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Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs Review



FOX Home Entertainment (2008)
 
Released:June 24, 2008
Region:1 - USA, Canada
Length:90 min.
Rated:not rated
Video:16:9 widescreen
Audio:5.1 Dolby Surround (English)
Subtitles:English, Spanish, French
Price:$29.98 (MSRP)
Buy From:amazon.com ($19.99)

» Intro

It's been half a year since the last Futurama movie made its way to DVD. Time for another review! After losing my copy in their warehouse for 3 days, UPS finally managed to get my screener copy of "The Beast with a Billion Backs" to me on Monday morning. Was it worth the wait? Well, read on! The review will mention a few plot details while trying not to give too much away, but if all you want to see is a rating, skip to the summary.

» The Movie


The Professor briefs the crew.

Right after the opening credits, there's a great black-and-white cartoon short reminiscent of Walt Disney's early work that introduces the viewers to 90 minutes of all-new Futurama. "The Beast with a Billion Backs" starts where the last Futurama movie left off - with a big gaping rip in the sky caused by Bender's repeated abuse of the laws of causality. If you didn't see the first movie, this is really all you need to know about "Bender's Big Score" to understand the ensuing story. There are some references to older Futurama episodes, but the plot doesn't hinge on them this time. Since the movie was produced in 4 chapters that will eventually air as episodes 5ACV05 to 5ACV08, I will be reviewing them seperately.

Chapter 1


Bender about to fry things

Unfortunately, I consider the first half of this chapter the weakest part of the movie. It's still fun to watch, but the story gets off to a slow start. A good portion of the chapter is devoted to establishing two romantic relationships. While one is important to the plot, the other doesn't add anything and gave me a 4-minute-long sense of deja-vu. Halfway through the chapter, the Professor suddenly brings the movie back on track, reminding everyone that that huge space-time anomaly is still around. The story picks up a lot from here, and an exciting new sport called Deathball is introduced. The second half redeems this chapter:


Chapter 2

The second chapter gives Bender his own subplot, which is good news for the Bender fans. In addition, Zapp Brannigan finally gets the screen time he deserves! The plot moves along nicely at this point, and the dialogue is as witty as in some of the better Futurama episodes.


Chapter 3


The Velour Fog giving his favorite command.

With everyone but Bender dealing with the anomaly and the accompanying tentacles, the third chapter is the definite highlight of the movie. It's fast paced, fun all the way through, and ends with a startling revelation. This chapter is probably not suitable for smaller children, but Futurama was never envisioned to be a kids' show in the first place. I really have nothing negative to say about this chapter and am happy to give it a full score.


Chapter 4

The last chapter gives me mixed feelings. On one hand, it's a bit of an anticlimax. The story slows down at this point to wrap things up - perhaps a bit too neatly. After all the struggling in chapter 3, the ending is somewhat unspectacular. There is no big bang at the end and unlike the first Futurama movie, "The Beast with a Billion Backs" does not leave the viewer wondering what will happen next. But on the other hand, it's quite funny and the sudden change in tone was executed well.

» Video Quality

The video and animation quality is just what we have come to expect from Futurama. Crisp characters that are on-model all the time, great backdrops with a lot of detail (but not so many freeze frame jokes/signs), consistent style, good sight gags, and nice 3D camera pans. The outer space scenes are not as theatric as in the last movie but that's about it regarding complaints. As with the last movie, this one was produced in wide-screen format.

» Audio


Zoidberg and the tentacles.

The audio was recorded in 5.1 Dolby surround. Sadly, I don't have the proper equipment for evaluating the surround quality. As for stereo, it sounds a lot like a Futurama episode would sound. And that's a good thing. The voice acting and the sound mixing are excellent as always. One thing I noticed was that the menu of my screener copy was very loud complared to the movie. I'm not sure if this is due to the screener, my DVD player, or the DVD mastering. I took a point away from the last movie for a musical number I didn't like. No singing this time, so the point is back.

» DVD Extras

Looking at the extras, the disc is again filled with goodies for the fans. Not only is there a full-length commentary track for the movie featuring Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, and the main voice actors, but there's also a "lost episode" of sorts that comes with its own commentary. It consists of the cut scenes from the PS2 Futurama game which together form a cohesive and entertaining plot. In addition, comedian and tentacle monster David Cross talks about his character in a featurette. 'Blooperama' gives you a glimpse of the other voice actors at work. Animators describe how the Deathball sport was desgined and show off some of the 3D models used in the movie. Finally, a number of deleted scenes show what did not make it into the movie (in various stages of production) while the animatic shows an early version of the movie's first chapter. Overall, great extras if not as much as on the first Futurama movie DVD. But that one was exceptional to begin with.

» Menu Design

The menu design is pretty standard, with clips from the movie and a loop of the Nimbus ship circling some tentacles while a short remix of the Futurama theme plays in the background. Nothing too special here, but nothing annoying either. The submenus feature eerie music and old horror movie style backgrounds. I didn't hear Bender and company do their usual random remarks this time.

» Packaging

I cannot say anything about the packaging as of now, since my screener copy arrived in a simple paper sleeve. What I do have is a print of the cover art, which looks great.

» Summary

  Rating Weight
Movie: 70.0%
Video: 10.0%
Audio: 7.5%
Extras: 7.5%
Menu: 2.5%
Packaging: n/a 2.5%
 
Score: 8.5 PE Ships out of 10

Compared to the first Futurama movie, the plot to "The Beast with a Billion Backs" is much more straightforward with no confusing time-travel paradoxes for the viewer to puzzle out. This might make it less rewarding to rewatch for the more sci-fi-minded Futurama fans. At the same time, the story itself is well-crafted and entertaining. The whole movie just feels like Futurama. Another must-buy for Futurama fans.


-- [-mArc-] & Kelly, June 5th, 2008



The Beast with a Billion Backs is available from amazon.com for $19.99.

All Futurama graphics provided by FOX Home Entertainment. Futurama TM and 2007 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


 

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