Locus Online



28 April 2009

DVD Review of Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

by Howard Waldrop & Lawrence Person

Directed by Peter Avanzino

Written by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen

Starring the voice talent of Billy West, John Di Maggio, Katey Sagal, Lauren Tom, Phil LaMarr, Maurice LaMarche, Tress MacNeille, David Herman, Dawnn Lewis, Phil Hendrie

Both: Slightly split decision: Howard thinks it's as good as The Beast With a Billion Backs and Bender's Game; Lawrence thinks it's the least of the four, but both agree it's still worth watching.

They're at it again: Leo Wong (Amy's father) first wants to pave Mars to build a newer, bigger Mars Vegas (which leads to protesters with signs like "Keep the Red Planet Green"), later expanding his ambitions to constructing the universe's largest miniature golf course (his passion).

Lawrence Person: In addition to the eco-plot, Bender falls for fan-dancing robot Fanny, who has a literal fan on her can. She also happens to be the girlfriend of the DonBot, the head of the Robot Mafia, from whom she steals his lucky foot for Bender to win a poker tournament. It's the DonBot's own left foot; strangely, this does not arouse his suspicions...

Howard Waldrop: Wong sets his sights on the Violet Dwarf System, where there's a planet with all the DNA (somehow) of every extinct species in the Galaxy. (Wong's dream is no less than a star-system-wide course.)

Extinct species run as a leitmotif through the entire DVD (early on, there's the last Martian muck-leech, a parasite).

LP: Naturally Lela begs Wong to spare the muck leach; just as naturally, it instantly attaches itself to her neck.

HW: There's lots of running around and soul-searching (by the wrong people) here. The immensity of stopping a system-wide makeover preys heavily on the Planet Express gang. The characters are taxed to the utmost of their 2-D hearts. And it's funny. Zoidberg keeps trying to eat everything in sight, endangered, extinct, sessile or motile. There are of course some dodoes here.

LP: Lela and her muck leach join up with her eco-feminist compatriots to stop Wong and chant awful slogans. In the best Futurama fashion, both tree-huggers and eco-criminals get equal amounts of ribbing.

Meanwhile, Fry gets turned telepathic by an errant necklace pendant lodged in his noggin (nothing that a little tinfoil can't dampen), then forcibly inducted into the Ancient Legion of Mad Fellows. (You know the guy in the background wearing the 9 shirt? He's finally ready for his close-up.)

HW: The animation on these things keeps getting better and better. Things are done for the story, not because they're the easy way to do them. The story quality's equal to the second and third DVDs, but a step below Bender's Big Score, the first and hilarious best of them.

LP: Though I enjoyed this, I actually found it the weakest of the four Futurama DVD movies. I would rank them Bender's Game first, Bender's Big Score second, then a significant drop to The Beast With A Billion Backs in third and Into The Wild Green Yonder following up the rear. It just doesn't have the fervent insanity of Bender's Game going for it, or the convoluted time travel wackiness of Bender's Big Score. That said, this is still funnier than three-quarters of The Simpsons episodes this season, and pretty much everything Family Guy has been offering up as of late. (Speaking of which. Family Guy major domo Seth MacFarlane has a cameo here, which I'd be more inclined to celebrate were it not for the stale portions of OJ Simpson and Conway Twitty he's been offering up on his flagship show this season. Methinks he might be spreading himself too thin...)

HW: Groening, et al. should be congratulated for trying this method of feature-length DVDs to be rebroadcast as 4-parters in the series. They get the freedom and depth of a movie, yet one that can still be seen as discrete segments. (From the series episodes of these I've seen, there are sometimes a few minutes of added scenes I don't remember from the DVDs.)

LP: In addition to deleted scenes, there are extras on the disc, but probably fewer than the other three (there's a mock "making of" documentary that reveals every single aspect of the show is done by voice-of Amy-Wong's Lauren Tom).

HW: I'm looking forward to any more they care to do — they know what's funny, and they know their SF backwards and forwards. If they come up with another to equal Bender's Big Score, we'll let everybody know.

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