Future War (1997), or Let’s Do The Time Warp!

7 11 2009

Although it’s not anything official, it’s worked out that at least once a month I’ll see a really, truly repugnant movie. Something that will just make your skin crawl, paint peel, and infect livestock with its hideousness. Whenever it happens, I usually comment on how stupid the dialog is, how atrocious the acting is, or how the “direction” seems more like somebody tying a camera to a horse, spooking it, and yelling “Action!”. Today’s film has many of the problems that I would normally associate with all of these attributes, as well as an early onset of acute mental illness. But I just want to focus on a single thing here, if that’s all right with you. Because while this film features not only prostitutes-turned-nuns (!), runaway alien slaves proficient in kick-boxing (!!), cyborgs with mullets and mustaches (!!!), and dinosaurs taken from the past and used to hunt down human slaves (!!!!!), I don’t want to talk about that. That’s stuff you could go to Mystery Science Theater 3000 for (they have an episode featuring this movie, believe it or not!). You want some down and dirty analysis straight from my words to your brain. And I aim to give it to you. So here are a couple of things about Future War that I noticed that, while indicative of a pretty shitty movie, might make you come to the table with a different perspective on it than you would have had any other way.

Now, look at the date up top. What does 1997 bring to your mind when you picture that year? Are you thinking about late 80s video technology? Are you thinking about ripped jeans and flannel shirts? No? You’re thinking 1991? Oh, me too!!! This movie is a prime example of movie time travel. What I mean by that is whenever you are working with a limited budget, you can’t always use up to date for your shoot. Sometimes it’s the camera, other times it’s the recording equipment. It’s usually something that can date your materials, but it’s possible to create a time and a place outside of your budget. Usually.

Future War’s predicament, however, is unique in the sense that their budget must have been so low that EVERYTHING procured for the shoot was about 6 years old or more already by the time the movie came around to filming. And I’m not just talking basic stuff; I’m talking the types of special effects they could use, the video graphics, and the camera itself dates the film to around ’89, maybe older. And yet we regress even more here; there are glaring fashion tells her that would let us know that people aren’t wearing the flannel shirts any more, as bell bottoms would let someone know that a movie was from ’81, not ’87. The fact that they hired European kick boxer and Jean Claude Van Damme look-alike Daniel Bernhardt to star in the film well after the Van Damme craze had died down in Hollywood. And, if you want to take a quasi-poetic look at it, the city of LA even looks and feels older than time itself would have us believe. It feels more like the time of the LA gang riots, which would explain the long, belabored gang asides we get near the end. This all culminates to create a look and feel that is quite dated and, perhaps, scientifically impossible…

And, if you end up watching this for some odd, odd reason (probably the same reason I did; to laugh heartily), you might notice that this movie is indelibly Christian. That’s right; a movie about cyborg slavers in the future using dinosaurs with exploding collars on to track runaways somehow brings Jesus “I Love You So I Refuse To Help You” Christ into the picture. We get former Miss Prostitute USA, Sister Ann, giving us the gritty lectures at first about how it’s not easy to love God, which I was excited about, at the time hoping her faith would dissolve in the face of reality and sanity. But instead we have the redeemer of faith, Daniel “I Lived A Life Of Pure Good And All I Got Were These Crappy Kickboxing Skills” Bernhardt as an angelic moron from space who knows Bible quotes and believes anything anybody tells him. So she fills him in on the Christian nonsense he only knew phonetically, and he fulfills her request from help from on high. It’s a great trade, everyone’s happy, and at the end (SPOILER ALERT!!!), Space Kick Boxer ends up working with runaway teens at a Christian Teen Call Center!!!!! What the fuck? Jesus did not do a damn thing, but he gets two renewed followers for it! You might as well thank Scruff McGruff for all the non-help he put forth while you’re at it! At least McGruff is helping to clean up the street from his headquarters at:

Scruff McGruff

Chicago, IL 60652

That’s right; I remember the address…

There are a lot of weird things about Future War that don’t make much sense. The reason for that is probably because director Anthony Doublin, here at his feature debut, was mostly using this tiny film as a large-scale makeup and special effects test for his day-job as a visual effects coordinator for low-budget flicks. But no matter what your excuse is for making a cheap flick like this, there’s just no easy way around some of the weirder elements involved. Too much time is spent on this waste of a script to completely disregard it as just some effects test. Doublin must have had some sort of attachment to this material, and it is a truly one-of-a-kind experience to watch this spectacular failure go down, that’s for sure. Either that, or the Catholic Church and lobbyists in the dinosaur and cyborg industries contributed heavily to the film’s funding. Whatever the reason is, I don’t think anyone could deny Future War the 1 1/2 Christian dinosaur trackers out of 10 it deserves. Watch it if you dare…

Tomorrow is another surprise movie! Let me know if you have any preferences!!!