<$BlogRSDUrl$>

2.11.2009

Viva Mars Vegas: A quick review and plot summary of Futurama, "Into The Wild Green Yonder" 

(Note: this post has been edited several times. I don't think I'm erasing any truly important content though.)

Well, the last of the four feature-length Futurama episodes is currently circulating through unofficial channels. At the time of this post, future installments of the series still have not been commissioned, so "Into The Wild Green Yonder" has a huge task to accomplish; it needs to generate enough interest and profit from both fans and noobs to convince Fox or some other outlet to consider relaunching the television series, but needs to end in somewhat open-ended manner that still manages to ties up some loose ends in case this is the end (as seems pretty likely).

Among die-hard Futurama fans on various fanboards, "Into The Wild Green Yonder" seems to be receiving mixed reviews. I wouldn't rate it a rousing success, but it certainly produced enough laughs and poignant moments to satisfy me, and I'll certainly be purchasing the Blu-Ray version of the movie once it's released. I'll give a quick review first, then a plot synopsis and more detailed review below.

QUICK REVIEW

Very solid character interaction and development throughout the movie -- Fry, Leela and others act the way you would hope they would during some very tense and difficult situations. Non-stop laughs (both clever and crass) during the first quarter of the movie, but the movie becomes tense and the humor starts to dry up a bit once the main epic ecological plot of the movie begins (during the second half of the movie, I'd say that the majority of the jokes are running gags that have worn out). The plot itself is preachy, clumsily presented and motivated, with none of the subtleties of Futurama's previous eco-minded episdodes. In addition, it suffers from some outstanding holes and questions -- it serves the characters well (and sometimes seems as if it was written just for that purpose) but struggles to hold up on its own. The major outstanding thread of the series -- Fry and Leela's relationship -- is handled in a manner that is delicate, graceful and not overwrought, yet genuinely touching. The final scene of the movie is a cliffhanger that should satisfy fans if it is indeed the end, but will leave them hoping for more.

Definitely pick this up now if you're a fan. If you're not that familiar with Futurama, start with the original series or Bender's Big Score instead. As for the future of the show, hopefully it comes back as a proper TV series, as the heavier, slower story arcs of a feature-length production throw Futurama's balance of satire, sci-fi action and character development out of whack.

SYNOPSIS (SPOILERS BELOW)
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
The movie opens with a shot of a black dwarf emitting some sort of green radiation field, followed by a shot of a mysterious violet dwarf orbited by a number of asteroids. After being irradiated, a bunch of molecules on one of the asteroids combine to form a familiar DNA helix...which promptly turns into a shot of a roller coaster ride in Mars Vegas, launching the opening Sinatra-styled number sung by Seth MacFarlane.

Of course, just as in the original Las Vegas during the last years of the second millennium, nothing lasts forever here, as we and the Planet Express crew see mega-tycoon Leo Wong implode the city to pave way for the creation of the New Mars Vegas, a new bastion of entertainment and excess. And do we ever mean excess -- Wong lays waste to all sorts of natural habitats and resources, drawing the ire of both Leela and a (weak, ineffective) eco-feminist collective led by Frida Waterfall. As Leo shoos away the protestors, a piece of Frida's jewelry lodges itself in Fry's brain, knocking him unconscious. Leo insists that he has conducted a proper environmental survey and received approval for his projects -- by buying off Prof. Hubert Farnsworth, as it turns out. Still, Leela manages to save the last Martian desert muck leech amid the destrucion. To compensate Fry for his accident, Leo gives Fry a free entry token to the Universal Poker Championship and the rest of the crew a free vacation at the Wong Hotel and Casino upon completion of the New Mars Vegas.

A short while later, our crew return to the completed New Mars Vegas. With the piece of jewelry lodged in his brain, Fry begins hearing voices in his head. He soon learns, thanks to a transient named Hutch, that they both have telepathic powers. However, Fry appears to be unique because his mind apparently cannot be read. Hutch advises Fry to wear a tinfoil hat to keep other people's thoughts out of his head, ominously warns him about "The Dark Ones" and admonishes him never to reveal his powers to anyone.

With his free token, Fry decides to enter the Universal Poker Championship and book an easy win. Meanwhile Bender checks out a "Circuit Du Soleil" show, falls in love with and begins an illicit affair with erotic dancer Fanny, the Mafia Donbot's wife. In order to impress Fanny, Bender enters the UPC as well; Fanny saws off her husband's "lucky foot" and gives it to Bender to assist him. The Donbot begins to suspect something is afoot when Bender luckboxes his way through the tournament; his suspicion is confirmed when Bender beats Fry heads-up for the prize. The Robot Mafia eventually abduct Bender and Fanny, shoot them and bury them in shallow graves; having been suitably warned, they break off the affair and Fanny returns to the Donbot.

