Let’s just admit that this is the best Scooby-Doo movie.
Mystery, Inc. has broken up. Daphne (Mary Kay Bergman) has a hit TV show with her cameraman Fred (Frank Welker). To celebrate Daphne’s birthday and her new supernatural investigation series, Fred invites Velma (B.J. Ward), Shaggy (Billy West), and Scooby-Doo (Scott Innes) to reunite for one last ride. Unfortunately, despite looking for ghosts, all the gang finds are people in suits trying to steal things. The gang eventually winds up in New Orleans where a woman named Lena (Tara Strong) invites them to see Moonscar Island where her employer, Simone Lenoir (Adrienne Barbeau) has a real haunted house. The gang starts to encounter some strange happenings, but is it ghosts or a hoax? Hint: It ain’t a hoax.
Between 1969 and the present, there have only been 9 years in which no new Scooby-Doo media was released. Six of those years were between the end of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in 1991 and this movie. The franchise was potentially on its last legs, aside from Cartoon Network’s occasional reruns and its annual 25 hours of Scooby-Doo marathon. But, it did well enough on repeats for the network to give this film a shot. It was assembled by people who had mostly worked on more serious shows than the traditional Scooby-Doo, like Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron. In fact, this film was basically a recycling of an unused script from that show. Because of that, this movie went in a new direction for the franchise: Legitimately kind of dark.
It’s not just that the zombies are real in this movie, it’s that by this point in their careers, Fred, Daphne, and Velma no longer even consider the possibility that magic could be real. While there had been some real ghosts or monsters in some previous Scooby-Doo works, most of them involved Scrappy-Doo instead of the human gang. When Velma and Fred encounter things that seem supernatural, they immediately move to debunking it, comparing it to other times that they’ve dealt with manufactured mysticism. The only ones who still appear to be humoring the idea of real ghosts are Shaggy and Scooby, which makes it better that they’re the first ones to encounter the zombies, because no one believes them. Despite the fact that the zombies are real, though, there is still a legitimate mystery as to why they’re attacking and how they came to be.
The soundtrack to this film is great. The theme song was performed by Third Eye Blind and there were two original songs in the film composed by the band Skycycle, “The Ghost is Here” and “It’s Terror Time Again.” I sometimes still find myself humming the latter whenever I see any kind of horror montage. That’s actually part of why I picked this film, even though the request was actually for “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo.” The other part was that the only movie of 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo came out recently, and it was not great.
Since this film came out, Scooby-Doo has had five more series and thirty-eight more films, including Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, one of my favorite series ever, and it would not have been possible without this film reminding people that the franchise still had untapped potential. If you ever had any love for Scooby-Doo, give this film a try. If you have never seen Scooby-Doo, this is the best pond to dip your toe in.
The first animated feature film in the franchise is not quite what I hoped, but it’s not a tragedy.
Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Will Forte/Iain Armitage) adopts a talking dog which he names Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) as a kid. The two become best friends, and one Halloween night they end up meeting three other children: Fred Jones (Zac Efron/Pierce Gagnon), Daphne Blake (Amanda Seyfried/Mckenna Grace), and Velma Dinkley (Gina Rodriguez/Ariana Greenblatt). The five end up thwarting a fake haunting in a local house and become a team of supernatural sleuths known as “Mystery Incorporated.”
Ten years later, the group is trying to become an actual business, but Scooby and Shaggy are accused of being dead weight. They go and sulk by bowling, where they are attacked by robots. The team ends up being caught in a scheme by supervillain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), resulting in them teaming up with the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), his canine robot companion Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and his pilot Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). It turns out this time the stakes might be the fate of the world.
Alright, I’m going to split this review so that I don’t drive people nuts. The first half is going to be me talking about this as a reviewer, the second as a Scooby-Doo fanboy.
As a reviewer, this movie has some good points. The animation style really does seem like they just made a CGI model of the original cartoon designs with some era-appropriate updates. There are a number of surprisingly solid jokes for a film like this, including some decent slapstick gags. The film covers both the origin of the team as well as their “greatest challenge,” but it never really feels rushed. I was surprised how much happened in only 90 minutes. The addition of Blue Falcon (or at least his son Brian who takes over for him) allows the movie to put in some creative action sequences, and Jason Isaacs’s interpretation of Dick Dastardly manages to be deeper than the character has ever really been before and yet still a stereotypical villain. Also, there are a ton of cameos from past cartoons and the traditional goofy sound effects that will probably give you some childhood nostalgia.
On the negative side, the voice acting is probably going to be divisive. I didn’t think it was really that great, because each of the voices felt more like the actor than the character. The plot is kind of ridiculous even for a kids’ movie, with me frequently going “wait, really?” Fortunately, it’s not too heavy on plot, trying instead for some deeper characterizations between the action and comedy. Unfortunately, it tries them with Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly more than it does with the actual Scooby team and, honestly, Blue Falcon wasn’t that interesting. He’s the fame-seeking son of the original Blue Falcon, which could be worthwhile as the focus of a movie, but he’s only an ancillary character so most of the scenes feel weird and unnecessary.
Overall, it’s not a bad movie, but it doesn’t ever really come close to the level of Pixar or Into the Spider-Verse or other modern great animated films. If you’ve got kids, it’s probably worth it when this movie comes out on Redbox or rental, but don’t spend the 20 bucks to get it now.
Okay, so, now I’m going to address this as a long-time Scooby-Doo fan. I want you to understand that I have gone out of my way to watch almost every Scooby-Doo property and I am only mildly ashamed of that. Hell, I reviewed Daphne and Velma on here, because I’m that dedicated. So, as a fan, I say the following: It’s amazing that this movie can be so close to getting it right and yet not really get it at all. The film contains a decent reproduction of the original Scooby-Doo, Where are You? theme sequence that I think kind of represents the film as a whole: It’s got the elements, but not the spirit. It’s like the people who made this read all of the Wikipedia entries on Scooby-Doo and the rest of the Hanna-Barbera family, but didn’t watch them.
