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DVD: Bender’s Big Score

By now every self respecting Futurama fan should be well aware of the series’ Laserus-like return from the dead, not in the form of a new series (just yet) but as a collection of four straight to DVD movies. Eventually the movies will be broken into four episodes each and then collectively aired as Futurama’s fifth season (On Comedy Central in the US). The good news [everyone], is that the Australian release of the first DVD, Bender’s Big Score, is just over a month away and will be [Planet Express] delivered to store shelves on the 5th of March!

Bender’s Big Score is by far the most complex story to have been attempted by the creative team behind Futurama: It is packed to the spronger with enough multiple perspective, time travel shenanigans to make Marty McFly’s head spin. But what becomes apparent, after some short Fox bashing, is that Futurama has lost none of its appeal during its extended hiatus.

A thousand years in the future things aren’t any better for mankind, or aliens… or robots, actually, especially for robots, when it comes to spam and nefarious internet scams. When the professor falls for the online chicanery of some unsavoury aliens — and Bender falls under the scammer’s control after downloading virus ridden (robo) porn — secrets are uncovered that could unravel the very fabric of time itself!

Bender’s Big Score is everything that a fan could want from the return of this show. It is good fun and has all the self deprecating charm that compelled me to purchase the complete series on DVD – and then watch every re-run that I managed to catch on Fox8. However while it is sure to entertain, Bender’s Big Score does rely fairly heavily on the viewer’s previous association with the series and its characters, so it’s probably going to leave any newcomers a little confused. As a fan though, the biggest downside to the movie is the fact that it leaves you wanting more. Sure, we’re getting more – but it’s the waiting!

To help wile away the time until the next Futurama movie release, the Bender’s Big Score DVD has been loaded up with some great extras, including a live comic book reading by the Futurama cast, Bender and Al Gore team up in an animated promo for An Inconvenient Truth (which includes a video commentary by Al Gore, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen). In what has to be a first for an animated DVD release, the Bender’s Big Score extras even include a Math Lecture! The piece is a surprisingly entertaining, if somewhat awkward, lecture by mathematician Dr Sarah Greenwald. It not only manages to highlight some of the interesting and abundant mathematical elements of the Futurama series, but also provides a heretofore unseen window into the Futurama production crew’s unbelievably nerdy existence!

The highlight of the many extras I’ve not mentioned yet, has to be the feature commentary track. I’ve talked several times here on eol about my love of a good commentary and how the really good ones leave you feeling like you’ve just participated in a film making master class. Well, the commentary track on this DVD is NOT one of those! Instead it is another window into the minds behind Futurama… and man, do those minds ever have some strange corners in them! Fortunately most of those corners are occupied by a sharp witted friend with an affection for saying silly things in a funny voice. While you learn plenty about the making of Futurama during the track, it is seldom more entertaining than when Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, Billy West, John DiMaggio, Phil LaMarr, Claudia Katz, Dwayne Carey-Hill and Ken Keeler are simply entertaining themselves and each other.

For fans of the series, Bender’s Big Score is the long awaited return of a bunch of old friends.

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    Man, I’ve been looking foward to this ever since I decided to sit down and watch every episode of Futurama on DVD (It took a while)

    I didn’t do the commentaries, though. I perhaps should.

  • Definitely check out the extras on the DVD dude – and it’s probably worth your time going back and exploring the extras on the series DVDs too. Lots of great stuff on them (particularly the commentary tracks).

  • Nice!

    Your enthusiasm for the commentary tracks sparked a fleeting desire to re-watch my old DVDs…I mean I want to…but I really can’t be bothered. :)

    My gripe with the concept of movie-length Futurama – and all extended lengths of cartoons – is sometimes I feel they lose their power, their ability to sustain a high level of humour and also it can feel a tad contrived.

    Am keen to see this one. Nice write-up!

  • I couldn’t agree more Morgs. As much as I enjoyed it that’s how I felt about The Simpsons movie.

  • I’m with Morgs- shows like Futurama really need to be spread out over time. There are some action shows that I can watch an entire season in a few days and it will be just as good. Comedy in general never seems to work that way- the humor that makes you keep coming back to it gets old and monotonous in a longer stretch.