Posts Tagged ‘futurama movie’

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FUTURAMA: THE BEAST WITH A BILLION BACKS (Futurama Movie 2) (2008)

June 28, 2008

Futurama Movie: The Beast with a Billion Backs Review


Matt:

Length: 89 min

Précis: Futurama movie number two of four is focused on the theme of love … examined through a plot about an inter-universe rift and a planet-sized tentacle monster.  Most importantly though, it’s funnier than the first Futurama film!

Review by Matt:

Good news everyone! Futurama, the animated sci-fi comedy show created by Matt Groening, continues its afterlife with the release of the second of four post-television movies: The Beast with a Billion Backs. The Futurama fan base is large and diverse, so some of you will inevitably dispute my assessment – but let me tell you: The Beast with a Billion Backs is much better than the first Futurama movie. To quote one high profile film scholar, Bender’s Big Score was a “weak, boring disappointment”. Inexplicably, Beast with a Billion Backs is just a whole lot cleverer and funnier. The difference between the two is like watching a bad Futurama episode (like, say, The Deep South or That’s Lobstertainment!) and watching a pretty good one (like, say, Godfellas or The Farnsworth Parabox). Who knows what changed in the well-populated Futurama team – but it was the right thing. Beast with a Billion Backs is like the good old days of Futurama again. The jokes come frequently, they’re a combo of slapstick, black, offbeat and witty, and it’s all couched in the kind of sci-fi action that tickles your nerd centre.

Hopefully viewers know the premise of this show already. The movie doesn’t take any time to bring outsiders up to speed. No help from me – read the premise of the show if you need some background. Beast isn’t as “fans only” as the first Futurama Movie though, and there are less in-jokes. You’re also fine to watch this movie without having seen Bender’s Big Score.  The Beast With a Billion Backs gets straight into it: within the first five seconds, space has ripped open leaving an inter-universal portal hovering above New New York (presumably this was caused by Bender’s careless time-hopping in the previous film). Terrified earthlings are beginning to grow exhausted from pointing at it and screaming. It’s the kind of parallel-universe premise that Futurama loves (I also love it). But, in case the title didn’t already alert you, you’ll soon realise that this second Futurama film is mainly a big riff on the topic of love and sex. Despite the hovering gash in their universe, our main characters are largely concerned with romance:  Fry is preoccupied with his new girlfriend’s fancy for polygamy and Kif and Amy are headed to Kif’s home world to take part in a swampy, otherworldly marriage ceremony.

Meanwhile, Professor Farnsworth – aided by arch-rival Professor Wernstrom and the super-powered head of Stephen Hawking – investigates the anomaly.  In a typical Futurama parody, scientific efforts are brushed aside by the brash American president (the delightfully cantankerous Nixon’s head) who launches an all out military assault on the parallel world.  “Hell of a thing to send a universe to certain doom… “, philosophises mission leader Zap Brannigan, “Fun though! Makes a man feel big!” Of course, incorrigible robot Bender also has a primary plot thread, as he plays with his fellow robots (including one of my favourites – the pompous soap-star, Calculon) searching for a mythical cult called “The League of Robots”. He’s in fairly good form in this film, irascible and amoral as ever.

That’s just the beginning really. Messing with the anomaly soon unleashes an almighty universe-altering adventure, featuring a tentacled Casanova, voiced by David Cross. I won’t go into detail, but it’s another one of those extravagant sci-fi ideas for which Futurama is well known. This one adds a little dash of philosophical weirdity too, which I quite enjoyed. Potentially it has a level of absurdity that might not gel with everyone. Me? I love the absurdity. It’s kind of a War of the Worlds meets Everybody Loves Raymond caper that allows the love/sex theme to take centre stage. As you’d expect, the background to the film is also bustling with neat, nerdish ideas and parodies of modern life.

But the only reason these traits actually shine is that they are housed in 90 minutes that mostly stays sharp and funny. For me, that’s where the previous movie lost it. Beast with a Billion Backs is not off-the-scale funny – not all the jokes hit home – but there are still enough winners to make it pretty enjoyable. My biggest struggle was with the film’s meandering plot. I think it might be hard to stretch the Futurama style over 90 minutes, and the plot sometimes clunks forward a bit awkwardly. After so many jokey sidetracks you might start to wish there was something sturdier at the core. But there’s the rub: which do you want? It’s difficult to pump out constant irreverent humour and still maintain intricate plotting and deep characters. So, hey, overall I’m satisfied.

