Future ’38 Review: Found Footage Goes Back to the Future

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There’s something delightful about science fiction movies; watching characters travel through different time periods effortlessly educating us about the past, teaching us something amazing about an alien or in Future ’38’s case: killing Hitler.

In this “found footage” movie presented by the Neil deGrasse Tyson (who giddily makes fun of himself), director Jamie Greenberg asks what would it take to save the world by stopping Hilter?

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The year is 1938, three years before the destruction of Pearl Harbor and the creation of the “Formica Atom,” a device powered with enough energy to destroy cities that’ll have a lasting impact on the earth, especially if technology continues to advance. With Hitler becoming more powerful, there’s no way to presently stop him nor this device, however, if someone is sent to 2018 they may be able to steal the device and bring it back to the past. Convoluted? Yes but that doesn’t stop Future ’38 from being so damn fun.

Despite the risks and with literally nothing to lose and no dignity to his name, Essex (Nick Westrate) volunteers his services just so he can make a quick $10,000 to travel to 2018 and retrieve the device to stop Hitler. Unlike Back to Future or other time travel movies, the use of 2018 technology is grounded in realism. There’s no flying cars or other Jetson-like inventions used as shock-value.

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Instead, technology is advanced but very basic in its usage. While this tactic is questionable at first, since we know how advanced cell phones are, it is effective when looking through the lens of someone living in the 30’s. As a result, the movie is corny but sharply aware of its corniness. This is where the charm shines through the most, despite this ridiculous concept everyone plays their role with genuineness and brains to match.

Throughout the zaniness of the movie, there is also a love story between Essex and Banky (Betty Gilpin) that starts to brew. Unlike other movies that lose focus once love is introduced, it further enriches the story making the script meatier and well-rounded. It’s easy to take pleasure in Essex being unsure about dating in modern times even if Banky has to guide him through dating in the modern age. Her sharp wit and bold attitude are hilarious compared to Essex’s unsure clumsy nature. Instead of being forced together for the sake of a love story we watch as these two characters naturally become fond of each other as their unexpected romance builds.

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Other cast members such as Tom Riis Farrell, Hillel Meltzer, Tabitha Holbert and Sophie von Haselberg help to bring humor as the script pokes fun at Nazi Germans, technology, spies, and sexism. Despite the sight gags, they are all grounded in a sense of realism and importance. It’s clear to see that Greenberg (both the screenwriter and director) took careful time placing in these moments that further drive the script forward. All characters, gags, and lines written are so enjoyable that the movie never feels like its dragging. Every moment serves a purpose and as a result, each actor is allowed to shine in their role.

Greenberg has created a phenomenal movie with an unlikely superhero. He takes chances that are smart enough to pay off, and fun enough to bring us from the brink of what could have been a destructive mess of a movie. Future ’38 is the delightful almost mockumentary that we all deserve.

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