Monday, November 18, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Seven

The early 90s was an interesting time to be growing up.  You had the growing surge of live comedies taking over the afternoon airwaves balanced with some of the best cartoons that ever existed.  You could manage to indulge both in humor that was edgy, dark, and sometimes quite adult...or you could watch Full House and Family Matters.

For me, a great thrill I got was watching episodes of Mighty Max, which screamed "boyhood adventure" with an interesting science fiction twist.  That is, it was science fiction when it wasn't straight up fantasy, or even horror.

For instance, in today's episode we visit one of the now most overused ideas in media: the zombie.

Again, I'm working with some rough footage here, so the pictures might not be great.  I'll do what I can, though.

Oh, and I'll admit, that doesn't really look much like a zombie in that title card, but trust me, the show wastes no time in having zombies attack some innocent people living in poverty in Haiti.

I'm hesitant to bump up the death count, as I'm not sure if this is the true "Haitian" zombie or if they're actually the walking dead.  Updates to follow.

Also, I love the fact that one of the guys just sits there as a zombie approaches, and when the zombie gets him, he was carving a voodoo doll.  It's as if the guy was just going "Welp, looks like someone beat me to the punch with dark magics.  Oh well.  May as well let it happen.  Good show, sir.  Good show."

We jump over to Max and his mother (I'd say "Hellloooooo, Nurse" but considering the voice talent it'd just be creepy) who are travelling through, surprise surprise, a rural part of Haiti!  There's a cute moment where Max tries to get permission to drive the car by "pulling rank" by being the Mighty One, but his mother shuts him down extremely quickly.  They almost strike a strange, hunched man standing in the road, but wind up instead going off-road and bumping into a tree.

It's kind of the least climatic car accident I've seen.

They arrive at a nearby village (which I'm not sure if they were looking for or just happened to stop at randomly), but it appears everybody's vanished.  Max's mother starts going into full-on "Mom" mode (not letting him eat food that isn't washed, not letting him go into a building before she looks inside first) as they investigate the head priest's building, and we get a brief explanation of zombie lore and how the soul is neither dead nor alive.

This, of course, is the perfect time for zombies to attack!  While I have no idea where they were all hiding, they re-enter the village rather quickly for, you know, a slow, shambling walk (as they should, I might point out).  We even see the return of the people who were captured by zombies before, so...status is still indefinite.

Max gets grabbed by the (now) zombie in the snazzy hat above and starts to be carried off, but Max's mother leaps on the man's back and winds up pulling off...

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the origin of what the Resident Evil series has turned into.  First I accuse Congo of ripping off a cartoon episode, now an entire video game franchise.  If this blog ever becomes famous, I'm going to have so many friends in the entertainment industry.

Hat Man wakes up from his zombie daze, and instructs the blond-haired heroes to "kill the loa."  Or maybe it's "lowl."    It's hard to understand what the guy's saying.  Either way, Max stomps on it.  He then follows this up by grabbing a shovel and bludgeoning every person in the village in the back of the neck to kill the parasites on them.  And possibly paralyze them for life.

Hat Man leads Max and Mother (I really wish they'd name her) to a temple, explaining that the "loa" (as I'm calling them) store the soul while the host becomes a zombie.  They need to be around people to breed, and "the more people they're around, the faster they breed."

I'm sure that won't be relevant later.  Just some background flavor.

They're confronted by another horde of zombies and either the character designers got lazy and simply had a group of people look identical to the first batch of zombies, or somehow the townsfolk beat the good guys there and got captured again.  But since we now that the secret to killing zombies is "pluck the green thing off their neck and stomp on it," it doesn't become much of a problem for the good guys since for every person they free that's another pair of hands to free another zombie.

From there, the nest is found and Max, Mother, and Hat Man stomp the babies and the eggs to death.  It's...rather disgusting, really, and it leaves their legs coated in parasite goop.  Hat Man thanks Max for his assistance, and Mother discovers a statue that seems to represent the "origin" of the parasites, and claims it in the name of archaeology.

So, short episode, it seems!  Let's get through the lesson and then break down the good and bad.

Okay, we're back at the house, we'll get our info tidbit any moment now...

Max is being sent to bed...not really a "lesson"... Max's mother heads to bed...

...the statue falls over and shatters, revealing..., I did not see that coming at all.  I mean, who could possibly predict that they'd have a small parasite problem that didn't really threaten anybody who could wield a shovel wind up in a much larger area and able to spread to more people!

...I mean, has that story ever been done before?  I mean, EVER?

Okay, so it's not the greatest story ever told, but let's see how it goes.

Max heads out in the morning for school, but discovers the famous trope that fills every zombie story: the town has been converted overnight.  All that's really missing is Simon Pegg wandering past to buy some beer.  Even the cops downtown are taken over by parasites, and it only takes a second for Max to put two and two together to get "funky Haitian statue."

He rushes home to check on his mom and winds up discovering a whole nest of the creatures in the attic before he stumbles upon his mother.  He manages to knock the parasite off of her, and she crumples.  Th- well, hellooooooo.

