Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder Movie Review
Into the Wild Green Yonder, the final-for-now Futurama DVD movie, comes closest to realizing the near-infinite potential of Groening's intricate and inventive world on a narrative level. It begins with a familiar yet, as before, somewhat dissonant approach to a feature-length rhythm: The first 20 minutes, featuring Bender the robot running afoul of the robot mafia in the newly renovated Mars Vegas, more closely resemble a stand-alone episode than just about anything else from the other DVDs.
But once the central story gets moving, Yonder feels more streamlined and propulsive than its predecessors. Oddly, this is achieved by separating the three primary characters: affable loser Fry gains a mysterious mind-reading power, which threatens to drive him crazy, which in turn brings him into the Legion of Mad Fellows, who need his help to save the universe from an unseen figure known as the Dark One; Leela, meanwhile, seeks to save that same universe from over-development by joining up with eco-feminists; and Bender spends some time working against said eco-feminists, mainly in defense of his record for longest rap-sheet in the galaxy.
Bender is joined by cocksure commander Zapp Brannigan; the environmental hazards are led by Leo Wong, father of perpetual Planet Express intern Amy; and the Legion of Mad Fellows (not to be confused with the League of Robots, as seen in The Beast with a Billion Backs), which has some members who may look familiar to long-time and eagle-eyed fans of the original series. The Futurama movies have reveled in the interconnected world, and to the extent that Into the Wild Green Yonder offers closure, it can be seen in the creators' desire to spread their jokes throughout a galaxy of bit players (one shot late in the film tries to cram in every recurring character possible, like one of those Simpsons dorm-room posters).
None of this comes at the expense of Fry, whose journey from New Year's Eve 1999 to the futuristic early 3000s has remained the heart of Futurama long after the fish-out-of-water premise faded. Though this installment has, if anything, even more gags based in heartless violence (a headless Spiro Agnew -- attaché to President of Earth Richard Nixon! -- gets a particularly gruesome workout), Groening's characters (or at least his main ones) aren't meaningless cardboard punch-outs in the style of Family Guy. Fry, for all of his buffoonery, struggles to do the right thing and find meaning in a thankless and often cruel universe.
If this indeed proves to be the final frontier, Into the Wild Green Yonder wraps things up beautifully, with a little more heft than the jokier Bender's Game and more story than the wandering (and frequently thought-provoking) Beast with a Billion Backs. Having disappeared and reappeared consistently over its 10 years of existence, Futurama has become adept at providing semi-endings, and here offers a particularly good one, with the Planet Express crew well-positioned either to ride off into the sunset or embark immediately upon further and possibly syndicated adventures. If the quality level stays this high, I'll take Futurama in any shape or size.