Fifteen years ago I was introduced to an animated series that not only pushed my expectations of what an animated series could be but also wound up being one of my all time favorite animated series.
Invader Zim was a surprise to me. What seemed like a silly kids show ended up being something unique and timeless while only originally managing to air on television for just at a year. While I missed the original broadcast, I found join in the subsequent dvd release that allowed us to watch the multiple failed attempts of Zim as he continued to prepare the Earth (Urth) for invasion by his leaders The Almighty Tallest. That continued humorous failure of Zim (and his human nemesis Dib) came to an abrupt end with the release of the originally unaired second season final episodes made it to disc. We watched in sadness knowing that this would be the last of the ongoing battle between Zim and Dib.
That all changed this year.
Along with the release of a new Rocko’s Modern Life, Nickelodeon Studios teamed with Netflix to present the latest in the adventures of the most insane space alien you will ever meet with the release of Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus!
Continuing the story years after the disappearance of Zim, Enter the Florpus picks up with Zim revealing he has simply been hiding and planning his diabolical PHASE TWO! However, when Zim finally discovers that the Irken Armada has no plans to conquer Earth, the little alien takes it upon himself to ensure that he will get his just deserts. With Dib as the only person capable of defeating the Irken invader, Zim launches his most insane plan yet!
Without a doubt this Jhonen Vasquez has brought back his alien terror without missing a beat. Everything in this animated feature length episode is exactly as you would expect with a ton of eastereggs throughout for long time fans. From the tone to the animation, it feels as if Invader Zim never left the air and that is something special.
While Enter the Florpus is a humorous story, the undertones throughout are clear, the story of Invader Zim is simple, it is one of finding acceptance and relevance in the eyes of those you admire, determining your place in the universe and a touch of denial.
Zim’s single wish in life is to prove himself to the leaders of the Irken Empire, the Almighty Tallest. Literally the Tallest beings on their planet, because apparently that is how you become the leaders in Irken society, the Almighty Tallest are hellbent on what they refer to as Operation Impending Doom II. Unknown to Zim, the Tallest secretly sent him to a distant planet with no real intention of ever seeing the insane invader again as he was soley responsible for the failure of Operation Impending Doom I earlier in his career. Zim, however, is convinced that his prowess in battle and ultimate Invader qualities were the reason for his ‘secret mission’ and, despite all signs that they simply want him out of their way, he stays on target, never giving up no matter the odds. Teamed with his insane robot named GIR, Zim is truly in his element until he discovers that the Almighty Tallest truly have no intention to use him in their ultimate march toward conquest. In fact, they want nothing to do with him at all.
For Zim, this is a devastating blow to the ego of one of the most insane aliens to ever exist. His one desire in life is to be the hero of his own story and prove that he is indeed the best Invader of the Irken Empire. Time and again he tries only to find failure but, in that failure, he convinces himself he will succeed should he try again and again and again in near Wiley Coyote fashion but with the entire planet at stake as opposed to just a running bird. So, after being crushed by the revelation that he is just the butt of a cosmic joke, in classic Zim fashion, he finds a way to prove himself to his leaders by literally getting in front of them.
Ironically, Zim truly believes that he is the greatest invader of all of his kind causing him to have a considerably inflated ego that is ultimately his greatest downfall. The irony of Zim is that, if he didnt try so hard, he could actually take over the planet with relative ease.
On the other side of things is Dib, Zim’s nemesis and son of the famed Professor Membrane. For Dib, all he wants is for someone to believe that aliens, crypto-creatures and his belief in them, is real. The person he wants that most from is, of course, his father. For Dib’s entire life he has lived in the shadow of the world renowned Professor Membrane and, try as he might, he can not capture a moment of his father’s attention. This continued struggle to prove himself to his father comes to a head when he discovers that a new school mate is actually an alien named Zim who has plans to take over the world. Desperate for some validation, Dib continues to attempt to defeat Zim at every turn narrowly winning but with no recognition for his efforts. Then, Zim simply disappears.
Watching for years, Dib is convinced that his alien school mate is up to no good and, when the little green alien finally reemerges, Dib has let himself go preventing him from exposing the very nemesis he had sworn to destroy. Soon, however, he finds a chance to prove to his father, once and for all, that aliens exist and of course, things do not turn out as expected. Much like Zim, Dib’s view of himself is quite skewed as well. He sees himself as the ultimate defense of earth against the impending alien invasion but what he doesn’t realize is that the invasion is never really coming. His self imposed mission is one of ultimate ineffectual effort which, if her were to focus his efforts on real world threats, he could actually be as great as his own father, Professor Membrane.
When it all comes down to it, Zim and Dib are very much two parts of the same whole, both striving for something they will never have while ignoring the very things that could make them great. Both are also balance with counterparts that only serve to remind them of the futility of their ways. For Zim it is his insane android Gir who, while built to be a violent defense mechanism, only really wants to eat tacos. For Dib it comes in the form of his sister Gaz who, although she recognizes the brilliance in her brother, thrives to make his life miserable by constantly reminding him of his failures.
Another interesting sub-theme that is prevalent throughout this particular episode is that of denial of the truth. For much of the episode, even when presented with hard evidence, Professor Membrane stubbornly refuses to believe that aliens or crypto-creatures exist. Even when he comes face to face with an alien being, Membrane outright denies it’s existence citing that he was ‘hit on the head’. In a way, this could be considered an interesting take on the pseudoscience of our modern times with the resurgence of groups like that of the ‘flat Earth society’, ‘anti-vaxxers’ or even ‘climate change deniers’. With all the facts in front of them from scientists world wide, so many of these pseudoscience groups are still determined that the worlds scientists are simply staging a hoax to convince them to not believe the truth. It is a subtle thing, but peeling back the edges, it seems like something Vasquez would bury in this insane world about aliens, crazy robots and flying mini moose.
The Bottom Line
Simply put, Invader Zim is back in all of it’s subversive insane glory. From the crazed machinations of Zim himself to the batshit lunacy of his robot Gir, this is from start to finish the very essence of what made the original series so good. Full of wonderful one liners and subversive messages, this is Jhonen Vasquez back in full form. I really hope this means that there will be yet more of Zim and his world conquering antics but even if there isn’t it was nice to visit this world one more time.
Invader Zim Enter the Florpus is available now via Netflix, I highly recommend it.
Late To The Game 8/18/2019
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