Thursday, January 5, 2017

Review - Fan-O-Rama (Futurama Fan Film)

"Futurama", created by Matt Groening of "The Simpsons" fame, is often considered to be among the all-time best animated series of the modern era - often leading the pack. A combination of intelligence, parody and honest admiration for it's many Sci-Fi inspirations, "Futurama" has made it's mark on television; if not for it's inarguable quality, then for facing cancellation three times.

The most recent of these endings came in 2013, with little major talk of a revival in the aftermath - it seems Futurama's seven season, four films, and fourteen year run has finally came to a close. The show's expansive fan following, however, had a near-insatiable thirst for more; and thus, in 2016, came Dan Lanigan's "Fan-O-Rama".

Following a small-scale story (à la the original 22-minute episodes), "Fan-O-Rama" follows yet another misadventure of 20th-century-outcast Phillip J. Fry, alcoholic automaton Bender Bending Rodriguez, and no-nonsense cyclops Turanga Leela. Working for an interplanetary delivery company (Planet Express), the trio are sent to deliver a rickety Doomsday Device for their inept boss Professor Farnsworth. However, we soon learn from fellow coworkers that the Device is quite unstable - and that this could easily spell doom for our leads.

...and, before we are given a finale, we are cut off by Zapp Brannigan - a cocky, slimy character -  pridefully informing us that the film we are watching will never reveal it's ending, being "Talentless, Rightless, and Moneyless". With that abrupt goodbye, we suddenly end "Fan-O-Rama" - now replaced by the infamous Hypnotoad (a mindless program adored by society, in the animated series). 

Entirely fan-made, the roughly twenty minute short shows the utmost of respect for it's source; taking specific, deliberate measures to parallel the show precisely, down to even the absurd character designs and personas.

Even one unfamiliar with the program can feel how much heart the film has. One can clearly see that, above all else, "Fan-O-Rama" is intended as an exquisite love letter to the series and it's oddball creativity - the production team has done a great job translating what made the show so charismatic into their own work.

The special effects - almost entirely practical - are wonderful for the minimal scale of the movie. Though occasionally stiff or unnatural, each character looks exactly as they do on the show, with just enough hints of realism to keep their spirits alive.

On the character note - I especially like how closely each character sounds to their cartoon incarnations; the talents of Billy West, John DiMaggio and Katy Sagal have been replicated extremely well.

Other work, such as greenscreen and CG, is also extremely nicely done; the Planet Express delivery ship looks wonderful in fully-realized graphics, and computer generated backgrounds blend in almost seamlessly with the cast.

Writing-wise, "Fan-O-Rama" is a near carbon copy of the original series' subtle, yet snarky wit - right down to the core dilemma of the plot being preserving the Professor's high eBay score, which could plummet if the delivery fails. if one claimed series writers worked on this feature, I'd believe them.

It's disappointing that the story ends without a real conclusion, but the abrupt interruption fits "Futurama"s abrasive tone; and, considering it is a fan production, it's hard to fault them for admitting they've done all that they could... though, perhaps less time could have been spent building the plot and it's players, and more on actual progression?

There are some scenes that are a bit too long, and some that feel mostly unnecessary. Though they do a good job celebrating and showcasing each character, a bit less time focusing on their quirks could have aided in telling a cohesive story.

"Fan-O-Rama" is a very honest, well-meaning tribute to such a famous series. Again, one can easily see that, above all else, the film was intended as a tribute, bringing each fan-favorite character and setting to life as a celebration of what once was.

Though it has it's faults, the overall impact I have of the short is awe; Though I do think more could have been done to save it's lack of an ending, I loved what was there, and neutering it could have a negative impact on it's excellent writing.

Rating - 4/5

1 comment:

  1. That's awesome! I didn't know they even did that..