Tuesday, November 27, 2007

They're back, Baby!

Ten years ago the greatest event in human history occurred. Futurama debuted and we have been living in a cold, pale mockery of existence since Fox canceled it. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth and online petitions (all of which have a long history of being equally effective and causing change) but it came to naught. Finally driven to desperation nerds bought multiple copies of the DVD box sets (one to watch, one to keep sealed for collecting, thirty-six to give as gifts) and Fox finally noticed that people like the show and agreed to make four direct-to-DVD movies. And so now the second greatest moment in human history is upon us as Futurama: Bender's Big Score is released.

And the result? A not particularly enthusiastic, "Well I liked it." It wasn't brilliant but I'd put it at the level of an average Futurama episode. It wallows a bit too much in fan service and as a result spends way too much time calling back to the original series. They didn't go completely off the deep end of the premise like they had in the original series. The script didn't quite have the same level of stinging witticism or parody. Still, I liked it.

If there's something you liked in the original series then its very likely that you'll see it turn up in Bender's Big Score. The Globetrotters? They're there. Fry's dog Seymore? Yep. Seven-leaf clover? Check. Niblonians? Them too. Robot Santa? Oh, yes. God? He puts in an appearance. Al Gore? All over the place. But the net result of calling back to pretty much every single great moment from the series is like the writers are standing there saying, "Remember this? Wasn't this funny?" Pop-culture references are not funny in and of themselves even when the guys making the references are the ones who created the original source so the result of packing them in wall to wall like this just drains the movie.

Sadly there are also musical numbers that are closer in quality to the ones the Simponsons have run into the ground rather than the ones that were in the original show (one place where going back might have been better). They're toneless, lifeless affairs, even with Coolio as Kwanza-bot rapping in one of them.

On the other hand the movie does have its moments. There are nudist, spamming aliens for the villains, for example. Anyone who's seen or read a lot of time travel stuff will work out the big plot twist in seconds (I think it took me about five seconds from the introduction of one of the key elements to saying, "Oh, that's what's going to happen.") but they do make some use of the time traveling plot elements. Not as much as I'd like but they do manage to get three Benders, four Frys, and one Nibbler into the same room. There's even a giant space battle against a fleet of solid gold Death Stars. And plenty of nudity, of course.

On the plus side the animation quality has not dropped at all despite this being a direct-to-DVD release. There are several points where the animation goes all the way to spectacular. Naturally there were plenty of talking heads (both in jars and otherwise) to compensate for those budget busting sequences but it was satisfying.

So I can't think of a reason for a Futurama fan (which naturally will be every single person who ever reads this) to not see the movie. Perhaps it's not good enough to bombard Fox executives demanding more (after the remaining three movies, of course) but it will satisfy.