Futurama, the Fox network’s edgy animated comedy sci-fi show had hardly run out of comedic or creative steam when it was abruptly canceled in 2003. The show burst back on the scene in late 2007 with Futurama: Bender’s Big Score, the first of four planned DVD movies. Fans of the show will be satisfied with the second movie, Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs. It serves up a steady stream of laughs, and has a good package of bonus features.
Good News, Everyone!
The movie picks up where Bender’s Big Score ended — with a tear in the fabric of space. The movie follows a classic horror formula, in which a many-tentacled beast named Yivo (voiced by David Cross) comes through the anomaly and one-by-one, goes after Fry, Leela, Amy, Zoidberg, Hermes, Professor Farnsworth and a cast of thousands. This being Futurama, it turns out that Yivo’s intentions are more sexy than sinister.
Where The Beast with a Billion Backs falls a little short is in its story. With Yivo only interested in humans, Bender the robot has little to do this time. It wouldn’t be much of a Futurama episode without Bender’s antics, so he gets his own subplot. Bender’s membership in the League of Robots is humorous filler, but it gives the movie a more episodic feel than its predecessor.
Despite this quibble, The Beast with a Billion Backs is worth watching. Just about every joke works — running the gamut from religion to robot pirates. Stephen Hawking has a cameo, and Nixon’s head, along with Agnew’s body, makes an appearance. There’s plenty of material to satisfy longtime fans, animation fans, and science fiction geeks. It may have more chuckles than belly laughs, but it’s consistently funny and entertaining.
Like the movie, the commentary track seems to have a cast of thousands. Actually, there are nine talkers, including co-creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, as well as producers, actors, the director and the principal writer. There are a few interesting inside stories, but they tend to go off on tangents, and it’s hard to keep track of who’s talking. The actors often break into their characters’ voices. Nonetheless, it’s fun to listen to because they seem to be enjoying themselves.
Futurama: The Lost Adventure consists of segments from a Futurama video game that was produced in 2003. The segments were used to create a storyline for the game, and are put together here to create a 30-minute episode. While the episode isn’t all that entertaining, especially since you don’t get to actually play, the commentary track, this time with eight participants, is interesting and funny.
For animation geeks there’s Storyboard Animatic, which shows the first 22 minutes of the movie in storyboard form. Two other features dissect the 3-D animation. The DVD also has three minutes of deleted scenes. And to give fans something to look forward to, there’s a two minute sneak peak at the next movie.
Picture and Sound
The movie is presented in widescreen, with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. My preview copy had a considerable amount of visual noise, which I wouldn’t expect to see in the copies for sale. The sound, which is Dolby 5.1, was very good.
How to Use this DVD
Watch the movie, then check out the shorter bonus features. Save the commentary tracks for another time. Be sure to watch the video game feature with the commentary.