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Bender's Big Score Review



FOX Home Entertainment (2007)
 
Released:Nov. 27, 2007
Region:1 - USA, Canada
Length:89 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 ($17.99)

» Let the Review Begin

After watching the new Futurama movie Bender's Big Score three times, I'm ready to write down my thoughts in an in-depth review. I'll try not to give out much information about the plot but it's hard to do a review without grazing at least some of it. If you do not want to read anything about the plot, then skip past the "The Movie" section to "Video Quality" or straight to the summary. If you only want to know if you should buy the movie: Yes.

» The Movie


Bender next to Fry's ass

After a nice extended intro and before the actual plot unfolds, Bender's Big Score starts with a great jab at the FOX Network and their cancellation of Futurama.
From there, the Planet Express crew and their box delivery company lead us through 86 more minutes of fun, including a bit of romance, nerdy and non-nerdy jokes, and a lot of time travel hijinks.
Early on, the viewer will notice that Bender's Big Score didn't have to submit to network regulations. Both sexual innuendo and comical maiming have an even greater role than they did in episodes like "Spanish Fry" and "Anthology of Interest I". This is without being too juvenile or abandoning the style of Futurama's humor. An important element of that has always been that the viewer needs to pay close attention to "get it" on all levels. For the more background-level freeze frame jokes it might even be required to pick up the remote and go back a few times. The movie does a good job at keeping that tradition up. Some of the fun comes from the many references to past episodes (Godfellas, Jurassic Bark and others). Most of those are not integral to the plot. Others however would probably confuse those who've never seen Futurama before. As a reader of this site, that's pretty unlikely to be the case for you. If you want to go evangelizing among your family and friends, you should probably familiarize them with the Futurama universe first. Here's the shortlist of required viewing:

Overall, the movie is very enjoyable and also rewatchable. It's definitely up there with the better Futurama episodes. There are however a few things that keep it from getting a perfect score.
Maybe due to the planned splitting into four episodes, the pacing fluctuates throughout the movie. There are times when the story does not advance as fast as it could if it were not for the requirement to be written in a way that allows it to be split up for TV at a later stage. None of it is boring or dragging though.
A possible hurdle for casual viewers is the level of complexity of the story line. At first unapparent, its foundation is layed out throughout the movie and it all comes to a head towards the end. As time travel is invovled, the plot is less of a line than an intertwined knot with twists, branches and loops. Futurama's previous encounters with time effects (Roswell That Ends Well, Time Keeps on Slippin') were much easier to follow. My advice: Watch it once as a whole movie. Then watch it in 22-minute episode chunks over a period of time. The complicatedness makes the movie rewatchable and, in my opinion, it even appreciates over time.
Lastly, the movie is not all jokes and action. Some parts are closer to the more romance heavy Futurama episodes than to adventurous or joke-laden stories such as "Roswell That Ends Well". There is something in it for everyone.
Bender's Big Score as such is complicated but very funny and well thought out. It makes me look forward to the next movie.

» Video Quality


The PE ship in a space battle

The visual quality of Bender's Big Score is pretty much perfect. Watching the DVD version of the movie on both a TV and a 8'2" projection screen, the picture quality was great with vibrant colors and crisp outlines. Not sure how much the upcoming HD version can improve upon the quality here. Even though quite a few new artists had to be hired for producing the movie, all characters from the original 72 episode run are on-model and look just like they are supposed to look while the new character designs fit in (disturbingly) well.
The computer-rendered space battle sequences are impressive without looking out of place against the traditional animation. This is also true for all other CG effects but for a random motion-blur in a chase scene which struck me as being a strange effect for a cartoon. Splitting hairs here to find something to complain about.
Oh, and Futurama is widescreen now! Full score in the visual department.

