Monday, December 16, 2013

Loonatics Unleashed – In Search of Tweetums, Part 2 (Snark, Series Finale)



After the recap, open on Wile E. appraising Bugs of the situation with Deuce, with Bugs reacting only with a “thanks for the update.” You found out Deuce stole your ride, and he’s using it to bring a supposed ultimate army of emotionless killers to a place that he can use as a staging ground to invade anywhere in the universe he pleases. And all you’ve got to say is “thanks for the update.” Not even an “oh man”?

We see Zadavia in a cabin on her brother’s former, now reclaimed, flagship. Deuce mocks that without her powers she might “catch your death of cold” and tosses her her cape. She fires back that he might have her powers for now, but ultimately they’ll be his downfall. Is there any reason why they won’t be your downfall, maybe, Big Z?


“Accept your fate. You will never rule again.” I ask again, what was stopping her from going back to Freleng and being the ruler? Her flunkies defeated Optimatus who only became a threat again very recently. Did Optimatus blow up the planet and his asteroid headquarters from this time last season was all that was left? A little more effort in the world-building would've been nice.

As they fly along, chasing down the trail of clues to Tweety’s hiding place his decoy promised them, Bugs addresses his posse, “Hang tight, gang! We’ve gotta reach the real [Tweety] before the bad guys!” Good thing you’re here! The usual pre-theme song prologue was replaced by a recap this time, so this isn’t even for the benefit of people who missed part one.

They land at a ring of stones where their first clue is carved into the rock in alien writing. “What’s black and blue and red all over?” Daffy corrects Tweety-bot that it’s “black and white” and the answer’s a newspaper. Even seven and a half centuries in the future, huh? He spots a rolled up newspaper on the ground nearby, but when he picks it up triggers a booby trap that drops a load of orange slime on him. Easily shaken off orange slime at that. If that’s this planet’s idea of a booby trap, I’m starting to see why the bad guys had so little trouble walking in and taking over. The newspaper turns out to be a map, and it wasn’t even ruined by the slime. Gee, how wrong this could’ve gone if the bad guys had the advantage of numbers and found the map first.

A clue, apparently.


Via the miracle of recycled footage we see Deuce’s commandeered ship cruising through space. Then, Zadavia escaping her cell/cabin through an air vent. Wearing her big, voluminous cape while doing so for some reason. I don’t know, that just seems like something you’d ditch if you were trying to be stealthy.

She’s able to do this because even though her room has no door, the robot guarding her’s facing the hall. If there’s nothing keeping her in there but the guard himself, why wouldn’t he be facing her, I ask? Because if the robots lived up to their reputation, the heroes would be screwed. The robots don’t even prove to be that tough, because Zadavia climbs down from above and easily rips one’s head off with her knees and then kicks it aside with one blow.



Big Z opens a closet that she just happens to know contains the cosmic guitar and handily isn’t locked. Villain arrogance or bad writing? You decide.

She’s caught before she can re-absorb her powers from it and just uses it to shoot music lasers at the robots chasing her, then flees to the hangar to commandeer a ship. Deuce catches her, and despite Zadavia blasting him with a music laser he mysteriously isn’t torn to bits like his robots were. Admittedly as I was going through here pausing repeatedly to get screencaps I could see that Deuce somersaults out of the way, but with the spastic light effects it’s hard to tell that he doesn’t get hit while watching the actual scene. And she still shot that at him knowing what it did to his robots, and that it has the power to warp the fabric of reality.



He gets the last laugh by shooting a control panel that opens the bay doors and sucks her into the void. Bye bye, Zadavia!


Back to the Loonatics, who are in a network of caves. “So, uh, which one’s the lucky tunnel?” Bugs asks. Don’t you guys have a map? If this is where it ends and you need to solve another puzzle for your next set of directions, could somebody say that?

Oh, but there is no puzzle, as Tweety-bot explains Daffy’s supposed to guess. “That’s what makes it fun!” And Daffy does guess, steps on a pressure plate and gets squashed by falling rocks. That’s what the ruler of the most important planet of the universe, one so significant it can plunge the galaxy into centuries of war, thinks is fun. And the show wants you to think the universe is in good hands with him in charge.


Daffy’s okay, because that was supposed to be funny. They make it to the end of the trail which is marked by a door and an obvious panel of levers to open it. Again, they have to randomly select the right one or suffer the humorously painful consequences. Screw you, Tweety! You specifically said follow a trail of clues, not a trail of lucky guesses!


