It is no secret that once an Invader Zim movie was announced, devoted fans and the whole cartoon/animation community where overjoyed. Growing up, Invader Zim was one of those few cartoons that made you feel that you were watching something you weren’t supposed to. It pushed boundaries, was ambitious, and is recognized as one Nickelodeon’s most popular series. It had been almost a decade without any new content in relation to Invader Zim, until the comic book series, published by Oni Press, was launched in 2015. Currently, there is a trend happening among our classic, albeit cult classic, Nicktoons in that they are rebooting them and continuing storylines in the form of feature length films. First came Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie, Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (also on Netflix), and now joining this collection is Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus.
Invader Zim was created by Jhonen Vasquez, a comic book writer and cartoonist. The show was geared toward an older demographic and has won critical acclaim as well as an Emmy award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation. The show was cancelled in its infancy, but has lived strongly through fans in the form of continuous, niche merchandise sales and its own convention, InvaderCON. From the success of the comic book series, still running today, it’s no surprise that a film was planned. ‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus’ was scheduled to air on Nickelodeon, but Netflix bought the distribution rights. The film was released on the streaming platform on August 16 2019. The new film was excellent, but had some minor issues.
In, “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus”, Zim and his moronic robot minion, GIR, return from a strategic hiatus planned to make Dib, a twelve year old paranormal investigator bent on exposing Zim to the world, immobile waiting and watching for his return. Successful, Zim sets out onto the next phase of his evil scheme, only to find out that his alien overlords, The Almighty Tallest, never planned to come to ‘Urth’ to congratulate him on his conquering of the human race. This leads into a more drastic plan to not only take over the world, but to get the recognition that Zim feels is long overdue.
The plot is structured like an episode from the original series, hitting all the classic comedic beats in between. From extreme exaggeration to visual and auditory quirks, this nuanced style of comedy made the series ahead of its time and most elements we constantly see in meme culture today. The story itself also recaptures the essence of the show with no problem; however in writing it as a feature length film there are some aspects that made the story fall kind of flat.
For instance, there is a present family theme throughout the film that puts Dib, his little sister, Gaz, and their father, Professor Membrane, to the forefront and allows for emotional development of our main characters. Though this gave some depth, it still felt somewhat out of place, rushed and unfulfilled. While underdeveloped, it can be appreciated for stepping out of bounds and doing something new with material that was not originally written to foster such development.
The animation of the film was done by Nickelodeon Animation Studio in collaboration with Maven Animation Studio in South Korea. Many from the series returned to work on this project; Vasquez wrote the film and served as executive producer, as well as reprised his voice acting role as Zim’s computer. Kevin Manthei returned as composer, and the rest of the original cast returned to voice their respective characters, such as Richard Steven Horvitz (Zim), Rosearik Rikki Simons (GIR) and Andy Berman (Dib).
The animation was smoother and more curved than was originally done. In an interview with Animation World Network, Vasquez states, “the movie is a bit squishier whereas the series was much more angular, and given the chance, I’d dial back on the squish and up the harder edges.” The color pallet is also slightly brighter, and there are jarring bits in how the character models move that show the extent to which the film was digitally produced.
The newer animated elements of the film blend together well, but do take away some of the gritty angst and gloomy detail that the series enhanced through its dark and angular art direction. However, the voice performances are the most solid aspect of the whole film. The return of the original actors held the film together. It was as if they had never stopped being their characters. The performances were seamless and energetic and I regard it as nearly flawless.
Overall, ‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus’ is a great watch. The film is just the comeback that we’ve been craving, and the perfect introduction to a potential new fan base. As for future Zim projects outside the comics, there is nothing currently in the works that we know of. ‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus’ is currently being streamed on Netflix, and you can watch the original series over on Hulu.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment