A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 106 – Tank Girl

Tank Girl – June 14th, 2010

It’s 2033 and a comet has hit Earth, causing mass destruction and fucking everything up. But wait, why are we watching this? Because our copy of our last Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon movie, Apollo 13 is borked and won’t play in our DVD player, the XBox, or our computers. We tried to find a way to link from last night to something else and thence to Apollo 13 but our collection is lacking a couple of key items that would let us do that in fewer than a week’s worth of movies, which just doesn’t work for me. So we have to postpone that until tomorrow and do something else tonight. Why this? Why not? Neither of us have watched it in ages and it’s about where my brain’s at.

Back to the movie. It’s 2033, comet, destruction, now there’s no water and what little there actually is, is mostly controlled by a giant corporation, Water & Power, run by Malcom McDowell, who is a nasty little badass who likes to torture his minions. Tank Girl, played by Lori Petty, is a rebel who lives out in the desert of a post-apocalyptic Australia with her boyfriend and a bunch of other punk hippies, carefully guarding their well until McDowell’s goons bust up their house and kill everyone but Tank Girl and a little girl, Sam. So Tank Girl has to rescue Sam, obviously, and along the way meets up with an inventor/pilot/geeky girl, Jet, a bunch of kangaroo/human hybrids (one of whom is played by Ice T, who claims he’s a reincarnated cop – and this was before he was in Law & Order), and gets her eponymous tank. And then she makes a lot of wisecracks and blows shit up, usually at the same time.

It’s based on a comic book and it is very much a product of its time, which would be the late 80s and early/mid 90s. I owned the soundtrack when I was in high school and watching this now means I’m going to have to go break out the Portishead and Bjork. Of course, that’s just the nostalgia talking. This is really a weird little movie based on a weird comic created by one of the guys who went on to create Gorillaz. You can see the style in a few panels here and there in the movie. Because yes, the movie is peppered with stills that are either from the comics or were created for the movie but in the same style as the comics. And there are animations based on the comics too. It leads to things being bizarrely disjointed as we flip from live action to stills to animation and back to live action, and the voices are all still going and it’s clearly ADR. The camera work is all over the place, setting up shots to echo the comic panels and dancing around in a sort of ballet of jump cuts, zooms and focus pulls.

The movie is all over the place too. I mean, it has a plot, but it’s all really just an excuse to put Lori Petty in whacked out clothes and let her say clever things and hit people and get the better of them. There are obviously things that were supposed to play bigger roles in the movie, or I’d assume so because otherwise why put them in at all – like the Rippers (the kangaroo hybrids) and their creator, Johnny Prophet. There’s a revelation about him and it’s supposed to have some sort of emotional weight but it’s totally lacking given how little we’re lead to care about him beforehand. And then there’s the big song and dance routine to Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It, in a dance club/brothel called Liquid Silver (coincidentally, this movie was choreographed by none other than Adam Shankman, which instantly makes me love it more). And there’s all sorts of Tank Girl quirky punk stuff, like her bomb bra and when she parasails into an enemy base behind her remote operated tank. Which might or might not be semi-sentient.

I admit, in this one single paragraph I’m writing post-reading Andy’s review. He says he’ll leave it to me to talk about the gender dynamics and the like and to be honest, I wasn’t going to. Largely because Tank Girl is such a product of a time period I wasn’t really part of. I mean, by the time the movie came out, yes, I was a teenager. But that late 80s punk thing it’s got going? The Riot Grrl stuff? I’m post-punk and I was too much of a good girl to ever do more towards the Riot Grrl scene than read about it in Sassy. This isn’t my sexual revolution. And I feel like my criticism of some of it might be read as devaluing it to those whom it spoke to. That being said, we are talking about a female character who uses sex as a weapon (or rather, the promise of sex) who was created by a man. Yes, Tank Girl in the movie is all in everyone’s face about sex, but then there’s the scene with the Rippers which is supposed to read as fun, since we’re supposed to like them, but which made me a little uncomfortable. To be honest, it’s not Tank Girl that bugs me. She’s got things well in hand (haha, hand!). It’s Jet. Who’s presented in the movie as a meek little geek who really doesn’t want to get dry-humped by one of the kangaroo guys but awkwardly lets him do his thing even though she’d rather not cause Tank Girl’s having a good time! And then yay, that was fun! It reads unpleasantly to me, but that’s just me and your mileage might vary by quite a lot. It’s not enough to make me dislike the movie. Not at all. It’s just very strange to me given how empowered and empowering Tank Girl herself is for the rest of the movie. But then, I should know better than to expect consistency or coherence from this.

One does not watch this movie for coherence or for plot. One watches this movie for the spectacle and the ass kicking and the smart assery. Because while coherence and plot are as hard to find as water in the movie’s world, the rest is in amusingly plentiful supply.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tank Girl

June 14, 2010

Tank Girl

Yeah, okay, you got us. Kevin Bacon is not in this movie. We went to put the final movie in our Kevin Bacon set and IT DIDN’T PLAY! So while we do some emergency damage control we’re watching a completely random movie from our collection: Tank Girl.

We have an awful lot of comic book movies. You might be able to tell. But this one is an oddity. Odd because of the strange way it chooses to highlight the source materiel. As with the opening credits to Ultraviolet this movie’s opening is filled with comic book illustrations, but it doesn’t end there. Comic book panels and snatches of captions and dialog are used for scene transitions. (Sort of like the transitions in the special edition of The Warriors that we reviewed, but with actual bits of the comic book and not digital effects.) Like the comic book that it’s based on this movie has its tongue-stud firmly planted in its cheek. At no point does it make the mistake of taking itself seriously.

In a post-apocalyptic desert where a megalomaniacal mad-man (Malcolm McDowell doing his usual shtick) is attempting to control all the water in the world. (No Bohdai in this movie though.) Lori Petty embodies the irreverent and totally punked out Rebbecca, the eponymous Tank Girl, who gets captured by the evil Water and Power corporation. There she meets up with Jet Girl and eventually, with the help of the mysterious Rippers they both escape and acquire a VTOL jet and a cool tricked out tank. Then they go fail to rescue a girl, meet up with the Rippers and steal an arms shipment and… oh, who cares about the plot. It doesn’t matter, really. The movie is all about the anarchic silliness.

The Rippers turn out to be a squad of genetically engineered super soldiers based on kangaroo DNA. (Including a pre-Law&Order Ice-T.) I remember thinking the first time I watched this movie that their make up was exceptionally silly, but the truth is it’s their existence that’s silly – the make up is actually quite good. As with much in the movie the effects and sets and props are all better than might be expected. There’s even some really nice hand-drawn animation in the move that kind of makes me wish the rumored Gorillaz movie would just get completed already. But all of it is in the service of spoofing post-apocalyptic movie tropes and thumbing its nose at convention.

It would all be too silly to watch if it weren’t for Lori Petty, who holds the whole movie together with her great depiction. Her Tank Girl is totally hell-bent, totally reckless, totally indomitable, totally sure of herself at all times. It’s a joy to watch her just barrel through every obstacle put in her way, either with her wry wit or with her great big guns. I’ll let Amanda speak to the way that the movie plays with gender roles and stereotypes. That’s more in her purview. But certainly Tank Girl is intended to be the personification of rebellion against the damsel-in-distress. Even if she WAS created by a man.

Naturally with all the punk cred that the title carries you can expect a fun soundtrack as well, and the movie delivers well on that front. Many times I grinned at the choices, like Ice-T’s two tunes and the Bjork song. Other times I was befuddled and bemused. Woah. I had forgotten about the Cole Porter musical interlude. That was weird.

I enjoy it though. In spite of its uneven story telling, odd pacing and general strangeness. Or because of it. Like Tank Girl herself it’s a movie that says “Yeah, this is who I am… so what? Want to make something of it?” And I respect it for that.

June 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments