Oh Futurama, how I love thee. I still hold a grudge that Family Guy got to come back and you didn’t, but you persevere on through feature length direct-to-video features that always bring a smile to my face. With your first installment you brought us much happiness with an entertaining story and a whole sequence of jabs at Fox, while your second outing took on a more intergalactic tone and attempted to creep us out with a giant David Cross voiced tentacle creature. With another all-new adventure and only one more direct-to-video film in production, how will your third effort fair?
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.
There’s always a ubiquitous grin on my face whenever I pop in one of these new Futurama outings for the first time. I can’t help but get giddy at the thought of watching an hour and a half of all-new jokes and interactions between some of my favorite animated casts to date. With the first film I was thrilled throughout, while the second outing left me wanting a little bit more although it was entertaining as well. With Bender’s Game I…just honestly still don’t know how I feel about this one. It’s not that the film is too strange for the show’s tone, as in essence the film is a rather haphazard “Anthology of Interest” installment, but I honestly just didn’t laugh all that much for a good half of the film. Once we entered the actual land of Bender’s Game, I began laughing immediately, yet the over half an hour set up to that point left me with few things to laugh at. There weren’t any real memorable lines or sequences and even Leela getting repeatedly electrocuted seemed rather idiotic and unfunny. I’m not sure what it was, but this film in particular felt very strained to me.
It dawned on me towards the end of the film that I just really don’t think this series is fit for feature length outings. It was fun the first few times, but now it just becomes tedious and feels like something that would have worked better in shorter, twenty-two minute bursts. The mere fact I’m not praising the hell out of this film is surprising, as I didn’t think there was ever a moment of Futurama that I wouldn’t laud praise upon. It’s not a real feeling of disappointment with these films so much as I just want it to return to an episodic format. It’s great to have these guys back, but if this is the only method we’re going to receive our Futurama outings in, I may have to pass on future releases. Ok, you and I both know that is utter bull as I’d no sooner pass up more Futurama than I would pass up free money, but I do really wish that these DTVs were just very loosely connected, rather than sprawling stories that begin to degrade a bit too much towards the end.
Although the story remains a constant string throughout, subplots fly everywhere in the film, as what we assume is an illogical story of Bender trying to create an imagination eventually leads to the sprawling epic that fills the center of the film. Leela’s electrocution collar rarely leads anywhere and for the first half of the film we’re just tossed around through various scenes of Leela at her parents, Bender back at the insane asylum and a good ol’ coed shower scene. As entertaining s all of these elements are, I feel like we’ve seen them before in the show and seeing the parents or robot asylum again feels like a retread, a does the opening of the film with the spaceship driver mocking the Plant Express (as opposed to mocking Leela as he did in an episode of the TV series). That’s partly why I enjoyed the Beast with a Billion Backs a bit more as it expanded the Futurama scope further than just sticking close to home. Oddly enough Beast seems to be the most poorly received of the three DTVs thus far, so I am very much in the minority with those feelings.
I don’t want it to seem like Bender’s Game isn’t a good time—it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch with some terrific sight and verbal gags, but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped (or wanted). Perhaps if I wasn’t such a die-hard fan of the show I could’ve relaxed a bit more and not foolishly thought that this film would make me clutch my sides with laughter every twenty seconds, eventually causing me to fall to the ground and die due to lack of oxygen, but that’s what I hoped for, at least.
Truth be told even a mediocre Futurama segment is highly entertaining and it’s no different with Bender’s Game. It’s not my favorite of the DTVs, but I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again. It does get better the more you watch it, partially because your expectations aren’t so high the second time around. Either way you cut it, this one comes Recommended.
Oh thank you! I’ve been watching (and putting up with the shoddy cardboard packaging) for these DTVs and when the Blu-ray edition of this one was announced I jumped for joy. Sure it wouldn’t match the rest of the packages on my shelf, but at least the disc would be held in a fully formed plastic case as opposed to the cardboard-only DVD packaging. Inside the package is nothing special, just the usual advertisements and whatnot. Menu’s for the release are nicely done and easy to navigate, although my PCs LG Blu-ray drive would not read the disc, it just kept telling me the firmware needed to be updated even though it’s already running the most current release. Very strange…
Video for the film comes in an AVC encoded 1.85:1 aspect ratio and I have to say it is quite immaculate. While there is nothing here that really looks beautiful in terms of animation, the clarity of it all is simply jaw-dropping. This is the lucidity I was hoping for when it came to these films and was always disappointed by the small but significant limitations of the DVD format when it came to the clarity of the previous two releases. There isn’t a single thing about this transfer that isn’t of the utmost quality, so be sure to watch it on as big of a TV you can to soak up all of the Futurama goodness.
Although the video is pitch-perfect, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is no slouch either. Surrounds are constantly purring with spaceship activity and the incredibly disturbing opening and “Rocket Ship” song (which I neglected to mention previously but is perhaps my most favorite piece of music to come out of this series ever) blanket the room with a wealth of sounds. It’s certainly an impressive and lively track and one that definitely contains a lot more booms and thuds than one would expect.
Moving onto the extras we first have our required audio commentary with Matt Groening, executive producer David X. Cohen, voice actors Billy West, John DiMaggio and Tress MacNeille, director Dwayne Carey-Hill, co-writer Mike Rowe and producer Claudia Katz. Those with BonusVIEW capable players will be pleased to find that a video version of this commentary is included as well, so you can watch the massive amount of commentators huddle around a table to watch the film. As usual the track is highly entertaining and contains plenty of joking between participants as well as genuine info on the production of the film itself. A must-listen for any fans of the series.
For the rest of the extras we get a mix of AVC encoded standard and high-definition extras. Our first (and only standard definition) extra is the “Storyboard Animatic” of the first part of the film (21:46). A short game, “Futurama Genetics Lab” is up next and essentially just merges together various characters from the show and shows you the result. What this had to do with this film, I’ve no idea. “Dungeons & Dragons & Futurama” (7:03) is a behind-the-scenes piece that focuses on how D&D has influenced the show. “How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps” (7:51) shows how the characters are drawn, but if you better be an artist yourself if you hope to replicate the steps shown in this piece—it isn’t the “Draw a circle, then a square…” type of instructions you often see on these pieces (then again they aren’t usually in 83 steps either). “3D Model Gallery” (5:04) shows off some of the models used in the film, while a short “Deleted Scene” (1:02) follows. “Blooperama 2” (1:48) shows off the voice actors in studio once again and we get a nice “Anti-Piracy Warning” (1:12) from Bender as well.
The set wraps up with a look into the next film, “Into the Wild Green Yonder” (1:12) as well as a few easter eggs which I was surprised to find sitting on the various menu screens. While easter eggs on Futurama is nothing new, it’s one of few releases I’ve seen on the Blu-ray format to actually contain them. And they’re pretty…interesting.
Overall Futurama – Bender’s Game is an entertaining film with a packed release. Don’t expect anything less than the men behind this series, as they always provide just enough content to keep you entertained; there’s rarely overkill to the point where you never want to finish off the extras. If you can, pick up this one on Blu-ray as well—not only will you show the format some love, but you’ll get to view the film in pristine HD and witness the show, for the first time, in pure high-definition. Mmm…almost as good as a velour suit.
Futurama – Bender’s Game is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.