Part of why I feel that way is the sort of “sampler platter” this film presents of the Scooby-Doo franchise. We start off with the gang as kids, like A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, then we see the Scooby-Doo, Where are You? Opening play out, then we see the gang meeting up with Simon Cowell, as they would in The New Scooby-Doo Movies, then we see them dealing with robots and superheroes rather than supernatural entities (although we end up seeing an actual supernatural element in the film), which is reminiscent of the later Scooby-Doo shows. This should have given me a nostalgia overload, but instead it ended up feeling like a jumbled mess, because while Scooby-Doo and the gang may have done things as diverse as rebooting the universe by defeating an eldritch abomination, helping KISS stop a witch, participating in the Laugh-a-lympics, or helping Batman fight crime, they never did them all at once. This film starts out with the traditional “meddling kids” model, but then abandons it when the plot actually begins, instead becoming more of an action comedy focused on Dick Dastardly and the Blue Falcon. That means that the characters we see in the first act should be completely out of their element throughout the rest of the movie, but instead they pretty much immediately just shift into the new paradigm without any issues. It just feels off.
It also doesn’t help that none of the characters really feel right either, from the characterizations and design updates to the voice actors. I love Will Forte, but he doesn’t really try to deliver Shaggy’s lines like he was Shaggy. Instead, it just comes off as Will Forte trying to act like himself in the 60s. He just doesn’t come off as a “scared hippie.” The same is true for most of the voice actors, aside from Amanda Seyfried and, of course, Frank Welker. It’s weird for me that they decided they had to have four celebrity voices when there already are already four semi-famous actors who voice the current version on television: Grey Griffin, Kate Micucci, Matthew Lillard, and Frank Welker, who has been voicing Fred for 50 freaking years. None of them really feel like the characters they’re supposed to be, from the voices to the appearances to the things they say and do. That extends to most of the other characters as well, with the usually goofy Dynomutt being a snarky jerk, the usually Batman-esque Blue Falcon being kind of an idiot, Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) speaking normally and being sarcastic, and Dick Dastardly being an actual genius supervillain as opposed to just a comic badguy. It’s like they’re all drawings of the characters made by someone who had the originals described to them, rather than seeing the real thing.
Honestly, I still enjoyed parts of the movie, and I could overlook almost any of this if it were just a better film in general, but it still took it down a bit for me.
Amy finds out that getting her Doctorate is more life threatening than she thought.
Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) is preparing her doctoral thesis at Mars University. The Professor (Billy West) tells her that she should actually have gotten her doctorate years ago, he just forgot. Despite that, she is still nervous, so the crew take her out drinking. She oversleeps and arrives late, forgetting to put on clothes. She tries to describe her thesis, which is to create energy using the Earth’s rotation, but is repeatedly denigrated by Professor Katz (Maurice LaMarche) and ultimately fails. Back on Earth, Professor Katz’s pet cat has stowed away on the ship. It is quickly loved by the crew, much to the annoyance of Amy, who is allergic, and Nibbler (Frank Welker), who recently told Leela (Katey Sagal) he wanted to be treated less as a pet and now misses the attention. They decide they might be overthinking, only for the cat to reveal it has hypnotized the crew.
The cat summons other cats from a planet of cats, and soon the crew starts to conduct secret plans away from Amy and Nibbler. They head to Mars University to investigate Professor Katz, only to find out that the cat was actually Katz, operating a human as a puppet. They return to Earth and find out that the cats have implemented Amy’s doctoral thesis and have captured the Earth’s rotational energy. They are confronted by Katz the cat, who explains that all cats have come from planet Thuban 9, which was originally slowing down due to loss of rotational energy. They came to Earth and built a giant antenna (the Great Pyramid of Giza) to siphon off some of Earth’s energy, but then became domesticated and forgot how to engineer. Amy is furious that Katz failed her and then stole her idea, but he responds “Welcome to Academia.” The mechanism is then activated, and Earth stops rotating in order to start Thuban.
The cats depart and the Planet Express crew return to normal. They determine that they can’t move the Earth’s rotational energy back. As half of the Earth starts to burn and the other to freeze, Amy realizes there is a solution: She just increases the rotation in the other direction. Earth rotates backwards, Thuban stops, and the day is saved. Amy graduates, only to be told that the job market is “rough.”
I admit that I don’t think too much of this episode, but it’s not really that bad either when I rewatch it. The premise is weird, even for Futurama, and doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, even for Futurama. The idea of Amy being a doctoral candidate has not really been touched on much before now, particularly given that she routinely is shown to not be studying. Since she’d been a student at Mars University since the show began, it was kind of impossible for that not to be the case, though. Still, it feels unusual to have Amy being a Ph.D., perhaps even moreso because she’s an engineering student… which is not typically something that requires a doctorate to begin with (although I have friends who have them). Usually the point of an engineering degree is that you can just get work with the Bachelor’s Degree.
This is really just a traditional off-the-wall Futurama episode. It’s not got much emotional appeal, but it has more gags and one-liners than many other episodes. It’s also nice to give Amy some more character development that doesn’t revolve around her relationships. Additionally, Nibbler gets to be a deuteragonist in an episode that isn’t about Fry being chosen or the flying brains. It gives us a little bit of the stuff we don’t get as often, and I appreciate that.
Honestly, its everything related to Professor Shpeekenshpell. The idea of a sophisticated robot who runs on a Speak’n’Spell is funny enough, but they manage to use it perfectly. The first thing he says is that the cow says moo, something that apparently he proved once and then coasted on forever. The second time, it’s to say Bah at Amy using a sheep. The third time, when all of the people are voting Nay, he selects a horse and then subverts it with:
“The Horse says: Doctorate Denied.”
The last time is a final appearance to tell Amy that the job market, is, as the dog says, “Ruff.”
Honestly, I just love that they made 4 solid jokes off of this premise.
Futurama returns in a film that literally breaks the world.
The summary for this movie is so damned long I am just going to put it at the end. If you need a refresher, just skip down the page and come back.
This was the first of the four movies designed to reinvigorate Futurama to try and get it back on the air after its cancellation. Much like Family Guy, Futurama had been doing really well on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup, and since Family Guy got brought back, why not Futurama? This ended up being a good plan, not just because it gave us a few more seasons of a great show that includes some great episodes, but also because the used these movies to try and deal with a few of the hanging plotlines that the show hadn’t fully resolved. Mostly we got some apology to Seymour the dog, who first debuted in “Jurassic Bark” and was, by this point, famous for being the saddest thing ever animated. In this movie, it’s revealed that Seymour didn’t die waiting for Fry to come home, he lived for 12 years with the Fry duplicate that would eventually become Lars. This may seem like it was pulled from nowhere, but it actually answers the question of how a dog could be fast-fossilized while living in New York, a place not known for sudden volcanic eruptions.
A lot of the plot elements in this film were apparently just the ideas left on the table when the original show got cancelled, including the concept of a nude beach planet. The idea of scammers being able to convince literally everyone to give them their property was probably also left from the original run because it seems like internet scams of the types featured were more on the rise in 2004 than 2007. I think that the plotline with Lars was likely not written for the original series, because that’s not the kind of plot that really can be shown within a single half-hour of television and the writers didn’t like multi-episode arcs. However, the idea of Leela falling for an older, more grizzled, more mature Fry is something that I absolutely loved. It proves what we knew the whole time: Fry might not be the guy for Leela, but eventually he can be. He just has to work on himself. I also believe that this is what kicks off some actual character development in Fry that culminates in the fourth movie and continues into the finale of the series.
I also love the idea of “paradox-correcting time travel,” a version of time-travel that the universe fixes by murdering any paradox. Even funnier, the Globetrotters determine that the cause of the destruction is a “doom field.” Yes, in the future, doom is actually a measurable quantity, with the average person apparently having a background amount of 10 millidooms and a time-paradox clone having over 10 times the amount. We later see it spike all the way up to almost 1000, which would be when a person is actually “doomed.” This seems to be evocative of the Larry Niven “Known Space” series, where luck is actually a measurable quantity that can not only be utilized but can be carried down through breeding. Was this a direct reference? Probably not, but I still think the concept is similar.
Overall, this was a great movie to bring the show back and I think it’s the 2nd best of the films, despite a convoluted plot.
It’s the running gag of LaBarbara repeatedly leaving Hermes for Barbados Slim. She barely waits a second to leave him the first time, even though she’s told he’ll be normal in a few weeks. When Hermes returns with a new body, even though it’s on backwards, she returns, only to leave again a few moments later. At last, she ends up coming back to him only after he manages to save the entire Earth. It’s a huge exaggeration of the idea of a fickle spouse who won’t stay with a disabled partner, but since it’s really only a temporary inconvenience, it becomes more comic than tragic.
Planet Express discovers that they have been cancelled for the last 2 years, but that the executives that cancelled them have themselves been cancelled… in the form of being turned into executive powder. The crew throws a party and Hermes (Phil LaMarr) accidentally gets decapitated. Hermes’s head is placed in a jar until it can be reattached by Lars Fillmore (Billy West), who flirts with Leela (Katey Sagal) to Fry’s (West) annoyance. When Hermes’s wife LaBarbara (Dawnn Lewis) finds out about Hermes, she leaves him.
The crew goes on a delivery run to the Nude planet where it’s revealed that Fry has Bender’s (John DiMaggio) face tattooed on his ass. The members of the crew are approached by Nude Scammers, led by Nudar (David Herman), who all con them into giving their personal information, resulting in them getting overwhelmed by spam. Bender downloads a virus from spam, resulting in him being taken over by the Scammers. The Scammers then reveal they’ve stolen all of the property from the crew, including the business. Lars asks Leela out which upsets Fry, since he always thought they’d end up together.
While the Scammers search Planet Express for personal information, they determine that Fry’s tattoo is a binary code that allows for paradox-correcting time travel. Nibbler (Frank Welker) reveals himself and advises everyone that using the code would potentially destroy the universe. The Scammers use it anyway, but discover that there’s no way to return without waiting. Around this time, LaBarbara hooks up with Barbados Slim (DiMaggio). The Scammers send Bender back in time to steal valuable historical items and wait underneath the building until the time he left to come out. Bender also steals a new body for Hermes, but Zoidberg puts his head on backwards.
Farnsworth and the Globetrotters work together to dissect the tattoo version of time travel, discovering that any time duplicate is doomed to be killed by the universe. Bender finishes stealing a ton of stuff from history, but now the Scammers want to avoid destroying the universe, so they delete the code from Bender’s memory and order him to kill Fry. Fry escapes by reading the code in a mirror, sending himself back to January 1, 2000, 30 minutes after he was frozen. Bender is sent back to kill him, meeting a version of Bender from the end of the movie who puts the tattoo on Fry’s ass. Fry manages to elude him for 12 years, but Bender ends up blowing up Panucci’s pizza, killing Fry and fossilizing Seymour the dog. He returns to the year 3007 and tells the Scammers of his success. At Fry’s funeral, Fry appears and tells them that Bender actually killed a time duplicate from when he went into the past a second time to get free pizza, but ended up getting frozen again. He re-froze himself a second time for 7.95 years and reemerged in 3007. Fry wonders what life was like for his duplicate before Bender kills him.
In a flashback for the viewer, the duplicate rents a room above Panucci’s pizza and starts to spend time living with his family and Seymour while trying to move on from Leela. He ends up becoming attached to a purple haired narwhal named Leelu and becoming her caretaker. Eventually Leelu gets released into the wild, so Fry2 gets on a boat and tracks her down over 2 years to capture her and take her back. He manages to find her, but it turns out that she now has a family with an orange-colored narwhal, so he is forced to let her go and be happy.