I lamented in my last review that the Futurama movies could do better than Bender’s Big Score. Effort number two, The Beast with a Billion Backs is a decent step up. It’s at least made sure it’s delivered on its core promise: there are plenty of moments to make you laugh!

(Note: Add your favourite lines from Beast With a Billion Backs in the comments section)

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FUTURAMA: BENDER’S BIG SCORE (Futurama Movie) (2007)

December 16, 2007

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score review
Futurama bender’s big score

Matt: Two and a half stars
Tracy: Two stars

Length: 88min

Précis: You need to be a fan; but sadly even the fans will think this is like an over-long, low-quality Futurama episode.

Review by Matt:

I’m genuinely unhappy to be writing a review about the Futurama Movie: Bender’s Big Score. Because ever since it first aired in 1999, I’ve been a fan of Futurama, the animated sci-fi comedy show created by Matt Groening. And now I’m going to have to tell you that even though Bender’s Big Score is the first exciting glimpse of Futurama since its axing from the Fox network in 2003, and it’s the first ever feature-length Futurama film, the movie is a weak, boring disappointment. Sigh, I’m sorry. I really wanted it to be great as well.

The plot of Bender’s Big Score is an ok idea, reminiscent of the kind of time-travelling paradoxes that often formed the spine of the old Futurama episodes. Extra‑terrestrial email scammers (yep, like cockroaches they’ll still be around 1000 years in the future) trick their way into ownership of the Planet Express Delivery Service and then discover that delivery boy Phillip J Fry is unknowingly holding the secret to time travel on his person (guess where – on his butt – snigger). The scammers exploit it to quickly conquer the world. And then, as anyone who has seen the Back to the Future series should know, the overuse of the time travel secret begins to endanger the fabric of the space/time continuum. It’s left to parallel versions of Fry and the reprobate robot Bender to make things right again.

All of the main characters from the television show play some kind of role along the way – Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth, Hermes, Amy, Leela, Zap Brannigan, even Scruffy the Janitor – though it’s obviously difficult to let them all shine properly in just 90 minutes. Unlike The Simpsons Movie, which made a successful transition to the big screen and brought with it quite a coherent movie-length plot, Bender’s Big Score feels uneven and piecemeal, as if a few short episodes were roughly cobbled together. The Simpsons Movie also brought the show’s charisma with it. Bender’s Big Score somehow leaves that behind, which is a real shame because the television Futurama was really packed with charm.

The major problem though, is that the jokes are lacking! In some old episodes of the series it felt like the writers were in a golden mood and every moment had a clever zing. In Bender’s Big Score, like in some of the worst episodes, it seems they’ve just stacked together a bunch of forced, half-baked gags. There are a few crackling moments – such as the two excellent musical numbers – but mostly the wit and ebullient mischievousness that featured in the best episodes of the show seems muted.

And fear ye who comes to this movie with no knowledge of Futurama the show! Characters and ideas from the series appear with no context. I just know there will be viewers out there looking at Ethan ‘Bubblegum’ Tate the interstellar Harlem Globetrotting space physicist, or at the rampaging robotic Santa from Neptune, or Leela’s sewer mutant parents, and just holding their heads in utter confusion. In fact there are many references in the film that are exclusively for the loving fans (such as an explanation for the fossilization of Fry’s dog Seymour, and even an explanation for the buildings that are lasered to the ground outside the cryogenic chamber in the very first episode) so die-hards should at least appreciate that.

Bender’s Big Score is still Futurama at heart. There is still lots of nerdy sci-fi joy, cool ideas, lovely animation and some decent chuckles. But it’s not enough to just service the fans with in-references and a pretty sci-fi setting. I wanted a film that shone like the cleverest and most innovative episodes of Futurama (and there was much clever writing over the five years of the show). The good news is that three more Futurama movies are on the way. They can really be better than this.

I can hardly bring myself to do this to a show I’ve loved, but, Bender’s Big Score: two and a half stars.