A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 116 – Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder – June 24th, 2010

I think maybe the Futurama movies are sort of like the Star Trek movies. Every other one is good. Not that this one is bad, but it doesn’t do it for me quite as well as the first and third did. Sure, it’s got fun jokes and it’s a hell of a lot less ooky than the second, but it falls flat in a few places and I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe it’s the whole environmentalism message that seems to fluctuate between serious and silly, like the writers knew they didn’t want to make it into a complete joke but still wanted to play it for laughs. Same for the feminism part of the plot. But I’ll get to the feminism plot and why it’s not as ooky as the Yivo thing.

Unlike the previous movies, this one doesn’t feel choppy really. Sure, it’s got defined parts to it, but the transitions feel smooth. It plays out nicely as a whole, I’ll give it that. We start out with a montage of Mars Vegas before it’s blown up by the Wongs to make room for a bigger and better casino city on Mars. During construction Leela saves a nasty little muck leech from being paved over and we meet the Eco-Feministas, a group of pink tie-dye wearing women who shout hackneyed slogans and wave signs in protest of Leo Wong’s destruction of the environment. And his gender. When Wong blasts them Fry ends up with a piece from their leader’s necklace embedded in his head and becomes able to read thoughts. Which is where the other half of the plot shows up.

A group of folks in tin foil hats inducts Fry into the Legion of Madfellows, all of whom can also read minds. But hearkening back to earlier episodes, Fry’s brain is shown to be unreadable, which makes him the perfect agent against the Dark Ones; a mysterious race who can read minds and want to destroy all life. The Madfellows and the Eco-Feministas have a shared goal: Stop Leo Wong from destroying a violet dwarf star and a burgeoning life-filled planetoid near it. Fry goes to work as a double agent, infiltrating the Wongs from within the company and Leela joins the Feministas, transforming them from a laughable group of ineffective slogan shouters to the eco-scourge of Leo Wong. They also kill headless Agnew. By accident. Oops.

Anyhow, Fry’s working in secret to keep the Dark Ones from finding out the Madfellows’ plans and can’t tell Leela he’s really on her side. Leela convinces pretty much every female on the show except Mom and Mrs. Wong to join her and so the plot is set with the two groups fighting the Wongs and the Wongs and Nixon working on blowing up that violet dwarf star to make way for a gigantic miniature golf course. And also because the Dark Ones are telling Leo Wong what to do. It all ends with a big confrontation and a giant space manta thing and a lecture about respecting life and the implication that humans are endangered.

But you see what I mean about the plot all being one thing? Sure it starts in Mars Vegas and then after a while we leave it and all, but it’s all part of the same whole. The Wongs and the Feministas stay as two of the main focal points for the entire plot. We don’t stay in Mars Vegas, but the giant mini golf course is part of it. Fry’s telepathy comes from an encounter with the Feministas and in the end the Feministas and the Madfellows are linked anyhow. Even the muck leech Leela saved is part of the main plot. There’s a hell of a lot going on around it all to make it a full length movie, but despite that it plays as a single whole.

So it’s really a shame that it falls flat for me. I don’t want it to. The Feministas thing could have pissed me off royally, except that when Leela shows up she actually makes them effective and strong. They rally behind her and she gets LaBarbara and Amy to join in. Linda, one of the two news anchors, puts a stiletto heel in Morbo’s head and leaves the news desk to join too (leading to some good bits with her introducing the action she’s part of as if it’s news). Yes, it’s definitely played for laughs. Frida, the original leader, is a complete stereotype of an angry-but-foolish Woman With A Cause. I know the type they’re spoofing on and it makes me shake my head. But what saves this from my wrath is that Frida is only one part of the group. Sure, the movement has people who are better at coming up with things to say than things to do, but it’s also got people who are better at doing than saying. So unlike the second movie, this one doesn’t leave me feeling slightly slimy for enjoying it.

The trouble is that like the environmentalism message, the writers took something serious and played it for laughs but also made it serious at the same time and maybe one plot like that could have worked. Pick one, the feminist stuff or the environmentalist stuff. But two is too many. There’s too much serious and too much awareness that there are Messages. The laughs are good, but they don’t happen nearly enough. Sure, I’m smiling by the ending (which reminds me a lot of the end of MST3K season 7 – we’ll see if they use that tonight), but I wish I was smiling wider.

