It felt like only yesterday when the announcement came of Futurama making a triumphant return through four feature length titles, but all good things must eventually come to an end. Into the Wild Green Yonder marks not just the final 'film', but perhaps the final entry for the series overall. It's been said that if these lengthy additions to the franchise sold well enough, there could be a chance that Futurama might one day return to television, such as Family Guy before it.
Sure, there are a lot of die-hard fans that would buy every tiny piece of Futurama in any form, merely to support a show that they've loved for so long. Let's be honest though, although the first three 'films' were good enough to hold any Futuramian (yes, I make up words) over, they had some noticeable issues.
There was always the intention to convert these features down into an episodic format, so they could air on television in a half hour time slot. In order to stay true to the classic format the series was accustomed to though, there were often some 'B' storylines that came and went without leaving a real impact on the overall product. As a result, pacing had a tendency to suffer in the first two, post-cancellation releases, most noticeably in The Beast with a Billion Backs.
One thing the fans never could complain about though, was the storylines that were as unique and fresh as anything Futurama had ever done, all while including a fairly big message about the mortality of the human race as a whole.
Into the Wild Green Yonder is no different. For what's possibly the final outing for the Futurama production team ever, the main focus is once again on the carbon footprint we're leaving behind to seal our doom.
Leo Wong has always been spoiled to the core, thanks to the vast fortune he's acquired. When it comes to money, he'll stop at nothing once he gets an idea to fulfill it. Not content with the endless supply of lettuce that pays for the most lavish animated lifestyle on television since Mr. Burns, Leo decides to destroy the little workings of horticulture and water that exist on Mars, to make way for a miniature golf course. This sets a series of events in motion that are about to put the weight of the universe on the Planet Express crew like never before.
Eco-friendly feminist protestors' show up to give Leo a hard time, and Leo's greed eventually entices Lela to join up with them. In an effort to outdo himself for the sake of it, as well as to give the feminists something else to cry about, Leo decides to build an interplanetary mini-golf course, too!
An accident on the construction site curiously gives Fry the ability to unwillingly read the minds of everyone around him. Practically losing his mind from his new found ability, he seeks refuge from a hobo that seems to have some answers. Silly praddling on from an alleyway drunk or not, his powers are held at bay by the hobo's suggestion of wearing a tin foil hat. Unfortunately, there's a pretty large price to pay for that helpful tip, as Fry finds himself neck deep in a secret society of mind readers that speak of a universe ending prophecy.
Bender isn't directly affected by Leo's plans however. Bender instead fulfills his normal duties of being a bad-ass like it was his job. Bender resorts to the usual thieving, gambling, and even risking his robotic life to have a relationship with the Don Bot's wife. These provide Bender with all the senses of pride and accomplishment he needs, but his reputation becomes endangered as Lela runs from the law, thanks to her new found love for protesting. He'll be damned if he lets anyone get a longer rap sheet than he's earned!
Although the self contained, half hour episodic formula is still rearing an ugly head, Into the Wild Green Yonder shouldn't be ashamed of itself in the least. Despite still whispering to the audience that it's dying to be cut into four parts already, this feature is the most seamless reiteration of them all.
The pacing is probably the best Futurama can ever obtain without reworking its formula for a theatrical product. Character development continually builds throughout, and this includes the ongoing love story between Lela and Fry. Like an actual full length feature, there are numerous plot points presented early on that may seem insignificant at first, but given time, come to full fruition in a life or death sort of way.
What about the laughs, you say? The quality behind the script is pretty standard fare for Futurama, so if you're a fan, you're definitely not going to be disappointed. Bender is as hilarious as ever, Fry is clueless and loveable as usual, and Lela is her usual ass-kickin' self. Farnsworth doesn't get as much time throughout the feature though. If you're a big fan of him, then you can expect him to pop on every once in a while for some unexpectedly hilarious comedic punches.
I know everyone's opinion is going to differ greatly on what their favorite comeback Futurama feature would be, and it's pretty hard for me to choose one myself. I greatly enjoyed Bender's Game and Bender's Big Score, but Into the Wild Green Yonder may slightly nudge them into second and third place respectively.
Keeping a show like Futurama entertaining for 90 minutes is a pretty difficult task, especially when you're trying to remain faithful to the original format of the show. Into the Wild Green Yonder, in my opinion, earns some major kudos for staying true to that classic formula, while keeping the pacing as painless as possible. I wouldn't exactly say that this entry sends Futurama off with the best material we've seen from the franchise yet, but it's definitely the most reminiscent 90 minute reiteration of the original series to date.
Into the Wild Green Yonder is presented in a 16x9 aspect ratio, and utilizes the AVC codec with a resolution of 1080p.
The quality that we've been given for the final chapter of Futurama is absolutely stunning. You're not going to find any compression issues, digital noise, banding, or any clips that appear to be inconsistently soft with the rest of the feature. Everything is sharp, clearly defined, and makes itself the shining example that even semi-simple looking animation can be more than worth the extra money on a high def format!
The most impressive aspect on this release though, is the contrast and color saturation. Black levels are incredibly rich. When you can notice Amy's hair being a different shade of black than the universe behind her, and so clearly to boot, you know there was a lot of attention paid to detail here. The colors are bright and vivid, stopping at nothing short of exploding off the screen.
Futurama has never looked so good. The only minor nitpick you can probably bring up, is the extremely minor edge halos that appear around characters, but this is something that's normal for animation, and not a product of the transfer itself.
Want it short and simple? If you're a fan of the show and have the means to watch his in a Blu-ray player, there's no reason not to shill out the extra money in the video department!
Making many audio purists thrilled I'm sure, this feature is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.
Futurama at its core is a front speaker heavy show and you can expect a lot of that here. That's not to say the experience doesn't hold plenty of surprises along the way!
Futurama keeps most of its dialogue in the front, and it sound absolutely fantastic. There are plenty of moments throughout the feature that do make use of the entire surround field for some nice audible dimensionality, and there are times when the action picks up and really blows you away in this regard. Not only that, but the bass packs some surprising punches now and again as well!
Without question, the transfer here is almost as impressive as the video, at least for a show like Futurama!
Audio/Video Commentary by Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, John DiMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, Patric M. Verrone, Michael Rowe, Lee Supercinski and Peter Avanzino - By now, you're all most likely aware of how entertaining and information the commentaries for Futurama can be, and this one is no different. Anything you want to know about what you're seeing on screen from a technical or background informational stance, it's all right here. There's even a glimmer of hope brought forth for those that are dying to hear if there's going to be any more Futurama someday, as it seems the players involved are more than interested in keeping it going. The commentary can be seen in a Picture-in-Picture track that appears in a corner of the screen. A top notch commentary, all the way.
Storyboard Animatic - This is the storyboard animatic for Into the Wild Green Yonder, Part 1, which is more or less what you can expect to see as the first episodic installment from this feature on television someday.
Docudramarama - It's a pretty short documentary that covers many aspects of the production such as the voice acting and the writing. Fans may be put off that this may only be 5 minutes in length, but that's what the audio/video commentary is for, is it not?
"Louder, Louder!" - The Acting Technique of Penn Jillette - Penn Jillette has a very brief voice cameo as one of the infamous jar-heads in this feature, and this is a very brief look behind the scenes.
Golden Stinkers - A nifty little name for deleted scenes, is it not? The material itself isn't bad, but when it comes to animated work, you have to be extremely careful of what you leave in or take out, and I can't say I would have preferred them in the final product. As I've said, the feature as we have it on this Blu-ray is as seamless as we've seen Futurama in a feature length format to date!
Matt Groening and David X. Cohen in Space! - The people that work behind the scenes of the show pay good money to enjoy an awesome experience in space floating!
How to Draw Futurama in 10 Very Difficult Steps - They're not kidding, either. Learn how to draw Farnsworth, Hypno-Toad, and more in just over 11 minutes!
3-D Models - There's some animator discussion that goes along with this, and the rest is pretty self explanatory.
Bender's Movie Theater Etiquette - This is only a little over a minute in length, and it's really only here for the laughs. Just think of how you might think Bender would act in a movie theater, and that's pretty much what you're going to get.
Zapp Brannigan's Guide to Making Love at a Woman - Zapp Brannigan finally lets us in on how he became (in his mind, that is) such a lusty ladies man!
Just sort of playing around, I was able to find two Easter Eggs. One is a quick toilet paper animation of Bender, and the other reveals some Brannigan audio that was recorded as background speech for the feature. Also included are some Futurama postcards.
All in all, all the information you're really going to want for this particular feature is available in the audio/video commentaries, but a lot of the extras stuff is borderline unnecessary. There's a bit that die-hard fans of the show are going to appreciate, but other than that, a lot of these can be skipped by the average viewer.
The latest offering from Futurama may just be the best yet. The storyline doesn't suffer nearly as much from 'episodes-slapped-together-itus', the formula is true to the show as we've always known it to be, and the pacing is as bearable as humanly (robotically?) possible.
The only problem that this feature has is one that's going to be inherent with anything Futurama related, and that's the fact that it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. Chances are though, you already know if you're a fan of the show or not, and that should be a good enough indicator on if you're going to enjoy this feature.
The extras are plentiful but mostly unneeded, but the commentary is enough for any Futuramian to be satisfied with. The video and audio is simply immaculate, and FOX couldn't have done a better job bringing the show to the high-def format.
It's a great way for Futurama to go out, at least for the time being, so I have no reservations in highly recommending this release to fans of the show. Others who have yet to test the waters may want to rent this, or even check out the series itself before plunking hard earned money down for this however.