Monday, June 24, 2013

Loonatics Unleashed - Secrets of the Guardian Strike Sword (Snark)

As our latest tale of suspense begins, Bugs is getting an ice cream cone in a park. Not being able to make up his mind what to get, actually. Because that lends depth to a character, or something.

At least he doesn’t ask for carrot flavor.

So set is Bugs upon his frozen treat he fails to notice the flash and noise of a wormhole opening in the air behind him (but what else is new?). That is until a flying train shoots out and buzzes the park. And he’s enough of a dope to think the ice cream has enough kick to blow him fifteen feet through the air before he hears the train horn.

Bugs notes, “I’d like to stay and chat, but as you can see, I got a train to catch!” I can? Is a flying train weird on Acmetropolis? See that question? Ones like it usually come up because of bad world-building.

He uses his flying motorcycle thing to reach the train. And this is where the show starts trying for real to make an effort to break away from the run-of-the-mill action show with funny animal heroes it was in the first season and be an actual Looney Tunes show, what with how the train’s being attacked by none other than Ophiuchus Shaina Sam.

The attempt to link the show more heavily to its roots in this season was probably done to fix the broken rush-job the first season ended up being. Even if this actually took it even farther away from its apparent aim of cashing in on the popularity of those gutsier cartoons from Japan. Supposing that to be the case, though, I was confused at why they wouldn’t come out swinging with their strengthened ties to franchise history by showing something like a prominent reinvented character such as we have here. As opposed to kicking off the season with that stupid plot about mutated dolphins that could’ve easily been a first season episode.

But…all the websites I checked for airdates say this was the first aired episode of the second season, meaning whoever put the DVD order together’s the one who screwed up. So never mind that. Mind instead that reintroducing all the other characters was the only thing on the crew’s minds, and not improving characterization or plotting or joke quality or…

And since I’m not referring to the Loonatics by their new names, why change policy for the rest of the old-new characters? This one’s pretty easy, as Sam’s an easy moniker, but thought I should make that clear.

Getting back to the show, Sam intends to rob the train, but he’s packing some seriously lame heat for the job. Bugs blocks some of the shots on his sword, but knocks them back so they actually hit Sam, but don’t do anything to him. Oh yeah, and Sam announces himself with his full name now, but can never pronounces the “Ophiuchus” part for the rest of the episode. Out of all the classic lines and gags the franchise had to offer, that’s what they went with. Liking the show better yet?

A wise-cracking airbiker pulls up alongside the train as well, introduces himself as Deuce, and saves Bugs from one of those ineffectual laser blasts by throwing an armored frisbee inbetween it and Bugs. Only to notice the train’s headed into another wormhole as we cut to the theme song.

In case anyone cares, Deuce is voiced by Khary Payton. You know, this guy.

The resolution to that nail-biting cliffhanger we were on? Deuce lets Bugs jump on his bike, and Sam gets scraped off the top of the train as it disappears into the wormhole. They land back in the park, Deuce commenting they make a pretty good team. Because Deuce threw a shield and blocked one shot.

The rest of the Loonatics are conveniently there. Lexi asks, “Did you hear about the runaway train at the park today?” Hear about it?! That couldn’t have been five minutes ago! What do you mean, hear about it??!

Bugs introduces Deuce and the save he made back on the train.

Deuce: “You might say I have a way of being in the wrong place at the right time.”
Lexi: “Sounds like you and [Bugs] have a lot in common.”
Uh, they do?

Deuce admires Bugs’s sword. “It was given to me when I got into the action hero business.” Which is why in the first season he had a sword he hardly ever used, which looked nothing like this one, and did none of the tricks this one does. Not even having a blade that pops out of the hilt, which he at least knows about already. And who gave it to him? Zadavia?

Also, this is where I believe we start hearing the show call the main characters “action heroes.” It’s not wrong, but don’t you think somebody like Bruce Willis over the X-Men when you hear “action hero”?

Before Deuce can touch Bugs’s sword, Zadavia’s hologram pops up from a fountain. What’s she popping in for? Bugs tries to introduce her to Deuce, but she’s surprised—unpleasantly—because she already knows him. He asks for a chance to bury their differences, but Big Z refuses and tells him in no uncertain terms to get off Acmetropolis.

Scene transition wipe, and man these generic triangle emblems are boring.

Back at HQ Bugs asks Zadavia why she brushed Deuce off like that, but I can only assume she’s purposefully ignoring him because she explains about the train instead. It’s the “royal intergalactic quasar train,” and it was the last ship to leave during “the fall of Freleng.” I assume she means when Optimatus was taking over. I assume.

The train was laden with cargo “that could make a man king.” It was rumored to, anyway. Wasn’t she the ruler of Freleng, or something? Wouldn’t she know about that? Anyway it got shot and launched automatically, and was thought lost…until today. She doesn’t think it’s a coincidence Deuce showed up at the same time.

“It’s also possible that he’s changed,” Bugs points out. Changed? Changed from what?? Zadavia didn’t mention Deuce once in that “explanation” of hers. Zadavia refuses both to take the chance or explain herself. She doesn’t actually refuse to explain herself, but she still doesn’t and you kinda wonder why. Wouldn’t her agents work better if they knew why not to trust this apparently friendly/helpful guy? Maybe if the show bothered to explain what she is to the Loonatics, her constant refusal to tell her operatives anything like this would make a little more sense. Did she get the team together? Does she provide their facilities? Did she become some kind of law enforcement figure on Acmetropolis? Guess I’m the only one who remembers all her BS just from “Acmegeddon”.

It might be one thing if Bugs brought up the fact that Zadavia’s track record is hardly spotless as his reason for ignoring her orders. He just goes over her head because Deuce made a good first impression on him, even though he’s never once thought to contradict the all-knowing Zadavia before.

But we’ve got to cover the plot sometime, and Lexi interrupts that they have no way of finding when the train’s going to appear next. And really, if it’s been zipping around the universe through wormholes all these years, why should it reappear next anywhere near Acmetropolis other than because there’d be no plot if it didn’t? Ignoring my stupid question, the answer to an arcane problem like how to detect when the train will reappear next is, as always, solved by Wile E. whipping up a handy gadget.

Bugs tells Wile E. and Lexi to stay there so the animators have fewer people to keep track of to monitor the situation while the rest of them go to stop the train. Deuce shows up and asks to come along. Bugs is up for it but Daffy doesn’t want to hear his sob story about wanting to regain Zadavia’s trust. I know he’s supposed to be a jerk, and he is, but whether they meant to or not they usually end up portraying Daffy as the Loonatic with the most practical smarts and, yes, competence. Some of that’s dumb luck, but he's still got a better track record than the show would have you believe from the way it treats him.

And there’s really only two ways they could’ve gone with Deuce. Guess what? Daffy’s call was the right one.

Bugs decides to let Deuce come with them. “Everyone deserves a second chance.” And the show continues to infuriate me with how it assumes I’m telepathically linked with the writers, because he adds Daffy should know that better than anyone. Why’s that, jerk? Daffy was a pool boy before he got his powers, not a villain. And if you’ll recall, his greed to get his powers back enabled him to already be in Optimatus’s command center and stall him long enough for the rest of the team to get there. Meaning he more than anybody’s responsible for Acmetropolis not being shunted to the ass-end of space…

And Bugs is going over the head of the great and wise Zadavia on this because he believes in second chances. That’s nice, but don’t you think you should have some idea what you’re forgiving? No? Really? For all Bugs knows this guy ate kittens and burned down orphanages. Or whatever the closest thing is in a show this lame.

As they make their way to the train there's a stock shot of the Loonatics zooming between the buildings on their airbikes. Except none of them have canopies, none are color-coded, and if you look closely two of them are being flown by Lexi and Wile E., who are back at HQ.

Compare and contrast.
Thanks to Wile E.’s plot device they do indeed find the train quickly, but have to find a way to shut it down before it disappears into another wormhole. Bugs orders Daffy and Taz to search the cars while he and Roadrunner head to the engine? Um, check the cars for what?? Your objective’s to find a way to stop the train, are you thinking it’s going to be back there somewhere and not on the engine car? And what are you having Deuce do, since you’re so eager to accept his help?

