Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Review: Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs
When Futurama was on TV, it was one of the best and smartest shows on television. Matt Groening, creator of the The Simpsons, was a scifi geek at heart, and Futurama allowed him to create a scifi version of the Simpsons, set in the 30th Century. Every episode was very funny, many were quite moving, and the very best episodes, like Luck of the Fryrish or the Emmy-winning Roswell that Ends Well, stand among my favorite works of art of all time.
Futurama was reincarnated last year as a series of four made for DVD movies, and while the first of them, Bender's Big Score, wasn't as good as the best of the episodes, it was every bit as good as the average episode. To paraphrase A.O. Scott on The Simpsons Movie, being as good as the average Futurama episode means I would be willing to watch it roughly 30 more times. Above all, the movie was true to the show, with a twisty sci-fi plot, a whole slew of mostly unnecessary but very funny references to the episodes, and a new story about the unrequited love of 20th century everyman Fry for 30th century one-eyed mutant Leela.
In stark contrast, The Beast with a Billion Backs has almost nothing to recommend it. Rather than the complex plot of the best episodes, the plot is an inert, sluggish thing, with two especially pointless subplots involving Bender's search for acceptance and Fry's new girlfriend. At the end of the previous movie, a hole was ripped open in the universe; halfway through this movie, we learn that the other side of the hole contains a giant squid monster - something we learned from both the trailer and the DVD box. A second plot "revelation" is (spoiler alert, kind of) contained in the title.
But the uninteresting plot and subplots - and what seems to have been a general lack of effort in constructing this movie - could be forgiven if it was funny. It's not. This is the most perplexing thing. None of the episodes of Futurama have a plot as uninteresting as Beast, but even the weaker ones are full of funny moments. This movie isn't. Nearly every joke falls flat. Classic characters like Zoidberg, Professor Farnsworth, and Zap Brannigan - who are usually funny on sight - deliver nothing.
So that's the story. The plot is bad and the jokes aren't funny. I could have lived without the character development of the best episodes, although that was something that Bender's Big Score delivered. But when 90 minutes of Futurama goes by and I only chuckle once or twice and check the clock every five minutes, something has gone terribly wrong.
Even Scruffy isn't good in this movie