Futurama: Bender's Game
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Park your hover-car and saddle up your unicorn for the most fantastical "Futurama" yet: Futurama: Bender's Game. With fuel prices skyrocketing, the Planet Express crew sets off on a dangerous mission to infiltrate the world's only dark-matter mine, source of all spaceship fuel. But deep beneath the surface, they discover a far stranger place... a medieval land of dragons and sorcery and intoxicated knights who look suspiciously like Bender.
At once a merciless skewering of all things fanboy and an extremely satisfying addition to the Futurama franchise, Bender's Game is among the best of the animated series' feature length adventures. The game in question is Dungeons and Dragons, and Bender wants in--only robots aren't programmed with the necessary imagination. Naturally, Bender's plans to develop one go completely awry and land him in an android asylum. The role-playing plotline later re-emerges--in typically convoluted Futurama fashion--via a subplot involving Professor Farnsworth's conversion of dark matter into spaceship fuel, which created a key to a very D&D-influenced universe where our hapless heroes eventually find themselves. The alternate world storyline allows for much lampooning of fantasy tropes, with Lord of the Rings receiving the lion's share of the tweaks. Seeing as how the writers have already devoted much of the movie's running time to parodying Star Wars and Star Trek (and their Lego offshoots), one might think that Bender's Game might suffer from pop-culture overload, but surprisingly, it all feels fresh and frequently funny, and the writers are wise to ground the story in their eccentric characters rather than pinballing them through an endless string of gags. The result is probably the strongest of the direct-to-DVD Futurama releases to date, and one that newcomers to the show's cracked universe can appreciate as much as longtime fans.As with previous Futurama DVD releases, the extras come fast and furious on Bender's Game: commentary by members of the cast and production team (including Matt Groening) is both informative and funny, while interviews with the writers and producers discuss, among other topics, the influence of Dungeons and Dragons on the series and the 3D models used in the feature. Aspiring animators might appreciate "How To Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps and the storyboard animatic for the first part of the story, while the "Genetics Lab" feature allows for some amusing Dr. Moreau-style cross-breeding of the characters. Recording session bloopers and a deleted scene offer their own laughs, but the most enjoyable extra must be the preview for the next Futurama feature, Into the Wild Green Yonder, which suggests a shocking development for one of the show's regulars. -- Paul Gaita
Beyond Futurama: Bender's Game
King of the Hill
Stills from Futurama: Bender's Game (Click for larger image)
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Futurama: Bender's Big Score -- Completely complex, somewhat nerdy, completely enthralling and funny. Thought the preview for "Billion Backs" was decent...
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs -- felt like the Futurama characters in a sub-par "Family Guy" episode, in terms of both inane story banality and jokes... only twice as thrice as long. The preview for "Game" was also very disappointing and leaving me uncertain...
And now onto something completely relevant:
Futurama: Bender's Game: Well, I'm happy to say my fears and uncertainty were completely unfounded.
This third installment isn't quite as complex plot-wise as "Big Score", seems to explain previous situations that occurred in the show's time line (some of which made even more weird by later events) and I must say, technically, this explains some loose ends (e.g. why Nibbler was alone on Vergon 6) with aplomb. These did not feel forced or fanwanky; they worked. Given that revisiting old scenes is a sign of "jumping the shark", this feature-length episode does not feel worn out at all. To compare, I recall a season 4 episode where Fry meets up with the Brain creatures again, entitled "The Why of Fry" -- THAT felt like juicy, tender shark bait. Indeed, given how "The Why of Fry" also involves Nibbler, it's amazing how well everything pieces together...
While "Big Score" wins on sheer complexity with Time, "Game" is complex in character motivations and resolving various character circumstances and mysteries. If there were any continuity flaws, they're well hidden -- or directly lampooned on screen in typical Futurama fashion (the self-lampooning scene stands out and for all the right reasons; trust me, it works.)
"Game" has the task of not only parodying Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), but also remaining true to being Futurama. I was expecting to dislike this as I never cared for D&D. It's presented in such a way you don't need to be a die-hard fan - or even knowing the game - to appreciate it.
Yes, the movie has its crude moments - all of Futurama has, but its sci-fi-with-aliens setting allows even the most crude of crude to be given a funny side that "real life" based TV couldn't even begin to get away with. Not even "Family Guy". Indeed, the worst of them goes back to, you guessed it, Nibbler, and sick as it was I was rolling.
And, yes, there is a cameo from a certain Star Trek cast member - and may I say that alone, if for no other reason and trust me there are many, makes this DVD worth buying. Best. Zinger. Ever. :)
And the Dixie Chicks (in name only) make an unexpected cameo too... that also had me rolling.
As usual, DVD video and sound quality are tops, though the Dolby 5.1 made the opening credits sound like they were a tad muffled.
And, as usual, the packaging is not Earth-friendly as we are all going out to buy proper boxes so we don't get our discs scratched and have to re-purchase them 80 times... Again, FOX is just cutting costs and hoping we all re-purchase due to excessive scratches after the third playback...
Oh, I didn't mention the preview for the finale - due in 2009 and we all want it now, dagnabbit! All I can say is that it is pretty much unassuming, except for one giveaway scene which means it's not going to happen that way, which is for the best because it's clear "Futurama" has NOT run out of steam just yet.
To close, "Futurama" is back on form! Looking forward to the hopefully-not-final installment in the-earlier-of-2009-the-better. :)
The last two direct-to-DVD releases, Bender's Big Score and The Beast With a Billion Backs were both ok, but nothing great. But this movie is much more like what I expect from the show.
The story centers around Mom and her efforts at controlling the market in dark matter. Dark matter is what powers all the starships and provides energy in 3008, so the parallels between dark matter and our current situation with oil are blatant and obvious.
The story's sub-plot centers around Bender learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons, and how to develop his imagination. Unfortunately he quickly finds himself unable to separate fantasy from reality and is sent to the HAL Institute for Insane Robots.
Eventually the stories intersect and our heroes end up in Bender's fantasy world, where Lela is a centaur, Zoidberg is a big monster and Fry starts turning into Gollum, lusting after a twelve-sided dice of power.
Along with the usual science fiction references (including a nice bit of fun where George Takei is shouting at Scott Bakula, "Way to kill the franchise, Bakula!"), there's plenty of references to D&D and to "The Lord of The Rings". Fans of both should be very amused.
The format of these direct-to-DVD releases is still something of a problem. The show works best in half-hour installments, not in one long story. I hope after the next one, Into the Wild Green Yonder, they go back to making standard episodes.
One last note: I really hope they stop using these awful cardboard packages! These things are terrible! I understand the desire to "be green" and all that, but most people who buy DVDs don't toss the cases into landfills; they keep them and use them. These cases are a joke, and I'll complain about them every time Fox, or any other studio, uses them. In the future, it might be a deciding point for me when debating a purchase.
This is the 3rd out of 4 full length movies made during the time frame after Futurama was originally cancelled but before it was revived on Comedy Central.
There are some connections between the series and the other movies, but you can watch it individually and enjoy it. It might take a little while to get to know the characters, but even if you are not familiar with the characters, the jokes are still really good.