Since Deuce wasn’t given an assignment despite being on a mission with a hero team, we get to waste some runtime having him show up and save Daffy and Taz from Sam, then show up on the roof to help Roadrunner and Bugs fight off Sam again to gain everybody’s trust.

There was no point to either of those scenes besides killing some runtime, though, because next thing we see is Deuce and Sam entering the car Daffy and Taz are searching. SHOCK! It turns out they’re in cahoots! It’s all just a trick to get Bugs’s confidence so they can steal his sword! And they’re not very smart about keeping their partnership secret from the superhero team! Deuce throws his little shield, misses the two eavesdroppers, but it bounced off a bunch of luggage compartments which open and bury Daffy and Taz. Realizing they’re out of time, everybody but Daffy and Taz (Daffy can’t teleport out and Taz can’t just stand up? He’s the strong guy, after all) jump off the train with Deuce slamming Sam into a dumpster to hide his duplicity.

We see the train flying through space. I could get the nebulae that look like a sea shell, banana, fish, orange, and ice cream cone for comedy’s sake, but why are there ones shaped (and in the first one’s case, colored) like Marvin, Elmer Fudd and Tweety? It's hard to think of that just being for comedy's sake when all of them will show up as actual characters a few episodes down the line. Daffy and Taz look for food but only find some old machine parts, which Taz doesn’t hesitate to chow down since after all Tasmanian devils eat anything but especially rabbits.

Bugs and Deuce follow Wile E.’s gadget to a parking lot where the train’s supposed to appear next. Sam ambushes them, and after repeated shots Deuce’s shield is destroyed, leading him to plead with Bugs to toss over his magic sword. Bugs hesitates at first (Is he thinking he may have made the wrong call, or just hesitating to let someone else play with his favorite toy?), but another near-miss shot prompts him to do as Deuce says. As soon as he has it, Deuce reveals his true colors.

Bugs runs to the attack, but Deuce proves to know how to use the sword’s powers already and knocks Bugs back with an energy blast from it, destroying the homing gadget in the process. The train conveniently shows up then, clobbering Sam. Daffy and Taz jump out and warn Bugs not to let Deuce have the sword. And don’t give him that look like the news is too late, Bugs. He was right and you were wrong the first time, jerk.

Man, Bugs is really sucking as team leader in these first two episodes! At least most of the time he’s just bland and not making a ton of bad calls, even if he doesn’t really make that many good ones either.

Back at HQ, Bugs is all apologetic for not listening to Zadavia before, but she’s rightly apologetic herself.

“It’s not entirely your fault, [Bugs]. I should’ve told you the entire story.” Yes, you bloody should’ve. And the only reason you didn’t was the writers needed Bugs to make that slip-up, and he couldn’t if you’d acted like a hero team leader and given Bugs a good reason not to trust Deuce. In fact, she not only should’ve told them about Deuce before, based on what she does tell them, she probably could’ve had the Loonatics arrest him as a war criminal. Seriously Zadavia, you suck at your job something fierce.

Finally she does explain herself. Back on Freleng, Deuce was one of her “most powerful generals,” but when she refused to “place all of Freleng under his command” and pulled a medal off his jacket, he left. When Optimatus made his coup, Deuce and his army were nowhere to be found. Well, what did you expect? After all, you’re so sure “Deuce was only interested in glory for himself,” and “determined to lead the greatest army ever assembled.” Why would he have a change of heart and come back for your sorry rainbow behind?

Wonder how Zadavia would’ve had the authority to “place all of Freleng under his command” anyway, since as she notes this was before Optimatus launched his hostile takeover. He’s even there in the flashback, prior to having his face melted off. But my point being that in the flashback in “Acmegeddon,” we saw there was some kind of council that had the power to veto her or Optimatus’s dictates. Unless he was asking her to help him overthrow them, which is entirely possible with the sketch of the character we’re getting. But if he’s so “only interested in glory for himself,” why not just get his army together and do it himself? I dunno, you’d think somebody who managed to climb to the rank of general, and so quickly as to still be young enough to be a virile kung-fu badass with fabulous hair on top of that, would know about cutting unnecessary steps out of a battle plan.

By the way, as you've probably noticed the flashbacks we’ve seen this episode have been in sepia tone. I could accept that’s just for illustration purposes, except for how these have actually been historical videos Zadavia booted up to show the Loonatics what she's talking about. Meaning Freleng had fleets of ridiculously outrĂ© spacecraft, robotic armies, magic swords and something about their rulers that made them able to shoot rainbow beams, but not color film. Horse pucky!

Big Z finally finds out what Deuce was after on the train after Daffy explains they didn’t find anything but a bunch of old robot parts. Deuce’s soldiers were robots and they were on the train! Well of course they are! How are the heroes supposed to get away with actually hurting the bad guys if the bad guys aren’t mass-produced automata??

Zadavia explains the original owner of Bugs’s Guardian Strike Sword, as it’s called, was one of the greatest warriors of Freleng. “It holds powers you cannot imagine.” Which is probably bull because if nobody could imagine them, they couldn’t write them into a script. But this begs the question, was Zadavia the one who gave Bugs the sword? Probably, but then why did she never mention that before?

Bugs actually asks that too. “Great power used too soon can create as much harm as good,” Zadavia explains. Translation: we didn’t think of Bugs having a special sword until this season and we need to have some reason why he never used its powers before now. She promises “It will come to you when you’re ready.”

“Think I read that in a fortune cookie once,” Daffy disparages, but once again I’m on his side. These mystical mentor characters have to be handled delicately or they end up coming off, well, like Zadavia.

Lexi asks how they’re supposed to find the train again without Wile E.’s tracker. Is there any reason he can’t just replace it? He whips up these gadgets like popcorn, and he already made one in no time that he knows works, so he should be able to make another even faster and maybe better.

I could believe that question coming from a show like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where Donatello whips up all kinds of fancy gizmos, but they live in the sewer and he has to work with whatever cast-off parts he can find. Replacing stuff’s a believably painful process for them.

In this show? Nuh-uh. The Loonatics live in a high-tech future and are a full-on public superhero team with a Hall of Justice-esque headquarters and endless fleet of pimped-out vehicles. Wile E. said nothing to the effect that he can only make one because it took the last of his supply of zerblarfium. Why was that the one and only homing device they’ll ever have?

But they can’t, for the sake of some original Looney Tunes-style “comedy”. They captured Sam, you see, and figure that Deuce knew where the train would show up and thus his accomplice must know that too. They try to let Sam go so they can follow him, but he’s an idiot and needs some help from the Loonatics themselves.

Sam does lead the Loonatics to Deuce just as the train appears yet again, but rather than get this episode over with quickly and cleanly by disarming Deuce with a blast of laser vision before Sam knows he’s been followed Bugs loudly announces their presence and attacks. Deuce holds them off for a second with the sword’s powers but then climbs up to the train because that’s his real goal, not winning a fight with the Banana Splits. Sam follows, but Deuce doesn’t feel like sharing the universe and kicks him off the train. Say bye to Sam everybody!

Bugs hops on his speeder bike to give chase as the train vanishes, since it was his dumbass mistake that made Deuce a threat, and he has to make it right. He makes it to the train and Deuce immediately attacks from behind and kicks him into some crates that looks they were there just so somebody could get kicked into them.

Hell, look at those crates, they were empty! Maybe the train stopped at the warehouse from Future War sometime.

“Hey Deuce, is this how you treat your friends?” Bugs asks. He has no honor, numbnuts. He knows you know and he doesn’t care. He uses the sword to awaken a few of his robo-soldiers.

“Nice robo-army. You must save a fortune on uniforms.” You must save a fortune on joke books.

Deuce leaves the robots to finish off Bugs, but these members of “the finest army in the universe” prove rather susceptible to that hoary old trick of shooting each other when the hero moves between them.

Bugs tries to attack Deuce’s ego by saying he doesn't see why such a great warrior would need to hide behind a magic sword. To this miserable show’s credit, Deuce doesn’t fall for it and keeps blasting Bugs with the sword. It still shoots itself in the foot by having Bugs gain the upper hand by overwhelming the sword’s energy blast with his laser vision and knocking the sword away, where it floats in midair (but keeps pace with the train). Nice legendary sword there. And nice hypocritical hero, because Bugs jump-kicks Deuce from behind while he’s distracted trying to call the sword back to him.

