Futurama: Into The Wild Green Yonder (DVD)

"Bender, are you crazy?" — Hermes Conrad
"Nooo, it's Fry who's crazy in this one!" — Bender Rodriguez

Once again, the fate of the entire universe (and, very possibly, the universe next door) is in the hands of Philip J Fry and his friends at Planet Express. And, very likely, for the last time. Because this could well be the final Futurama from the clever minds of Mr D X Cohen and Mr M Groening. At the time of writing, there are no firm, locked-in and signed-off plans for any further Futurama outings — either a new series or more of these straight-to-DVD-then-cut-up-into-episodes-for-Comedy-Central movies. But, according to Wikipedia, "Matt Groening has expressed a desire to continue the Futurama franchise in some form, including as a theatrical film. Producer David X Cohen has also stated that he remains hopeful, telling Wired magazine, 'I will no longer rule out any possible means of coming back to life, whether through more DVDs, webisodes or episodes. I'm cautiously hopeful.' " Which leaves me very happy in the trouser region, because if they've brought Futurama back from the dead once, I'm sure they can do it again.

Futurama: Into The Wild Green YonderAnyway, Futurama fans, enough waffling — on to the review. And yes, once again the mighty Screenjabber has pipped everyone else at the post and managed to get the world's first review of Into The Wild Green Yonder (in fact, so early that the DVD cover art isn't ready yet!), just as we had firsts with the previous three: Bender's Big Score, The Beast With a Billion Backs and Bender's Game. And, as with those three, it's simply excellent stuff. But I've heard grumblings that our previous three ultra-early and exclusive reviews were a mite heavy on the spoilers, so I promise to take it easy this time

As you may deduce from the title, there is an ecological theme running through the entire movie. We begin on Mars, which is where much of the first act takes place. Property developer Leo Wong (Amy's dad) wants to demolish an entire arm of the Milky Way galaxy to make way for the biggest miniature-golf course in the universe (the first hole is on Pluto's moon, Hydra, and is a 6 billion mile par 2 — "a tough shot"). An accident during some demolition work on Mars (Wong warms up by destroying Mars Vegas to replace it with ... errr ... New Vegas) sees Fry develop mindreading abilities when a piece of women's jewellry gets lodged in his brain. Which leads to him wearing a tinfoil hat to keep the voices out, and joining the super-secret Legion of Mad Fellows (led by "Number 9 Man" — who, according to the Fox press release, is a "mysterious character from the earliest days of the series", but I can't say that I remember him). Meanwhile, Bender starts having an affair with the burlesque-dancer wife of Donbot, head of the robot Mafia (and yes, Clamps is back!) and Leela joins an eco-feminist collective and becomes an outlaw. Oh, and Professor Farnsworth is the scientist roped in to do the environmental impact report for Wong's planned mini-golf course .. which gets the go-ahead. The final piece of the galaxy in his way is a violet dwarf star, which plays a vital part in the climax, so I won't go into details. Except to say that once again, the fate of the universe depends on Fry (yeah, he gets that a lot).

There. That's about as spoiler-free as I can make it. Plot-wise, it's very tightly-woven and everything comes together nicely for the climax. And the finale ties everything up neatly while still leaving the way open for more, just in case. But I'm sure you're all wanting to know: is Into The Wild Green Yonder any good? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. For me, this was the best of the bunch of these straight-to-DVD-etc movies. It's got some brilliant lines ("bite my shiny metal hat"), and the makers have also stepped up the visual gags a notch — if a few of the Vegas scenes don't have you rolling on the floor, then you must be dead or else someone who simply hates Futurama. And if you're one of the latter, then what the hell are you doing reading this review?

I just know that a lot of you hardcore fans will complain that Professor Farnsworth, Hermes, Amy, Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan don't get nearly as much screen time as Fry, Leela and Bender. But you know what? Futurama has always been mainly about the core trio — they are the heart, soul and eye of the show, and while we all love the secondary characters and want to see more of them, TV shows are always, always about the primaries (hey, don't blame me, I don't make the rules). And the primary trio are definitely on fine form here. Fry is, as always, the dumbest man in the universe; but he's such a lovable lug that he manages to survive, thrive and even save the day ... accidentally, of course. Leela is as determined, committed and sexy as ever. And Bender? Bender is Bender, just looking out for number one — but at least this time he's not under the control of outside forces.

So that's it, in a (slightly longer than I intended) nutshell — possibly the last we'll ever see of Futurama. I certainly hope not. I still think this show has legs — more legs than The Simpsons, at any rate. A few of my favourite highlights: Nixon is still president (but where's the head of David Frost? A missed opportunity for sure); the headless body of vice-pres Spiro Agnew cops a beating; Robby the Robot puts in a guest appearance; there's a flying pink VW Kombi van; Zapp Brannigan sings Duran Duran's Hungry Like a Wolf; janitor Scruffy makes his presence felt; Snoop Dogg's head is "head" of the Supreme Court; and we finally learn how Leela really feels about Fry.

Goodbye, sweet goofbag ...

EXTRAS **** Once again, Groening, Cohen and crew don't skimp on the goodies. The bonus features include: an audio commentary with Groening, Cohen, DiMaggio, LaMarche, producers Michael Rowe, Lee Supercinski and Patric Verrone, and director Avanzino; the "docudramarama" (well, a mockumentary) How We Make Futurama So Good; the featurettes Matt Groening and David X Cohen in Space, The Acting Technique of Penn Jillette, How To Draw Futurama In 10 Very Difficult Steps, 3D Models with Animator Discussion, Bender's Movie Theater Etiquette and Zapp Brannigan's Guide to Making Love at a Woman; deleted scenes; and storyboard animatics. The Blu-ray release has an extra feature: a video picture-in-picture (Bonus View) with the same participants as the audio commentary.• Into The Wild Green Yonder is released in the UK on February 23 and the US on February 24• Who is the Number 9 Man?To find out more, read this blogpost and join the Facebook Group • SCREENSHOTS HERE

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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