Review: Death comes to Futurama as the crew heads Into the Wild Green Yonder

No, Into the Wild Green Yonder, the fourth direct-to-DVD installment of Futurama, does not suck as much as the third offering, Bender's Game (2008).

And, no, it's not as mind-bogglingly brilliant as the first outing, Bender's Big Score (2007).

And, yes, it's perhaps a hair more consequential, funny, fast-paced and on target than the second excursion, The Beast With a Billion Backs (2008), thus putting it in a surprising runner-up position as this series of original movies comes to a close and we must face the tearful possibility that there will be no more Futurama ever.

It's a sad, dire outcome cleverly alluded to in the last few fourth-wall-breaking minutes of Yonder, as our triumphant crew departs known space-time in a flashy manner full of defiant bravado, kind of the way Calvin and Hobbes sledded into the unknown. Let us emulate our heroes and be brave—and grateful for all we have been given to date.

Because prior to this bittersweet denouement, we are treated to a truly enjoyable slam-bang tale whose crazy, seemingly unlinked threads all come together beautifully. It all starts when Amy Wong's dad, Leo Wong, crazed real estate tycoon, decides that his love of miniature golf demands a golf course that spans the Milky Way. This means destroying a certain solar system around a "violet dwarf star" that happens to be the repository of an eons-old treasure. Saving that "wild green yonder" involves Fry gaining telepathy, Leela becoming an eco-terrorist, Bender romancing a Mafia moll and hundreds of other comedic brainstorms.

Along the way, we get parodies of everything from Doc Smith's Lensmen books to the video game Spore, as well as great one-liners and SF in-jokes. (The Wongs travel on Mars by Dune-style sandworm, for one instance.) You'll be laughing continuously--when you're not marveling at the great special effects.

But be sure to note the omnipresence of death motifs. There's at least six major character deaths--albeit some temporary ones. It's a nod, even if subconscious, from the creative team, telling us that this might really be farewell to our pals in the 31st century.

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