Monday, 5 October 2009

Great D12s of Fire [Review: Bender's Game]

District 9 update: there's a link to Neill Blomkamp's short film "Alive in Joburg" here - (thanks Molly Brown).

Bender's Game is a feature-length Futurama episode. The plot revolves around waste-of-space robot Bender who becomes addicted to Dungeons and Dragons and starts to confuse reality with the game. Meanwhile Fry and the crew are searching for an energy crystal that could end Ma's domination of the Universe's fuel supply, which has naturally enough been disguised as a D12.

This episode is enjoyable and witty enough but suffers from the same problem as the Simpsons Movie - it differs from the regular episodes only in length. This could easily have been compressed to the regular length without too much loss, and there's no sense of either higher production values or of the greater scope that you might want from a feature. Half-way through, having lost their battle with Ma, the crew are transported into an alternate universe where they get to fight the battle again through D&D analogues of the previous events and characters - this is a clever structure but in places the repetition skirts a little too close to the boring frontier.

As with other Futurama and Simpsons episodes, the best parts are often the throwaway comments or scenes least relevant to the plot. Here, an early sequence where Layla participates in a spaceship demolition derby sees Lego and Meccano spaceships collide, while the heads of George Takei and Scott Bakula argue over who has done the most damage to the Star Trek franchise; later Bender's D&D addiction takes him to a robot psychiatric hospital for a brief parody of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - the robot versions of individual and group psychotherapy are hilarious.

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