That's...a surprising amount of skin for a kid's show.

Virgil pops up on Max's television (this is never explained) and has a communication with Max and his mother through it (this is never explained).  He instructs them to "head to Africa."  Virgil, I'm pretty sure you could narrow that down a bit.

They arrive in front of another temple that looks creepily similar to the first one, and Virgil explains they need to kill the "queen zomboid."   Based on some prophecy that was on the figure, the queen must "die by her own fire."  I'm sure that will make sense later.

Max, Mom, and Virgil are captured pretty quickly, though, when a group of African zombies (the second encounter with parasite zombies happens in Africa?  SEE?  Resident Evil totally ripped this off!) reach out of the ground and yank them down into a cavern.  Norman quickly saves them, though, and we get a cool action scene of a large man smacking people in the neck with the flat of his sword.  His sword play is so intense, that even when he completely misses the side the parasite is on, it still explodes.

Once the "zombies" are gone, it just means they have to battle against the "queen zomboid," and I, for one, can't wait to see what this thing looks like.

Okay, we know it's big and apparently shaped like a cactus mating with an artichoke.  Can we maybe get a better look at it?

Nightmare fuel, meet my audience.  Audience, I present nightmare fuel.

So, a few interesting facts about the zomboid queen:

1) She's extremely protective of her young, and scoops them up with those large tentacles to keep them near her.

2) She's uuuuuuuuugly.

3) She, um....shoot, I forgot.  What was the third thing?

Oh, right.

It's at this moment that Mom once again becomes my favorite character on the show.  She seems to realize that the world her son is involved in is one she can't keep him safe from and that if he truly has this "Mighty One" destiny, then she can't be the one to get in the way.  So it's at this point, once Max comes up with a plan that requires a pack of matches, she does something awesome.

She gives Max a pack of matches, wishes him luck, and then, before the "big strong Norman" can do anything, she starts running around waving her arms to draw the monster's attention.  So that her son can save the world.

If I ever do a list of "Top Eleven Cartoon Moms" you know she's going to be on the list.

Oh, and Max is really impressive as well, grabbing a sharp bone and letting the monster grab him with a tentacle so he can stab it with a bone.  This releases a noxious gas that allows Max to go with "Plan A" for dealing with eldrich H. P. Lovecraft-level horrors: light it on fire.

Somehow, this thing burning under the gas it produces causes an explosion so big that it not only blows out the tunnel under the temple but the surrounding landscape starts to erupt.  It's only through a convenient portal that the good guys escape.

What is a bit of a kick in the teeth, however, is the fact that the next morning the press is saying "as suddenly as they appeared, the zombies seem to have vanished!"  There's no big "what the hell were they?" question, just "whoops, I guess they got lost, ha ha."  The world is way too accepting of these weird things going on.

Oh, and for our educational moment, we learn how Haiti is the second oldest republic in the western hemisphere and how it declared its independence.

I love these little factual tidbits, I really do.

The Good:

Max's mom has got it going on.

No, I mean- okay, yes, but- look, she's a great character.  She's obviously concerned about her son, but she's one of the few parents in a cartoon who isn't a hindrance to her offspring saving the world.  She accepts that he runs around with a talking chicken and a guy who once fought alongside vikings as the God of Thunder, and while she worries, she can accept that he has to be the one to handle things.  She's even willing to step up to fix mistakes she makes and will risk her own life to make sure Max can do what he needs to do.

While the zombies weren't really either the traditional "living dead" zombie or the Haitian "zombie" it was still a nice little horror twist to the formula.  I'm not sure how the parasites managed to spread from Max's town all the way to D.C. overnight or in the space of a day, but you usually don't question how fast the zombie plague spreads in these stories, so I can overlook it.

Oh, and Norman smacking people with his sword is always great, especially how he just keeps smack-talking the threat level of what they're facing.

The Bad:

Besides a few plot holes and inconsistencies in the plot (how did the parasites get from Africa to Haiti?  How do they spread so fast?  How does killing the queen make all the others stop doing their thing?), there aren't that many problems with the plot.  I wasn't really sure about the threat level when Max realizes his home town is overrun since they're not really paying attention to him, they're just going about their usual business.  It would've been a great time for a moment when Max realizes that the whole area is deserted just to see a mob coming in at him from every side.

Oh, and seeing the world react a bit more intensely about a sudden zombie outbreak would've been nice.


I really, really liked this episode.  It had a concise story, it had great character moments from people besides Max, and had some real good intense moments where you weren't sure what was going to happen.  When Max picked up the baseball back and faced off against his zombified mother, I wasn't sure if he was going to get the parasite or have to knock her out first.

Oh, and the monster is great, too.  I loved the crawling eyeball because it fits so well into the "innocent child faces unimaginable horror" story trope and this fits in just as well because if this thing somehow did exist, it would not only be a miracle of biology but you can imagine outbreaks happening across the world now and again while people tried to figure out what was causing it.

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