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Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder Review



FOX Home Entertainment (2009)
 
Released:Feb. 24th, 2009
Region:1 - USA, Canada
Length:88 min.
Rated:not rated
Video:16:9 widescreen
Audio:5.1 Dolby Surround (English & Spanish)
Subtitles:English, Spanish, Portugese, French, Chinese
Price:$29.99 (MSRP)
Buy From:amazon.com ($18.99)

» Intro

For what could be the last time, the mailman dropped off a pre-release Futurama DVD from FOX at my door a few days ago. "Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder" is the fourth and probably final direct-to-DVD feature-length movie release after "Bender's Big Score", "The Beast with a Billion Backs", and "Bender's Game". The DVD will be on shelves around the US on February 24th.

Now that I've watched the movie three times, I'll let you what to expect from the newest Futurama movie that will eventually make its way to TV as episodes 5ACV13 to 5ACV16. I'll do my best to keep the plot spoiling to a minimum. Skip the part in italics, if you don't want to know anything more than the general setting.

» The Movie


The Planet Express crew back in space

After "Bender's Game" took Futurama to the fantasy realm, the newest movie installment takes us back to more traditional Futurama territory: space. That is, mostly to Mars, where Amy's parents Leo and Inez Wong are busy developing their vast property.


The Eco-Feminists

Leo Wong in New Mars Vegas

Playing miniature golf on Mars

Plot summary (small spoilers): Leo Wong - much to the dismay of the Eco-Feminists - gets rid of what nature there is left on Mars in order to build a new "Mars Vegas". While business is seemingly going well, Leo sets his sight on something bigger: a galactic-scale miniature golf course. Of course, this requires some more nature removing. The threat of a whole arm of the galaxy being turned into a black hole ball return causes the Eco-Feminists' ranks to swell. However, darker forces than Leo Wong are at work and a secret society tasks Fry with protecting the universe.

Looking at the four segments of "Into the Wild Green Yonder", the first one stands out the most as its own episode. It sets up the general story but then digresses into a subplot that does not advance the main story line that much. A Bender-centric subsubplot unfolds and is wrapped up by the end of the first 22 minutes without coming up again. While not connected as nicely as the other three segments, the first part is nevertheless very funny with a lot of great lines and a clever turn of events that culminates in a face-off between Fry and Bender.

The remaining three parts of the movie form a cohesive story arc that pits economic greed (and the desire to make things go boom) against nature. At the same time, the Futurama universe is embiggened through the introduction of two new alien species and a backstory for a character that has been a mystery for fans of the show since the very beginning. Fan favorites like Zapp and President Nixon are featured prominently with memorable lines that are bound to make it into Futurama jargon.

While the movie could probably have been squeezed into fewer minutes, it does not drag and each minute that is there is funny.

Since the Futurama team was not (and is not) in the know about the future of Futurama, Into the Wild Green Yonder does not set out to be a series finale. So, don't expect it to be one and you will likely find the fourth movie to be a Futurama adventure well worth watching. I enjoyed it all three times that I watched it for this review.

» Video

The video quality is up on par with the previous direct-to-DVD Futurama releases. The colors are vibrant, animation is smooth, and the 3D space segments fit in well with the traditional 2D animation. In addition, the freeze frame fun that I was missing in the past few movies is back — plenty of signs to read and a few alien messages to decode, too. The 1.5 complaints I'd be able to think of are a somewhat jarring tin foil hat and that the brown Mars desert in the first part of the movie does not lend itself to scenic backdrops.

This last should not concern you: The review copies handed out by FOX have noticable MPEG artifacts (probably due to reencoding to include a watermark). I noticed this same issue with the last Futurama movie. However, the artifacts were gone in the retail release.

» Audio


Fry with Hutch the hat-maker

The first thing I noticed about the audio even before starting the movie was that there is more of it. If I recall correctly, this is the first Futurama movie that comes with English and Spanish audio. The first thing after starting the movie would be the Sinatra-esque song that accompanies the introduction. It's composed by Futurama's primary song-writer Ken Keeler and sung by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.

The background score by Christopher Tyng suits the movie nicely while the voice acting is as top notch as we have become accustomed to with Futurama. This is exemplified by Billy West's great performance of Leo Wong, who shows a more spirited side here than in his previous appearances.

» DVD Extras

The extras menu is filled with a large number of special features. As with all previous Futurama DVD releases, there is an audio commentary track for the whole movie on which members of the Futurama crew including creator Matt Groening and executive producer David X. Cohen give background information while having a good time. Other random goodies include a funny "Behind the scenes" with Amy's voice and jack-of-all-trades Lauren Tom, an animatic of the first 22 minutes, guides on how to draw Futurama characters, five deleted scenes, 3D models with discussion by the designers, Zapp's guide on "how to make love at a woman", Bender's cinema etiquette, a toilet paper animation, a short featurette with Penn Jillette, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen in "space", and a hidden easter egg. That was quite a list, wasn't it?

» Menu Design


The main menu

If you bought any of the previous three Futurama movie DVDs, the main menu with its metal bars and clips from the movie will look familiar to you. I suppose you could see it as some kind of continuity but I'd have appreciated a bit more variation here. The submenus on the other hand are all nicely designed, functional, and reflect story elements of the movie.

» Packaging

My screening copy came in a simple paper sleeve. I will withhold my verdict on the packaging until I hold the retail version of the movie in my hands.

» Summary

  Rating Weight
Movie: 70.0%
Video: 10.0%
Audio: 7.5%
Extras: 7.5%
Menu: 2.5%
Packaging: n/a 2.5%
 
Score: 8.9 PE Ships out of 10

Into the Wild Green Yonder has a lot of the elements that people like about the series. Clever dialog, geekly references, strong characters, great voice acting, and miniature golf aplenty. It is a sure-fire addition to any Futurama fan's collection. Looking back at it, the fourth movie most closely resembles "The Beast with a Billion Backs" in its storytelling. Only, that it is better at it.


-- [-mArc-], February 2nd, 2009



Into the Wild Green Yonder is available from amazon.com for $18.99 in DVD format and for $27.95 in BluRay format.

Futurama TM and 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Our review copy was provided by FOX Home Entertainment.


 

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