Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 12, 2018)
In the same vein as the Mad Max movies, 2018’s Future World takes us to a proverbial post-apocalyptic wasteland. In this desolate climate, an oasis exists, one populated by a Queen (Lucy Liu) and her son the Prince (Jeffrey Wahlberg).
When the Queen gets sick, the Prince sets out on a quest to find medicine that may cure her. This places him in various situations of peril as he runs afoul of the Warlord (James Franco).
Earlier I mentioned that Future World stems from a place similar to that of the Mad Max films, and by that I mean it can come across as a screaming rip-off of the George Miller franchise. Indeed, when I saw the trailer for World, I initially thought it was a new Mad Max tale – the ad really plays up the similarities.
One factor allowed me to hope that World would offer something more than a cheap imitation: the presence of Franco as both actor and co-director. Not that Franco acts as some “seal of quality”, but his use gave me optimism that the film could become something worthwhile.
Or maybe not. World never rises above its status as a Mad Max wannabe and it ends up as a dull, pointless experience.
Though perhaps I overstate the Mad Max similarities. To be sure, they exist in heavy doses, but World lacks the same kind of “in your face” outrageousness seen in flicks like Fury Road.
Along with co-director Bruce Thierry Cheung, Franco essentially attempts an “art house” take on Mad Max, albeit one with an identity crisis. While aspects of World give us dreamy, metaphorical material out of the Terrence Malick canon, other parts seem stuck in puberty.
This creates jarring disconnects throughout the movie. We go from one scene of violent misogyny to another with moody philosophical musings.
These moments don’t work, and little about the rest of the film succeeds either, partly due to a near-complete lack of narrative focus. At its core, this should be a pretty simple “hero’s journey” story about the Prince’s quest, but it fails to explore that path well.
Instead, World meanders with nearly no discernible purpose. Characters and plot points disappear and reappear seemingly at random, and as a result, the story makes little sense.
We never attach to any of the characters, so we care about none of their arcs or journeys. Everything seems tedious and banal, without clear purpose or direction.
As a result, World becomes actively tiresome well before it ends. Even at a mere 88 minutes, this feels like an endurance test, one that doesn’t deserve the investment.
Footnote: a short added scene appears a minute or so into the end credits.