“What’s the secret of time travel doing on Fry’s ass?”
In 2007, animated scifi sitcom Futurama began it’s glorious return as a series of straight-to-DVD films produced by Comedy Central with the intention that each film would be written as one movie, then split up into four episodes for broadcast. Bender’s Big Score was the first movie to drop, and it immediately received a mixed response; everyone was delighted to have Futurama back, and it was just as funny as ever, but many took issue with the plotting – it seemed to be less a movie and more a collection of famous Futurama moments put in a particular order. But we’re coming up on the ten year anniversary of the movie (November 27th, 2007), and I’ve found my opinion of it only growing over the decade.
Yes, from the opening scene in which the executives who cancelled the show are blasted so badly that even the characters are kind of uncomfortable, the show is an extended victory lap, but it’s more than a reminder of a show you really liked – it’s one of the best beats in Fry’s arc. His conflict has always been between his fundamental goodness and his immaturity; he’s basically a good guy, but too lazy to act upon his potential. His romance with Leela always verged on Nice Guy Syndrome, with the guy doggedly stalking the woman on the basis of a gut feeling they should be together, but the best episodes about it used his desires as a jumping off point for a bigger story – I think especially of “Time Keeps On Slippin'”, in which it’s used as a jumping off point for a story about despair. In this movie, it’s used to show us Fry’s potential for maturity.
SPOILER SECTION FOR A TEN YEAR OLD MOVIE WE’VE ALL SEEN
When Fry realises he’s Lars, I’m brought to tears, not because I believe in Fry and Leela as a couple, but because it shows that Fry can mature and grow, given sufficient motivation. It’s a hopeful story; if Fry can make it, anyone can.
And the plot built around it is a genuinely fun one. Granted, I get a kick out of time travel stories on principle, but this one is particularly special, using Futurama‘s bullshit science to kick off a story about doubles and paradoxes, and Bender’s long con is a great use of both a character and a cliche (Bender having his motivation changed with a virus and yet keeping his personality is a great move – “Of course I realise it! Does that mean I can’t enjoy it?”). Supporting player Dave Herman is fantastic as Nudar, the central villain of the film, an irritable nasally-voiced nudist alien who acts like an IT guy became a supervillain.
Given that they knew Futurama was coming back for more, and given that some of the Futurama we got was some of the greatest Futurama ever, I’m inclined to be more forgiving of the self-congratulatory gags in the movie. If anyone deserved a victory lap, it was Futurama; when that extended opening with shots of each of the characters plays, a part of me is genuinely moved.