*Imagine some random explosion right here*
It was time for another movie and it was time for Tank Girl. Like ripey ripe, the time was.
This one is firmly (I repeat: firmly) settled in my top-5 of favorite movies. But who would be surprised after I confessed Showgirls shows up in my top-3? Yah, well, here you are.
So, there is a lot of ground to cover. First off, I’m not familiar with the Tank Girl comic series at all, which is sort of a sacrilege, but probably lifted all emotional baggage right off me tender shoulders. Did you read them? I guess they’re worth it (they led to this film) but then again it can always happen that you get sourly disappointed – so far I’ve avoided that.
Then there is the flop label attached big and bright to the movie’s reputation, cause it made only 4 million Dollars domestically in the US, while having cost about 25 million. Ouch, yeah. Apparently that was then the end of it, publisher Deadline, that is, who published the comics and took quite the financial risk there, I guess. But a flop is only a flop in your eyes, right?
Well, seems that in the eyes of comic creators Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, it was a flop, albeit from the “artistic experience and value” standpoint. While I totally tend to give them credit and praise their words, I just happen to love the movie and have never read their comics, so, umh, well.
The film was released in 1995 and distributed by United Artists, starring Lori Petty, who thus became a personal wit-hero and style-icon of mine (on an intellectual level, of course) and an yet very unknown Naomi Watts, something that didn’t change right after the movie in light of its success, I guess.
What’s to love and what’s to hate? (What Shakespeare play is that from? Right: none.) Let me walk you through it, issue by issue, sparing you none of them gruesome details in the process. Voilà:
Ok, we could start by assuming that the acting in the movie was bad. We could also assume, however, that all actors were in on how ridiculous this movie will turn out to be and thus just had a great time. When it comes to bad acting the prime question to me always is: okay, but do I believe thee? Do I think you are who you’re pretending to be, or do you just look like someone pretending to me? And yep, I pretty much believe ‘em all. Meaning: for me there is tank girl on screen, and Jet Girl in her Naomi Watts pre-glory. But! you scream, what about Kesslee and the Rippers? Ok, let’s get to that.
McDowell plays the villain Dr. Kesslee, boss of evil-firm Water and Power (which is an amazing brand name, btw). Researching for this review – don’t you dare even faintly smile, there IS research involved in my rambling writing – I learned his name for the first time, although I’ve seen his face (and white hair) a thousand times already, but always in films and series who are nothing but worth forgetting right away. Except, and shoot me down, but I swear, I just found out and realized now: He was the lead in A Clockwork orange! Ermh, what? Hell of a career, or….erh. But what a random fun fact (for me at least).
The Rippers, yeah the rippers. So apparently they were supposed to be more Kangaroos and became more human in the production process due to insistence on part of the studio. Well, much of the eye-rolling I give this film is for how annoying they sometimes are. Don’t get me wrong, they can be hilarious at times (drugs and sex and rock’n’roll and alla that), but when they howl and the camera moves up… don’t you just hate these kind of shots? Well, I do, and that’s when I don’t believe any single one of them anymore to be real Rippers. Cause I can’t distinguish reality and film, y’all. I think Booga is awesome though and always become happy when he and Tank Girl become boyfriend and girlfriend. Or Kangaroofriend or whatever.
I’m gonna hit you so hard, your children will be born bruised!
The tank – I guess
Oh, the tank, yeah, the tank, you know, the thing with the tank is that there is a lot of phallic symbolism and male military domination code right there, but I must admit that my review-research hasn’t taken me as far as looking for scholarly discussions of peen tropes in the movie. Though, just writing this now, this could totally become my next project for academic glory. Rad! All jokes aside (who am I kidding), while the imagery is questionable, it at the same time presents itself as over-sexualized and thereby ridicules the whole notion of male dominance justified by supposed male potency. Although it is the tank who makes Tank Girl Tank Girl, it is still her controlling and driving and using it. And even though she seems to be all horned up about the tank, it’s probably more the idea of power and freedom and self-expression it represents for her. Cause looking at the movie you get the feeling that they are a team as in very good friends working together really well. Plus: just how random is a tank anyways? Fantastic!
