|By Zach Patterson||Thursday, 13 Nov 2008|
Bender’s Game is the 3rd Futurama DVD movie released since the series was officially brought back for 4 direct-to-DVD movies. And while each movie has been different in what it has brought to the table, I think this is by far the funniest movie of the lot to date.
This Futurama movie is pretty heavy on the funny stuff despite a weaker premise than the last movie, but contains less serious material than the first movie. The movie has about a dozen subplots, but the main overarching plot point is about the “shortage” of dark matter fuel, and how Mom is exploiting the market for her own gain. There’s a bunch of obvious references to the current oil crisis, but probably the best plot in the movie is Bender falling into the role playing world of Dungeons and Dragons and being unable to tell fantasy from reality. While the Planet Express crew fights to stop Mom from stealing a crystal from Farnsworth that would allow her unlimited power indefinitely over the energy supply, Bender ends up going crazy and is put in the HAL Institute for Criminally Insane Robots. Then, just as the movie feels like it is coming to its climax…it turns into Lord of the Rings.
For some reason, Bender sucks the entire universe into his fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons, and most of the rest of the movie is a LotR spoof. While most of this stuff is funny stuff too, it certainly makes the movie feel more like a bunch of episodes (or random ideas) crammed together to fill out a movie length, rather than being a coherent, complete movie. I guess since they will be broken up to air on TV, it made sense to make it more like that. Regardless, they make good use of the setting, akin to the Anthology of Interest tale that spoofed Wizard of Oz. Fry becomes Frydo, an obvious play on Frodo, and then later he also essentially becomes the role of Gollum
(which includes a hilarious take on the Gollum water reflection scene). Farnsworth becomes Great Wizard Greyfarn, Leela is Leegola, Mom is Momon, etc. Then near the end of the abbreviated LotR tale, when Fry fails to destroy the crystal (now a Die of Power that grants random things when rolled), the whole things crumbles back into reality, Mom’s dark matter farm is nullified and everyone goes home without fuel and happy.
In all, it’s kind of a mishmash of weird and funny stuff, but it all works. The movie also tells some more history behind the series, such as why Nibbler was on the planet Leela finds him on (and what happened to the rest of his kind), more of the Professor’s past, and a secret about Mom’s stupidest son. It’s pretty cool how they have managed to tie together a lot of question marks in the series by incorporating them into the plot of the movies. This movie, being based on D&D and LotR, is also steeped in nerdom. This is by far the nerdiest movie, and I loved it. There’s an early scene in a Demolition Derby where they have George Takei from Star Trek in a small scale original Enterprise (with his head jar on top) wrecking into Scott Bakula in an Enterprise-era ship and blaming him for ruining the franchise. Awesome. Then they pretty much recreate the entire end battle of Empire Strikes Back with Farnsworth later in the movie. There’s also tons of other little references to other things throughout. In addition, this movie continues to be tremendous fan service to Futurama diehards, as I think nearly every obscure character has now had screen time or reappeared in some way.
In general, if you like Futurama, you’ll like this. From Bender’s “relaxation therapy” to Mom’s kids masquerading as owl exterminators to the battle at Wipe Castle (an obvious yet strange homage to White Castle and the final battle in The Two Towers), there’s just some really funny stuff in this. The extras are also pretty great, as usual from these DVD’s. I spent an hour watching extras, and there’s still a few things I haven’t gotten through. The great part is that most of it isn’t filler, and the commentaries with the cast are always highly entertaining. Definitely recommend picking this up, it’s good value for the money.