A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 115 – Futurama: Bender’s Game

Futurama: Bender’s Game – June 23rd, 2010

Thank goodness we’re back to a good Futurama movie tonight. This one doesn’t work quite as well as the first one did, but it’s still a lot of fun and the plotlines fit together pretty well, even if the fantasy quest section does make it do the episodic thing. But I forgive it that, because the plots really are well integrated and it has one of our favorite lines, from Igner: “We’re oooooowwwl exterminators!” Yeah, why do we love that so much? It’s all about delivery.

But the plots! I really hate to call them A and B or whatever, since they don’t stay separate. First there’s the introduction of rising fuel costs and Leela banging up the ship because she lets her temper get away from her. Then Bender comes across the kids playing Dungeons & Dragons and decides he wants to play too, but alas! He has no imagination! So he puts his mind to it and, of course, goes overboard and declares himself Sir Titanius Englesmith, Fancy Man of Cornwood and starts running around attacking imaginary dragons and belching out fireballs. And then back to the fuel plot: We find out that the fuel costs are going up because of a dark matter shortage that Mom (of Mom’s Friendly Robots) has manufactured in order to make more money. But dark matter wasn’t always valuable! It was the Professer who, in his youth, accidentally transformed all dark matter into a fuel source. But he also made a crystal that would reverse the process, making dark matter worthless.

Thus the two plotlines combine when we discover that the crystal they need to turn dark matter worthless is being used as a d12 by the D&D players and end up sucked into a fantasy world of Bender’s making, transformed into fantasy creatures and characters and going on a quest to find it and defeat Mom.

The humor in this is probably even funnier to people who were really into D&D, but even my limited experience in addition to the fact that D&D and high fantasy novels share a goodly amount of tropes and references means that the humor isn’t hard to get. I mean, sure, the d12 is a D&D thing, and they make reference to Gary Gygax and there’s plenty of D&D to go around. But there’s also a line about a hobo and a rabbit making a hobbit, and there’s an Ent, and the d12 becomes the one die and brings along a whole pile of One Ring references. Really, if you’ve read, seen or heard of Lord of the Rings, you’re good to go. It’s almost enough to make me say we should do the LotR trilogy this weekend, but they’re three hours a piece and we’re kind of saving them.

Anyhow, it’s got plenty of fun stuff even if you’re not super into D&D or Lord of the Rings. Hell, it’s even got a Star Wars reference (an extended reference, really). And then there’s the title, which is a reference both to the D&D game and to the book Ender’s Game, which does have a weird little fantasy game as a plot point but is really science fiction. It’s all great stuff for them to use for loving parody, and it is loving. It’s clear that they’re riffing on these well-used fantasy themes the same way they do math jokes: With the true fondness of geeks who’ve spent years knowing the ins and outs of what they’re joking about. Listening to the commentary just confirms it more. A word about the commentaries for Futurama, both the show and the movies: Watch them. It’s well worth it not just for explanations of some of the more obscure jokes and math and jokes about math, but also to hear the voice actors goofing off. But even without the commentary, it’s a truly funny geekfest.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Futurama: Bender’s Game

June 23, 2010

Futurama: Bender’s Game

Okay! We’re back on track today with another great Futurama movie. Indeed as I watch this one for the fourth or fifth time it’s quite hard to say if I actually prefer this movie or the first one. Both have innumerable references to the old show, but whereas Bender’s Big Score deals primarily with time travel Bender’s Game deals with Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings.

Right from the very beginning with this movie you can tell that you’re in for a treat. The Futurama opening credits end with a fantastic Yellow Submarine tribute that sets the slightly fantastical mood for the movie to come. After that the movie starts out fairly tangentially, re-introducing dark matter (the rocket fuel used in the Futurama universe) and stressing how rare and expensive it is when the professor is more upset that the crew has used half a ball of dark matter than that they destroyed the Planet Express ship in a demolition derby. It’s pretty cool how they work a lot of the plot exposition so that it fits with established show history. They reprise Nibler’s origin from way back in season one as they explain how Mom (of Mom’s friendly robot factory) attained a monopoly on dark matter. And they go back to explore more about the torrid on-again and off-again romance between Mom and the professor, which has been the source of much amusement in the show. And there’s a dark and terrible secret revealed in this movie which, in retrospect, Matt and David must have planned years in advance.

But it isn’t until about halfway through the movie that things truly get strange. Through an unlikely series of events involving Bender going insane playing D&D and a quantum distortion from some dark matter he has hidden in his chest cavity the entire cast gets warped into a Lord of the Rings inspired alternate universe. Fry becomes Frydo, Leela becomes the centaur Leegola, Bender is Titanius Englebert (Fancy Man of Cornwood) and so on. And everybody is now suddenly on a quest to destroy the ultimate twelve sided die.

It’s fertile ground to be mined by the writers of Futurama, which has always been a show steeped in nerd lore. Perhaps it is a little strange that a show traditionally rooted in science fiction should take such a fantastical detour, but really it works perfectly with the whole Futurama sensibility and humor. It’s pretty clear that the writers had a fantastic time with things like Wipe Castle and Gynacaladrial. There’s epic battles with orks, Morks, and yes there are even Dungeons and Dragons.

This whole movie is a nerdgasm. Sort of like the fantastic Star Trek episode of Futurama this movie brings so much fun stuff to the table. If there’s one thing that Futurama does well it’s pandering to their nerdish fan base, and as part of that nerdish base I’d like to thank them for it.

June 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment