Looking for a movie to watch but there’s nothing good on television and you don’t want to drive to your local Redbox or video store? This column takes a peak at some of the curiosities to be found on Netflix Instant Streaming. Today: Tank Girl
There are few comic book-to-movie adaptations as enthusiastically untethered to logic or poise as Rachel Talalay’s big screen version of Tank Girl, the British comic book series created by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett.
Imagine a scenario where George Miller, Rosie the Riveter, Dr. Seuss and the personification of ‘90s-era MTV went out drinking. Tank Girl would be the multi-colored alcoholic sludge created by the quartet puking in a shared toilet bowl without flushing. Outlandishly weird in a what-kind-of-movie-studio-executive-decided-to-greenlight-this sort-of way, Tank Girl is a science fiction comedy that mixes in animation, music video style editing and even a song-and-dance routine. Oh, and there’s also a gang of the most ass-kicking kangaroos this side of Warriors of Virtue — including one played by Ice-T.
Lori Petty plays Rebecca aka Tank Girl. Bugs Bunny in lipstick, Tank Girl personifies anti-establishment in a world without any real establishment. The film is set in 2033 in a world where a comet collision has fouled up the Earth’s atmosphere — turning off the rain and leaving the earth a scorched wasteland. A powerful corporation called Water & Power controls the last few remaining resources — leaving the rest of Earth’s wonderers to live like scavengers.
Tank Girl’s relatively idyllic life with a band of water-thieving outlaws is given a quick kick in the ass when Water & Power discovers the renegades have been stealing their precious resources and sends a hit squad to wipe out their hideout. The last survivor of the death squad, Tank Girl is sent on a tumultuous adventure that involves gaining a sidekick (a young Naomi Watts as Jet Girl, a mousy mechanic), teaming up with the aforementioned band of militant kangaroo-men hybrids and eventually having a fist fight with Water & Power CEO Kesslee, played by Malcolm McDowell in all his scene-chewing greatness.
Petty turns in a spirited, proverbial balls-to-the-wall performance as Tank Girl. She’s smart-assed, hyperactive and not afraid to use her sexuality to her advantage. Whether she’s blowing beer cans out of her tank’s tube as a form of projectile weapon or convincing a team of blue-collar dock loaders to do pose for a male pin-up model calendar, Tank Girl is a drunken college kid’s version of a Loony Toons cartoon.
Director Rachel Talalay, who previously filmed the atrocious Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, throws the entire spice rack into Tank Girl — not wanting to leave out a single flavor. The film makes liberal use of comic illustrator Jamie Hewlett’s art in both animated segments and visual cue cards. Besides using the actual art of Hewlett, an illustrator that would eventually go on to co-create the virtual band Gorillaz, the film nicely translates the comic series’ aesthetic to the real world.
For example, Tank Girls’ pet tank looks like a off-the-rank military vehicle was covered in Crazy Glue before the contents of an early ‘90s Spencer’s Gifts were sprinkled over it. The detail-heavy art of Hewlett is captured nicely with this junky tank. Besides the vehicle, though, Lori Petty herself is given all manners of multicolored, heavily gelled hairstyles throughout the film — the style changing as often as the character changes her trash chic outfits — including a bra made out of mini-bombs.
You know what goes good with a “bomb”-bastic bra? A kangaroo-man for a boyfriend. The late great Stan Winston’s team of special effects artists designed the film’s Rippers. Genetically created from the DNA of kangaroos and humans, the Rippers are warrior hippie mutants who live underground and are keen to have sexual relations with the seemingly willing Tank Girl. The make-up and costumes are actually pretty great — considering how hard it seems it would seem to be to create realistic looking human-kangaroo hybrids.
Tank Girl has a lot going on in the film. A lot. Odds are, as with any film containing so much ruckus in a nearly two-hour running time, audiences are going to find some stuff to like and some stuff to hate. Tank Girl purists may not appreciate how loosely the film adapts the comic but cult movie lovers will dig the sheer fact that such an oddball movie even exists.
Tank Girl works exceedingly well as a dark comedy sci-fi film. Where it fails, though, is when the film tries to shift into generic action movie mode during the final climax. Tank Girl’s offbeat antics aren’t a clean match with the script’s Sylvester Stallone-esque daring do.
The movie is ambitious as hell, though, and for that reason alone, worthy of a salute. Whether you’re a comic fan, a cult movie fan or just curious as to what a Stan Winston-designed kangaroo man looks like in action, Tank Girl is the perfect Saturday night film for Netflix subscribers to stream. Just make sure you have a six-pack ready to lubricate the film’s madness as it slithers around your brain.
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Tags: Bugs Bunny, Dr. Seuss, George Miller, Gorillaz, Malcolm McDowell, MTV, Naomi Watts