A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 113 – Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score – June 21st, 2010

Good news, everyone! Did you know they’re making new Futurama episodes? They are! And they’re going to start airing on Thursday! So starting tonight we’ll be watching the four Futurama movies. Tonight’s the first and (in my opinion) best of the four. It’s got a sort of complicated time travel plot, makes piles of references to the show in fun ways, has a snappy tune I’ll be humming for days and gets in a couple of digs at Fox for canceling them in the first place. Good times.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Futurama, why? Never mind. If you are, I forgive you. It’s about a guy named Philip J. Fry who gets accidentally frozen for a thousand years, waking up in the year 3000 and having to adjust to life in the future. And the amusing bit is that he doesn’t really have much trouble with that. Every so often he has some culture shock, or is super excited about things the rest of the cast sees as normal (like going to the moon) but most of the time he just hangs out with his best friend, a robot named Bender, eats Bachelor Chow, tries to flirt with his coworker Leela, and does his job. Which is as a delivery boy for the Planet Express shipping company, run by a distant nephew of Fry’s, Professor Farnsworth. The show ranges in topic from Leela’s search for her family (she’s only got one eye and believes she’s an alien at the start of the show) to the crew’s numerous run-ins with the pompous captain Zap Branigan to fighting off the evil Robot Santa. It’s full of geeky references and jokes and incredibly clever writing as well as some genuinely touching moments. By the end of the fourth season they were really doing some fun stuff with the characters and the plot.

And then it got canceled. I admit, I didn’t watch it originally. It started while I was in college and my television watching was patchy and limited. I got into it when it was being rerun ad nauseum on Comedy Central. We both got into it. So we were both pretty excited when these movies were announced as a sort of bizarre fifth season. We weren’t sure what to expect from an hour and a half long movie and what we got in the first one was fantastic and also complicated and somewhat mobius-like, but it would be giving away a lot to explain how.

In the interest of trying to explain not the plot but just how much is crammed into that hour and a half, here’s a basic rundown of the story: By giving away their email addresses to three obnoxious scammer aliens, the Planet Express crew find themselves working for them, eventually giving up the universal machine time code (tattooed on Fry’s ass for some reason) and then being kicked off Earth after the aliens use the time code to send Bender back in time to steal Earth’s treasures. To escape the aliens, Fry sends himself back in time to when he originally came from. There’s a lot of back and forth time travel involved and duplicate Frys and duplicate Benders and their accountant, Hermes, gets a replacement body for one that was destroyed early on and everyone ends up on Neptune, enlisting the help of Robot Santa, Kwanzaa Bot and the Hannukah Zombie to launch an assault on the scammers. Oh, and there’s a romance subplot between Leela and a new character, Lars. Unfortunately, time-travel related duplicates are doomed in order to fix the timeline and use of the code will eventually rip a hole in the fabric of causality. And eventually Leela’s pet, Nibbler, announces that everyone has to get out of the universe. Oh no!

In the fashion of the best Simpsons episodes, it starts in one place, bounces to another, then another, then another, gathering plot as it goes. And it’s got things mixed together so everything’s interdependent. In some ways it doesn’t feel like it’s a full length movie, it feels like an episode. In other ways it feels like it’s definitely taking advantage of its additional length. It takes the time for not one but two songs. There’s a space battle and a wedding and all the flashing back and forth between the past and the future. If this had been the only movie they made, I’d have been totally satisfied. It explains things like the aliens destroying New York while Fry’s frozen. It addresses the saddest episode of the show (Jurassic Bark). It’s got cameos from some of our favorite characters and the writing is top notch in my opinion. It’s even got at least one (maybe two) MST3K references, and that always makes me happy. It feels a little like they were trying to get as much as possible into this one in case the others fell through, but while that could come across as bloated and unnecessary, to me it’s just right.

June 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

June 21, 2010

Futurama: Bender’s Big Score

I have something I must confess. I never watched Futurama during its original run on Fox. I didn’t start watching every episode until it was being re-broadcast on Cartoon Network. So in part I was one of those people who was responsible for the show being cancelled. Which is an awful thing to think, because we quickly became enormous fans of the show once we started watching it. But then again, the fact that I did watch every episode on Cartoon Network over and over (well except for Jurassic Bark – I can only ever watch that episode once in a lifetime) and bought all four seasons on DVD means that in some small part I was responsible for the show’s miraculous resuscitation.

This movie represents what was, sort of, the start of season five of Futurama. Indeed after the four direct to video movies were released they were sliced up into sixteen episodes of the show and broadcast on Comedy Central. As such it was highly anticipated in our household. Two years after the show was cancelled it finally returned, and you can tell, watching this movie, that they put a lot of effort into making the big return a memorable event.

From the very beginning this movie is a love note to the fans of Futurama. It’s an hour and forty minutes of pure fan service. There are references to just about every great episode from the old series from The Why of Fry, Luck of the Fryish, and yes, even, Jurassic Bark with all their info about Fry’s life in the past to A Head in the Poles and the two X-Mas episodes. Virtually every character from the series has a cameo of some kind (and those that do not appear are featured in the other three movies.) And the movie has a great sense of humor about itself. Take, for example, the opening scene, where the movie goes all meta as Dr. Farnsworth explains that everybody is fired because two years ago Planet Express was cancelled by the Box Network. Then they get renewed and Leela asks “What does this mean for us and our many fans?” (She’s standing in front of a wall of electric fans as she asks this.)

The plot involves the entire population of Earth being scammed out of every penny and eventually out of the planet itself by a trio of nudist aliens. (Yeah, more fan service. There’s a scene on the nude beach planet where the whole cast gets naked.) The primary tool the scammers use is the “universal time code” which they discover is tattooed on Fry’s ass. By repeatedly sending Bender into the past they steal every valuable piece of art ever created on Earth. Then things get confusing. They decide to eradicate Fry to destroy the time code and he flees into the past, followed by Bender, whom they have control over because he downloaded an obedience virus while trying to download porn.

There’s lot of confusing talk of time paradoxes and time travel, and one major central paradox involving Fry’s trip into the past. My one gripe with the movie is that the rampant time travel doesn’t quite work as well as it has on the show in the past. Everything appears to be wrapped up at the end of the movie, but it’s not as neat as Roswell that Ends Well. Indeed the central plot point of the film, involving Fry duplicating himself in the past via the time code, has never sat well with me. If you follow the looping time paths it just doesn’t make sense.

But I’ll forgive it that, because if you just let go and enjoy the movie for the fun thing that it is and don’t try to understand the time-line it’s a really great time. There’s so much to love about this movie. Like Mark Hamill as the Hanukkah Zombie. Like the whole sub-plot with Fry having to come to terms with Leela’s romance with new character Lars. Like the fantastic cameo by Al Gore as himself. (His third appearance on Futurama.) It’s just great joke after great joke, and all these familiar faces showing up and taking part in the action. It’s as though they distilled all the best things out of four seasons of the show into a single movie.

For the most part it works, and I enjoyed it enormously. I can’t wait to see what they do with the show’s sixth season on Thursday!

June 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment