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If someone were to combine The Terminator and Jurassic Park, with a fraction of the formers' budgets, 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.
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 dinosaur 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 Anne, a hooker/ganger/druggie-turned novitiate nun. Anne 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 Anne's friends.
Anne and the Runaway make a break for it, and wander around the streets and ride on a train for a while. Anne'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, Anne 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, Anne's final vows are interrupted by the second cyborg showing up for one last kickboxing match, but the good guys win, Anne becomes a nun, and her halfway house "scores" a new counsellor.
Not at all to be confused with the incredibly obscure film Future War 198X.
Future War contains examples of:
- 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.
- Battle Strip: Done in the most absurd way possible.
- Black Dude Dies First: Subverted. While the first death that we see involves Sister Anne's Black Best Friend, the scene in question is actually a Flash Forward to the film's ending, and so the black dude in question is actually the third-to-last person to die.
- 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. Sister Vehicular Homicide to the rescue, I guess.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Ignoring the lousy effects, let's face it, getting eaten by a dinosaur is not a pleasant way to go.
"This has got to be the last danger you think of when you're living in a dumpster."
- Especially since we do get to see the rather gory aftereffects of one such dino-puppet attack about midway through.
- Estrogen Brigade Bait: Daniel Bernhardt has a lot of shirtless scenes. The workout scene in the jail cell is particularly blatant.
- Executive Meddling: For once, probably justified, considering that the original director turned in a cut that was 45 minutes long and consisted mainly of people sitting around and talking, with the occasional dinosaur thrown in here and there.
- An arguably less justified (or at least more conventional) occurrence; the film's original ending involved Sister Anne leaving the convent to team up with the Runaway and help deal with any more Cyborgs that might come back from the future. As it turned out however, one of the film's main backers was a devout Catholic, and he demanded that the ending be changed so that Anne did join the convent after all. This also resulting in the ending which shows the Runaway becoming a counsellor.
- Explosive Leash: On the dinosaur puppets. "No wonder fossils are so rare."
- Everything's Better With Dinosaur Puppets: Probably a subversion. The dinosaur puppets don't really help the film, unless you count by adding Narm Charm.
- Fan Nickname: Future Wax. Due in large part to how the title scrolls onto the frame in the opening (left-to-center zoomed in, then pulled back so the title fills the frame) so that the "r" is the very last letter to be revealed.
- Filler: The flashback and flash forwards smack of this.
- Flash Back: 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.
- 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.
- Gender Blender Name: According to the credits, the actress who played Sister Ann is named Travis.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: The film's star Daniel Bernhardt plays one of the upgraded agents in The Matrix Reloaded (the one who fights Morpheus on the truck). It's both frightening and uplifting to know that this movie didn't kill his career.
- Robert Kabuki Cop Z'Dar, who is an MST3K repeat offender.
- The old guy with the Hawaiian shirt is legendary science fiction fan and Vampirella creator Forrest J. Ackerman. He was apparently too distracted reading a copy of "Famous Monsters of Filmland", the magazine he edited for 25 years, to notice the dinosaur that killed him.
- Hollywood Cyborg: "Cyborg" meaning "someone wearing black clothes and clown makeup with maybe a camera over one eye while moving stiffly as whirring sounds are added."
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Last Cyborg is ultimately killed by one of those exploding collars.
- I Work Alone: Sister Anne uses this line on the Runaway, which makes no sense.
- 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.
- Magic Countdown: Even on screen, it goes faster than it should!
Tom Servo: Introducing new, faster seconds.
- Yet, oddly, offscreen it goes slower than it should.
- Motifs: Empty boxes, obese males, redressed parking ramps, plaid. Seriously, just about every good guy in the cast is wearing some sort of plaid. Even the grizzled, overweight gangers.
- To be fair, plaid is stereotypically associated with gangbangers. Of course, that doesn't explain why everyone else is wearing it, too. The Film was actually filmed in 1994. It wasn't relased until 1997. So it make sense since '94 was the hay day of the Grunge era.
- Neighbourhood Friendly Gangsters: Always ready to help.
- The Nineties: The entire movie was clearly costumed by raiding Eddie Vedder's closet. The Bots call it "The Plaid Parade."
- No Budget: None. See Mary Jo Pehl's comment about the cardboard TV camera.
- 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". And that doesn't make any logical sense, he is clearly not cool enough to be the Man.
- Non-Indicative Name: See Crow's quote at the page top.
- Poor Man's Substitute: The Runaway, Daniel Bernhardt, is a European martial artist with a thick accent.
- Shirtless Scene: Even if he has to clearly do it himself...
- 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...
- Take Our Word for It: The Slave Rebellion happens off-camera, while the audience gets static shots of generic sci-fi sets.
- 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.
- Terminator Twosome: Kinda-sorta-not really. As a film "inspired" (ahem) by The Terminator, this movie uses it, but there isn't necessarily time travel involved, and there's three humanoids plus an unknown number of dinosaur puppets.
- Time Travel: Implied in the "backstory," never shown.
- 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.
- We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Apparently the whole reason "the Masters" need slaves is because they lack opposable thumbs. No, really. How exactly they managed to enslave anyone ever isn't made very clear. Presumably the cyborgs aren't "the Masters," nor does the species that created them feel like using robotic servants instead of captured humans.
- Or, you know, giving themselves prosthetic opposable thumbs...
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Dinosaurs! Cyborgs! Kickboxing! Gangs! Cardboard boxes!
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: There's a lot of religious subtext and overtext, but mostly, it's confusing.
- 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.