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Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder

Russell Burlingame Reporting

"We Are Go For Cheesing It." The last of the four new Futurama film, which hits tomorrow, is the most Futurama-like of all the movies that have been released since Fox started reissuing the program as a series of direct-to-DVD features last year. While there is an overarching story that connects the various plot threads, the writers have finally remembered that it doesn't matter how elaborate or sophisticated your plot is, if it isn't funny enough that people want to keep watching. Following this movie, all four of them will be broken up into TV-show-length episodes and aired on Fox as a "new season" of the cult favorite show. Fox has previously said that, depending on the DVD sales and ratings, there is even a possibility that more episodes or DVD movies may be forthcoming. While it might be more realistic to expect this after the end of creator Matt Groening's other animation franchise, The Simpsons, there'll be a lot of people out there who hope for it after Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder.

There are a few things that go on in this particular incarnation of Futurama; the first is that Bender and Fry enter an interplanetary poker tournament on Mars Vegas-what happens when Las Vegas inevitably grows to engulf a whole planet. This storyline plays a little bit-but not much-into a Leela-driven storyline involving a feminist eco-terrorism group that inadvertently kills Vice President Spiro Agnew and forces Leela into hiding. There isn't any Nibbler in this episode, which is actually interesting because there's a leech-saved by Leela as her first act of environmental stubbornness-that is the last of its kind and inducted as their mascot. It's a role that Nibbler could easily have played, except for Leela's leech. This leads to arguably the funniest scene of the film-a long, bizarre tirade in which Leela tries to articulate the addle-minded political agenda of her environmental group by drawing parallels between their mascot, a parasite who must be protected, and Leo Wong, a parasite who "must be exterminated."

Fry-who has found himself empowered with telepathy-is inducted into a secret order that ultimately puts him alongside of the woman he loves. They want him due to his lack of delta brainwaves-a gag on the character's stupidity which harkens back to an earlier adventure from back when the show was still airing new on Fox. He spends most of the film wearing a tin foil hat (which takes on a variety of comical shapes), and working in opposition to Amy Wong's real estate developer father, who wants to obliterate about 12% of the universe to make way for a gigantic mini-golf course.

A great commentary on lazy, inept political activists, the film points out how important issues can be sidetracked or even completely derailed by morons who think that a good slogan is a legitimate substitute for a coherent message. The political message of this particularFuturama film is a lot more elegantly-crafted than the environmental message in Bender's Big Score-less didactic and more intellectually defensible. It's also less pandering (the eco-stuff is still there, but the fingerprints of staff writer Kristen Gore-the daughter of Al-was far too obvious on that flick).

Speaking of which, it was nice to see that the obliteration of Dark Matter as a useful fuel source at the end of Bender's Game was actually retained. At one point, there's an indication that whale oil has become the new fuel of choice in the future.

Morbo and Linda, the newscasters who are often the highlight of the show, are hugely disappointing here as Linda deteriorates into a generic parody of feminism and Morbo is emasculated and left appearing brainless and powerless. It's not the first time his character has felt out of synch since these DVD movies began, and it's a shame.

The finale of the story takes on a kind of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-scope cosmic event that frankly doesn't work for Futurama, but it passes quickly. The final minute and a half or so completely redeems any of the film's shortcomings, though, giving the fans exactly what they would want from what is likely the final appearance of the Planet Express team.

Ultimately, this is a three-or-four star movie out of five, but it's completely indispensable if you have any interest whatsoever in the fate of these characters; the last few moments are pitch-perfect and for them alone, sitting through four movies that aren't quite as enjoyable as the TV series it's based on was worth it.

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Russell Burlingame is a journalist and columnist living and working in New York City. In high school, Russell interviewed Elliot S. Maggin for a review of the Kingdom Come novelization, and since then has worked consistently in and around the comics industry. He interned for Wizard magazine, and has freelanced for Wizard and Newsarama, in addition to a number of non-comics publications, Russell is currently working on a graphic novel based on Cap'n Internet, the comic strip that ran in his college newspaper; and a graphic biography of folk singer Phil Ochs with artist Marion Vitus.

Currently, in addition to his freelance work and his comics projects, Russell writes a number of columns for ComicRelated, including Conscientious Sequentials, The Gold Exchange, What's Perhappenin', Closing Statements, Reflecting 'Pool and To See or Not To See. Russell also takes point on the Hot Shot of the Week feature.




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