Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (UK - BD)
"Whoa...Sci-fi!" Our Marcus takes a look at the latest and possibly last Futurama.
So we’re here again. The end of Futurama. Possibly. With this, the last feature length adventure, to round up the four feature length Futurama projects, our Planet Express employees find themselves on Mars, visiting Mars Vegas (accompanied by a Seth MacFarlane Rat Pack inspired theme). As with all Futurama plots, things never stay simple and as with all these new Futurama projects it follows the same set up of sending each character off in different directions only for them all to come together at the end.
Into the Wild Green Yonder sees Fry obtaining the power to read minds and becoming someone special in the Legion of the Mad Fellows, Leela rescuing the last of a species of Mars leeches and joining eco-vandals, the Feministas. Bender has an affair with the Robot Mafia Don-Bot's wife before coming to the aid of Zap Brannigan and to tie all of this together, Amy’s father, Leo Wong is on the brink of destroying an entire galaxy for the sake of his new mini golf construction.
As it’s etiquette, I guess I better layout out my feelings on Futurama to date before I head towards Into the Wild Green Yonder. Futurama, the show was and still is genius. It is by far the most unique voice in what can only be considered the golden age of grown up TV animation and was light years ahead of the crowd with its sharp writing and mostly beautifully constructed episodes in the realms of anything sci-fi. Since the return of Futurama in these straight to video feature length movies things haven’t been quite so rosy.
I thought Bender's Big Score was brilliant. It was great to have the characters back, it was fantastically playful with a well written sci-fi angle and after Groening’s yellow creations had been a bit of a letdown in their feature length outing it was a relief that Futurama still managed to bring the goods to the longer format. Unfortunately that good feeling didn’t last long. The Beast with a Billion Backs was just plain awful. Slow, all over the place and even more painfully, not all that funny. Bender’s Game sort of managed to bring it back, packed with a lot more laughs and the Planet Express crew was fun all over again with its fantasy spin, but to say I was convinced by the worth of this new Futurama format would be a massive overstatement.
So, Into the Wild Green Yonder. Does it take Futurama out on the high it deserves? Sort of. This structure of cramming three or four regular episodes into one large arc is really what holds back a total good feeling towards the project. Having been so used to the twenty two minute episode structures, it’s difficult not to see the blatant stitched together plot points to make what is plainly separate stories feel like one movie. It’s maybe not as bad as it was in some of the previous feature lengths ( Beast with a Billion Backs was almost unwatchable because of it) but the jump from the opening Mars Vegas poker tournament into the Wong’s mini golf plans is just like going into a whole new episode with Fry’s mind reading and Leela’s leech being the only things holding the two acts together. In fact, the initial set up of the golf course development and Leela’s feelings towards Wong’s plans repeats the same jokes from the beginning of the Mars Vegas opening act, which is just plain distracting and untidy.
Beyond that really clunky transition, the last hour actually works quite well. There’s still no missing the sensation of how much better this might have been in the TV show structure, but the writers do manage to pull off the coming together of the individual character arcs this time out and it’s far more rewarding. The multiple set ups of Leela being an eco-vandal against Amy’s dad’s mini golf construction, whilst Fry becomes Wong’s security against Leela and Bender siding with Zap to find and arrest Leela for her eco-vandalism whilst the rest of the Planet Express staff are being held captive by Leela’s Feministas’ (phew) somehow makes the characters' very different adventures feel like they're heading towards the same place, rather than the whole cast just happening upon each other for the final scenes really made this feel like a planned larger story rather than a mish-mash with a last minute clean up.
