Friday, November 9, 2012

Loonatics Unleashed - The Comet Cometh

Oh boy, the origin story. Sorta.

We begin in a park, where a celebration’s been held for the one-year anniversary of the meteor hitting Acmetropolis. No, not the formation of the Loonatics, which would be dumb enough, the meteor impact that took out part of the planet and unleashed forces creating any number of supervillains. The mayor (of the entire planet, apparently) is presenting a plaque to the team for their help in coping with the fallout from that event.

Or rather, she’s presenting the plaque to Bugs. Not the whole team. Way to show your appreciation.

Granted this is the punchline to a joke about Daffy’s ego getting the best of him and grabbing the plaque himself, but…Bugs doesn’t actually do that much as a leader except dispense catchphrases. There’s no sense that the Loonatics would kill each other if he wasn’t around, or that his tactical expertise is the only thing that drags them to victory. Hell, remember in my last review, where Bugs actually knocked a rock monster on top of Taz from eighty feet up while trying to avenge him? Or maybe that time he was having live combat practice in the same room Wile E. was working on a big laser cannon?

I’m sorry. I’m well-aware of the old shorts where Bugs won out over Daffy all the time. Those were comedies, though. Bugs wasn’t supposed to be lily-white, and triumphed over his foes through trickery. This show, on the other hand, is an action-comedy. These guys are in charge of saving people from a bevy of super-powered bad guys. The stakes are different because of that. And in the process of turning Bugs into a superhero, they got rid of his attributes as a con-man and jerk who enjoyed toying with his enemies. But the problem is they seemed to take it for granted that because he's "the hero" and tosses out the occasional one-liner, audiences would like him. That they didn't think they had to actually go to the effort to make him likeable, or fleshed-out enough to make him relatable, or come up with jokes for him that were funny.

He’s boring. And it’s not fun to watch him win out over Daffy anymore when, as I just said, the show takes it for granted that he should. Personally I kind of sympathize with the character who's supposed to be his incompetent foil, since Daffy's at a disadvantage and when he does something brave and cool it actually stands out as brave and cool. The show seems to assume Bugs would automatically come across that way just by designating him as "the hero," and made no further effort.

Driving my point home, Bugs attempts to quip, “Thank you mayor. It’s a good thing that not every day destruction rains down upon us.” Which is ironic, because right then red rocks start falling out of the sky. And nobody can tell these are rocks until Wile E. points out this is a meteor shower, not a hailstorm. Is that really supposed to make him out as the resident genius? Cuz it doesn't.

“And I don’t think an umbrella’s gonna help,” Bugs attempts to quip again. Wait up for a second, will you? I need a second for my sides to stop splitting after that one.

Back from theme song, nobody attempts to run for shelter while the Loonatics use their various energy blasts to try to repel the ever-larger falling rocks. Bugs fails to quip yet again with “I thought the weather called for only partly rocky!” I dunno, it’s just when Wile E. tells Roadrunner to bring his neutron cannon, and the joke is he actually has about eight different kinds of neutron cannon so Roadrunner brought them all, and that’s funnier…

Good job, Lexi! Except for the 11,000 rocks that still got through...

It finally occurs to Daffy and Roadrunner to try to evacuate the attendees, Daffy teleporting with the mayor onto a tree branch. Which breaks underneath her. Which I guess is supposed to be Daffy's fault, somehow.

Anyway, the reason for the rocks. With his ridiculous sensor array, Wile E. determines that they’re from a meteor some 500 times bigger than the one that hit Acmetropolis a year ago and gave everybody their powers. If this one hits, it’ll destroy the world. Quick, get Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck!

Look at that! I’m funnier! Than Bugs Bunny! Something’s seriously wrong here!

And the writers know a comet’s made of ice, not a big rock, right? Right??

Bugs is on the team’s holodeck having simu-combat practice with a bunch of holographic robots. Lexi comes in, asking if he couldn’t sleep. He replies this is their biggest mission yet and they have to be ready for anything. And what about being well-rested, Mister Ace Superhero Team Leader?

Lexi tells Bugs he always lands on his feet, and he replies he’s had a lot of practice, flashing back to his life before becoming a “super” “hero”. He was an underappreciated stuntman. To make us sympathize with him, they pull that laziest of writing devices, the two-dimensional douchey boss. On the action movie Bugs was working on he suggests adding some more martial arts moves to what he does in his upcoming scene, and the director tells Bugs that he’s director, and that makes him the boss, so shut up and do it the way we wrote it

Again, I'm sorry, no effort is going into making me like this guy. Oh no, he had a crappy boss! What a quick and lazy way to show the character has a less than ideal life. Maybe if I had some idea of who he was supposed to be now, if the Loonatics ever took off the costumes and did something besides fight crime, this would have something to contrast with. Like actually well-done superheroes with less than ideal lives, like Spider-Man or the X-Men.

This scene also wants me to see Bugs as unappreciated for his skills by having his recommendations for extra moves in the fight scene be ignored. Well, that's another thing they seemed to take for granted! He seems to have "martial arts" as a skill in a limp bid to make him seem cooler to audiences. The thing is, because this is a team show, almost none of the Loonatics' enemies are ones that karate would be any use against. So, it's a skill that doesn't get to see much use and thus seems like something included more to impress the viewer by being there than by actually being the basis of cool fight scenes.

And as such I just don't get a sense that Bugs knows his job better than his boss, as arrogant as his boss might've actually been. In fact I kind of like him even less because this is all the effort the show puts into making carrot-breath here sympathetic: he once had a job with a boss who was kind of a jerk. Him and everybody else ever. Boo hoo. Spider-Man had to put up with a jerky, arrogant, closeminded boss the whole time. Because he had to work a dayjob while fighting crime at the same time, unlike the Loonatics.
They pull this exact schtick of crappy former bosses with the other characters. Daffy was a pool boy working for ungrateful swimmers and at least one short-tempered lifeguard. Lexi was trying out to be a cheerleader but was vetoed by a stuck-up bitch of a cheer captain afraid of her rad moves. Although I’m not really paying attention to the moves when it comes to cheer routines, the standing ovation she gets for walking on her hands and twirling in place seems a bit generous.

Her ability to make gravity selectively enforced, on the other hand...
Even when grad student Wile E. was reamed by his professor when his experiment blew up in their faces.  “But it does work,” our coyote groans. That’s not the problem, dude! The problem is you installed a self-destruct button “for extra credit”!

They head out in a flying saucer Wile E. invented, which takes off flawlessly in spite of his flashback. And the line to thimself that “It’ll work, I know it.” So, wait, they're trying to say his inventions have a habit of comically misfiring, like in the old cartoons? But...we never see that. As we didn’t just now. As I said, it blew up because the self-destruct button got pushed. It did exactly what it was supposed to do!

Wrong era of franchise history there, guys. In the old Road Runner shorts, Wile E.'s traps and gadgets malfunctioning and his resultant pain was the source of the humor. Here, his inventions are depended on to save countless people from danger. If they worked like that in this show (which they don't), he'd have been fired long ago.

I think they’re still trying to say his inventions usually don't work and it's nothing unexpected when the saucer flies through a “meteor shower” and the engines conk out, but does this look like a meteor shower to you?

Or does it look like some kind of weird space energy that could easily cause electronics to fail?

They reboot the main computer in time to stop themselves from crashing. Then they put on saran wrap to survive in a vacuum. As rocks pelt the ship Taz climbs outside to knock them away. Lexi notes “I haven’t seen [Taz] have this much fun since his old days in the wrestling ring.”

Really? Because from the flashback we’re about to see, it looks like his life totally sucked before becoming a Loonatic too. See, wrestling is fake, and Taz is apparently sick of being a jobber (a wrestler who loses to make a more popular wrestler look good), and wants to win a match for once. Look, for somebody to win, somebody else has to lose. Do the writers spare a tenth of a second to think of those guys’ feelings? Or the other wrestlers Taz creamed when he flipped his opponent out of the ring?

Taz doesn’t seem like that good of a wrestler anyway, since the other guy tosses him around with ease, and Taz only gains the upper hand by attacking him from behind.

The writers for this show are worse at creating sympathy for their heroes than Henry Vogel!

