I can’t believe I’m going to say this but… maybe these Futurama movies were a bad idea.
Hear me out now (and keep in mind this is coming from someone who absolutely loves the series and has seen each episode multiple times). When Matt Groening’s Futurama finished its long but mostly uneventful run on Fox, it was established as a cult classic and a show that was cut short before its prime. Oh those boneheaded television executives, they robbed us of such glory! And then, of course, the DVD collections of the series sold like hotcakes and the reruns on cable proved even more popular. A resurrection occurred. Several direct-to-video movies were plotted.
This should have been the first warning sign.
Futurama works best in short bursts – for a show about ideas, it’s very easy for it to go off the rails. The twenty-two minute time constraint brings out all of Futurama’s craziness, focusing it and making sure it’s on time and on target. The movies (four times the normal length), make sure that every tangent can be explored, every side character spotlighted. This leads to excess, to fatty comedy that results in redundancy and plots strikingly similar to ones we’ve seen before.
So far, there have been three movies ('Bender’s Big Score,' 'The Beast with a Billion Backs,' and 'Bender’s Game') and three galaxy-sized disappointments. Sure, they’re beautiful little movies, and sure, there are a few good laughs in each, but they’re more a drag than a delight. And that’s a real shame.
Now the fourth and possibly final Futurama movie, 'Into the Wild Green Yonder,' has been released. And if this is the last we ever see of the beloved Planet Express crew, well, that’ll be lower than a snake under a sugar cane (and as Hermes reminds us, “it don’t get much lower”).
Considering that most of the time these movies seem like they’re just four episodes stitched together, let’s take a look at the four quadrants of the Wild Green Yonder:
Section 1 – Idiot delivery boy Fry, one-eyed ass-kicker Leela, and the rest of the demented Planet Express crew (including weird crab monster Dr. Zoideberg) visit Asian cutie Amy’s parents The Wongs on Mars, just as they’re razing Mars Vegas and getting ready to build a new Mars Vegas. Of course, given the environmental themes that have been sprinkled throughout Futurama’s history, there are some feminist environmentalists who are protesting the destruction of Mars and, somehow, a necklace with the “female sign” gets lodged in Fry’s brain, awarding him psychic powers.
Section 2 – This section focuses mostly on Bender the alcoholic, chain-smoking robot, and his affair with a robot gun moll. Also in this section Fry learns about a cult called the Mad Fellows, who also wear tin foil on their heads to block out “psychic” voices. They give him important, mythology-building information about the Dark Ones, the mysterious big bad in the movie. Also, I think this is the section with a big poker game.
Section 3 - Focuses on The Wongs’ giant interstellar golf course. It’s pretty ridiculous but visually interesting. Also, Leela gets involved with the feminist environmentalists. Fry continues to deal with his psychic powers.
Section 4 – It gets really bizarre, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but you will find out who the Dark One is and there’s a giant space manta-ray. Or something.
Overall, this one feels even more like a pointless retread of similar episodes (Fry’s plight, in particular, is very similar to this encounters with the brain aliens). If this really is the last bit of Futurama-y goodness to come from Groening and company, I’d be sad, but not too sad. But if they bring the show back as an actual, you know, show… Now we’re talking.
The video, which boasts a 16 x 9 AVC codec in 1080p is, for the most part, sharp and robust.
There’s a whole galaxy’s worth of colorful characters, objects, and ships in this Futurama installment and all are exhibited in top form. That means the nasty little leech’s got a deep olive green tone and Fry’s tin foil helmet looks metallic and crunchy to the touch.
Blacks are deep and bottomless (perfect for a movie set in space), the animation (both traditional and computer generated) practically pop off the screen.
There are some minor issues with edge enhancements, but you have to look close to notice them (jagged micro-lines around the characters). Overall things look solid.
Considering that the main considerations in terms of whether or not you’ll want to spend the extra money for the Blu Ray comes in the form of audio and video, I’m not sure that the slickness of the image is enough to splurge on the Blu Ray.
As for the audio, well…
…This is also quite solid, but again – I’m not sure if it warrants the upgrade.
'Into the Wild Green Yonder' is little more than a glorified television movie, and as such, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track (3482 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3482 kbps) is decidedly front-loaded. There’s lots of emphasis on front speaker dialogue, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (because, well, the dialogue is where the jokes live).
I would describe the sound as “very good.” Sometimes the full range is utilized, with outer space vehicles zooming through your speakers from front to back (and back again!) There are also some powerful instances of ambience (like when the psychic whispers fill Fry’s head or a breeze blows through a decimated old Mars Vegas), with the entire spectrum being filled with crisp, full bodied noise and music.
But more often than not it’s either up front, or with sharp bursts of true surround sound. You can get almost everything in the first few minutes, when Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane sings a great theme song in the style of a certain Rat Packer while we zoom through Mars Vegas, getting an eye-and-earful of all of your favorite Futurama characters.
Like all previous Futurama releases, this one has an entire ship’s load of extras (except this time, some of them are in HD!) Here we go:
It’s not a great entry in the Futurama universe, but it’s passable. Superior sound and video to the standard DVD doesn’t necessarily mean the upgrade is essential. If you’re a Futurama super-fan and you own all the other movies then this is the version to get. To everyone else, it’s merely worth a look.