When Futurama returned on DVD with Bender’s Big Score ( read review here) , for fans who had not expected the series to ever return, the movie was a mix of nostalgia and disappointment. Like Bender’s Big Score, Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs has an epic universe spanning storyline (literally) but where Bender’s Big Score felt like it was stitched together out of three incompatible episodes and reminded you of an aging ex-major leaguer trying to throw out a pitch, Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs is a single epic story that may not be a perfect home run, but it does give you a real show for your money.
So besides not being a disappointment, what else is Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs? For starters it’s classic Futurama, from the adroit SciFi references like St. Asimov’s Day, Deathball and two ceremonies on Kif’s home planet that gently parody Spock’s Vulcan ceremonies, to a clever storyline involving a tear in space that introduces a giant being from another universe made of electromatter, who’s lonely and promptly begins sticking tentacles in the heads of everyone in the universe before whisking them off to a faux heaven that comes with bird angels and Mattress Island that mixes theology with science fiction with invader paranoia and manages to tie in Fry and humanity’s loneliness into the mix. Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs manages to make pretty good use of the series’ stock of supporting characters, from Calculon to Zoidberg’s uncle to Zap Brannigan while introducing new ones, like Fry’s new girlfriend Colleen. But if there is one flaw to Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs, it’s that the movie has plenty of chuckles but not a lot of big laughs.
Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs is funny, but it’s funny more in the way that The Day the Earth Stood Stupid was, rather than Insane in the Mainframe, it’s too busy telling a story to set up punchlines. As a movie it’s cheerful, funny and even insightful, but don’t expect to watch Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs while rolling on the floor. It’s a good enough trade-off, especially considering Bender’s Big Score, but anyone with expectations of watching this and laughing till it hurts is going to be disappointed.
In many ways Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs walks or jets over well worn territory for the series, from Fry’s loneliness serving to represent humanity, Leela’s determination not to join in what others follow, Bender’s refusal to resolve his own contradictions and the pulp SciFi storyline that mutates into something more articulate and insightful, Futurama The Beast with a Billion Backs is classic Futurama, no doubt about it. And with the DVD also holding the Futurama game footage that producers have described as a lost episode, there’s plenty here to enjoy.