Daffy refuses to play Tweety’s games this time, and tries to make Sylvester do it. He refuses too and makes Taz do it. Taz picks one that makes rocks fall, but in predictable humor fashion the falling rocks squish Daffy and Sylvester instead. It does open the door, prompting Lexi and Bugs to praise Taz’s random guess and ignoring the others still buried underneath ten tons of rock.  More on that kind of thing in the wrap-up, but right now, is that supposed to somehow keep out intruders? The rocks don’t even fall on the guy pulling the lever, even if it was something that would hurt him.


They find an awfully lavish back-up throne room behind the door, and after an annoying song from Tweety, Sylvester decides he’s had enough and stalks over to make a snack out of him only to fall down a trap door (even though we clearly saw he has a jetpack). Tweety declares, “Well, I left you plenty of clues Mr. Duck. But you sure took your sweet time getting here.” Maybe that’s because most of your clues were “here’s your options, close your eyes and pick one,” smart guy.

Tweety basically tells us why his scepter’s so important, whichi Zadavia already told us, and that he hid out here because it’s the one place the bad guys would never find him. And wouldn’t you know it, right then Optimatus flies out of the trap door Sylvester fell down, carrying the bad ol’ putty tat. You know, when the plot only works because the characters on both sides are dummies, it makes it hard to figure out how to root for.


Deuce shows up too, along with his robo-troops. And they blow up the same wall twice with the footage flipped the second time (Yeah, sorry guys, you're messing with a Dragon's Lair vet). So much for the bad guys would never find you there, huh?!



The robots prove completely useless, and even Sylvester gets to kick some butt, but they provide enough of a distraction that Deuce is able to grab Tweety and demand that Bugs hand over the scepter. “You’re a very, very bad man,” Tweety informs Deuce. And you’re a very, very unbelievable benevolent monarch.



Daffy pleads with them to spare Tweety’s life, but as soon as they toss Tweety to Bugs, the bad guys put him in a force field to take with as “A little insurance policy, in case your friends get any ideas.” They reveal their true colors right away anyway, having the robots shoot out the ceiling to bury the Loonatics. All they actually do is create a wall of rubble that cuts them off from the Loonatics. Lexi tries to blast through, but the room’s so unstable Bugs warns her against anymore or it could bring the roof down on them. Oh, now the show's in "serious mode," and rocks falling on them would be dangerous instead of funny, huh?

I guess we weren't in "serious mode" before when the Loonatics were trying to find the big MacGuffin that will let the bad guys rule the universe. Bad guys who aren't played the least bit comically. Once again, I definitely think the same show can be both funny and serious and still be entertaining as all hell. But this one switches between them poorly and just feels schizophrenic.




Optimatus gloats about ruling the universe, but it turns out Deuce is backstabbing Optimatus. Just like Bugs. And Sam. And Zadavia. And Keyboard Man. So I have to disagree with Daffy when he says “I did not see that one coming.” Deuce puts Optimatus in a bubble that contains his rainbow powers. And for some reason they switch Daffy’s force field out for handcuffs that block his powers.



Back to the other Loonatics, who are stuck in the throne room. Even though Bugs was worried about any big shock bringing the roof down on their heads, the shaking from Wile E. drilling into the room via his drill-mobile from “Going Underground” doesn’t do anything. So…the Loonatics have another spaceship, allowing the others to find their friends on Blanc? Which one? And they knew where to find the others because of homing thingies.


Tweety explains things aren’t over yet, because his scepter can’t actually control portals without a jewel hidden in the necklace that was the only part of the stupid knight costume Daffy’s still wearing. Handy, huh?

We see Optimatus in a cell, and strangely not in that bubble that contains his powers anymore. Who should show up then but Zadavia, with her rainbow powers restored. She frees him, by shooting him in the chest and not his restraints, and he automatically rainbow-blasts some robots coming in to recapture them. After all the evil plots of his, being happy to kill people on a planetary scale just to get rid of her, Optimatus keeps her from being shot in the back by a bunch of robots.After she just shot him in the chest.

That looks real friendly, don't it?

But no, Optimatus’s entire worldview has been completely shattered. One he had even before Zadavia shot him in the face with rocket exhaust. Just like that, Optimatus is a good guy. Just. Like. That. Very convenient. So much so it's almost as if the writers knew the show was ending and didn't bother trying. Yet...well, we'll get to that.