The final scenes are for the fans of the show. Everyone turns out for Wong’s big explosion and by everyone, I mean pretty much everyone from all of Futurama’s history . The large crowd becomes a bit of a, ‘oh that guy!’ or ‘wow, I haven’t seen him in ages’ sort of affair. Add to that a sci-fi pay off that is pure sci-fi greatness which against all odds is what Futurama really is the master at. An animated show that spoofs classic elements of sci-fi, somehow manages to celebrate everything that’s great about it at the same time. Wrapping up the last instalment of what may be the last time we ever get to see these guys from the thirtieth century is a fantastic closing scene. It's the sort of scene you would expect from the closing of a show with an uncertain future, the sort of exciting, anything might happen event that gets all those character you love so much together for what could be the last time and leaves you with a ‘I’m gonna miss these guys if they don’t come back’ feeling in the fan boy part of your heart and the sudden feeling of acceptance of these flawed feature lengths washes over you with the conclusion that just below par Futurama is better than no Futurama at all and maybe, just maybe, this project, whatever it was trying to prove, was just enough to get it back weekly on our TV sets where it should be.
This was my first venture into the thirtieth century in HD and I've gotta say I was impressed with Futurama on Blu-ray. It’s not leaps and bounds over what a good upscale of a DVD can achieve with a well made animated feature, but it was enough to leave an impression.
Colours are fantastic, the image is bold and every little detail in the animators' work is as gloriously presented as it deserves and that’s the key to the greatness of this image. It’s as good as Futurama should be and it totally works wonders. You can see the work of the animators' hand drawn animation, the vast space shots using the 3D models are crystal clear and sharp and when a transfer can show of an artist's work to this high a degree I can’t help but walk away satisfied.
Even though this is a DTS HD track, don’t be fooled. It just sounds like Futurama has always sounded. There are a few laser blasts in the surrounds that push it a bit further or the odd ship alarm that fills the room but it’s not exactly ground breaking. This is what Futurama sounds like, why would we suddenly want anything more?
As always Matt Groening brings us a great fun filled commentary by fellow Futurama guys including David X Cohen and some of the voice actors. Full of factoids and brilliant conversations it’s a blast to listen to while revisiting Green Yonder, even if they sometimes look a little bored when having it on with the picture-in-picture video commentary switched on.
‘Storyboard Animatic’ (22:26) is what it says it is and it’s always good to give these a watch. ‘Golden Stinkers’ (02:52) is a collection of deleted moments in finished or sketched form and 'Docoramarama' (05:09) is a brilliant spoof making of showing how voice artist Lauren Tom created the show herself from writing all the way through to sound effects.
‘Louder Louder' (02:08) is a little look at Penn Jillette’s (of Penn and Teller fame) voice cameo in the movie and ‘Matt Groening & David X Cohen In Space’ (04:23) shows photos of the two taking a Zero G Flight along with their commentary on how much they liked and recommend it.
'How to Draw Futurama in 10 Very Difficult Steps’ (11:10) is a great look at the animators showing off their skills drawing characters and ‘3D Models with Animator Discussion’ (04:19) is just that.
Rounding things up is some fun stuff, both essentially just using clips from the show: ‘Benders Guide to Theatre Etiquette (01:16) is Bender breaking the rules and ‘Zap Brannigans Guide to Making Love at a Woman’ (02:49) is a gag that just never gets old.
Not as good as Benders Big Score for me, but more satisfying than Beast with a Billion Backs and Bender’s Game. Into the Wild Green Yonder felt a little more like good ol’ Futurama, even if it never reached the heights of the shows grander episodes (oh, and it looks glorious in HD too).
Now at the second ending in Futurama’s history, it’s difficult to say that this second life was as good as we’d all hoped it would be but these four movies have been far from a failure (well at least three of them). I for one hope that Futurama is now able to come back in to original TV format and hopefully have the return to form we all know it can achieve.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 23rd February 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Dannish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, French, Chinese, Danish
Extras: Audio & Video Commentary, Storyboard Animatics, How to Draw Futurama, Animator Discussions, Matt Groening and David X Cohen in Space, Benders Movie Theatre Etiquette, Zap Brannigans Guide To Making Love At A Woman, Docoramarama.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Peter Avanzino
Cast: Billy West, Katey Sagal, John Di Maggio, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr
Genre: Animation, Comedy and Sci-Fi
Length: 89 minutes