Leo takes his daughter Amy, Fry and Leela to his ultra-exclusive mini-golf country club and proceeds to piss off the ladies by cheating, taking mulligans and berating their skills. He then reveals his future plans for the golf course -- to blow up 12 percent of the galaxy in order to build the biggest putt-putt course in the universe, all pending "proper" environmental clearance from the transparently corrupt Farnsworth.

Farnsworth and the crew take the Planet Express ship to conduct their survey and discover the asteroid from the violet dwarf system teeming with all sorts of prehistoric life forms. Unfortunately, the violet dwarf system sits at the end of Leo's proposed 18th hole; Leo plans to implode it and use the resulting black hole as a ball sink. Despite the crew's discovery, Farnsworth approves Leo's demolition project, angering both Leela and Fry.

While Earthican president Richard Nixon and Leo schmooze on the mini-golf course, Leela joins the eco-feminist collective in protesting the destruction of the violet dwarf system. In the resulting confrontation, the feminists accidentally mutilate vice-president Spiro Agnew's headless body with a golf cart, and they flee the scene. While hiding from the authorities, Leela convinces the feminists that they need to take more radical action. The feminists appoint Leela as their new leader and begin their campaign of eco-vandalism.

Still on the lam, Leela briefly returns to Planet Express to retrieve the Martian Leech for use as an unofficial mascot. As Leela leaves, she is surprised when Fry offers her his blessing. The two of them say a quick, tearful goodbye, not knowing if they'll see each other again.

While walking around, Fry again runs into Hutch, the transient telepath he met on Mars, and Hutch takes Fry to the secret lair of the Legion of Mad Fellows, led by the No. 9 man. No. 9 explains that the Legion are a society of tinfoil-hat-wearing telepaths who have been observing and tracking the behavior of the "Chi", a mysterious life force responsible for the proliferation of species of life across the universe. After ages of recession and the extinction of many species, they sense a resurgence of the Chi and believe that the violet dwarf star in Leo's putt-putt course holds the key to the reemergence of lost species and the dawn of a new Green Age. Fry is told that he is destined to keep the violet dwarf star safe from the Dark Ones, a mysterious race of enemies who can read all minds but his own. In order to protect the Legion from the Dark Ones, they swear Fry to complete secrecy. Fry then infiltrates Leo's empire by getting a job as a security guard, planning to stop the destruction of the violet dwarf system.

The eco-feminists come out of hiding to vandalize a gorilla-shaped structure on the 18th hole of Leo's golf course. On the news, Morbo denounces the vandalism, while the more sympathetic Linda broadcasts a message from Leela and the eco-feminist collective. Wary of the threat from the eco-feminists, Leo pulls a few strings with President Nixon and enlists the services of General Zapp Brannigan and Lt. Kif Kroker. Jealous of Leela's rapidly-growing rap sheet, the shamelessly treacherous Bender offers to help apprehend Leela and the eco-feminists. To track Leela down, Bender visits Fry at the golf course and plants a Rube Goldberg-esque wiretapping device on his cell phone. Things get tense when Amy sees Fry working for her father. Since Fry is unable to explain his true intentions to Amy, Amy denounces Fry as a traitor and disowns her father.

While leaving the mini-golf club, Fry runs into Frida. Desperate to explain his true intentions to Leela without blowing his cover, he instructs Frida to give Leela the message that "her sweet goofbag is working to save the violet dwarf star, just as she is." Unfortunately, while back at the hideout one of the Dark Ones reads Frida's mind and suspects that Fry may be a member of the Legion. The Dark One's unseen voice demands that Frida reveal Fry's identity. As Frida knows nothing more about him, the Dark One telepathically murders her; Frida cries out to her long-lost brother to avenge her death.

Leo contracts the remaining Planet Express employees (Farnsworth, Hermes and Zoidberg) to deliver a large security fence to keep protestors away from the violet dwarf star; they are captured by the eco-feminists (now joined by Amy, LaBarbara Conrad, Diane and others), who lock them up in a cage and commandeer the Planet Express ship. They return to their hideout to discover that Frida has been murdered. Amy suspects foul play on Fry's part; Leela decides to call Fry on his mobile phone in order to clear things up.

After another day at the golf club, Fry runs into Hutch again, who takes him to the Legion's new hideout on Mars. No. 9 tells Fry of the origins of the Dark Ones, who seek to destroy all species, and the Encyclopods, who seek to thwart the Dark Ones by befriending all species and preserving their DNA in order to recreate them. As the life-giving Chi faded, the Encyclopods went extinct, the violet dwarf star being the only remaining Encyclopod egg in the universe. With the present resurgence in the Chi, the revival of the Encyclopod species and of all other extinct species is at hand. Since the Dark Ones are able at close range to murder anyone who knows the secret of the egg, and since Fry alone is immune to the Dark Ones' attacks, he alone must save the egg. Unfortunately, due to eons of evolution they do not know what the current physical form of the Dark Ones is -- animal, alien or possibly humanoid.

