lost in Space rather than a 90's sci-fi movie.
Despite being a sci-fi/action movie, the action scenes in this are painfully boring. The worst are the hand-to-hand fights between the Runaway and the two cyborgs. All that really happens is that there's screaming between the combatants and get this, the cyborgs usually just stand there and wait for the Runaway to throw punches and kicks at them!!
It gets even more absurd towards the end when the Runaway and Sister Anne team up with a bunch of overweight, plaid-wearing gangsters to fight off the dinosaurs and remaining cyborg, and like the rest of the movie, it's devoid of any tension or excitement.
I think it's sad that a few years ago, when I was taking a digital video editing class in college, that me and some friends made some short videos that despite having some shortcomings to them, looked better than this movie, while this movie had a lot more resources to work with than me and my college friends did.
I also think Crow T. Robot summed it up perfectly with the following:
“You know, I could point out that it’s not the future, and there isn’t a war, but you know me; I don't like to complain.”
Do yourself a favor and watch the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring this movie. You'll get some great laughs and it'll turn this awful movie into a laugh fest.
As awful as Future War is, it's still marginally better than big-name blights to movies like Smokin' Aces and Pluto Nash.
What did you think of this review?