VOD Review: Invader Zim – Enter the Florpus.
Invader Zim returns to Earth via a Netflix special that captures the charm of the original series.
Falling down the rabbit hole of revivals on Netflix, I decided to check out Invader Zim. I was supremely disappointed with the revival effort for Rocko’s Modern Life, which felt perfunctory and half-hearted. Invader Zim – Enter the Florpus was the second Nickelodeon TV show to get a posthumous movie this month on the streaming service. Unlike Rocko, Zim feels as fresh as it did the day it went off the air. Not only does this new special capture the best elements of the show, it also brings a little closure for fans.
Invader Zim – Enter the Florpus (2019).
The would-be alien ruler of Earth, Zim, has been missing in action. Despite growing increasingly despondent, his human nemesis, the child paranormal investigator Dib, continues to surveil Zim’s house. The stake-out has lasted so long that Dib’s diet of energy drinks has left him obese and virtually melded to his computer chair. It turns out, that was Zim’s crazy plan all along. With the only human who believes in him out of action, Zim is free to terrorize Earth…if only he could remember what phase 2 of his evil scheme was…
Keen Eye, Sharp Teeth.
The draw of the Invader Zim series, for me, was creator Jhonen Vasquez’ ability to blend the madcap, silly aspects of his animation with biting satire and subversive ideas. Nickelodeon was branching out to an older audience, and had several hit shows that got their humor from absurdity. Spongebob was the king of the realm, but stuff like CatDog, The Angry Beavers, and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (on rival Cartoon Network) had staked out the territory. Invader Zim was certainly wacky and odd enough to fit in with its cartoon neighbors, but it was arguably the smartest of the bunch.
Enter the Florpus captures the energetic and vibrant animation style of the show, will also keeping its wits sharp. Zim is a completely amoral miscreant, who nevertheless tries to impersonate a human child to sneak into society. His Machiavellian take on what makes us tick gives Vasquez ample room to shine a spotlight on the least flattering parts of our human nature, for comedic and philosophical effect. It doesn’t hurt that the actual humans in Invader Zim’s world are hardly better people than Zim’s impersonation of them.
The Bright Side of Global Eradication.
The original Zim series was famous for its jaundiced look at humanity and its often nihilistic view of our chances of success. There’s still bits of that here: most of the best efforts of both our heroes and villains are busts, and we start the show with a obsessive compulsive Dib and a depression raddled Zim. Somebody must have given Vasquez a kitten or something during the intervening years because Enter the Florpus actually has a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for our characters.
I found it charming that after two seasons of constant failure, Zim and Dib finally get what they were after. Zim gets to take over the world, and Dib gets to tell his empirical-minded father “I told you so” about aliens existing. There’s even some reconciliation between characters, or at least growth towards reconciliation. Fans of the “DOOM, DOOM, DOOM” ethos of the show may want a more fatalistic return to form, but I liked that after all this time our characters get to grow.
Fond Farewell…for Now.
The growth of the main characters (well, except Zim, he’s still a little shit by the end of the show) and the return of lots of the shows best characters made Enter the Florpus an excellent send off for the series. One we never got cause Nickelodeon got cold feet because their edgy, teen series was unaccountably edgy. Yeah, Zim was never going to play to the Dora the Explorer crowd, Nick.
While there is still an opening for Florpus to revive the franchise, I like where the special leaves us. Zim and Dib can still be eternal antagonists, but that prospect seems like a thing neither would mind anymore. One reviewer compared Enter the Florpus to Serenity, the movie conclusion to the cult favorite show Firefly that got cancelled before the story resolved. I’d agree. This outing with Zim and Dib doesn’t preclude more adventures, but it gave a funny and satisfying conclusion to the original. And we get to finally see what Minimoose can do, so that’s a win!