Futurama - Volume 1

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Even better than The Simpsons

Jan 13, 2004 (Updated Jan 14, 2004)
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Pros:Great animation, extremely funny, good characters, two wonderful episodes, no bad episodes

Cons:Fewer episodes than the later seasons, bonus material not very imaginative

The Bottom Line: If you're a sci-fi or like satire / surreal humour, you'll love this.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Creating by Matt Groening, the same warped genius who brought us The Simpsons, Futurama is an animated sci-fi comedy series which is overall far better than its better-known cousin. The reason for this is that while The Simpsons could be mind-numbingly funny, satirical, and surreal, the quality of the episodes carried wildly and some were just a waste of time. I’ve so far seen the entire first 3 seasons of Futurama, and couple of later episodes, and have yet to be disappointed by any of them.

I will explain the plot overall as I summarise the episodes. There are a few bonus features in this 3 DVD pack, consisting mainly of commentary by Matt Groening and others (this ranges from quite funny to banal), sketches, storyboards, and “Animatics” (the unedited voice-acting with the original storyboards), and deleted scenes (these range from funny to “I can see hwy they left that out” – these are generally pre-production shoots, so obviously the animation and sound is not as polished as the episodes themselves. Depending how near production quality they are, it’s possible to see how early / late they were ditched!). It’s quite interesting to see how the show made it from concept to series, and how each episode is developed through the different stages to completion, but unless you have a particular interest in animation you’re unlikely to look at the features more than once.

The animation is very high quality and is a quirky mix of traditional and 3D computer rendered animation – the splicing between these is well done though so the effect adds to the overall style of the series rather than detracts from it. The voice-acting is absolutely perfect, it could not possibly be better.

The humour is, a la The Simpsons, a mix of surrealism, satire, character, and situation based. However it’s more consistently funny than The Simpsons (IMHO – and I love The Simpsons as well). However, in one his commentaries Matt Groening states that the real joy of it is that sci-fi fans will love it, and people who don’t like sci-fi will also love it as it makes fun of the sci-fi shows, films, and even genre. I don’t quite agree with this – there are many layers of humour on display, but most of the sci-fi related ones will be lost on “non-fans” as they won’t have seen the show or film it relates to, or at least if they have, won’t have taken enough notice of it to recognise all of the references contained here. For instance, the sound effect of the doors opening is taken straight from the original Star Trek series, or when the crew are shown going out to the ship in the episode ” A Big Piece Of Garbage” mimicking a similar scene from the film Armagedon. Yes, they will find parts of the series very funny anyway, but sci-fi fans are at a definite advantage watching this.

The 3-disc set comes nicely packaged and the DVD’s have a simple to use menu system.

DISC ONE
********

Space Pilot 3000 - 7/10

At the turn of the millennium, unhappy pizza delivery boy Phillip J. Fry gets a prank call to deliver to a cryogenics centre. Inadvertently he falls into an empty cryogenic container, which locks shut on him and automatically sets itself for a thousand years. When he awakes he finds a world where peoples’ jobs are determined by a machine and their “career chip” is implanted into them for life. When this job, for him, turns out to be “Delivery Boy”, he makes a break for freedom.

In this episode we are introduced to Bender, a cynical robot, and Leela, a beautiful one-eyed alien with a short temper. Oh, and Professor Farnsworth, who happens to be Fry’s Great-great-great-great etc nephew and only living relative – a flawed genius who happens to be looking for a crew to man the spaceship of his delivery company “Planet Express”…

This isn’t a fantastic episode but serves well as an introduction to the series and has a few funny moments (Fry thuds into a wall at the end of the tubular transport device – someone sounding suspiciously like Lenny from The Simpsons tuts and mutters, “Tourist”… options in the Suicide Booth – “Would you like short and painless or long and hossible?”) It certainly makes you want to see the following episodes.

