Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (review)

Still Boldly Going…

Look: it’s Futurama. You already know whether you love it or hate it or are indifferent to it. If you love it, well, Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder is likely the last of the direct-to-DVD movies spun off from the Fox prime-time animated sitcom — though the cliffhanger of an ending suggests someone’s hoping for another go at it — so this could be your final opportunity for Simpsons-esque science fiction snarking at early-21st-century Western culture as viewed through an early-31st-century lens.

Did I mention it comes complete with a wisecracking robot who takes regular zinger potshots at us meatbag humans? Oh, you know you want it.
Yonder — out this week in both Region 1 and Region 2 — is a big ol’ tease, a painful reminder of why the TV series didn’t last and why it’s still worth watching: it assumes the viewer is smart, well-read, and completely up to date on pop culture. (Though, it must be said, the same is true of The Simpsons — both shows are the brainchildren of cartoonist Matt Groening — and that show’s been on the air since God was a kid, so perhaps it’s an enormous mystery why this one failed in broadcast.) Not only can you not take your eyes off the screen for a second, you have to freeze-frame to get all the jokes, so even though it’s slightly less than 90 minutes long, it offers much more entertainment than that.

There’s jokes about DNA and higher math and the moons of Mars (can you name them?), de rigueur references to Star Trek… and all in the opening credits. Later on, there are swipes at everything from The View to 2001 to Cirque du Soleil. Nothing is sacred to Futurama: not environmentalism, not headless torsos, not Richard Nixon, not love, not televised poker tournaments, not the mafia. And that is a glorious thing. If our ethos of irony and snark is on its way out — as has been predicted for years now and may finally be coming to pass — then this is the way for it to go out.

The story? Does it matter? Okay: Amy’s parents have given up ranching on the Red Planet and are running a casino in Mars Vegas, and are planning to destroy even more of nature’s wondrous beauty — trashing Mars to build gambling entertainment venues wasn’t enough for them — to expand their evil empire. Frye and Leela and Bender and the gang exhibit various amusing reactions to this scenario. You don’t need to know more: just enjoy the slam-bang array of clever animation and science fictional amusement.

There’s a roulette wheel of bonus material for your delight, too: audio commentary by meatbag creators Groening and David X. Cohen, and others; storyboard animatics; a mock making-of-featurette that you can’t believe a word of (except, perhaps, the bit about the “critical yet brutally monotonous work” of the animators); “Penn Jillette Mania”; deleted scenes; “Matt & David in Space” (they rode that zero-g airplane, which looks like a lot of fun); “Zapp Branigan’s Guide to Making Love at a Woman” (“there are 10 things to keep in mind”); and more.

And you can bite the shiny plastic DVD if that’s not enough for you.

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