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Year: 2001, 2002, 2006
Genre: TV series, Cartoon, Kids
Country: United States
Starring: Richard Steven Horvitz, Rosearik Rikki Simmons, Andy Berman, Melissa Fahn, Wally Wingert, Kevin McDonald, Rodger Bumpass, Lucille Bliss
Creator: Jhonen Vasquez
Run time: 179 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
As you can tell from the clip I included above, nerds around the world are rejoicing about the upcoming DVD release of Invader Zim: Operation Doom, out February 22nd from Paramount Home Entertainment. There have been a lot of shows where armies of nerds tried desperately to save them once they were canceled. Precious few of those shows have actually been brought back for a second go-round. The most famous is, of course, Family Guy, which was brought back into syndication after sales of the DVD sets went through the roof.
I’m one of those people who got on the Family Guy bandwagon during the second go-round. The thing is – I got it. Right away. I was interested because anything that gets brought back because of DVD sales must be at least worth checking out. And Invader Zim was worth checking out for me, for the same reason. In fact, if DVD sales of this particular disc, Operation Doom, actually manage to get the show brought back, it will be Zim’s THIRD run of shows. Which is, I imagine, unheard of. So I guess what I’m saying is – nerds, don’t hold your breath.
I tried, really hard, to like Invader Zim. And, to an extent, I really did. But I certainly didn’t “get it”, at least not right away. The animation is way too busy, which makes the show confusing for a while. And once I got used to the headache-inducing style, it was still too cluttered for me to truly follow the action. I did manage to pick up the basics – Invader Zim is an alien who has come to Earth with a plan to take over the planet. Or, at least, orders to take over the planet. The plan, he must devise himself. He disguises himself as a student at the “skool”, where only one of his classmates, Dib, has figured out who he really is. And as Dib tries to expose Zim, Zim tries to eliminate Dib with the help of his slow-witted yet entertaining servant robot, GIR.
There are other characters who pop up now and then – Dib’s mean, scary older sister Gaz. Their mad-scientist father Professor Membrane. Their teacher Mrs. Bitters, and Zim’s superior officers The Tallest. I’m not sure if Zim and the Tallest and the rest of the aliens he deals with are from a race called “Invaders”, or if that just happens to be the job they all have and the title they give themselves. But other than that, I think I have a handle on this thing.
Operation Doom appears to be nothing more than a collection of episodes, 13 in all, from different incarnations of the show. One thing I found irritating is that the show takes place on Earth, but this Earth is way different from ours. The school is patrolled by futuristic droid surveillance systems a la Robocop, which indicates a vastly superior intelligence than that which currently exists on Earth, but the school is spelled “skool”, which indicates a much stupider populace. The thing that usually makes shows like this work is that the Earth itself is normal, and the alien trying to blend in is the odd one out. But in Invader Zim, everything – the aliens, the other planets, the school, the television, the human beings – are all hyper-speed, top-volume parodies of what we would consider “normal”.
It’s just too much, all at once, as is the animation. And it’s really too bad, because there is some really, really good stuff in here. Zim himself is hilarious, taking himself terribly seriously and raising his voice in triumph or in malice at the most inopportune times. His robot GIR is funny too, like a great village idiot in a politically incorrect movie. And some of the ideas are so bonkers they can’t help but be entertaining – like the episode where Gaz has a spell cast upon her and now everything she eats tastes like pig. Even the episode titles are great – that one is called Gaz, Taster of Pork.
Half the time, Zim is doing nefarious things on Earth, and the other half he’s battling tornmentors around the galaxy. Fry cooks, drill sergeants and the like. The Tallest are constantly sending him to areas where they assume (and hope) that he will be killed, but of course he manages to escape, or to emerge victorious, and if not the episode always ends just before he meets his fate. There is so much good stuff in here that I totally get why people are obsessive about it. For me though, there’s just way too much extraneous noise and visual overload to fully appreciate the nuggets of gold inside.
So I guess what I’m saying is – you can buy Operation Doom on DVD now. I wouldn’t recommend it, so don’t do it on my say-so. Do it because you’re interested in finding out for yourself why a bunch of nerds you’ve never met are obsessive about it. Or, you could be even MORE benevolent and buy it because you think there’s a chance that by purchasing the DVD all those nerds you’ve never met might get back a show you’ve never heard of before today. Or you could just take my word for it and forget all about it.