With Deuce seen off for the moment, Bugs tries to recover the sword. It floats to Bugs’s hand and Zadavia’s voice reminds him the sword’s power would come to him when he was ready, and I guess he just proved himself worthy now. Even though you have to look for the indicators that this was meant to be the kind of battle where a guy proves he’s not just a main character but an actual hero and worthy of the magical doohickey. I think those indicators were Zadavia pointing out that the sword’s previous owner was one of the “guardians” of Freleng and thus making it a Legendary Item, and Bugs saying he let Deuce steal the sword so he had to be the one to make things right. But like I said, you have to look for them.

But honestly, Bugs’s worthiness of the sword probably got short shrift because of everything else they had cram into this episode. The sword’s background, Deuce and his part in Zadavia’s history, Deuce’s robot army…and they couldn’t really skimp on any of that because like it or not, Deuce is gonna turn out to be our big bad guy of the season.

I’m starting to notice how this show’s at its worst when it’s trying to develop the main plot.

Also, probably what was meant to be the biggest indicator that Bugs had earned the right to wield the sword is the contrast between him and Deuce, a lying, backstabbing snake in the grass (who'll show himself to be, if anything, even more of one when he shows up again). Again, though, look at that picture above of Bugs taking advantage of his enemy's distraction to attack from behind. What, is the fact that Deuce did it first make it okay, or doesn't this kind of show usually equate that with sinking to the bad guy's level?

What basis do we have for Bugs proving that he's such a great guy and better than Deuce? Uh, he leads a superhero team. And by that I mean he leads them in battle. That's nice and all, but I'm honestly not if he does it because he genuinely wants to do good or if he's in it for the rush. He worked as a stuntman before, I almost want to say the latter. In the numerous iterations of X-Men the people are on the team because they usually agree with Professor X's vision of a world without distrust toward his kind. In Justice League we saw the heroes get together and could get a sense that they were doing what they did because someone had to and they were better equipped than most. Thanks to the show's having much better things to do than show us how and why the Loonatics were formed, they're just sort of there.

Practically never do we see Bugs having to make a moral choice or having to prove his sincerity to someone. In this episode we have him deciding to trust Deuce over Zadavia's orders not to, but he proves to be wrong about that, and Zadavia had no good reason not to explain herself in the first place. It only happened because the plot needed it to happen. You know how this plot could've worked better? If Zadavia did explain herself, but Deuce was given a chance or two to seem sincere and Bugs gave him another chance because being charitable and believing in positive change are heroic virtues. Without Bugs knowing what he's forgiving or what he's countermanding the all-knowing Zadavia for when he's never had the urge to be insubordinate before, it comes off as forced and kinda confusing.

I guess Bugs is sort of better by dint of not being a galactic warlord.

Bugs chops through the coupling, sending Deuce and the engine speeding into the wormhole to parts unknown. This makes the rest of the train lose power and crash, but nobody seems to care. Back at the base Zadavia praises Bugs for not only recovering his sword (and hopefully learning not to be such an idiot) but proving himself a true warrior. Yeah, whatever, lady.

Bugs asks Zadavia when she’s going to tell him what all the sword can do, but she begs off. “In time. Too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” If I’m hearing this right, then the title of the episode is just bringing it to your attention that Bugs’s sword has secrets, and we might be finding out what they are later on.

Daffy protests that too little knowledge is dangerous too, then a laser shoots out of the sword to zap him like punishment for his usual sin of speaking out against the group. Rather than proving Zadavia’s a dumbass bint, the others Loonatics are a-holes for laughing at the fact that Bugs’s control over his magic sword’s so poor he just fried a non-baddie by accident, and Daffy’s completely right.

Look at his face, he's as surprised as anybody.

If some dude in tights wants me to put my life in his hands, especially if that dude’s a wise-cracking rabbit, I want to know he’s not accidentally going to fry me instead of a villain. Get the superheroes up to spec on their equipment before handing out the diplomas, please.

Oh yeah, and the show expects you to take Zadavia's word on it that now's not the time to talk about the sword's full powers. When this episode only happened in the first place because she decided to keep important info to herself for no better reason than petty anger. No, show. No.

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