Back in 3007, the Scammers have taken almost everything from everyone on Earth, as well as Robot Santa (DiMaggio), but Lars proposes to Leela. At their wedding, Hermes wins LaBarbara back, only for his body to be destroyed by a chandelier. Farnsworth mentions that all time-duplicates are doomed, leading Lars to say he’s calling off the wedding. Leela is heartbroken. After President Nixon (West) loses the Earth itself to the scammers, the population has to leave. The crew goes to Neptune where Robot Santa is too depressed to attack them. Leela convinces the citizens of Earth to fight back. The Scammers build a fleet of gold Death Stars, but Robot Santa has his elves produce weapons, along with help from Kwanzaa-bot (Coolio) and the Chanukah Zombie (Mark Hamill “Applause”). Zapp Brannigan (West) is put in charge of the attack and fortunately gets shot down quickly. Leela takes over, but she too cannot win. Instead, Hermes gets wired into the entire fleet and uses his vast knowledge of coordinated actions to destroy the Death Stars. Nudar reveals he has a doomsday device stolen from Farnsworth by Bender and tells the citizens of Earth to submit or die. Bender reveals that he actually double-crossed them and kept the bomb, despite being under their control at the time. They blow up the Scammers using the device.
Lars brings Hermes his body back and Fry uses the opportunity to set him back up with Leela, believing that it’s better to see Leela happy than being with her himself. However, the Scammers reappear, having worn doomproof vests, claiming that Lars has the same Bender tattoo as Fry. Lars uses a Bender duplicate to kill Nudar and himself. It turns out that Lars was actually the duplicate of Fry that Bender thought he killed. The explosion from Bender’s weapon just changed his voice and burned off all of his hair. Lars broke up with Leela because he realized that, as a duplicate, he was doomed to die and leave her alone. Leela admits that Lars is the only man she’ll ever love, admitting that Fry could be the love of her life someday. Bender goes back in time to put the tattoo on Fry when he gets frozen, creating a time loop, but then tells all of his duplicates to come up now instead of when they logically should have, creating hundreds of copies of himself. The Benders start exploding and a giant rift in time and space appears. Bender mutters “Well, we’re boned.”
The show’s ending, time to wrap up the plot point that was set up at the very first episode.
Fry (Billy West) is disappointed when Bender (John DiMaggio) and Leela (Katey Sagal) go on a delivery without him, and more disappointed that without him the delivery went so well they got medals. Bender even hammers home that Fry would have been useless on the delivery, even though he’s the delivery boy. Fry tries to ask out Leela, but she’s dating Chaz, the mayor’s aide (Bob Odenkirk). Fry goes to drink his sorrow away, feeling unimportant, only to be met by Leela and Chaz. Fry hopes the date is going badly, but Leela says the opposite: She doesn’t think she’ll be going home tonight, so she has Fry walk Nibbler (Frank Welker). Fry gets fined for not picking up Nibbler’s poop, making him certain he’s the least important guy in the universe, only for Nibbler to start talking to him. Nibbler takes him to planet Eternium, the home of the Nibblonians, where the Council reveals that Fry is the most important person in the universe.
It turns out that Fry is the only being immune to the powers of the giant brains from “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid,” due to him becoming his own grandfather in “Roswell That Ends Well.” Those same brains are building a giant Infosphere that will obtain all the information in the universe, then destroy everything. Fry is given a bomb that will move the entire sphere into an alternate universe, then given a child’s space scooter (Scooty-Puff, Jr.) to outrun the explosion. Fry makes it inside of the Infosphere undetected, but delays detonating the bomb in order to ask the giant brain at the center a series of stupid questions, resulting in the brains locating him. He tries to escape, but the Scooty-Puff breaks. He activates the bomb anyway, thinking he has saved the universe. However, the brains show him the truth: The Nibblonians are the reason he got frozen 1000 years ago. Nibbler blew him backward into the cryo-tube. The bomb explodes, sending Fry and the brains to an alternate universe.
The Brains reveal that they can send Fry back to the date he was frozen, allowing him to change the past and thus prevent their destruction. Fry agrees and gets sent to the past. At the same time, Leela’s date with Chaz starts to devolve due to Chaz being a cocky jerk. After he is a jerk to some orphans, she ends up feeding him his own badge. Back in 1999, Fry ambushes Nibbler as he is about to shove Fry into the Cryo-tube. Nibbler explains that he didn’t travel through time, he is just 1000 years younger and has to do this or else Fry won’t exist in the future. Nibbler hints that he and Leela may have a destiny together, so Fry ends up choosing to get frozen again… after giving Nibbler a warning that Scooty-Puff, Jr. sucks. Back in the future, Fry is given a Scooty-Puff, Sr. (“THE DOOM-BRINGER”) and successfully blows up the Infosphere. Nibbler erases his memory, but arranges for him to impress Leela and get a kiss.
This is pretty much the conclusion of the biggest serial arc in the series, which started during the beginning of “Space Pilot 3000” where Matt Groening famously shouted “secret!” on the DVD commentary. Nibbler was present in that episode, as a shadow, something that shows exactly how much effort was put into this plotline. Later, in “Anthology of Interest I,” we see that if Fry doesn’t go to the future, the universe collapses, something that’s explained here as being because the Brainspawn erase everything but the Infosphere. In “Jurassic Bark,” we see what happens a few seconds later in the timeline from the first episode, where there are two shadows, one of them being the Fry from the future. I admit that there are not a ton of episodes related to this, but I’m still amazed that a sitcom that often points out that nothing changes in the series did actually contain such a long-standing serial element.
Despite this being such a culmination for the show, the episode does still devote time to its B-Plot, which ends up delivering the next and maybe most concrete evidence that Fry and Leela are eventually going to end up together. I also just love Bob Odenkirk’s performance as Chaz, because he is such a jackass the entire time while also being just the right level of cocky that we can believe Leela is impressed with him. I mean, that’s basically Bob Odenkirk’s wheelhouse: A likeable sh*thead.
Overall, I think this was a solid resolution of the plotline. It also removes a lot of the tragedy behind Fry’s fate because we now know that Fry actually chose to do this, rather than just being a pawn of fate.