I guess Taz is tired after hitting those rocks, because the others pick him up and then take their saran wrap off. Wile E. reveals his plan to destroy the main asteroid is to have Bugs fire his laser vision (I feel so wrong typing that) into a thing that’ll amplify it by a google. Which prompts Roadrunner to explain the history of the word at super-speed until Daffy shuts him up, which earns Daffy a pointed look. What? That was boring and pointless and they have bigger things to think about. Like preventing the apocalypse. Bugs should’ve thanked Daffy.

But the laser vision thing doesn’t work, and Bugs gets suspicious about a number of factors, like the engines mysteriously conking out (see? It is weird that one of Wile E.’s inventions didn’t work), and smaller asteroids seeming to aim specifically for the saucer. He also thinks it’s suspicious that the asteroid wasn’t damaged by his laser vision, but what does that prove? Let’s go back to my Armageddon reference above. That movie sucked, but they had problems drilling into the asteroid because it was made of stuff they’d never seen before. Stuff that was really hard for oil drills to get through that they’d never seen before. Because it was from outer space.

They only have a spaceship because Wile E. built one. Specifically for this mission. That would seem to imply Acmetropolis doesn’t have a lot of off-planet travel, at least not at this point in the series. So they’re probably not too familiar with what else is out there. So I’m not seeing how this situation is any different from the overblown disaster movie’s.

Speaking of Armageddon, that’s what they decide to do next. Land on the asteroid, plant bombs at strategic places, and then “escape before the big kaboom.” With how fast we just saw the asteroid falling toward the planet, that should be in about twenty seconds.

So you just had a rising table with time bombs in the middle of the floor the whole time?

And back up a second. That little orange planet is the one the asteroid's falling toward.

Guess we're not supposed to notice it looks nothing like this planet...

Roadrunner, being the fast one, obviously has the most to do. He flashes back his crappy pre-superhero life, where he was a delivery boy at one of those “in 30 minutes or it’s free” places. And he blows a job because he’s five seconds late even though he looks just as fast as he does with his superpowers. Whatever. That one was just boring.

They spread out to plant the bombs, and that weird rainbow energy sweeps across the asteroid as they do, making things happen like a bunch of rocks come to life and attack Daffy, or make Bugs and Taz sink into quicksand. Daffy finds he can’t use his teleportation to escape because it leaves his saran wrap behind, but Bugs is able to blast Taz free with his laser vision.

Then Wile E. tries to throw away an armed bomb and the rainbow beam knocks it back at him and it goes off in his arms. He’s fine because of his healing powers, but why is he charred inside his saran wrap if his saran wrap’s intact? That thing’s supposed to be powerful enough to help fragment a planet-killing asteroid, and it doesn’t rupture a spacesuit?!

Look guys, you can really do this one of two ways. You can play it wacky like the old shorts, where lack of spacesuits and horrific injuries are all part of the fun. Or you can remember that this is supposed to be a more serious interpretation of the characters, who are in a race against time and all life on their planet will be wiped out if they fail. Choose.

It's not just that they're trying to pepper old timey-style humor in the middle of this situation, they're doing so right in the face of a couple things that heighten the seriousness of what's going on a lot. Like 1) Not only are the Loonatics trying to prevent an asteroid from destroying the planet, they're almost out of time. 2) The rainbow beam not only made their spaceship's engines stall, it followed them to the asteroid and created rock monsters and quicksand to mess the Loonatics up, meaning something's probably deliberately working against their efforts to save Acmetropolis.

They set off the bombs and get away in time, and Zadavia pops in pretty much just to congratulate them. She did show up earlier too, but I didn’t mention that because Wile E. was the one pointing out all the information about the meteor. All she did was say “you guys have to go into space and take care of this asteroid that he just told you all about.” They do try to develop her character into something more than a voice in the computer later on, but by later I mean the season finale. The Loonatics you could say have some vestiges of their original personalities, but…Zadavia never existed before this show. Would’ve been nice to have a reason to care about her before we got right up to the finish line.

There’s a difference between being mysterious and completely screwing up where you should be focusing your energy.

Bugs still thinks the rainbow beams were sent by some kind of sentient entity. And they’d have to be, because the way this show handles a planetary crisis is so bad it’d really be cause for despair if that was as tense as this show plans to get.

Fortunately, they are aiming higher than that. Unfortunately, this show’s idea of a master villain turns out to be about as lame as you’d expect.

But that’s for then.

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