RogerBW's Blog

Future World 31 December 2020

2018, dir. James Franco/Bruce Thierry Cheung, Jeff Wahlberg, Suki Waterhouse: IMDb / allmovie. After the androids were used to fight the Last War and civilisation fell, all is sand and motorcycles, and hawt babes are a far more jealously-guarded resource than leather or petrol.

Raider gangs! Milla Jovovich playing crazy! Lesbian robots! What's not to like? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

I haven't found any information about the budget for this, but in spite of all its extras and its wide sweeping views it feels cheap. When you know you're making a cheap film, you can put as much actual money as you like into it, you can get several medium-big stars especially if they only have small parts, but you can't get rid of that cheap feeling. One of the sure signs of it is when you don't bother to give names to most of your characters; they're Prince, Warlord, Drug Lord. Similarly there are only four locations, and they're very clearly just abandoned parts of California given a tiny bit of set dressing.

There must be a story behind this film. Clearly nobody involved can have thought they were making something good. So why did the people one has heard of sign on for the film in the first place? Hurting for some cocaine money? Owed a favour to Franco? Tax writeoff?

When I ask "how did Warlord find out where the last robot was, and where did he get the robot-control device?" I've already put more thought into the script than the writers did.

Of course the post-apocalyptic wasteland has a strip club/brothel. Of course the pimp is played by Snoop Dogg. Of course the girls are controlled by shock collars. Do we want to try to make a point about control of women? Nah, on to the next thing.

Jeff Wahlberg (nephew of the Wahlbergs you might have heard of) is, frankly, not much of a lead, standing around dully with his mouth hanging open whether he's meant to be registering sadness, concern, drugged-out bliss or rage; the script which has him falling straight into every trap he meets and always making the most obvious and stupid choice does him no favours. Suki Waterhouse is a model who, in spite of her performance here (admittedly quite well cast as a robot that's erased its memories so doesn't really know how to act human) continues to get acting work. But doesn't this film have James Franco and Lucy Liu and Carmen Argenziano and Milla Jovovich and… yeah, it does, but it very rarely has them together; mostly they're only on screen for a few scenes, with one or both of our principals and lots of extras rather than each other. It's a lot cheaper that way, because you don't have to match up the schedules of the people who actually have other things to do; Jovovich would probably get third billing in terms of screen time, and if you told me her scenes had been shot in a single filming day I'd believe you. (She's the only person here who's worked out that she's in a cinematic disaster, so she at least has some fun camping it up. Pass me another scenery sandwich…)

In terms of filmic technique there's a lot of Steadicam dollying (i.e. on foot, slightly jerkily), the occasional blood splatter across the lens, and someone's clearly had a good rootle through the Mad Max props bins. But there's no energy to the thing; someone cranked up the film-maker-o-matic and they're all doing what it tells them, but nobody seems to know why. What little plot there is is stretched out to 83 minutes not with action or even interesting dialogue but with repetitive shots of people crossing the desert.

I've said it before: there's bad film that has energy and there's bad film that just lies there rotting. Strictly for the connoisseur of the abysmal. In a perverse way, I rather enjoyed it.

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