I know it’s probably a cheap shot, but my favorite joke is this exchange:
Nibbler: You are the last hope of the universe.
Fry: So I really am important? How I feel when I’m drunk is correct?
Nibbler: Yes. Except the Dave Matthews Band doesn’t rock.
Look, I’m not really against the Dave Matthews Band and I enjoyed a lot of their stuff in the ‘90s, but let’s go ahead and admit that all adult alternative music, which is the only chart that Dave Matthews ever really topped, is pretty much made for people who are about 2 drinks past driving.
Guillermo del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia Trilogy wraps up the second act in a solid season of sci-fi and fantasy comedy.
It’s been a few weeks since the events of the Season 1 finale that coincided with the final episode of Trollhunters. Arcadia is now aware that trolls exist, but the troll battle managed to conceal the presence of any alien life, including the Akiridion protagonists Aja and Krel Tarron (Tatiana Maslany and Diego Luna), as well as their dog Luug (Frank Welker) and their ship’s AI Mother (Glenn “Yes, that Glenn Close” Close). They are joined by Akiridion-5 Lieutenant Zadra (Hayley Atwell), who arrived last season to save them from Varvatos Vex (Nick Offerman), who is revealed to have aided General Morando (Alon Aboutboul) in overthrowing the planet before changing back to serve the royals. Varvatos Vex ended up imprisoned on the moon by the Zeron Brotherhood (Darin De Paul and Ann Dowd).
The siblings are still being pursued by bounty hunters, including the powerful Trono (Danny Trejo), sought by the US Government, particularly Colonel Kubritz (Uzo Aduba) who is now willing to start dealing with some devils to get the Akiridion Royals, and soon will face threats to Earth, Akiridion, and the very universe itself.
This season was a massive step up in a lot of ways.
First, it moves the timeline past the end of Trollhunters and the changes to Arcadia that arose from the events of the series finale are played out through this season. A lot of the supporting cast are now quite a bit funnier and more absurd now that the world itself has become more absurd, particularly Stuart the alien (Nick Frost), Coach Steve (Thomas F. “I’m not just Biff” Wilson), and Principal Uhl (Fred Tatasciore). Each of them is just a little bit more exaggerated than their already unusual character traits had allowed and it really helps. Expanding Colonel Kubritz’s role, particularly in a world that has just dealt with an apocalyptic scenario, creates a more compelling villain who progressively represents the kind of hypocritical and almost insane xenophobia seen throughout the world.
Steve Palchuk (Steven Yeun) and Eli Pepperjack (Cole Sand) have evolved from just their roles as the stereotypical bully and nerd to being legitimate heroes, something that both feels natural and compelling. Making them have such major character arcs without having them be the main characters of either series is a great set-up for their presumably bigger role in the third Tales from Arcadia series, Wizards.
One expansion that I don’t actually think worked was playing up the role of Toby Domzalski (Charlie Saxton) as the comic relief. Without Jim Lake (Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.)/Emile Hirsch) and Claire Nuñez (Lexi Madrano) to balance them out and provide emotional moments, Toby and AAARRRGGHH (Fred Tatasciore) rely too hard on the “dumb, weird characters” archetype in this season. Granted, the mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy does work at several points, including having AAARRRGGHH’s magical nature basically trump a sci-fi trope in a humorous way, but it still needed to give them a little more maturity.
There are a lot of decent gags in the season as well. I particularly love all the jokes about the Foo-foos, a race of robot rabbits on the moon. It’s simultaneously a reference to “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” even having characters threaten to bop them on the head, and to the Asian myth of the rabbit on the moon. Also, their primary battle strategy is breeding an army quickly, because… rabbits breed. Get it? Get it??? GET IT??? Eh, still, it’s mostly funny. Also, they take some solid shots at Michael Bay and I love that.
One thing that really plays well is the season’s theme, because it’s much more coherent than in the last one. This season is mostly about intolerance and the fact that we as humans tend to immediately want to isolate people that are strange to us, but that it’s ultimately better to try to work together. It comes at it from a number of directions and I think it mostly gets the point across without being too preachy.
Overall, it’s a pretty solid show for kids. I’d recommend parents work it into the rotation. If you’re an adult, well, you can enjoy it, too.
Fry and Leela have to save the Earth from the greatest threat to mankind: Brains. No, it’s not a metaphor. Or is it?
The planet Tweenis 12 has been destroyed by a cloud of flying brains. On Earth, Leela (Katey Sagal) enters Nibbler (Frank “I Voiced Your Childhood” Welker) in a pet competition to demonstrate his talent, but unfortunately is completely shamed when Nibbler fails at every single task. Meanwhile, the Hypnotoad wins by virtue of being the Hypnotoad. Everybody loves hypnotoad.
Back at Planet Express, Fry (Billy West) sticks up for Nibbler being stupid. After the Professor (West) announces that Tweenis 12 is destroyed, Nibbler becomes anxious and runs off. Leela follows him but is attacked by a giant floating brain. A group of brains chase her until she finds Nibbler in a spacesuit and loading a spaceship. He starts to leave, but returns to save her from the brains, letting her in his ship. The brains begin to attack Earth, making everyone, human and robot alike, stupid, except for Fry. Examples include Bender (John DiMaggio) thinking that his heart stopped and Hermes (Phil LaMarr) almost drowning by keeping his mouth open in the shower.
As Nibbler and Leela fly through space, Nibbler reveals himself to be an extremely advanced alien. When they reach Nibbler’s planet, Planet Eternium, the Nibblonians welcome Leela and explain that the brains are part of the Brain Spawn, a species which was born a millisecond into the universe that hates all other consciousness. They travel the universe trying to destroy all life. The one hope of the universe is revealed to be the only thing immune to their power: Fry.
