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Film / Future War

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"From the future traveled a master race of cyborgs. They made abductions from Earth's past. The dinosaurs were trained as trackers. The humans were bred as slaves. Now a runaway slave escapes to a place his people call heaven... we know it as Earth."

If someone were to combine The Terminator and Jurassic Park, with a fraction of the former's budget, while throwing in religious overtones just to spice things up a bit, you'd get something close to Future War, a direct-to-video gem (for a given value of "gem") featured on a season ten episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Similarly, Best of the Worst featured it in an episode, where they considered it one of the best bad movies they'd ever seen, charmed by it's infantile script and ultra-low budget.

The story concerns "the Runaway," a slave who escapes his cyborg masters' spaceship and crash-lands just off the coast of California. Two cyborgs and a pack of killer dinosaurs (who do not in any way resemble cheaply-made puppets) are dispatched to recapture him. The Runaway kickboxes one of the cyborgs to death and takes down a dinosaur puppet, but is then unceremoniously hit by a car driven by Sister Ann, a hooker/ganger/druggie-turned novitiate nun. Ann takes him back to her home, a half-way house inhabited by overweight men, and nurses the Runaway back to health. With him choking her and all, they seem to be hitting it off, but their growing bond is interrupted by a dinosaur puppet attack that claims one of Ann's friends.

Ann and the Runaway make a break for it, and wander around the streets and ride on a train for a while. Ann's having second thoughts about the whole nun thing, but the Runaway quotes verses from The Bible, which mostly seems to confuse her. Then the pair are picked up by cops and tag along as a SWAT team combats another one of those dinosaur puppets. The heavily-armed specialists get their asses bitten off until the Runaway takes down the threat with a stab to the jaw, and in gratitude, they haul him back to the police HQ for questioning. Fortunately, the remaining cyborg tracks the Runaway there, and our kickboxing hero is able to escape in the carnage, thrashing the cyborg in the process.

Our heroes reunited, Ann calls in some favors and enlists the aid of her former clients/gangmates/customers to raise a small army to combat the dinosaur puppets. Since said puppets are known to congregate near water, the last half-hour or so of the film takes place in what is meant to be a water treatment plant, which the gang blows up after suffering heavy losses. At the end, Ann's final vows are interrupted by the second cyborg showing up for one last kickboxing match, but the good guys win, Ann becomes a nun, and her halfway house "scores" a new counselor.

Not at all to be confused with the incredibly obscure film Future War 198X. Or the point-and-click adventure Future Wars.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

Future War contains examples of:

  • The '90s: The entire movie was clearly costumed by raiding Eddie Vedder's closet. The Bots call it "The Plaid Parade."
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted. A character tries to crawl in one to hide from the cyborg, but it collapses and dumps her out to be killed.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Ann seems to heavily doubt the Runaway's story even after a dinosaur bursts into her house and kills one of her friends.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The Runaway (mis)quotes John 15:13 to Ann ("There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.") Ann takes this to mean he's a con, since what deculturated human from the future would know Bible quotes?
  • A-Team Firing: In one scene some cops are shooting at a cyborg in the same room. While it's hard to tell exactly how far apart they are due to how it's edited (the cops and cyborg are never in the same shot together), they look to be at most 15 feet or so away. Despite this, the cops don't land a single shot, even though one of them has a shotgun.
  • Battle Strip: Done in the most absurd way possible.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Subverted. While the first death that we see involves Sister Ann's black best friend Fred, the scene in question is actually a Flash Forward to the film's ending, and so poor Fred is actually the third-to-last person to die.
  • The Cameo: The old man in the Hawaiian shirt attacked by a dino is none other than Forrest J. Ackerman. Sharp eyes will notice his holding a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland.
  • Clothing Damage: Botched. During the climactic final duel, the Runaway clearly takes off his shirt.
  • Container Maze: Featured during the opening chase scene, using empty cardboard boxes. The pursuer takes advantage of this.
  • Crash-Into Hello: A rare example involving a vehicle and a pedestrian. And a nun.
    Mike: Wow, Sister Vehicular Homicide.
  • Crisis of Faith: Sister Ann is going through one, wondering if she really deserves to be a nun after all the terrible things she's done. Her sister superior tells her to go away for the weekend to clear her head and think things over. She gets tangled up with the Runaway instead.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death:
    • Ignoring the lousy effects, let's face it, getting eaten by a dinosaur is not a pleasant way to go.
    • We do get to see the rather gory aftereffects of one such dino-puppet attack about midway through.
  • Cyborg: In this case, meaning "someone wearing black clothes and clown makeup with maybe a camera over one eye while moving stiffly as whirring sounds are added."
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Abused to high holy hell. Ann apparently used to be a hooker and drug dealer who also had connections to a local gang, an arms dealer, and some guy who's presumably a black marketeer.
  • Disposable Vagrant: The first person we see a dinosaur kill (after the credits) is a homeless wino.
    Mike: This has got to be the last danger you think of when you're living in a dumpster.

    Rich: The poor guy! All he wanted was a drink!
  • Dull Surprise: Most if not all the characters sound like they're incredibly bored. Even when they're hamming it up, they still sound uninterested in the situation at hand.
  • Explosive Leash: On the dinosaur puppets. "No wonder fossils are so rare."
  • Filler: The flashback and flash forwards smack of this.
  • Flashback: Abused. While meditating/working out in his prison cell, the Runaway flashes back through his earlier fights, including the one that ended mere minutes ago. All while shouting "Cha" repeatedly.
  • Final Battle-Induced Shirt Loss: In the middle of the final battle with the main cyborg, Runaway seemingly takes off his shirt for no reason. This was lambasted in the MST3K cut, with Crow remarking "My shirt was knocked off, it was knocked off, I swear."
  • For the Evulz: According to the Runaway, the cyborgs use humans as slave labor because they (the cyborgs) lack thumbs. He clarifies that the cyborgs could totally build thumbs for themselves, but then they wouldn't have an excuse to force humans to wait on them.
  • Forced Perspective: Used to cunningly create the illusion that the dinosaur puppets are quite large dinosaur puppets. This makes the fight scenes a little difficult.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Done during the scene where the Runaway escapes his cyborg masters in an unconventional way by darkening the top half of the picture.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Last Cyborg is ultimately killed by one of those exploding collars.
  • I Work Alone: Sister Ann uses this line on the Runaway, which makes no sense considering she's a nun who works with a bunch of other people in a halfway house.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: The Feds are interested in the Runaway's story of time-traveling cyborgs, and shut out the local police who captured him. It doesn't matter, seeing how they're all dead in the end.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: A villainous example, thanks to Robert Z'Dar of Soultaker fame.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: When the Runaway stabs a T-rex puppet to death about two-thirds of the way through the movie, the soundtrack peters out over a few seconds.
  • Magic Countdown: Even on screen, it goes faster than it should!
    Crow: Introducing new, faster seconds.
    • Yet, oddly, offscreen it goes slower than it should.
  • Motifs: Plaid. Seriously, just about every good guy in the cast is wearing some sort of plaid. Even the grizzled, overweight gangers.
    Servo: Movie sponsored by the plaid council. Plaid, it's what's for dinner.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Daniel Bernhardt has a lot of shirtless scenes. The workout scene in the jail cell is particularly blatant.
  • Neck Snap: The Cyborg does this to a female lab assistant when she falls from a air duct.
  • Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters: Always ready to help.
  • Never Trust a Title: The movie doesn't take place in the future, and the handful of small fights with cyborgs and dinosaurs don't come close to qualifying as a war.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: This film crams dinosaurs, cyborgs from the future, martial arts, gang-bangers, and a nun into the story, albeit not particularly well.
  • Noisy Robots: A weird example: while the cyborgs don't normally make any noise (indeed, the only evidence they aren't just normal people is their weird clothes and makeup), whenever we see a POV shot from a cyborg we hear the standard "whirring servos" noise that fictional robots usually make. So, apparently they need servos to see?
  • No Name Given: The Runaway is never even given a nickname to be referred to by for convenience's sake; even the credits only list him as "The Man".
  • Nonindicative Name: It's not set in the future, although the cyborgs are supposedly from there, and there's not really a war going on.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: At one point, a TV news crew turns up at the location of the latest dinosaur attack. The cameraman is carrying a "camera" that is just a cardboard box with some tape around the edges and a lens and some other camera gubbins stuck on the front. Presumably they got it from the same place they acquired all those boxes that the Runaway and the first cyborg were hucking at each other earlier in the movie.
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: The computer displays we see look embarrassingly quaint even for the early 1990's, never mind for a spacefaring, time-traveling race that sends cyborg assassins after runaway slaves.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: After the Runaway defeats the Cyborg (barely) for the final time, he lies wounded on the floor while Ann holds his head in her lap in this classic pose. Making it all the more anvilicious is that 1) they're doing so on the altar of a church; and 2) the Runaway has been quoting Bible verses throughout the film, most pertinently "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"note  and attempting to apply it to himself (and, indeed, he does so again right here).
  • Screaming Warrior: Both the Runaway and the first cyborg. During the initial fight in the "box factory", they almost seem to be fighting and having a screaming contest at the same time.
  • Shirtless Scene: Even if he has to clearly do it himself...
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: Inverted. There are a couple of scenes where people use shotguns against the dinosaurs and cyborgs, and they are a lot less effective than most of the other anti-dinosaur/cyborg countermeasures they try, including the Runaway simply punching them.
  • Special Guest: Mel Novak as SWAT team member Otis gets a mention in the opening credits.
  • Stock Sound Effect: Often not well-matched with the visual, such as the cyborg sounding like a car's suspension when he deflects a cardboard box, or when two characters open a wooden door in a house and it sounds like a steel door on a ship or a submarine, or when we hear crickets chirping even though it's clearly the middle of the day...
  • Super-Strength: The Runaway is able to kill a T.rex with one punch. Oddly, he doesn't seem to be any stronger than a normal person when he's not in combat.
  • Take Our Word for It: The slave rebellion happens mostly off-camera, while the audience gets static shots of generic sci-fi sets with sci-fi sound effects in the background. That's because they used stock footage from a different movie which didn't star the lead actor.
  • Take That Us:
    • Legend has it that while working on the movie one crewmember said how fun it would be if their movie was aired on Mystery Science Theater.
    • The art director for the film actually said he felt MST3K was too lenient on the film! Talk about Creator Backlash!
  • Terminator Twosome: As a film "inspired" (ahem) by The Terminator, this movie uses a variation of this. While there's one "good" person sent to Earth, there are three bad guys, plus an unclear number of dinosaurs. Also, Time Travel may or may not actually be involved.
  • Time Travel: Implied in the "backstory", never shown.
  • Too Hungry to Be Polite: The Runaway greedily wolfs down a plate of food the big guys set down for him and ignores their questions about who he is and where he came from.
  • Unexplained Recovery:
    • The Master Cyborg that the Runaway beats up in the police HQ and left pinned under an exploding dinosaur later ambles into the dam for a rematch with the Runaway.
    • Later on, after being trapped in an exploding dam, he crashes through the ceiling of the church in the finale for a third fight with the Runaway.
    • The kid Max vanishes after the dinosaur attack on the halfway house, and nothing is mentioned of what happened to him or where he went, even after he pops up safe & sound in church at the end of the movie.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: At least one of the "tracker" dinosaurs is implied to be the size of a real T-rex (as it crashes through a window and eats someone) and is implied to be searching for the runaway and Ann. Apparently no one notices a freaking T-Rex walking around as when the police capture the runaway they think his story about the dinosaurs is ridiculous.
  • Vitriolic Best Friends: Not very well handled, but Ann has some elements of this with Fred, particularly in an early scene where he calls her a bitch, prompting her to laugh and call him one right back.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: Ann has gathered a bunch of Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters with whom she is plotting to go take on the cyborgs and dinosaurs. They ask how they can find the dinos, after which the door opens and the Runaway (who had only just now escaped from police custody) enters and says "Near water."
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Apparently the whole reason "the Masters" need slaves is because they lack opposable thumbs, although the Runaway makes it clear they could build thumbs for themselves but don't because they like forcing others to serve them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Captain Polaris completely vanishes from the film when the FBI forcefully take control of the case. note 
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: The main cop is named Captain Polaris (ok, it's his last name, but it still pretty weird.)
  • Your Size May Vary: The dinosaur puppets never seem pinned down to a consistent size. In low shots they seem about the size of large dogs (the "Cuteasaurus"), while in high shots they loom over the cast. Handwaved by the opening narration, the nun does say the dinos come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, "and its masters". Doesn't explain the inconsistent size of a dinosaur in the same scene. There's also a bit where, during the climax (which takes place in a sewer of some sort), one of the dinosaurs is killed by some kind of trap involving a barbell. Based on the size of the barbell prop, the dino looks about as big as a real T-rex, yet somehow can fit into a sewer?