Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs is an animated science-fiction comedy, the second of the four Futurama straight-to-DVD films. The film was released in the USA and Canada on June 24, 2008, followed by a UK release on June 30, 2008 and an Australian release on August 6, 2008. It has been confirmed by David X. Cohen on the audio commentary that the title refers to the phrase for sexual intercourse "the beast with two backs" which originated in English in Shakespeare's Othello. Comedy Central aired the movie as a "four-part epic" on October 19, 2008. The movie won an Annie Award for "Best Animated Home Entertainment Production."
The film begins by showing the anomaly, a rip in the fabric of the universe deep in space. While the main characters wonder whether they should fear the anomaly or not, Fry enters and introduces his new girlfriend Colleen, with whom he has been spending a lot of time. At the same time, Kif and Amy announce that they plan to get married in a Fon-Fon Rubok ceremony on Kif’s home planet, and everyone is invited. Fry moves in with Colleen, and discovers she has four other boyfriends. Disgusted, he breaks up with her.
After Kif and Amy are married, the Planet Express crew sets off to a scientific convention to learn more about the anomaly. Professor Farnsworth suggests a manned expedition, and is forced to compete with his rival Wernstrom in a game of Deathball to decide who’s team should go. After winning, Farnsworth accompanies Bender, Leela, and Hermes to the anomaly. When Bender tries to go through, he passes out and is taken to a hospital where the robot actor Calculon comes to cheer him up, motivating Bender to be a stalker. This leads to him joining a secret organization, the League of Robots, a society dedicated to killing all humans, and tension grows between Bender and Calculon.
Farnsworth and Wernstrom discover that electrical devices cannot pass through the anomaly, and try to send another mission, but are overruled by President Nixon, who sends Zapp Brannigan and the military. Fry, feeling lonely, sneaks aboard the military ship. When the ship nears the anomaly, Zapp orders Kif to launch a missile. However, Kif gets stuck in the missile and dies while Fry drifts through the anomaly and finds a giant one-eyed creature with tentacles named Yivo.
Farnsworth and Wernstrom, imprisoned for protesting the military, escape after smelling into the other universe with one of Farnsworth’s inventions. As they try to shield the Earth, Yivo sends its tentacles down to every planet in the universe, including one that is attached to Fry, who tells everyone that they should love the tentacle. The tentacles begin attaching themselves to the necks of everyone in existence. Once caught, people find that they do love the tentacle. Fry quickly becomes pope of the new tentacle religion.
Amy, Zapp, and Leela manage to escape. Bender smuggles them into the League of Robot headquarters and they are caught, leading to a duel between him and Calculon over Bender’s honor. The humans escape and hide, and Zapp seduces Amy just before the two of them are caught. Leela manages to cut off a tip of a tentacle and discovers that they are actually genetalia. At this accusation, Yivo pulls out of everyone, confessing that it does love them and that they should start over with just a date. As a sign of good faith, Yivo resurrects Kif, who is angry with Amy at having slept with his superior officer.
After the first date, Yivo proposes, and the universe accepts. Bender, jealous, has gathered a robot army to take over Earth, and is surprised to find that the humans are leaving Earth to them since they are moving in with Yivo. Everyone is happy with Yivo.: they no longer argue or feel jealous. However, Fry, against Yivo’s wishes, contacts Bender in the other universe. Bender takes this as a sign that Fry wants to be rescued and invades Yivo, dragging it into their universe. Yivo stops the fighting, then, upon realizing that Fry made contact with his original universe, breaks up with them, sending them back to their own universe. Upon leaving Yivo, the humans immediately begin to argue again. The film ends with Bender explaining that love is jealous and greedy, and confessing that he loves his human friends.
The film clearly has a religious subject and satirizes organized religion, putting it in terms that make it look outright silly. Yivo serves as God; a being from another universe who loves everyone in the universe, whose love is reciprocated. Animals and robots are excluded from this phenomenon, as they are from religion. When humanity goes to live on Yivo’s surface, it is depicted as very similar to Heaven, and the characters even begin to call it that. Yivo explains that it was an image of it that inspired artists’ renditions of Heaven. Hell is represented by the robot army, which was recruited and lent out by the robot devil. Bender is the leader of this army and presumably the Devil. He shows up the robot devil in cruelty by readily giving up his first son as payment for the army.
There are also some claims as to the nature of personhood being made. Upon Yivo’s arrival, humans and robots are divided into two even more distinct classes, widening the gap already between them, provoking jealousy and loneliness from Bender. The humans are part of something larger, something that the robots cannot become a part of, a greater love, which seems to be the dividing factor. Yivo remarks toward the end of the film that love is something that Bender could never understand, being a lifeless being. This implies that robots do not have personhood. Bender also mentions how cheap and easy it is to replace robots before he tries to go through the anomaly, saying that if he dies, they can just replace him for twenty dollars. However, the robots are portrayed as very humanistic throughout the film. Bender is certainly a very real character with feelings and personality. Robots also display some of the less savory aspects of humanity, epitomized in Hedonism-Bot. At the end of the film, after Bender has “rescued” his human friends from Yivo, he confesses that he does love them, and the film ends in a hug, implying that robots do have the capacity for love and do have personhood after all, particularly because the humans are forced to leave Yivo and return to Earth and their flaws. Their flaws and jealously help make them human as well.
The different models of love themselves are interesting and say something about human nature. The first model occurs when Fry and Colleen begin dating: a man and a woman, a very standard model. However, when Fry finds out about Colleen’s four other boyfriends he becomes disgusted by the new model he is presented with and leaves her. To most viewers, this might also seem a very strange situation. However, when this model is duplicated with Yivo and everyone in the universe, Fry asks no questions and shows no jealously, nor does anyone else once ensnared, perhaps implying that human nature has the capacity to change.