Leela is sent to tell Fry how to defeat the brains, but she loses her intellect immediately and Fry destroys the note she has from the Nibblonians. However, she does manage to tell him to find the biggest brain, the leader, so he naturally goes to a library, where nerds would be. Fry finds the Big Brain and discovers that thinking hurts it. He uses the books nearby to think at it, but the Brain decides to send Fry into the world of Moby Dick, where the Brain takes the place of the whale. The Brain flees to Tom Sawyer and then Pride and Prejudice. Fry gets an idea and escapes from the Brain’s field, only to die in the attempt. It’s revealed that this scene only takes place in a book that Fry is reading to the Brain, who then leaves Earth “for no raisin,” per Fry’s writing. Outside, the Nibblonians eat all the remaining brains, but no one remembers the invasion, thinking Fry is just lying. Nibbler returns to deep cover with Leela.
So, this is one of the rare arc episodes of Futurama which come out of the pilot. Fry is revealed to be the hope of the universe, Nibbler is revealed to be intelligent, and the Brain Spawn are revealed to be preparing to destroy everything. This will culminate later in “The Why of Fry” and get re-used, to an extent, in the film “Into the Wild Green Yonder.” It really is funny how few episodes actually involve this plotline, in retrospect. Making Fry “the chosen one” fits in with a large number of sci-fi stories, most notably Star Wars, but in traditional Futurama fashion, this is twisted by having Fry be chosen by the fact that his brain is so ineffective on its own that the Brain Spawn can’t affect it. It’s revealed in this episode that Fry lacks the Delta Brain Wave, something that occurs in humans, robots, and even plants. It won’t be revealed WHY he lacks it for another season.
This is also one of the episodes of the series that most amalgamates other sci-fi episodes. The premise is similar to the season one finale of the original Star Trek, “Operation: Annihilate,” which features creatures that go from planet to planet destroying civilizations by making everyone insane. The finale of the episode seems to be taken from the Doctor Who episode “The Mind Robber,” in that it involves a giant brain and people getting trapped in fiction which the hero then manipulates by re-writing the story.
This episode contains a variety of gags and plots that almost makes it feel like 4 different episodes: 1 at the pet show, 1 on the stupid version of Earth, 1 on Planet Eternium, and 1 in the fictional world battling the giant brain. It’s impressive that they can put so much varied content into one episode without it really feeling discontinuous. Also, this gave us the Hypnotoad. All Glory to the Hypnotoad.
Aside from just the Hypnotoad, who is the best thing in the show according to David X. Cohen and Matt Groening, it’s a combination of all the absurd throw-away lines that they use to convey the stupidity of the people of Earth.
The three best are:
Morbo: Morbo can’t understand his TelePrompTer. He forgot how you say that letter that looks like a man with a hat.
Linda: It’s a “T”. It goes “tuh”.
Morbo: Hello, little man. I will destroy you!
Bender: Am I a robot?
Fry: Bender, if this is some kind of scam, I don’t get it. You already have my power of attorney.
The Planet Express crew participates in a scientific version of “What If?”
The Professor (Billy West) is demonstrating his new invention the “Fing-longer” which, as the name suggests, is just a glove with a long finger. He uses the device to turn on the What-If Machine, which generates a hypothetical story in response to any “What If” question. The crew tries it out in 3 different stories:
First, Bender (John DiMaggio) asks what it would be like if he were 500 feet tall. A giant Bender is built on another planet and proceeds to head to Earth, where he quickly befriends Fry (West). However, their interactions are now more destructive than usual due to Bender being larger than most versions of Godzilla. When Zapp Brannigan (West) is sent to stop him, Fry is injured, resulting in Bender going on a rampage. The Professor decides to enlarge Zoidberg (West) to 500 feet tall to fight Bender, but Zoidberg soon starts destroying stuff as well. The two do end up fighting and Bender appears to win until Fry distracts him with shrinky-dinks and Zoidberg impales Bender on a large building. Bender says that his simple dream was only to kill all humans, then he expires.
Second, Leela (Katey Sagal) asks what she would be like if she were slightly more impulsive. This results in her killing the Professor in response to him calling her boring. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) discovers this, but she kills and dismembers him. Bender tries to blackmail her over Hermes’ remains, so she kills Bender with a microwave. Amy (Lauren Tom) insults Leela, so she dies. Cubert (Kath Soucie), Scruffy (David Herman), and Nibbler (Frank Welker) all accuse Leela and are impaled on the same sword. Zoidberg finally figures it out, but Leela eats him. After Fry actually determines the truth, Leela silences him… through wild sex acts, which he really likes.
Last, Fry asks what would have happened if he never came to the future. Back in the year 1999, Fry fails to fall into the cryogenic freezer, resulting in a space-time rip that shows Planet Express. The next day, Fry sees Stephen Hawking in his pizzeria and tells him about the rip. Later, Fry is abducted by the “Vice Presidential Action Rangers,” a group dedicated to preserving the space-time continuum, with members including Hawking, Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and Deep Blue (Tress MacNeille) the chess computer. They determine that the rip means that Fry should have died, and try to beat him to death to save the universe. This makes the rip worse, so they realize Fry would have to be frozen, but Fry breaks the tube, resulting in the universe collapsing. In response, the group plays Dungeons and Dragons.
The entire episode is revealed to be the Professor asking what life would be like with the fing-longer.
This was the Futurama version of the “Treehouse of Horror” from The Simpsons, but these are less directly parodying popular films or movies. Bender’s story is a bit of a parody of The Iron Giant and Godzilla, and the name of Leela’s is a parody of Dial M for Murder, but it never feels like they’re being too direct about the rip-offs. In the DVD commentary, they say that they wanted to do some stories that they just couldn’t work into the normal continuity, similar to Marvel’s “What-if?” comics line.
This episode kind of highlights what I think is a strength behind both this show and The Simpsons as well as the other shows that have sense copied it: They’re willing to play with the medium of sitcom. They know that television is, by default, repetitive and that one of the best ways to keep people from going insane is to occasionally have an episode that bucks that. These episodes also often have the benefit of containing ideas that were generally deemed “good” but not good enough to stretch into a full episode, so most of the quality is condensed into each vignette.