The Series Has Landed - 8/10

We get to meet the rest of the “Planet Express” crew – Dr Zoidberg (a crab-like alien), Amy (cute Martian chick), and Rastafarian Accountant Hermes. There’s a delivery to be made to Luna Park – and Fry gets to see one of the many startling changes 1,000 years of human history has accomplished. But he’s disappointed with the artificial nature of the moon and seeks adventure outside the confines of the Theme Park… A very good episode, with Bender being particularly funny.
I, Roommate - 9/10
Fry’s slobbish habits cause the other “Planet Express” employees (they live there too) to kick Fry out. He moves in with Bender but finds the robot’s cramped apartment (and his penchant for shouting: “KILL ALL HUMANS!” in his sleep) not to his liking. When he moves to an altogether more classy pad, however, Bender causes a real problem – and this time it’s not even his fault! Worst of all, it sends him… SOBER

Love’s Labours Lost In Space - 8/10

The crew of Planet Express go off on a mission of mercy but end up with a pet called Nibbler… Two brilliant characters are introduced, intergalactic hero, womaniser, and numbskull Zapp Branngian and his green alien sidekick Kif Kroker, who is constantly exasperated by his Captain. This is a good episode, but one that Star Trek fans will find the funniest.

DISC TWO
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Fear Of A Bot Planet - 7/10

“Good news everyone! You have to take a package to Chapek 9, where humans are killed on sight”. I just love the way Professor Farnsworth always introduces terrible news with the words, “Good News everyone!”. Obviously they need Bender’s help on this one, but he is captured initially as a human sympathiser. How far will Leela and Fry’s friendship with Bender go? And will Bender become a human-hater himself? (More than he is already, I mean…) Not a classic episode but it still has its moments.



A Fishful Of Dollars - 9/10

The meagre amount in Fry’s bank account in year 1999 has, due to the joy of compound interest and a millennium, turned him into one of the richest people on earth. But the way he uses his money makes him an enemy of Mom, a rich, evil, and powerful woman, and her three sons, who are modelled on The Three Stooges. Features Pamela Anderson – or at least, her head…

My Three Suns - 8/10

“Good news everyone! You have to take a package tp the planet Trisol in the forbidden zone”.
The planet is seemingly deserted, and since the planet has 3 suns, it’s very hot. So naturally when Fry espies a bottle of cool, refreshing water on the throne, he uses it to slake his thirst. Unbeknown to him, however, the planet is inhabited by water people – and he’s just drunk their king.

At first this is good since it makes him their king – but kings don’t last long on that planet, as they’re usually assassinated…

A Big Piece Of Garbage - 10/10

Prof. Farnsworth’s invention, the Smell-o-scope, gets a whiff of something truly horrendous heading towards earth. When this object is identified and the solution is found, it’s up to Fry and his 20th century junk-making skills to save the day…

If you’re a Simpsons fan or have seen the film Armageddon, you’ll find it hysterical. It also could be accused of having a message… I’m just not quite sure what it is… whatever the message may or may not be, I think this one has to be my favourite episode of the first season.

Hell Is For Other Robots
Bender falls foul of addiction – but being a robot, of high-voltage electricity not drugs. Turning to religion to help (The Church of Robotology) doesn’t seem like a “Bender” thing to do, but he starts taking it seriously. It helps him to control his electricity problem, but he begins annoying everyone else with his “holier-than-thou” attitude. So Fry and Leela decide to take drastic measures… and hten have to rescue Bender from Robot Hell. A great episode, full of wit.

DISC THREE
**********

A Flight To Remember - 9/10

Poor old Fry. Can’t get a girlfriend, but ends up with two on the luxury cruiser Titanic. Bender finds true love as well, but will it end happily? (And you know from that question that the answer is no…) Zapp and Kif are there to cause mayhem as well, with poor Kif unable to work up the courage to ask Amy out.

A great parody of the film Titanic, but vey funny in its own right as well. Another winner.

Mars University - 8/10

A monkey named Gunter has been given a special hat by Prof. Farnsworth to make him intelligent (the monkey I mean), and when the Prof goes to Mars University to give a lecture, Fry decides to become a College drop-out all over again. In the meantime Bender is turning a bunch of geeks into rebels, and Fry gets fed up with the monkey being smarter than him – so he decides to use a “Call of the wild” strategy…

When Aliens Attack - 9/10

McNeal: Female Lawyer…,who would have thought that aliens from 1,000 light years away who had been picking up TV signals from Earth would be so enraged when the show finale was accidentally interrupted (by Fry) that they would attack Earth until it was brought back? All the tapes of the show are now extinct, and no-one knows anything about it – except the one person who was alive 1,000 years ago…

Fry & The Slurm Factory - 10/10
A brilliant take on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, Fry & Co. win tickets to the factory that their favourite soft drink is made… and inadvertently discover its terrible secret…

Well, there you have it. I hope I’ve given you an idea what each episode is about without giving much away.

Thanks for reading,


Dave

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Futurama is at number seven in my Top Ten Sci-Fi Series list.



Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12


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