Futurama Fridays – S4 Movie 3 “Bender’s Game”

Futurama meets D&D years before Rick and Morty would try to do the same.

REVIEW

This is my least favorite of the four films based solely on the fact that I don’t think they spent enough time on the fantasy world to justify it as a subplot. It’s like one-third of the film and the time crunch requires them to blow through a lot of Lord of the Rings jokes a bit too quickly. Don’t tell me they couldn’t think of other fantasy gags, they barely even dipped into making any actual Dungeons and Dragons references. 

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Although I’m sure plenty of people have run D&D campaigns in tunnels.

It doesn’t help that the rest of the plot seems largely to be filler. Leela’s shock collar was apparently just an excuse to get her to say swears that could be censored by the collar. Igner being Farnsworth’s son seems pretty logical within the series, it’s just odd that it wasn’t revealed until now, when the character is in his 30s and has repeatedly interacted with Farnsworth. Mom having captured the Nibblonians, including Nibbler, seems to be random, given that the Nibblonians have an unknown home planet, physics-defying abilities, and superior technology. I do appreciate the commentary on business monopolization, but it still feels like they never quite focused on anything long enough to make it feel important.

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The Nibblonians couldn’t get out of a literal crap farm?

Still, it’s got some good moments and it actually set up a number of things that would play out during the new series of Futurama

FAVORITE JOKE

There’s a few good ones:

  1. Eating Munchkin

“Care for a slice of Scroto?”

“That’s his name, right?”

“‘Tis also that, sir.”

Image result for slice of scroto
This is how Disenchantment started.

      2.  Roberto’s Madness.

“The king went insane and declared war on the scallops. Tied his army to a boulder and pushed them into the sea. They never returned. Scallops must’ve got them.”

Image result for roberto benders game
He has a hotel in his foot.

     3. George Takei destroying Scott Bakula’s ship and saying “way to kill the franchise.”

As someone who lived through the 90s, I remember when Star Trek came back with The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager… then when it fell apart with Enterprise. Not that it was that bad, but it had some issues. 

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Sulu commands your respect!

SUMMARY

Cubert (Kath Soucie) and Dwight (Phil LaMarr) and two other kids are playing Dungeons and Dragons because they’re nerds. Bender (John DiMaggio) walks in and doesn’t understand how it works, revealing he has no imagination. On a delivery, Bender complains to Fry (Billy West), who tells him to try imagining something. They get interrupted by the ship running out of fuel. Leela (Katey Sagal) pulls into a gas station run by Mom (Tress MacNeille) where dark matter prices have skyrocketed. While refueling, the ship is mocked by Sal (DiMaggio), a trucker who brags about being a demolition derby champ. Despite Farnsworth (West) cracking down on fuel waste, Leela steals the ship to go to the demolition derby. She ends up winning, though the ship is badly damaged. As punishment for her anger issues, Hermes (LaMarr) gives her a shock collar. 

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Some satire is less subtle. 

Bender goes to play D&D and eventually discovers he has an imagination, making a character named “Titanius Anglesmith, Fancy Man of Cornwood.” Unfortunately, activating his imagination makes Bender lose his grip on reality and start believing he actually is a knight. He goes on a rampage while Zoidberg (West) forces Leela to have dinner with her parents to work on her anger issues. They reveal that they believe Leela does have anger issues, even though she says it’s just that she hates Zoidberg. Bender attacks the restaurant, but Fry roleplays a wizard and disables him. Bender is sent to the HAL Institute from “Insane in the Mainframe.” He fails to respond to any treatment and is set to be lobotomized. 

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That’s a neat DM Screen.

Mom goes on television to talk about the dark matter shortage, but after she goes off the air she immediately reveals that there is no shortage, she just has monopolized the supply and lied about it to drive up fuel prices. The Professor reveals that he had developed dark matter fuel for Mom through a botched experiment that produced a crystal that enabled dark matter combustion throughout the universe. He also reveals that there is a second crystal which, if it were to come in proximity of the original, would render all dark matter inert, but he lost it. It turns out that it’s the twenty-sided die used by the boys for D&D, though the Professor doesn’t know that. The Professor activates a device that makes the crystal emit a foul odor so he can find it, but this also alerts Mom to its presence. She sends Walt, Larry, and Igner (Maurice LaMarche, David Herman, and DiMaggio), her three Stooge-like sons to get the crystal. They’re immediately thwarted by Farnsworth, who finds the “anti-backwards crystal.”