Bender’s segment, “Terror at 500 Feet” is pretty much great from start to finish, including the way that Bender’s lead-in very clearly suggests he was going to ask what it would be like to be human (something that they actually did in the sequel episode to this). It’s surprisingly efficient, with most of the interactions of characters happening in only a line or two, and a lot of it being conveyed through quick cuts of Bender and Fry’s friendship. The ending is one of the best random lines in the series, with Bender saying that he’s not the real 7-billion-ton robot monster… despite the fact that he also was planning genocide.
Leela’s segment, “Dial L for Leela” actually does a nice exploration of the character that is fairly accurate to her canon portrayal: If Leela were more impulsive, she entirely gives in to murderous rage (and apparently lust in some cases). While in this episode she’s comically over-the-top, if you pay attention to Leela throughout the series, she does have some pretty pronounced issues with violence. She also spontaneously sleeps with people that she regrets a few times, including most famously Zapp Brannigan. Basically, this segment is just telling us that Leela is always about to go on a killing rampage… which we honestly should have known already.
The last segment “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime” is basically an excuse to say “look how many celebrities we can get.” It’s got Stephen Hawking, Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, and “literally running for President at the time” Al Gore. This was Al Gore’s first appearance on a fictional show and it’s honestly hard to believe that he agreed to this, since, again, he was literally the sitting VP at the time and running for President. I assume it was trying to break up his reputation as being weak or super-serious (super-cereal as South Park would put it) by being a violence-prone caricature in a comedy show, but it’s still a weird event in pop-culture. The fact that he’s paired with Gary Gygax, someone that his wife, Tipper, had repeatedly attacked as corrupting children (because she saw Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters, I assume), is even more bizarre, but, again, maybe it was supposed to show that serious Al Gore could lighten up. Hawking was likely there because he repeatedly guest-starred on the Simpsons. Nichelle Nichols was there because she’s awesome. The complete randomness of the assembly really only serves to drive home both the ludicrous nature of the premise as well as the dysfunction of the group. I actually think that this is a premise that, with the right writing, might have carried an entire episode, because it honestly feels a little rushed in this segment. Still, it’s funny and filled with stars.
I also love that “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime,” written by series creator David X. Cohen is basically a giant ball of foreshadowing. When they duplicate the events of “Space Pilot 3000,” the shadow which prompted Cohen and Groening to shout “secret” in the first season’s director’s commentary is missing. When Fry misses the tube, the universe starts to unravel. However, it’s not that the universe is unraveling just because he missed the tube, but because without Fry being in the future, there’s no one to stop the evil brains. Also, unless he goes to the future, Fry can’t go back in time and become his own grandfather, meaning that his very existence violates the laws of the universe… or at least the ones that are in place until they get broken in “Bender’s Big Score.” Apparently, the “What if?” machine can take into account information that no one knows outside of the Nibblonians. Still, nice work, Cohen.
My favorite gag is that Stephen Hawking steals ideas and claims them as his own. First, he agrees with Fry’s claim that he invented gravity, then he steals the space-time rip by claiming it as a “Hawking Hole” instead of a “Fry Hole.” When Fry calls him out on it, Hawking counters “Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?”
This plays into the longstanding rumors that Hawking had plagiarized or stolen some of his more famous theories, particularly related to space-time. This was even played with in one of his appearances on The Simpsons where he talks to Homer and says he might steal his theory of a donut-shaped universe. It’s been claimed that Hawkings developments, particularly the ones which were later overturned, were not as significant as he claimed and that they were just taking a small step past what was previously discovered by others, but with good press.
The truth is that physics, even more so than most other sciences, is developed by expanding upon the theories and research of previous people. Einstein’s famous mass-energy equivalence paper (the E=Mc^2 thing, though it wasn’t in the paper) was revolutionary, but most of it was similar to a paper by Hendrik Lorentz. Isaac Newton once said of his accomplishments “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” and even that expression was a turn on a statement from the 1100s by Bernard of Chartres which stated that each generation advances only because we are dwarves standing atop of the giants that are our ancestors.
Hawking’s work was not only great because of its scientific advancement, but also because he, like Einstein or Richard Feynman or Neil DeGrasse Tyson, went out of his way to try and put science into the zeitgeist and make scientists look cooler.
One of the best things about this was that Hawking rolled with all of the punches (yes, pun intended) and just dealt with it as part of being in the spotlight. So, yeah, I think they gave him a couple of good-natured shots so that he could show that he’s able to handle it.
The second entry in Guillermo Del Toro’s world of Arcadia is a sci-fi series that has a lot of familiar feels.
Princess Aja (Tatiana Maslany) and Prince Krel (Diego Luna) are the heirs to the throne of House Tarron, the ruling house of Akiridion-5. However, on the day of their coronation, a mad dictator named Val Morando (Alon Aboutboul) takes over the planet, resulting in Aja and Krel, and their “dog” Luug (Frank Welker), being carried away from the planet by their guardian, the great warrior Varvatos Vex (Nick f*cking Offerman). They manage to collect the greatly wounded bodies of their parents and put them in stasis as they head for the nearest planet that might provide safety, which happens to be Earth. After crash-landing in Arcadia, California, the ship’s computer (Glenn Close) cloaks the group by making Aja, Krel, and Varvatos look like humans and the ship look like a suburban home. The three must find a way to avoid the bounty hunters sent by Val Morando and fix the ship so that they can fix their parents and make it back home.
This is the Sci-Fi to the Fantasy of Trollhunters, but, admittedly, it doesn’t create the worlds quite as well as the former did. While we are introduced to interesting alien species in the form of the bounty hunters and a few of Earth’s secret resident aliens, most of the actions take place in the city of Arcadia, populated by most of the same characters from Trollhunters. While those characters are, for the most part, great and some of them are expanded upon well, we only get a handful of new characters created for this show that get the same kind of care. We also don’t get much time in other locations, despite the fact that we are doing an alien-centric sci-fi show. That said, Arcadia is still pretty awesome and the characters are still very enjoyable, particularly when interacting with the abnormal behavior of the aliens.
