Monday, November 03, 2008
Futurama: Bender's Game
Review by Sombrero Grande
In an age when a show like Family Guy can be cancelled and then resurrected to become even more popular than before, Futurama arose from the ashes from its FOX cancellation not with more episodes in store for fans, but a series of direct-to-DVD movies. Futurama: Bender's Game is the third release in the series, and if you ask this reviewer's opinion (which, by reading this review, you are) they should have stopped after the first installment.
Futurama: Bender's Big Score, the first direct-to-DVD feature-length Futurama movie was excellent. It reintroduced all the classic Futurama characters in a well-written, well-thought-out story that tied together a lot of loose ends from the show. Not only that, but it was damn funny throughout to boot.
Then along came Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs. While this second installment had its moments, it paled in comparison with Bender's Big Score. The story was looser and not nearly as funny throughout.
Now with the emergence of Futurama: Bender's Game, the direct-to-DVD series finally sinks to the depths of mediocrity usually associated with the term "direct-to-DVD," with only scattered laughs and an equally scattered plot.
Bender becomes addicted to Dungeons and Dragons after learning to access his imagination and must be sent to the HAL Institute for Criminally Insane Robots to "cure" him of his medieval fantasies. Meanwhile, the rest of the Planet Express crew deals with the rising cost of dark matter fuel. It turns out that Mom is the sole provider of the stuff and has been raking in record profits by raising costs under the guise of a dark matter shortage. Professor Farnsworth realizes that he has an item in his possession that will negate the power of the dark matter to be used as fuel and the crew embarks to stop Mom's evildoing, but inadvertently amplifies the power of the dark matter to turn Bender's imaginary medieval world into an alternate universe.
The story and gags all feel hastily cobbled together. It takes half the movie to get to the advertised alternate world inside Bender's imagination, and once there it disappoints. The reimagining of the Futurama characters as fantasy characters feels just as slapped together as the rest of the film as none of their alternate personas "pay off" in any interesting manner. The side stories (such as Leela dealing with her "anger issues") are resolved sloppily.
The movie's references and spoofs relating to The Lord of the Rings feel tired, like we've already seen funnier versions years ago (and we have). The only gags that seem to pay off come early in the movie in a Twilight Zone parody and a Barbara Walters-inspired interview program starring Morbo.
Futurama, the series, was never given the chance to grow so old that it became as stagnant as The Simpsons has become, but Bender's Game fixes that. Just as the later seasons of The Simpsons saw the yellow-skinned characters jumping into different fantasy stories with unimaginatively redressed characters, now Futurama is doing the same. If you're a big Futurama fan, you might want to give this one a rent instead of a buy. If you're not a big fan of Futurama but are looking to be, Bender's Game is a awful place to start.
The DVD of Bender's Game includes an Audio Commentary, Storyboard Animatic, Deleted Scene, "Dungeons and Dragons and Futurama" Featurette, "How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps," 3D Model with Animator Discussion, Outakes (shots of the voice actors flubbing their lines and making goofy noises), an amusing "Futurama Genetics Lab" activity, "Bender's Anti-Piracy Warning" and a trailer for the next direct-to-DVD installment, Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder. If the series continues its downward trend, I shudder to think how Into the Wild Green Yonder will turn out.