Future ‘38 is a gem of film that harkens back to the early to mid-1900’s era of cheesy Sci-Fi. Successfully attempting to recreate the look and feel of such classics like Flash Gordon, Just Imagine, Things to Come, and Buck Rogers, Future 38’ starts with an introduction by none other than modern famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining that a 1938 science fiction film once thought loss to the world has recently been recovered. The film is one of the earliest features shot in color, and deals with a 1930’s soldier sent to the year 2018.Tyson states the importance of analyzing such a film in a very tongue and cheek way; what did these filmmakers from the 1930’s get wrong about our modern time? What did they get right? The notion of seeing our very near future through the eyes of the days long gone is extraordinarily intriguing, and the way it’s pulled off is wildly entertaining. Also, Future ’38 has the cleverest and riotous oral sex jokes I’ve seen in just about any movie.
“The notion of seeing our very near future through the eyes of the days long gone is extraordinarily intriguing…”
Nick Estrate plays lead character Essex, a 1938 man sent forward in time to the year 2018 in order to track down a McGuffin atomic isotope which would help him prevent an inevitable second Great War. After being thrust into the future, he almost immediately meets the charming and sassy Banky (played brilliantly by Betty Gilpin). Their relationship is a hilarious send-up of time travel conventions where no matter how crazy the traveler seems, the companion is always oblivious and just brushes off the nonsense, sticking with them for no discernible reason. The film treats Banky as a tour guide of this reimagined future where same sex marriages have been legal and publicly viewed as normal for 40 years (a far cry from our actual history), cigarettes are fully electronic complete with a ridiculous “whirring” sound, a 24hr news cycle is literally a man riding around on a unicycle delivering newspapers, phones still have operators (featuring a wonderful cameo by Blade Runner’s Sean Young), McDonald’s is a “nice little Irish place”, and a primitive form of internet that spits out printed information on paper resembling that of a fortune cookie.
“The humor is abundant here; from visual gags in the background, to stellar innuendos playing with the language and mentality of the 1930s.”
There’s not much to write about the rest of the characters, aside from pointing out that everyone in the cast does an impeccable job at nailing down the articulation and vocal/acting nuisances of the late 1930’s films it’s spoofing. The film mainly focuses on Banky and Essex; everyone else only briefly shows up and does their part in mere minutes. The film’s sound design is very authentic of the film’s fictional time period, and there’s film scratches and awkward cuts throughout. The look and colors are washed out and unrefined, just like early films produced in color. The humor is abundant here; from visual gags in the background, to stellar innuendos playing with the language and mentality of the 1930s. The entire movie reminds me of a live-action Futurama episode; any fan of that show will find plenty to love here. Future ’38 is, hands down, the most original comedy I’ve seen in recent memory. Definitely catch this one as soon as you can.
9 out of 10