For the past couple of months, Futurama has been my constant companion: my daily workout runs for just about the same duration as two episodes of the show, and outside of the rare, occasional, excruciatingly dull episode, the series’ rapid-fire pacing and great writing do a good job of distracting me from the pain of forcibly shrinking my body. Sadly, though, last night I finished off Into the Wild Green Yonder, bringing my survey of the series to a close. (Although I must say my timing was pretty great, since the last movie came out just a few days ago — nearly as impressive as the time my girlfriend and I started watching Alias and caught up to the series at the next-to-last episode.)
This begs the question: now what? How am I supposed to take my mind off my daily self-torture now? Futurama was such a great show that hardly anything can really follow it. Including Futurama, it turns out! The movies were largely a step down from TV series’ infinite wit and jest, although it was nice of the writers to get their act together long enough to stop sucking for the big finale.
I noticed Seth McFarlane’s name in the credits of Wild Green Yonder, which may explain a lot.
The movies weren’t entirely abysmal, mind. Bender’s Big Score was actually really good — a spot-on recreation of everything that made the series great. Bender was a jerk, the Planet Express crew inadvertently screwed up life for everyone on earth, Fry was a well-intended schmuck befuddled by a setback that ultimately brought him and Leela closer together, lots of continuity callbacks to the series (i.e. how Seymour ended up fossilized). All in all, a satisfying return.
And then it all went horribly wrong. I’m trying to put my finger on what, exactly, rubs me the wrong way about Beast With a Million Backs. It was funny (ish), but the whole thing seemed off somehow. Everyone but Bender was slightly out of character, with years of character arcs thrown aside for a handful of cheap and obvious sex jokes. The show got Simpsons-ized, I guess. Writing good jokes innate to established characterization is harder than just turning everyone into obstinate jerks, so they didn’t even bother trying. It was almost as lazy as Bender’s Game, which consisted entirely of stale nerd jokes painted in broad strokes. Thrill as Fry acts like Gollum. Gaze in stupefaction as the punchline to the entire movie is a “Luke, I am your father” riff that was set up so clumsily and transparently that I feel bad for everyone involved in the show’s production. It’s hard to believe this is the same franchise responsible for the brilliant “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” which took hoary old Star Trek jokes and made them new and hilarious by bringing in the actual cast of the original TV series to play themselves, riffing on clichés and generally doing a piss-take on the show and the surrounding fan culture. Compare that to “Momon,” the heelarious Lord of the Rings satire created by combining — wait for it — Mom and Sauron! Yeeeeah.
Thankfully, Into the Wild Green Yonder soothed the pain a bit. I mean, it wasn’t quite up to par with the series’ best moments, but it still managed to capture the energy and wit of a solid episode (or four solid episodes, if you will) while taking the time to repair all the character damage inflicted by the previous two movies. The ending was clearly left open to the possibility of further episodes, but at the same time it offers a nice sense of closure. I just hope the production crew will do the right thing, rather than drag the poor horse’s body for another round of beatings.
Meanwhile, I need to find a new video distraction, stat. Difficulty level: I’m broke.