Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (US - BD)
Gabe looks into the last Futurama adventure ever... until they're renewed
The Planet Express gang is back for one last adventure. While assisting Amy Wong’s parents in destroying the surface of Mars to build a bigger and better Las Vegas (New Vegas), Fry has a chunk of metal embedded in his brain, allowing him to read thoughts. Meanwhile, the process of saving endangered Mars species from the Wong’s bulldozers whets Leela’s appetite for adventure and she finds herself joining an all female activist group. All the while Bender Rodriguez finds various ways to make money and further his own legend.
It comes to an end—again. Futurama was given a second chance through a series of four straight to video movies, and this is the last one. The first movie was Bender’s Big Score, and it was a surprisingly potent mix of comedy and poignancy. It was also a perfect end to the series. The second film, The Beast with a Billion Backs was big on ideas, but low on execution. The third film, Bender’s Game, played like a good, long episode, but didn’t have a lot of staying power. So what does Into the Wild Green Yonder hold for fans? Pretty much more of the same.
Wild Green Yonder would’ve made a nice two-parter during the original series run, but it definitely does not have the scope or closure needed to end such an epic series. The character moments feel dropped for fans’ sake, like odd afterthoughts. The last three films in the series all reek of the kind of uncaring second generation creative team, even though we know the series creators are still writing. Perhaps there was a fear that Fox wouldn’t actually give them their second, third, and fourth movies, and threw all their big emotional guns into the first movie.
This movie holds together better as a single story than both Billion Backs and Bender’s Game. Like Big Score it takes the story about twenty minutes to really pick up, but when everything falls into place the story is pretty solid. Unfortunately, there are fewer laugh out loud moments in this movie than any of the others, though I suppose the overall amusement level is higher than that of Billion Backs. The situations are pretty familiar (Fry being an underground group’s final hope to save the universe, Amy’s parents raping the Martian environment, Leela’s love of nature getting the better of her, Bender coldly taking advantage of his friends), even a little tired, but the overall story is pretty solid, and it features some great series in-jokes.
Into the Wild Green Yonder features some of the film series’ more outrageous new set and lighting designs, especially the stuff the Wong family builds on Mars, such as their New Vegas Casinos, and their super large mini-golf set ups. Futurama has always been a particular colourful series, but this finale (if we’re considering it one long episode) may be the most flamboyant overall. This is my first time seeing anything Futurama in high definition, which comes as a particularly big visual shock after getting pixilated, dull, burned, single layer DVD’s from Fox to review. The clarity doesn’t really surprise me, but it’s still pretty sumptuous. The hand drawn aspect of the show is much more obvious, and thus the digital 3D elements don’t blend as well as they do in standard definition, even if the technology has improved in the last eight years. The colours are beautifully rendered, and rock solid. The only real shortcoming is a slight issue with edge enhancement on the hard black lines.
Thanks to Fox’s lame burned disc screeners, I’ve only heard these Futurama movies in compressed Dolby Digital 5.1, so the DTS-HD Master Audio upgrade is pretty extreme. It helps matters that Into the Wild Green Yonder features a really swash buckling score, and I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) the most aggressive surround effects in the series’ history. There is very, very little wasted space on the track, which is usually swimming it at least one surround effect, even during dialogue centred moments. The action scenes, especially the space chase, are quite aggressive, though possibly not as busy as the space battle in the first film. Christopher Tying’s score, which features many of the standard series themes, is pretty impressive, enveloping the film with subtle Philip Glass like beauty, and John Williams like excitement. Also listen for Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane singing the hell out of the opening title.
Things start with another fun loving Futurama audio commentary. I’ve now watched every single episode of Futurama with an audio commentary playing. How sad. Anyway, this is another fine example of a fine cast and crew creating 90 minutes of fine entertainment. Participants this time around include producers David X Cohen, Matt Groening, Michael Rowe, Patric Verrone, and Lee Supercinski, actors John DiMaggio and Maurice Lamarche, and director Peter Avanzino. Subject matter includes the (then) upcoming presidential election, in-jokes, of screen character histories, writer’s strikes, and everyone’s want to make more episodes. On Blu-ray we are given the option of watching the commentators do their commentating.
After you watch the storyboard animatic for the first third of the movie, you’ll can move on to ‘Docudramarama’, a sort of making-of mocumentary staring Lauren Tom . The joke is that Tom (the voice of Amy) does all the writing, acting, animation, composing, and sound effects work, along with a good luck kiss from Tom. At only five minutes, it’s an adorable little joke. This is followed by ‘Louder Louder’, a two minute look behind the scenes of Penn Jillette’s recording session, and ‘Matt Groening and David X Cohen in Space!’, about four and a half minutes of footage of the show’s two head producers taking a zero gravity plane trip, commentated on by the participants. These brief featurettes are finished with ‘How to Draw Futurama in 10 Very Difficult Steps’, a companion piece to the extra of the same name that was featured on the last DVD/Blu-ray.
Under the title of ‘Golden Stinkers’ are five deleted scenes. Some of the scenes are mostly finished animation, while others are presented as storyboards. The sound is a mix of temporary effects and finished dialogue tracks. The scenes are put in their proper context, and run a total of just under three minutes.
Things are finished up (for good?) with more 3D model wraparounds with animator commentary, ‘Zap Brannigans Guide to Making Love at a Woman’, a short featuring various animation from the series set to Zap’s dialogue on the subject of picking up women, and ‘Bender’s Movie-Theater Etiquette’, a new, roughly animated short.
With a little bit of editing and a few factoid omissions we could just consider Bender’s Big Score the series finale, and these other movies (including Into the Wild Green Yonder) could be a series of long, decent episodes. I have, as most do, the feeling that this isn’t actually the end of the Futurama for real, but just in case, it might be better to pretend they went out on a high note. Seeing the series in hi-def with DTS-HD surround is a thrill and a half, and I’d like them to re-release Bender’s Big Score in the format.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 24th February 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
Extras: Audio & Video Commentary, Storyboard Animatics, Deleted Scenes, 'How to Draw Futurama', '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
Length: 89 minutes
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