Monday Movies: Futurama's Fifth Season
The fifth season of Futurama was released as a series of direct-to-DVD features, which is good enough to qualify for a Monday Movie or four in my books. The first two movies - Bender's Big Score and The Beast with a Billion Backs form a consistent story arc in which amoral android Bender busts open the entire Universe and enables its invasion by an enormous tentacled monster. The third instalment, Bender's Game is billed as a straight-up parody of epic fantasy tropes, but actually does quite a bit more besides, and, finally, Into the Wild Green Yonder pits the regular cast of characters against one another in a bid to provide some emotional resolution for what was expected to be the series finale.
What's interesting about Futurama is that while many people might be inclined to call it a parody, I think it's actually one of the best examples of science fiction you'll find in movies and television. Okay, yeah, there's pretty much nothing they won't throw out the window for a cheap gag, but a cheap gag on Futurama goes a long way. In contrast to a certain other Matt Groening cartoon, perhaps the fact this one has forever been circling the bowl of cancellation has lead to a brutal comic efficiency. Also, perhaps completely the opposite from that other franchise, although the cast of Futurama may all seem like mere parodies and tropes, there's a real effort made to give them depth, likeability and some measure of development.
As is often the case with shows unfairly threatened with cancellation, the team are definitely pulling out all the stops for what they thought might be their last gasp. While that may leave me wondering what they'll do with the new season they got, there's no doubt that Into the Wild Green Yonder provides a satisfying (but far from final) conclusion, and the other three films demonstrate nerd comedy at its finest - epic and irreverent, but ultimately with a smidgen of heart.