The biggest plus for me is Nick Offerman as Varvatos Vex. In the beginning, you’ll find his character annoying and overblown, because that’s what he’s supposed to be. By the end, though, you discover why he acts the way he does, and it retroactively makes everything seem so much more interesting and deeper than could have been predicted up front. That said, the main reason his character is even tolerable is that he’s played by Nick Offerman who is completely dedicated to his performance. Much like with Offerman’s Ron Swanson, this character’s exaggerated elements move from “tough to deal with” to “lovable” as time goes on.
Aja and Krel’s journeys are a little cliche nowadays, because Aja is trying to avoid being a princess while Krel is more comfortable being a prince. I get that we are trying to make up for the fact that women were only allowed to be princesses in most of Western Fiction for pretty much all of history until very recently, but her method of refusing to take the throne is similar to how most modern female characters try to reject the archetype, which is now itself becoming an archetype. Fortunately, the show seems to realize that and, a few episodes in, she starts to break from the mold a little bit more in her pursuit of being a warrior. Krel, for the most part, is the tech genius who wants to both be normal at school and also get the parts of his life back that he enjoyed.
The crossovers with Trollhunters actually make for pretty good episodes, too. The season finale takes place at the same time as the series finale of that series, which makes for some interesting parallel action.
The show’s humor definitely saves it at some points. The fish-out-of-water story of the aliens trying to blend in with humanity is pretty well done, but it’s better when combined with the goofy and somewhat off-kilter residents of Arcadia.
Overall, I look forward to seeing more of this series if there is more to see. If not, I look forward to seeing what Wizards does to tie the whole universe together.
Welcome to Season 2 where the questions are worth double and there are twice as many temple guardians attacking you from behind.
Bender (John DiMaggio) is getting annoyed with all the attention given to Nibbler (Frank “I’m everyone” Welker), something that is only made worse when the tiny creature breaks a fang while biting Bender’s ass and revealing his age (four). Bender tries to impress everyone by making an amazing cake for Nibbler’s party, but Nibbler eats it before he can show it off, irritating Bender so much he flushes the alien down the toilet.
Leela (Katey Sagal) is despondent over the loss of Nibbler. Bender, meanwhile, doesn’t feel bad, since robots are incapable of empathy (in this episode, at least). The Professor (Billy West) installs an empathy chip that synchronizes Bender’s and Leela’s emotions. Bender quickly becomes overwhelmed by Leela’s emotions and flushes himself down the sewer to rescue Nibbler. Fry (West) and Leela go into the sewer after him, only to find that a race of mutants live in the sewers.
The mutants, while initially harmless, become enraged when they discover that Nibbler may be the monster that hunts through the sewer known as “El Chupanibre.” They propose using Leela as bait or a sacrifice to the monster. Nibbler shows up, only to be followed immediately by the real El Chupanibre, a giant reptilian beast. Bender wants to save Nibbler but is too scared for Nibbler’s safety because of Leela to actually act. Finally, Bender realizes that he can help by convincing Leela not to like Nibbler so much, mostly by mentioning how much money she spends on her pet. Bender, now unburdened, defeats the monster. Back on the surface, Bender, chip removed, has learned nothing. However, Leela reveals that she learned something from Bender, calling everyone “jerkwads” as she exits.
The concept of empathy and “putting yourself in someone’s shoes” has been a typical plot line throughout sitcoms and comedies since I Love Lucy had Fred and Ricky try to do housework for a day. This episode just does it a lot more directly, by having Bender forced to feel what Leela feels. However, he’s still aware of the false nature of the emotions, even explaining to Fry that he consciously knows that he doesn’t really feel anything. To me, this makes it more interesting when he’s forced out of guilt to rescue Nibbler, because it suggests that the show believes people make decisions based more on emotions than on conscious decision. It’s not a point they harp on, but it’s still there and they go back to it in other episodes. Maybe it’s more that emotions create the values by which we make other decisions, like valuing the lives of others over our own moderate convenience. If we take this further, then Leela’s emotions serve a purpose similar to the base conditions in Bender’s robot brain that his algorithms run off of. In Asimov, that’d be the three laws, although emotions are naturally more flexible than the laws. Maybe Bender is more effected by the emotions than a person because he usually doesn’t have changing values, being a robot. Or maybe I’m overthinking this a lot.
This episode also introduces us to the Mutants, who will become increasingly important, particularly the two that make a surprise cameo in this episode, Leela’s parents. The story progress of the Mutant civilization is interesting, since they somehow start off as being “urban legends” but are later viewed more as just second-class citizens that everyone knows about. It seems like they just kind of abandon the “semi-mythic” aspect of the mutants after this episode. They serve as a nice subversion of the typical “sub-human” race that we see in fiction, in that the mutants pretty much act like normal people, despite their squalid surroundings and hideous features.
Also, I always feel like this episode contains a lot of good jokes, even by Futurama standards. Many of them are just clever extensions of obvious gags. For example, when Leela sees Amy (Lauren Tom) getting attention from a guy she was attracted to, Bender feels her jealousy and tells Fry that he only gets attention because he dresses like a tramp. That joke falls a little flat, until Fry responds that the guys are “responding to [his] personality,” something that’s delivered so earnestly I think it always makes me chuckle.
Overall, it’s a solid episode that sets up a lot of characters and ideas that’ll get used, sometimes better, sometimes not, in the future.
The revelation that the mutants worship an unexploded nuclear bomb right under the streets of New New York. It’s a reference to the movie Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the only movie besides the original to include Charlton Heston. In the film, the bomb is worshipped by a group of mutated, telepathic humans in the remains of New York, which is similar to the episode. In the movie, it ends up being massively important, because it is used by Heston to destroy the Earth in the future. In Futurama, however, the Mutants brush it off by saying that the worship of the bomb is more of an Easter and Christmas deal. I love this line because it basically says to the audience that, even though the bomb is massively important in the material it’s stolen from, in this it will be nothing. Sure enough, it’s never referenced again.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.