After a seemingly interminable wait, Futurama: Bender's Big Score was released yesterday. That's Tuesday, to you. The hard-core fans of the show within my social group - Yesenia, Jim, Danielle, Karl & Bubba (frankly, that's most of my social group right there) - all gathered at the Doller's house to watch it on Jim's glorious digital projector.
And, you know, when I bought it earlier in the day, I found that I was feeling kind of antipathetic about viewing it. I probed and found - unsurprisingly - that a new version of something I really loved was stirring the fear in me that they might have gotten it wrong. Really wrong. Horribly, unfunnily, way-off-the-mark wrong.
See, by the end of their fourth (and final) season, the team was operating at such peak efficiency that nearly every episode was a perfectly polished gem of comedy, always with nice character touches and very solid sci-fi thrills. Comedy in the realm of ideas with people (and robots and lobstrosoties) that you were emotionally invested in.
But. Once you're out of that zone...
...well, you end up with The Phantom Menace.
Really, how many creative comebacks of this type have been successful on the same level they were as when they originally evaporated? Oh, I don't mean financially - the Star Wars prequels obviously minted cash for Lucas in chunks of hundreds of millions. But even the greatest Lucas apologist that would be me has to admit - that would be me, so I have to admit - that something was off. Over the course of the three films, it got slowly back on, so that the last half of Revenge of the Sith is genuinely great, but, still: Lucas hadn't written or directed a film in over thirty years before The Phantom Menace,, and his writing and direction, as a result, were laughable.
I could, no doubt, find many examples of these pop-culture comebacks that were a return to form. I've already discussed at length how strong a film The Wrath of Khan is, for one. But....
...anyway, it's with these fears mingled with a fan's burning faith that I sat in Jim's basement theater to watch Bender's Big Score.
I'm sorry! I'm sorry, Mr. Groening! I'm sorry, Mr. Cohen! Sorry for having doubted! I didn't know that you could come back after five years with an even clearer, sharper vision! I didn't know that the humor would be just as precise! I didn't believe that the actors could find their way back into character! I couldn't believe that the animation would remain not only unchanged, but in some ways, improved! I didn't think you could go from half an hour to 90 minutes and keep me engrossed!
I was a fool. I'd want to quote you and say 'a fully-justified fool,' but it turns out I was a wholly unjustified fool. You delivered the goods, and in the process deepened both the Futurama universe and my affection and admiration for it.
Now, let's see how badly you mess up The Beast With a Billion Backs.
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