Fox // 2008 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 4th, 2008
An all-new feature length quest.
"I'm half horse and half naked!"
1,000 years from now, the world is a very different place. Despite this, the world is more or less the same. What? Nuh-uh, I'm not contradicting myself; you're the one contradicting me. No, you shut up! Ahem.
So, fuel (or "dark matter") prices are on the rise, and it's making everyone pretty frustrated. Why is there such a dark matter shortage? Who is responsible? Some are blaming Mom (Tress MacNeille, The Ant Bully), the owner of Mombil. Mom claims that she is in danger of losing money, but reports have shown that her profits are bigger than ever. Professor Farnsworth (Billy West, Pinky and the Brain) determines to take action...and by "take action," I mean that he plans to destroy Mom's dark matter supply. To do so, he's going to need a powerful crystal, as well as the assistance of trusty employees Fry (Billy West again) and Leela (Katey Sagal, Eli Stone).
Meanwhile, in various parts of space, a lot of other odd and unusual things are happening. Perpetually naughty robot Bender (John Di Maggio, Kim Possible) is getting addicted to playing Dungeons and Dragons, Leela is forced to deal with anger issues after confronting some insulting rednecks, characters are suddenly being thrown into an alternate dimensions! Who will win this battle between good and evil? and how distorted will things have to get before everything is set right again?
These Futurama feature-length films have really been a lot of fun, but does anyone else think they're missing...something? It's hard to put my finger on it, but the magic that made the best Futurama television episodes so special is just not quite there. Now that my obligatory reservation is out of the way, I am pleased to report that Bender's Game is a whole lot of fun. In fact, I'd say it's the most entertaining of these releases to date.
Like the other films, this one is essentially a series of goofy vignettes tied together by a silly plot. At this point, I suppose those of us hoping for something that actually feels like a feature film (as opposed to a series of episodes stuck together) should just focus on the positive. Episodic and fragmented though it may be, this is 87 minutes of funny material. The first half of the film focuses on a more traditional Futurama storyline. The Professor and his team attempt to thwart one of Mom's evil business schemes. It's all handled quite well, with typically entertaining contributions from Mom's three idiot sons. This material is supplemented nicely by Bender's Dungeons and Dragons addiction (and subsequent insanity), but all of this does seem just a tad familiar.
Bender's Game starts to break into interesting new territory with the Elseworlds-style plot that dominates the second half of the film. It works quite terrifically, and actually manages to avoid a lot of the sort of obvious jokes that typically define a spoof like this. It's an honest-to-goodness Futurama story that just happens to be set in a D&D + Lord of the Rings-inspired dimension, and the material is quite entertaining. Leela is transformed into a centaur, Bender becomes a medieval nobleman, and...well, I don't want to spoil too much for you. The film is dedicated to Gary Gygax, who would undoubtedly have been thrilled by what is on display here. If that thought makes you smile, trust me, you'll have a blast with Bender's Game.
The film looks just gorgeous in hi-def, as this may very well be the most richly detailed of these straight-to-DVD films. The colors here are positively vibrant. Just check out that Yellow Submarine-inspired opening credits sequence...absolutely gorgeous. Sound is excellent as well. I was a little surprised by what a dynamic mix this film had. There are quite a few moments that will shake your room, and there's a very nice balance between the sound effects, dialogue, and the spunky Christopher Tyng score. There is nothing to complain about in the audio or video department.
A fairly generous batch of supplements has been included here. The most notable feature is a Picture-in-Picture video commentary with Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Billy West, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Michael Rowe, Claudia Katz, and Dwayne Carey-Hill. It's a fun outing, with lots of off-topic rambling and obscure arguments about various geeky subjects. Cool beans. "D & D & F" (7 minutes) is a delightful conversation with the writers, who discuss the influence of Dungeons and Dragons on this film and on numerous other Futurama episodes. Not only is the discussion informative, but there's a lot of very funny things that one of the writers is doing while the others are talking. "How to Draw Futurama in 83 Easy Steps" (8 minutes) is a pleasant visit with some of the animators, who offer sketches of some of the characters.
"3D Models with Animator Discussion" (5 minutes) is just what it sounds like, and offers a glance at some of the interesting ships and other odds and ends from the film. A brief deleted scene is only partially completed, as you might expect, but I'm glad to have it. "Blooperama 2" (2 minutes) is a quick look at the voice actors flubbing their lines. "Bender's Anti-Piracy Warning" (1 minute) is a very funny jab as those corny anti-piracy commercials that appear at the beginning of DVDs these days. "Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder" (1 minute) is a quick trailer for the next Futurama flick), which looks just as much fun as the previous entries. Plus more Zap Brannigan, this is always a good thing. The Futurama Genetics Lab lets you "mix and match" your favorite characters (Frynder!), which gets old after a few seconds. Finally, there is a storyboard animatic.
Hey, come on, it's Futurama! The show was canceled before its time, but these films are giving fans some much-needed relief from an oppressive lack of new Futurama material, and Bender's Game is one of the coolest so far. It also looks awesome in hi-def, and has some fun supplements. You know you want some. Go for it, kid.
Review content copyright © 2008 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Picture-in-Picture Commentary
* Deleted Scene
* Storyboard Animatic
* Sneak Peek
* Anti-Piracy Warning