File:Bender's Game Part 2.png
Dodecahedrons rule the world. 

With the anti-backwards crystal in their possession, the crew heads to Mom’s dark matter mine fortress to destroy the dark matter crystal so that Mom will lose her stranglehold on fuels. Mom sends Walt and Larry to stop them with an army of killbots, but doesn’t send Igner because of a dark secret that she tells the other two. Igner overhears it, as well. The crew uses a distraction to avoid the killbots and sneak in. They find that Mom has captured all of the Nibblonians (Frank Welker) and is force-feeding them to produce dark matter from their poop. Igner betrays his mom and leads the crew to the control room. Farnsworth almost gets the crystals close enough to touch, but he ends up screwing it up. The presence of the two crystals make all dark matter in the universe glow, including a huge amount inside of Bender, which combines with his imagination to transport himself and the cast to “Cornwood,” the fantasy land he imagined. 

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Leela’s boots didn’t make it.

Leela is now Leegola the centaur, Fry is now Frydo the guy who has the “Die of Power,” and Bender is the knight Titanius Anglesmith. The “Die of Power” is the anti-backwards crystal which casts magic spells when rolled. They meet the great wizard Greyfar (Farnsworth) who tells them that Momon (Mom) forged the Dice of Power and it can only be destroyed by throwing it into the molten plastic that made it. They set out to destroy the die and meet Hermaphrodite (an intersex Hermes), another centaur. It’s revealed that centaurs are mighty archers, but also pacifists, to Leegola’s annoyance. The group, sans Hermaphrodite, heads to the Cave of Hopelessness where they meet Gynecaladriel (Amy as played by Lauren Tom), queen of the “Water Nymphos,” as well as a monstrous Zoidberg, who Leegola brutally murders, only to find out he wasn’t going to hurt them. She vows to be a pacifist and joins the other centaurs. Frydo defeats the Tunneling Horror using the Die of Power, but becomes a Gollum-like creature obsessed with the die. Momon’s armies arrive to attack them and the group tries to gather an army at the Wipe Castle.

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Titanius Anglesmith, Fancy Man of Cornwood.

Frydo goes crazy and tries to kill Titanius, but fails and runs off. The rest of the group gets to Wipe Castle, only to find that the king, Roberto (Herman), is insane and killed the entire army. Momon’s army attacks the castle and quickly gain the upper hand until Leegola and the centaurs show up and quickly win the fight. Leegola had beaten up Hermaphrodite rather than debate the merits of violence. As a reward for helping them win, Gynaecaladrial kisses Leegola. Frydo makes his way to the “Geysers of Gygax” where the die can be destroyed, and the group agrees to help him destroy the dice after they finish watching Gynaecaladrial and Leegola kiss. Frydo fights Momon but ends up losing after the rest of the gang becomes trapped on a bridge. Greyfarn discovers that he is the father of Momon’s youngest son, Ignus (Igner), but Momon obtains the die and ends the fantasy world. 

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Also, there are dragons in a dungeon.

Back in the real world, Farnsworth says that Bender’s imagination was boosted by the dark matter and created an alternate reality. Farnsworth asks to hug his son, Igner, but they reveal that they’d both swallowed the two crystals, and their hug puts the crystals in close enough proximity to render dark matter inert. The crew then leaves by having the freed Nibblonians pull the ship. 

END SUMMARY

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 74: Beast with a Billion Backs

NEXT – Episode 76: Into the Wild Green Yonder

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Futurama Fridays – S2E16 “Anthology of Interest I”

The Planet Express crew participates in a scientific version of “What If?”

SUMMARY

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:

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Behold, the FUTURE!!!!!

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.

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King Kong ain’t got nothing on them.

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.

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This is genuinely impressive. Most people can’t do the triple impale.

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.

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Weirdly, these characters are together even without Fry.

The entire episode is revealed to be the Professor asking what life would be like with the fing-longer.

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He does eventually make it, though. Because science!!!!

END SUMMARY

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.

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Much like that line, some stuff in these became canon.

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.

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Might wanna get that checked out.

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.

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She also got new boots with a fun green stripe.

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.

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And DnD would never look cooler than this.

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.

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Behold, the floor.

FAVORITE JOKE

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?”

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Rest in Peace.

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.

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Those thieving glasses…

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.

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Though none matched Schrodinger for cool.

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.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

NEXT – Episode 30: War is the H-Word

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.