June 24, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

June 24, 2010

Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder

This movie, more than the other three Futurama movies, has the strong feel of an extra long episode. No time travel or D&D here – just a strange series of events that happen to the Planet Express crew. It’s got a fairly epic feel, with a clash of ancient races as old as the universe itself and Fry being the only hope of the universe, but we’ve seen that on the show too, twice! So it doesn’t really do anything new, but what it does do is done well, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as Bender’s Game and Bender’s Big Score I did enjoy it.

The story goes thusly: in the year 3008 Leo Wong (Amy’s multi-gazillionaire father and owner of most of Mars) destroys Mars Vegas to erect an even more glitzy and ostentatious New Mars Vegas. In the process he eradicates all but one of the endangered martian muck leeches, arousing the ire of Leela and of a group of Feminista environmentalists. When the necklace of one of the feministas (Frida Waterfall – part of a running gag from the series with a vast Waterfall family all played by Phil Hendrie) gets lodged in Fry’s head he gains the power to read thoughts. He almost goes insane from the pressure of all the unprotected thoughts around him, but is rescued by a homeless man named Hutch who provides him with a tinfoil hat and eventually introduces him to the Legion of Madfellows – a secret society of people who can read thoughts and wear tinfoil hats.

The Madfellows spout a whole lot of plot exposition at Fry. It seems that there is an ancient and never-ending cosmic battle between two forces known as the Dark Ones and the Encyclopods. The Dark Ones are the ultimate evolutionary achievement and desire to destroy all other life in the universe, and the Encyclopods have incorporated into their very being the DNA of every extinct species. Fry must find a way to stop Leo Wong from destroying the egg of the last Encyclopod – which is actually a violet dwarf star. Only Fry can stop the Dark Ones because only his defective brain cannot be read (as established when he twice defeated the invading brain aliens in the show.)

That’s the basic plot right there. There’s a whole lot of padding, of course, because that’s not nearly enough to fill a movie. There’s a lengthy bit in New Mars Vegas where Fry and Bender enter a poker tournament. Bender has a fling with the Robot Don’s moll. Leela and Amy (and eventually just about every female character from the show) join with the feministas to attempt to stop Wong and protect the environment. A lot of stuff happens like chases through space and giant miniature golf. The headless corpse of Spiro Agnew gets needlessly and brutally killed.

And since this was the last movie planned for release, and since it wasn’t known if there would ever be any more Futurama after this, the writers also shoehorned in a plot that tries to bring Fry and Leela together at the end. Which doesn’t work nearly as well as the touching end to the original series in The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings. Indeed, that’s the problem this movie has almost throughout. It does some things that are clever, like finally giving some lines to the number 9 man who was seen in background crowds throughout the series and bringing back the recurring Waterfall characters, but most of the best bits of the movie were done better in the series. Fry and Leela’s reconciliation was better in the show and in the first movie. Fry’s “special brain” was best used in The Why of Fry. The Wong family was more fun to watch in Where the Buggalow Roam. In many ways this movie is less a graceful swan song than a warmed over rehash of best bits from the show.

Furthermore the environmentalist and science nerd in me takes exception to the depiction of rabid environmentalists in this movie. And, really, if you think about it the notion of preserving the DNA of every extinct species ever is an odd device. Maybe it’s pedantic of me, but my brain immediately wonders if the Encyclopods preserve every evolutionary dead end as well. Evolution, as I understand it, involves the constant introduction of new ways to build life. Most of these new things don’t fill a need for whatever species or provide an environmental advantage and so they don’t result in new species – but they can sometimes be carried on for generations before they fade from existence. Do these abnormalities get preserved? What about freakish mutations that don’t even result in viable mating stock or die before maturing? Do they deserve preservation? I guess its an idea that gets me thinking, and I like those, but ultimately it doesn’t work for me.

Still – I will never say no to new Futurama. I’m really hoping that the new series, which premiers in about half an hour from when I’m writing this review, will offer David X Cohen and all his nerdy buddies a chance to add new life to the franchise. Hopefully there are new epic reveals to be had and new strangeness and wonder ahead. I just think that in general Futurama lends itself more to the shorter half-hour format. Time will tell if I am right.

June 24, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment