The team behind Futurama continues to prove that their show deserved to go on. The third of four made-for-DVD movies, Futurama: Bender’s Game meanders its way through an adventure brimming with pop culture references. It’s a fun ride, especially for fans of the fantasy genre. The entertaining bonus features provide a good supplement to the movie.
Robots & Rust Monsters
The plot made sense while I was watching the movie but defies easy summary. One thread has Bender becoming a Dungeons & Dragons fanatic and going to the robot looney bin when his imagination literally runs wild. Another thread starts with the high price of the dark matter that fuels the Planet Express ship (a topic that the writers didn’t realize would be so relevant). Momcorp is to blame for the rising costs, which gives the movie a chance to explore the history between the evil Mom and Professor Farnsworth. Seems he invented energy and anti-energy crystals shaped just like that 12-sided die used in D & D....
One bad energy reaction later, the cast finds itself in the fantasy land of Cornwood, transformed into mythical creatures with names resembling characters from Lord of the Rings. Leela becomes Leegola, a centaur; Bender, a knight; Fry is his old self until he spends too much time with the “crystal of power;” and Hermes, well you’ll just have to watch the movie. What follows is a spoof of Lord of the Rings with die rolls thrown in to keep things interesting (listen to the commentary track to learn about other references to Dungeons & Dragons).
Futurama fans should enjoy this outing. It doesn’t reach the comedic heights as the first straight-to-video movie. But unlike the second movie, it doesn’t rely on irrelevant subplots to keep all of the main characters in the story. As with many sci-fi/fantasy series, the reason to revisit them is to enjoy adventures with familiar characters. Bender’s Game delivers.
With eight participants — writers, actors and producers — the commentary track is lively. They tell some inside stories, recount Dungeons & Dragons experiences, and generally shoot the breeze. They start running out of steam after an hour, but overall, it’s fun to listen to.
The seven-minute-long Dungeons and Dragons and Futurama shows references to D&D from earlier episodes, including a cameo by the late Gary Gygax, the game’s co-creator. Producer and co-writer David X. Cohen and writer Eric Kaplan also talk about their experiences with the game.
How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps has animators demonstrating how they draw various characters. A five-minute featurette shows 3-D models of space ships with commentary by two unidentified animators. As in the previous Futurama DVD, Storyboard Animatic shows the first 21 minutes of the movie in storyboard form with voices.
Just for fun, the Futurama Genetics Lab allows viewers to select two characters to be combined. An anti-piracy warning starring Bender is good for some laughs. There are also two Easter eggs.
Picture and Sound
The movie is presented in widescreen, with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. My preview copy had some visual noise, which I wouldn’t expect to see in the copies for sale. When the picture was good, it was very good. The sound, which is Dolby 5.1, was also very good.
How to Use This DVD
Watch the movie, then check out the bonus features. Save the commentary for a separate viewing, and don’t feel bad if you feel like turning it off after an hour.