Wile E. and Roadrunner are staying behind in Tweety’s throne room to keep an eye on him, and suddenly the room’s filled with his little egg-bots. Where’d they come from? And what could the show possibly be getting at by showing so many…?


The other Loonatics and Sylvester fly to the core of the planet where Deuce and his robo-army are preparing to deploy. And make no effort to just shoot the dopes down despite seeing them coming.


A massive fight breaks out with the soldiers Deuce was going to take over the universe with going down like wet cardboard. And they still fall for that shooting at their targets from both sides and shooting each other instead trick.

Bugs does almost get thrown over a ledge, but then Zadavia shows up and—this is hilarious—uses her rainbow beams to totally blow away the robots holding Lexi, but all that happens to Lexi is she falls to the ground exactly where she was. And countless other robo-soldiers. “I told you your disloyalty would be your undoing,” she snipes at Deuce. No, you told him your stolen powers would be his undoing. The exact line was “Traitor! You may have my powers for now, but they will ultimately be your undoing!”



Despite her bravado the robots soon appear to be gaining the upper hand. Deuce even brazenly asks if they have any last words, with Daffy replying, “I’ve got a few, but I’d have to wash out my mouth with soap.” He’s the butt of all the jokes and gets all the flak from his teammates, but he’s the only one who ever gets a halfway-decent one-liner.

Sylvester (appropriately) pussies out and tries to change sides by telling Deuce about the missing part of the scepter and Daffy having it. Who should show up to bail our “heroes” out of trouble but Tweety and his egg-bots, who’ve been “retro-fitted” with super-strong armor. Which Wile E. and Roadrunner managed to do all by themselves in the little while it’s been since we saw them (maybe if they’d explained the armor’s actually a special paint or something…), and the raw material for armor and the equipment to apply it on the egg-bots were handily nearby somewhere despite Wile E. only coming up with the idea to turn the egg-bots into an army after he saw them all there. Meaning he didn’t bring it with him intending to do that.


But anyway, with Deuce’s advantage of numbers neutralized the Loonatics are able to fight free and start to gain the upper hand again. Deuce tries to open the portal hub and Bugs follows him inside, with Deuce putting the scepter into some kind of compartment that makes the thingy do the portal stuff.

Bugs and Deuce meet for a final duel. The sad thing is, this is obviously supposed to be not just the climax of the season, but the climax of Bugs and Deuce’s rivalry from way back in “Secrets of the Guardian Strike Sword.” Which as I went into there, doesn’t work that well because it’s between the most generic wise-cracking action hero stereotype and one-dimensionally self-obsessed powermongering villain in memory. And that was the only episode they were given to develop the rivalry between these characters. Which those more sophisticated cartoons from Japan would’ve never given such short shrift.


Yes, yes, they backed off and softened the show, but they still went ahead with it. If they weren’t after Toonami’s audience anymore, then who? With the ever-increasing leanings toward lightness and humor I’m tempted to say young viewers in general, but the serious and silly elements are both so poorly-balanced I’m hesitant to commit to any answer.

The cardboard cutouts fight.
Bugs: “I see ya still have the old moves workin’ for ya!”
Deuce: “And a few new ones that you haven’t seen!” <Punches Bugs in the face>

Not only is the quipping during the climactic fight pathetic, a plain old straight to the face is supposed to be a cool move?

Deuce announces his plans to escape, build a new army and return. “I don’t think so! Looks like you bought yourself a one way ticket!”

Bugs uses his laser vision to break a deadlock (That seems like cheating when Deuce has nothing comparable) and the show reaches the culmination of flat out lying to your face about how he’s the greatest hero ever. The kickback from the laser vision knocks Deuce into the heart of the portal thing, and Bugs uses the Guardian Strike Sword to activate the portal (by stabbing the controller) and suck Deuce off into the ether. Deuce vanishes with an agonized yell, but given the very safe nature of this show and the fact that we’re about to end on hopes for another season, I doubt very much it would’ve been anywhere he couldn’t come back from, and I’m almost positive Bugs knew that too.



And Bugs did this in the interests of banishing Deuce from planet Blanc, but in doing so, gave the villain what he wanted: an escape. Way to go! Nice to see you haven’t improved at all! Sylvester goes to jail, why not Deuce?

Yeah, he’s supposed to be lost without the scepter, but he got sucked inside a wormhole back in the first episode he appeared in too, and that didn’t last. Why not put him someplace where you can keep an eye on him, instead of shunting him conveniently off-screen to get up to all sorts of season-driving mischief?