» Audio

Unlike for the visual elements, the audio in Bender's Big Score strays a bit from what we've come to associate with Futurama. The limited budget forced the live orchestra out, which would have been a great addition to some of the more epic scenes. Instead, (good) variations of the theme song are played during the more action-filled moments and original pop-style music was produced for the more emotional scenes. There are also two musical scenes in which the characters break into song. The first one has a somewhat awkward lead-in ("we could sing!") but has a similar style to other Futurama musical numbers. The second, catchier song deviates from the style of other Futurama musical numbers with verses sung/rapped by Coolio and Mark Hamill. On the technical side, Bender's Big Score is Futurama's first venture into 5.1 Dolby Surround. Sadly, I didn't have the equipment to properly evaluate how much this adds to the experience.

» DVD Extras


Bender about to fry things

Regarding special features, this disc is packed. As with the Season DVDs, the movie has a commentary track on which writers and producers Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Ken Keeler and Claudia Katz, director Dwayne Carey-Hill and voice actors Billy West, Jon DiMaggio and Phil LaMarr talk about everything and the movie.
An animated and terrifying message from the 2000 Ex-Next President and Futurama guest star Al Gore makes thinking about the environment so much cooler (complete with video commentary with Gore, Groening and Cohen).
Without a clean environment, everyone's favorite toad - the Hypnotoad - probably wouldn't still be around to be featured with its very own 22-minute episode (22 hypnotoad minutes equal about 4 minutes of fun).
Next on my list of favorites is a math lecture with Dr. Greenwald of Appalachian State University that explains some of the more nerdy jokes and references in Futurama to the Futurama cast and crew.
If the movie was a bit too confusing, try doing some reading with the complete first draft of the script for Bender's Big Score.
A number of character sketches and 3D models show what's been designed for the new movie, while three deleted scenes (not fully animated) show what had to be cut.
On the promotional side, the complete five-minute trailer first shown at ComicCon 2007 and a "Futurama returns!" comic book reading with the voices of the Futurama characters are included.
Finally, there is one easter egg (as far as I know). Highlight to read if you don't want to go looking for it yourself:

Go to "Special Features", then "more" and then hit "right" on your remote to light up Bender and click OK. The easter egg shows a note by producers/writers Cohen and Keeler detailing some plot twists.

» Menu Design

The menus are easy to navigate (although someone has to tell me why the main options are aligned diagonally on so many DVDs these days when my remote only has vertical and horizontal arrow buttons). The background music and sounds aren't annoying and some Bender sound samples lighten things up. More characters and lines next time!

» Packaging


Two-sleeve packaging with lenticular cover

The packaging is designed quite uniquely - which can be a bane for some people. Instead of the standard plastic DVD case, an illustrated, glossy cardboard sleeve holds the disc(1). While the sleeve has a spine on the side you'd be looking at on your shelf, it is wedge-shaped due to the missing spine on the other side. This "wedge" slides into another cardboard cover with a transparent window revealing a nice, headache-inducing lenticular cover. This 3D "hologram" changes between two images when you shift it. Rating the packaging is somewhat tough. On the one hand, the construction is a bit flimsy resulting in one of my copies getting damaged during transport. On the other hand, a lot of work went into the neat design and the lenticular cover which is a real eye-catcher.

» Summary

  Rating Weight
Movie: 70.0%
Video: 10.0%
Audio: 7.5%
Extras: 7.5%
Menu: 2.5%
Packaging: 2.5%
 
Score: 8.8 PE Ships out of 10

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and welcome the return of Futurama very much. Personally, I could have done with a bit less romance and a bit more Zapp. But that's just me. Others would probably sorely miss those scenes. After watching the movie a few times and getting caught up in the inevitable heated discussion on the nature of the plot resolution towards the end, the movie definitely was worth spending this weekend on. To conclude the review, I'll rate Bender's Big Score a great 8.8 PE ships out of 10 possible.


-- [-mArc-] (with input from Kelly), Nov 25th, 2007



Amendment (1): I was later told that the decision to go with the rather unusual cardboard packaging design instead of plastic was made in order to help make Bender's Big Score FOX's first carbon neutral production. Maybe there is a way to improve on the stability of said design for the next movies.



Bender's Big Score is available from amazon.com for $17.99.

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


 

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