James Franco Remains Prolific & Inconsistent
Remember when This Is The End came out and we all suspected it was the result of James Franco, Seth Rogen, and all of their friends making a movie just as an excuse to hang out? James Franco’s Future World feels a lot like that, only nowhere even approaching the ultimate entertainment value that This Is The End provided.
Here Franco co-directs the film, stars as the lead villain Warlord, and produces among a multitude of credited producers. Franco is a fascinating Hollywood talent to follow, bouncing from project to project with seemingly no connective tissue whether that might be genre, size of budget, or status of other attached talent. He pops up in and creates art house indies, mega-blockbusters, comedy, and even the occasional action film (he went toe to toe with Jason Statham one time in a movie called Homefront with mildly amusing results). Occasionally he hits an absolute bullseye, like with his portrayal of Alien in Spring Breakers. More often than not, his projects come and go with little recognition. Future World is almost certainly destined to rank among the latter.
Feeling very much like a movie where a bunch of favors were called in, the cast of Future World is somewhat stacked with recognizable talent. Lucy Liu and Milla Jovovich share a space on the front cover art for the film with Franco, despite only being supporting roles. Snoop Dogg shows up playing exactly Snoop Dogg, only in the post-apocalypse. And Method Man even makes an appearance, though it feels like his role must have been cut down as he barely says a thing and the role that’s there could easily have been played by an unknown. Much like Escape Plan 2 which released very recently, also from Grindstone Entertainment Group, Future World actually stars much less well-known actors in the lead roles, with higher profile names banking favors for Franco. Mark and Donnie’s nephew Jeffrey Wahlberg is the male lead here playing Prince. He’s on a quest to find a cure for his mother’s illness (Lucy Liu), and runs afoul of Warlord on his quest to awaken the last surviving “synthetic”. Suki Waterhouse (The Bad Batch) is gorgeous and commands one’s attention as said synthetic “Ash”, and is ultimately the true protagonist in this wandering narrative.
There’s really almost nothing positive to say about Future World, sadly. The look and feel of the post apocalyptic world is tired and uninspired. The synthetic plot line is derivative of Cherry 2000, which is a vastly superior film in every way. Franco is trying to vamp it up as the villain, but he’s never threatening and always goofy. Waterhouse is gorgeous, but the male gaze is strong in this one, and she never feels empowered or treated with the respect afforded her in the also superior, also post-apocalypse-set, and female directed The Bad Batch. The plot plays out with little in the way of creativity or excitement, and I detected no real interesting thematic exploration, either. Wahlberg is a bland and pubescent male lead, and Waterhouse’s Ash is never given a whole lot of motivation or depth.
Many of you out there are just like me, and you simply cannot resist checking this movie out in the pure spirit of curiosity. I was once like you. I understand. And I can’t stop you. I give you my blessing. Go and see for yourself what potential hidden treasure Future World holds. To the rest of you: Go check out any Mad Max film, or the aforementioned Cherry 2000. Or The Bad Batch. They’ll scratch your post-apocalyptic itch with a much stronger film that’s much more worthy of your time.
There’s a single bonus feature featuring what appears to be James Franco speaking into someone’s iPhone which is then intercut with, like, entire scenes of the movie that are largely unrelated to what Franco is saying. It’s a bizarre bonus feature for a lackluster film that doesn’t even warrant a rental recommendation.
And I’m Out.
Future World hits Blu-ray and Digital July 10th from Lionsgate Premiere and Grindstone.