Leela calls Fry in the middle of his discussion with the Legion. Fry asks if Leela got Frida's message, arousing Leela's suspicions. Fry realizes that the Dark Ones must have killed Frida and desperately arranges a secret rendezvous with Leela. Having tapped Fry's phone, Brannigan, Kif and Bender ambush Leela in the Starship Nimbus. Leela accuses Fry of treachery and is about to surrender, but is rescued by the eco-feminists and the Planet Express ship. As Leela escapes, she drags Fry with her and locks him up with the other Planet Express prisoners.

Brannigan immediately chases the eco-feministas through Leo's golf course. At the end of the 18th hole, the Planet Express ship flies by the asteroid in the violet dwarf system, now teeming with life. Clearly hurt by her dear friend's apparent betrayal, Leela again demands that Fry explain his intentions, but to no avail. Eventually Leela and the feminists are caught by Brannigan, Kif and (to everyone's immense shock) Bender and are sentenced to 50 years in prison.

With the eco-feminists out of the way, Leo completes his plan to implode the violet dwarf star. Fry consults the Legion again for advice, and No. 9 warns Fry that he also needs to worry about unmasking the identity of the Dark One who will try to stop him. No. 9 gives him the mysterious Omega device, able to disable the Dark One at point-blank range. For fear that the Dark One may destroy them, the rest of the Legion dare not give Fry any ideas about how to accomplish his mission, but Fry deduces that while he is at the implosion ceremony, he can scan the audience and search for an unreadable mind.

In prison, the unseen voice of the Dark One tells Leela that the feminists must break out of prison and get to the violet dwarf star. Leela pulls the Martian muck leech off her leg and attempts to use it to burrow out of prison, to no avail. Fortunately for the feminists, Bender arrives to bust them out of prison (all to boost his rap sheet ahead of Leela's, of course). However, only Bender, Leela, Amy and LaBarbara manage to escape; they are rescued by Hermes, Zoidberg, Scruffy and a repentant Farnsworth in the Planet Express ship.

In front of a crowd featuring almost every Futurama character, Leo and Fry prepare to implode the violet dwarf system. While Brannigan gives a blithering, long-winded speech, Fry unsuccessfully scans the audience for the unreadable mind of the Dark One, coming to the Minority Report-esque conclusion that he himself is the Dark One.

The Planet Express ship crashes the detonation ceremony, and Leela and the crew (dressed in eco-feminist garb) show up armed. After a brief struggle, Leela manages to wrest control of the detonator from Leo. However, as she is about to disable the detonator, Fry implores her to stop, still unable to explain his ultimate plan. Caught between her eyes and her heart, Leela gives the detonator to Fry. To her shock, Fry presses the plunger; the screen pans up and down to reveal that Fry has wired the detonator to the Omega device and is holding it against his heart in an effort to destroy himself.

Unexpectedly, the Omega device sprouts mechanical legs and arms, then erupts in a green flash enveloping both Fry and Leela but leaving them both unharmed. Leela's Martian muck leech reveals himself to be the lone surviving Dark One, then falls to the floor in agony. Suddenly the asteroid flies into the violet dwarf star, creating a fertilized Encyclopod egg which quickly develops into a fully developed Encyclopod (a flying manta ray-like creature carrying a biodome of extinct animals in its pouch). Hutch walks up to the podium to explain the origins of the Encyclopod to the crowd, but the Dark One latches onto Hutch's neck, killing him. As he lies dying, Hutch pulls his sister Frida's piece of jewelry out of Fry's head, and the Encyclopod incinerates the Dark One with a laser blast from its eye. A debate about whether to preserve the Dark One's DNA is quickly quashed when Zoidberg eats the Dark One's remains.

Zapp Brannigan, being the pompous fool that he is, attempts to round up the Planet Express crew and bring them to justice, but they (along with Kif) quickly manage to escape in the ship. Brannigan immediately pursues them in the Nimbus. Here's how the final scene unfolds:

[Hermes and LaBarbara hold hands, Kif and Amy embrace]
Fry (to Leela): Well, this is the end. There were so many things I wanted to say to you.
Leela: Like what?
Fry: Like, "this is not the end". But mostly just...I love you, Leela.
(ship is hit from behind)
Leela: Maybe I waited too long to say this, but...I love you too. (looks up) Wormhole!
Hermes: Sweet topology of cosmology! It's huge!
Farnsworth: If we fly into it, it could take us trillions of light years away! There's no knowing if we'll ever return!
Fry: Wh-what do we do? Should we go for it?
Bender: (pulls out a bottle of Olde Fortran malt liquor) Into the breach, meatbags. Or not. Eh, whatever.
All: Go! Go! Go!
[Leela and Fry kiss, and the ship disappears into the wormhole]

Labels: ,


Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?