The tank thing just leads us to discussing sexuality in the movie and there we encounter a complex layering. Complex, since the whole fling is a comedy and everything is tongue in cheek. A prime example is the fake calendar shoot with the regular Water and Power workers, where Rebecca (Tank Girl’s real name) channels her inner diva and says wonderful things like: “I died an landed in male body heaven!”. Which does not sound really funny when you look at it on paper (virtual paper, I know) but the whole scene makes me chuckle. Another chuckle-thing is the atomic bra, who looks like made out of two bombs, which is on one level good imagery, but on a whole other level such a glorious discussion of nuclear power, it can really be mind-boggling. I should totally wear one like that to the next anti-nuclear-power demonstrations here in Berlin.
And to keep it complex, Tank Girl has a relationship with a, how to put this?, mentally challenged kangaroo. So on a surface level the film endorses bestiality. But I says: wrong!, the film deserves a hug for just doing what it does. Because the issue about bestiality of course is, that the human side involved assumes power over the animal-side involved and forces their will upon a being that is unable to fully express itself to us. This is clearly not the case here (plus the fact that we are reminded of the Ripper’s human origins every other second on the studios insistence), since Booga and the others clearly have a mind of their own, after all they did not turn out to be the mindless weapons for the military that they were designed to be. And furthermore this relationship does away with another myth, namely that if you’re “slow,” “mentally challenged” or a “person with special needs” (I really don’t want to offend anyone here, so please point out my shortcomings in the comments below) you are automatically asexual. Cause Booga certainly is not, and Tank Girl’s all the happier for it.
You thought we were already through with sex? Tsk, little did you know… Because there is also the brothel were we are not only confronted with prostitution (and see how it dehumanizes the women in order to achieve its marketability) but see Iggy Pop playing a child molester, so there is just another issue waiting at every corner. While the Madame is ruthless, Tank and Jet Girl condemn using the child and start a brothel revolution, but that might be a point where I agree, one could have taken it a little further. Then again, heavy handedness often fails, so maybe the being humorous about a topic that is really not funny at all was the best way to go….? Meh, I’m undecided.
You gotta think about it like the first time you got laid… You just gotta go; “Daddy? Are you sure this is right?”
Random montages and parades
The brothel scene with its long long music interlude of “Let’s do it, let’s fall in love” reminds me of the awesome randomness of little drawn comic-strip interludes, montages (when she finished the work on her tank) and these little nonsense parades. They lighten up the film, and yeah, they’re ambitious in that they wait around every corner and threaten to overwhelm the film, but IMHO the film does just right with not being overwhelmed.
Some of the things Tank Girl says in this movie are just so fucking hilarious, makes me want to live by them as if they’re the bible. “- You want to know what I see? – No, what? – This big honkin’ booger hanging out of your left nostril. If I was you I would use this finger (raises her middle finger) to pick it out.” Ha, makes me giggle even thinking about it. I sprinkled this post with some other quotes, but you really just gotta see it to believe it. Now, mind you, I know tons of people who think this movie very unfunny, but with the two of them who liked it, I just got the raddest inside jokes evah!
Lori effin’ Petty
I’ve seen her in some other movies (though A League Of Their Own is the only one I can remember), but she nailed it with this performance! She is so spot on in her portrayal of Tank Girl, of saying outrageous things with the craziest haircuts on the planet, it scares me. Poor her that I think that this is the highlight of her career, but really, I think this role is the highlight of her career. Lori Petty is quasi immortalized in my mind in all her Tank Girl glory. I bet she’s really grateful.
What can I say? This movie rocks so hard, you might need some Aspirin afterwards. So, buy some and then go see the movie!