Futurama: Bender's Game (2008) Blu-ray Review
PictureThe film is presented to us with an AVC encoded 1080p resolution. Unsurprisingly, unlike most feature films, it eschews the wider aspect ratios in favour of a full screen of 1.78:1. This may detract a little from the feel of a grand cinematic experience, but it fits in with the series as a whole and therefore saves us the jarring effect of our much loved characters appearing in any way smaller on the same screens the viewers are used to watching the TV show on.
Judging animated movies can be an odd task. On the one hand they often appear strikingly good and joyously colourful. On the flip side, they seem to lack the need for any kind of intrusive processing techniques and even if they displayed such things, they are in essence artificial, so no slight changes will truly break the spell of an on screen reality. The skin tones can't be judged in the same way, nor can the shadow detail. This is because the painted light from such animation doesn't hold (and was never intended to replicate) the minutiae of subtle differences that can be seen in live action scenarios.
So what can we say about it? Well, the colours displayed are crisp and clean, being well delineated and the palette used is bright. Some of the earlier scenes fall towards the greyer end of the spectrum, but this is merely an artistic decision to heighten the transition from future distopia to the magical and verdant land of Cornwood. Blacks are deep to an inky perfection and, like the rest of the colours, remain perfectly stable. The minor gripe is a touch of banding and what can appear to be slight softness of image where particular materials aren't as well delineated. However these are minor and don't in any way detract from the viewing experience. The only reason these brief, few and far between moments are even noticed is because of the uniform stellar nature of the rest of the transfer.
SoundThe sole audio on this disc is a lossless English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It may seem a touch unnecessary for an animation, but it is so pleasingly resonant that it almost matches the transfer in terms of quality. It takes a little while to become acclimatised to the mix as, like many, I've come to know the various sounds of the series through television speakers and thus they are usually flatter than they are on this disc. The ensuing sounds we are presented with here do an excellent job of providing some much needed bass to the moments of revelation and the like. Though perhaps slightly uneven in places in its use of the LFE channel, it nevertheless was a far punchier experience than I had expected. Dialogue (upon which such a film with throwaway lines often hinges) was remarkably clear. The effects coming from the rears were also surprisingly well integrated and added to create a fine sense of enveloping. Hardly reference disc material when compared to live action films with multi layered complex sounds swirling around the environment, but for an animation this is about as good as it gets.
ExtrasCommentary by Matt Groening, David X Cohen, Billy West, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Michael Rowe, Claudia Katz and Dwayne Carey Hill
It's always nice to have a larger amount of people in the commentary booth when there's a chance that things may become stilted. Luckily here we have just about everyone we could want, all rambling on about nothing in particular but all the whilst remaining fairly funny. This was never likely to be the most insightful look at the making of the film but it is nonetheless very enjoyable and a welcome addition.
Storyboard animatic: Bender's Game, Part One - 480p - 21:47
Storyboard sketches filmed as a dry run in order to get a feel of what the scenes would be like. We're given a full screen of the drawings where I can't help but wonder if a split screen with the before and after shots wouldn't have had more impact. As it is you have to stop the action and go to the scene in question in the film to see just how close the finished article was to these initial concepts.
Futurama Genetics Lab: Cross-breed your favourite characters
“Select two characters and choose the merge button to combine their DNA.” Essentially just a way to see some of the artists musings on what weird mutations could be made if a pair of our cartoon chums were to be mixed into one freakish lump. Interesting if only for the artwork but you'll only spend a couple of minutes here then forget about it.
D&D&F (Dungeons and Dragons and Futurama) - 1080p - 7:00
A trio of the crew take us through the various episodes that contained references to the role playing game. Interesting, but they try too hard at times to play for laughs and it becomes patently clear why these men didn't go into the acting profession.
How to draw Futurama in 83 easy steps - 1080p - 7:52
What is billed as a “step by step guide with the rough draft crew” is again derailed by the painful attempts at injecting humour into what could and should have been a straight forward how to for those who are not artistically adept but would still like to see the process broken down into manageable chunks.
3D models with animator discussion - 1080p - 5:03
It comes as a pleasant relief to watch a feature that is exactly what it claims to be without the filler of supposedly hilarious tomfoolery by the crew. We are treated to a glimpse at the wire frame models and finished forms of the various ships shown in the destruction derby sequence.
Deleted scene “cup or nozzle?” - 1080p - 1:03
An extremely minor addition of a storyboard drawing into the middle of a scene that would have elongated it slightly but was cut for one reason or another.
Blooperama 2: Outtakes from Bender's Game - 480p - 1:50
Without doubt the least funny gag/blooper reel I have ever seen. It consists of the voice actors fluffing a few lines and even in the meagre sub two minutes duration there's filler material evident.
Bender's anti-piracy warning - 1080p - 1:50
A brilliant parody of the “you wouldn't steal” piracy ads that seem to be on every disc. This one carries the tagline “Downloading Often Is Terrible”, shortened to “DO IT”.
This is very much a mixed bag of extras. The commentary is by far the strongest of the offerings, being that it is not only amusing but contains just about everybody attached to this film. However, the filler that rises to the surface on almost every other additional feature somewhat sours this as what could have been a bumper look behind the scenes of the animation becomes a collection of laboured jokes by crew members with only a couple that hold the viewers interest.
VerdictAs a film that represents the series that spawned it, this is a resounding success. The humour will not be to everyone's liking and the simple truth is, it was never meant to be. The throwaway lines and blink and you'll miss them moments are key and they generally fall towards the geekier end of the spectrum. This can give the feeling of a club house of a film that bears the sign “members only” in scrawled crayon. This unerring want to create a feature that reflects the interests of those involved in its creation also makes the film a touch inaccessible. However, like all such movies, this must be judged by the targets that it set itself and on those counts, this is a hit.
I don't want to sound too enthusiastic in my praises though, as the treadmill of jokes inevitably produces misses, but that is, in itself, perhaps a positive. If I were to find everything universally funny then where is the scope for those who don't share my exact sense of humour to find something worthwhile within? The key disappointment with this disc is with the extras as they should have been key to its Bu-ray release due to the extra storage capacity. As it is, this is about as uneven as discs come. A film I'll look forward to seeing again and a majority of extras I'll likely never re-watch. Though given the choice, I'd far rather have the situation that way round than vice versa as surely the film is by far the most important part and here it is represented, both visually and sonically, extremely well.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.35
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