Welcome to another Saturday edition of the blog DVD reviews! Today we take a look at 20th Century Fox's Futurama - Bender's Game. Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder is the fourth (and final) movie featuring the hit animated series...and we have reviewed them all. See Seth Thrasher's blog DVD review of Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder :
Good news, everyone! Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder (20th Century Fox, $29.98) is coming out on DVD this Tuesday. This feature marks the final installment (of four) in the Futurama direct-to-DVD movie franchise serves as the initial revival of the 1999-2003 Fox animated series. And while currently it is the end of Futurama, it may not stay that way for long. A recent interview conducted with Billy West (the voice of quite a few characters on the show, including Fry, the Professor, and Zapp Branigan) suggests that Futurama may ultimately wind up with a full-season order, either on Fox or Comedy Central. For those of you familiar with the show, I ask a simple question: How much of this introductory paragraph have you read in your head using Professor Farnsworth's voice after I started off the review with his signature warning? Neat trick, huh?
The fourth and final diverges from the parody/send-up format used by the previous movie, in favor of a fairly linear story -- albeit one broken up neatly into four plot sub-arcs, for the purposes of reruns. The episode starts with the groundbreaking of a casino, and from there snowballs into a story of golfing, protests, tinfoil hats, a prison break, and of course Bender. And while I won't spoil the ending or any major plot details, the ending is such that it works well as EITHER a season or series finale. The end result of this movie is 89 minutes of program viewing captivating enough that you'll think you were experiencing the broadcasting bliss of Everybody Loves Hypnotoad. All Glory to the Hypnotoad!
Packaging and disc artwork were not given to us, but as soon we get that (if we DO)...we will edit that in.
This is the first presentation of the feature and obviously I can't compare it to previous television broadcasts. The colors have a neat way of popping at you with the new animation styles that older stuff simply can't compare. These 4 movies were "drawn" (via digital animation) with HD broadcasts in the future a distinct possibility. HD animation allows for a greater color palette to be used -- resulting in more vibrant colors. This difference was on display just this past weekend with Futurama's sister series The Simpsons, which began airing in HD last Sunday. Until the day we have technology to immerse us in the programs themselves, you're not going to find audio better than this. Today's audio technologies allow for some neat little tricks. Chapter stops are plentiful as there is a scene selection option in the wonderfully animated menus.
The special features burst out of this set. The features are selectable from a giant prize wheel (think a vertical version of the Wheel of Fortune wheel). First is commentary with Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Patric M. Verrone, Michael Rowe, Lee Supercinski, and Peter Avanzino. I should probably recognize all those names, but I really trail off after Maurice LaMarche. He's the last one on the list I actually recognize. Sorry to the last four in the list -- then again I've been known not to recognize people I've known for decades, so don't feel left out. For fans of animatics out there (the rough sketches of the episode that get used for storyboards), the first part of the episode is included in animatic form (22:25). In the next segment, we're humorously shown a how Futurama is made through the blood, sweat, and tears of Lauren Tom (5:10). Next is a quickie on Penn Jillette -- who voices himself in a poker tournament scene (2:08). There is 2:52 worth of "Golden Stinkers" -- deleted scenes included. After that, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen go into space...they take a trip in one of those private Zero G places and take a camera with them (4:24)! Afterward, you learn to draw the Professor, Nibbler, the Hypnotoad, and Fry - all in 10-ish VERY difficult steps each (11:10). Afterwards is a 4:20 long tour of 3-D models used in the space scenes. Bender then next provides some tips on movie theater etiquette that only Bender can in an animation style eerily evocative of another of my favorites, The Critic (1:17). Finally (but not finally) is a guide by Zapp Branigan on making love to a woman 2:49. There IS an Easter Egg -- you just have to find it. Per my own personal policy, I'm not saying what it is or how to find it.
It seems to be the "in" thing to do these days to say that the Futurama DVD movies aren't as good as the series. I think that the sentiment expressed there is based on a misguided notion of the series as it was. Four years of cancelation and mourning led to people thinking the series was 22 minutes of awesomeness injected directly into the bloodstream once a week. Futurama was a great show, but it's not that. The four movies all represent different aspects of Futurama's storytelling character, and this one represents a great story and has the elements of a great character episode, particularly for Fry. I personally found Bender's Big Score to be the best of the four, but that's my own personal taste. I highly recommend *this* movie though to all fans of the show, and to people who just want to see Fox have to turn around and resurrect a second animated series due to high DVD sales volumes (see Family Guy). Highly Recommended.
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
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