A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Future World is a disappointing postapocalyptic sci-fi tale about a killer female robot (Suki Waterhouse) who's forced to do bad things by bad guys (led by James Franco). Viewers can expect Mad Max-style violence, including tons of stabbings, neck breaking, beatdowns, and a couple of point-blank shootings. There's lots of blood and cruelty. Women are also blatantly exploited and objectified: All of the movie's nudity (breasts, full backside) involves female characters, and there are some other suggestive scenes. Drug use is shown, including forced shooting up and opiate smoking. Language isn't constant but is pretty salty, including "f--k," "s--t," and more. Jeffrey Wahlberg and Lucy Liu co-star.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In FUTURE WORLD, a robot named Ash (Suki Waterhouse) is commandeered by a warlord named Warlord (James Franco) in a postapocalyptic wasteland. He intends for her to be his bride, but he also uses her to kill people. When they cross paths with a prince named Prince (Jeffrey Wahlberg) who's seeking medicine for his ailing mother, Queen (Lucy Liu), Ash resists her programming; she and Prince go on the run. They encounter Drug Lord (Milla Jovovich) and a nice mechanic (Margarita Levieva) -- not named "Mechanic" but rather "Lei"; fights, sex, and blood ensue.
Is it any good?
This movie's energy is as low as its apparent budget, and it's barely written. The film takes place in a post-pocalyptic future world, so of course it's called Future World. If the title and character names (Warlord, Drug Lord, Prince, Queen) weren't enough of a hint, it has aspirations to the metaphorical and mythic. But its dual painfully obvious "hero's journey" narratives don't rise above the film's bargain-basement Mad Max trappings. The characters are all precisely what the exposition tells us they are, with no depth, exploration, or believable interactions. There are no stakes because there are no rules. This society can't manufacture bullets, but it can power a strip joint with neon signs and maintain motorcycles that withstand BMX-style chases (with apparently endless supplies of gasoline). Ash is prized as a killer, but she isn't very good at it when the story needs her to be weak. The sex and violence aren't organic but feel stapled on for effect. The film unabashedly objectifies women, scrambling to make up for it at the end with a "bad guys get theirs, good gals go free" ending. There are no new ideas, and the dialogue couldn't be flatter.
Franco co-directed with Bruce Thierry Cheung, the cinematographer/director who helmed the acclaimed Don't Come Back from the Moon, which starred Franco and Wahlberg. Future World does include some appealing images, some of which actually match the score by Tindrum. It's somewhat surprising that the production landed Liu and Jovovich. At least Jovovich seems to be having fun, and her fight with Franco is amusing. But Levieva deserves bigger roles in better movies. Future World may be intended as an art film masquerading as an action movie -- or vice versa -- but it succeeds as neither.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Future World's sexuality and use of nudity. The story seems set up to decry the enslavement of women, but the movie objectifies its female characters. What message does that send?
What role does violence play in the story? Is it imaginative, and does it make you feel something? Do you think it was all necessary?
The movie establishes that the technology to make bullets no longer exists. Yet a strip club has electric lights, and no one ever runs out of gas. Do seemingly contradictory circumstances like these bother you? What effect do they have on the story?
- In theaters: May 25, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: July 10, 2018
- Cast: James Franco, Milla Jovovich, Lucy Liu
- Directors: James Franco, Bruce Thierry Chung
- Studio: Lionsgate Premiere
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexual content/nudity, language and drug use
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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