In Futurama’s latest and most tentacle-packed epic, space itself rips open, revealing a gateway to another universe. But what lies beyond? Horror? Love? Or maybe both, if it happens to contain a repulsive, planet-sized monster with romantic intentions!? Nothing less than the fate of human and robot-kind is at stake as the Futurama crew takes on The Beast With A Billion Backs.
At the end of Bender’s Big Score, after the many time traveling escapades of Bender and his many doomed duplicates, a giant tear opened in the universe leaving us to wonder what will happen to Earth and the Planet Express Crew. In the second straight-to-DVD installment of Futurama, The Beast with a Billion Backs, we find ourselves where the last movie ended. The giant tear in the universe hasn’t caused any apparent harm and the denizens of the universe find themselves returning to their normal lives, albeit under the unknown threat of the giant space-time rip. It essentially follows the crew from trying to identify the giant tear and what it might be as well as introducing two vastly separate dilemmas for Bender and Fry and ending the film in much the same way as a normal Futurama episode.
Fry finds a new girlfriend, who turns out to be polygamous, and while at first he thinks he can deal with this, in the end she breaks his heart and Fry decides that he can’t stand his loneliness and wishes to end it by throwing himself into the giant space tear. He stows away with the Earth expedition that intends to destroy whatever may be on the other side of the tear; instead of just investigating it for science, as Professor Farnsworth wishes. Since Fry’s interest in Bender’s friendship fades because of his loneliness, Bender essentially becomes obsessed with his favorite TV star Calculon and becomes his ‘official’ stalker. His hatred of humans grows because of their apparent apathy towards robots and Fry’s growing introspection. Eventually, we learn that the space tear leads to a universe with only a single being that also happens to be as lonely as Fry; and they form a bond between themselves… and everyone else in the Futurama universe.
The Beast with a Billion Backs tends to not be as convoluted as the first film, which had so many different sequences of time travel that it could be somewhat difficult to keep track of who was where and in what time. This time the general flow of the movie is similar to an extended episode of Futurama with a far more conclusive ending. It’s essentially the same conflicts: Fry vying for the attention of Leela (although thankfully this isn’t nearly as emphasized as it was in the last movie), Zapp Brannigan sleazing after women and trodding upon Kip, Dr. Zoidberg vying for attention (although his appearances were woefully few and far between).
While regular viewers of Futurama will recognize and appreciate the general humor and comedy bits they’ve grown used to seeing, there is another part of the film that shows the writers do attempt to have a higher appeal than slapstick comedy, and it has to do with the character introduced through the giant space tear. It’s essentially another exploration of religion, similar to the episode where Bender becomes the god of a tiny civilization growing on him and eventually meets a God-like being that tries to explain what it means to be just that, God. While the film doesn’t deal with God directly so much as it does the concept of Heaven, it ends up leaving a somewhat poignant and saddening feeling before the film’s conclusion. It’s very similar to the mood felt in the episode where Fry’s dog Seymour had actually waited for him to return before dying of old age, as well as the final episode in season 5 when Fry attempts to use the Devil’s hands to woo Leela with his holophonor skills. Luckily, the film ends on a slightly lighter note and allows for the third film to go in practically any direction.
Review by Nicolas Bunzmann
Official site: http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/futurama/index.jhtml
Buy on Amazon: Futurama: Beast With A Billion Backs