And even if we’re supposed to believe Deuce is lost in a wormhole, well, Keyboard Man didn’t need an instruction manual to go through a wormhole and find Optimatus. And they had no trouble finding Deuce on a runaway space train. What, because he’s a musician he instantly knows how to control the fabric of the cosmos? Deuce didn’t need any help figuring out the cosmic implement either. Pardon me for saying this show actually makes it look like navigating a wormhole’s easy. And it’s not that he’s trapped, according to Zadavia it’s that “he’d never find his way out again.” But as I just said, this show doesn’t actually make toying with universal forces look hard, and Deuce probably only didn’t escape before because that would’ve blown the surprise. Thirty seconds after Bugs sucked him into the portal Deuce probably landed right on top of some Neolithic guys thinking “If only the gods would send someone to rekindle our people’s warrior spirit…”


How does the scepter thingy even work? You can go anywhere, but you can’t come back without someone who stays behind because the thing you need to control it has to stay there? Or can you use the scepter to open a portal from the other end? Maybe they were planning to go into more detail if they made it to another season...

Outside, the energy pulse from Bugs doing this takes out Deuce’s robots. Handy, with how much time they have left in the episode. While we’re still sort of on the subject of our heroes improving, with the menace seen off for now, Zadavia announces she and Optimatus are going back to Freleng now, and that the Loonatics are no longer just heroes in training. They don’t need her to look out for them anymore, and must “rise to the next level, and become guardians of the universe.”

“Guardians of the universe? I like the sound of that!” Bugs enthuses. Yeah, well, don’t like it too much. You guys already got your greasy fingerprints all over one Warner Brothers-owned franchise. It’s bad enough how Blanc’s the planet at the center of the universe…

By the way, we never heard about that “heroes in training” before. Makes you feel better about all the stuff the Loonatics got up to before, knowing they were only technically trainee heroes, doesn’t it? There probably wasn’t an actual ranking system in place, no, but still, what was Zadavia waiting for to declare their training complete? Most superheroes don’t stop training once they start fighting actual villains. What, saving the world at the end of last season wasn’t enough, they had to wait for a chance to save the whole universe??

This gets even more embarrassing if you think about the push to play up the ties to the original Looney Tunes this season. Fighting all those other villains and saving Acmetropolis from Optimatus on two occasions wasn’t worthy of recognition (the first being “The Comet Cometh”). It’s only after triumphing over Sylvester, Granny, Sam, Fudd, Pierre le Pew, Porky, Flipper, Roadrunner’s slacker kid brother and a villain seriously named Keyboard Man that the Loonatics are finally considered pros. The first season’s villains were nothing great, but most (not all, but most) of the threats faced by our heroes this season were even less so.

Oh, and now we’re hearing about Freleng again. Took you frigging long enough. Despite Optimatus having been taken out and somehow imprisoned even more thoroughly off-screen, evidently the Loonatics needed her more than however many million Frelengians were left without a ruler throughout this whole season. Despite, as I said, the Loonatics having a world-saving and several lesser villains under their belts already. And despite me still having next to no idea what Zadavia actually did for the team besides call them with new developments sometimes.

The Loonatics decide to make Blanc their new headquarters, with the portals allowing them to go anywhere in the universe they’re needed. Yeah. They're going to take on all the evil in the universe. That sounds like something the six of these barely second-string punks can handle.
  
The show ends with Tweety bashing Daffy over the head with his scepter one last time. And Daffy shows himself to be the least shitty Loonatic one last time, because he at least has the ability to learn from his experiences and gets a helmet on in time. And thank heavens that’s the end, because if this had gone on for another season, Tweety would've been the new Zadavia, and the one we had before was bad enough.


Pee-yoo! When I finished up the first season I said the second one was a little better, but I officially amend that statement to say it’s only better in the sense of making for better riffing

But what was anybody expecting from a premise sick from birth and not long for this world? I know Loonatics Unleashed has its fans, but I’ve yet to hear of anything that doesn’t. And “so bad it’s good” shows count too.

This show didn’t succeed not just because of a premise that never would’ve caught on, but because, like lots of attempts to cash in, the people behind it made too little effort to understand what the audience they were after liked about what they were trying to copy. Warner Bros. seems to have missed the memo that a big part of the reason anime was catching on was because, while there were way cool fight scenes, on the whole it devoted more effort to characterization and plot because of the long, arcing stories they usually have too. Whereas many Western action cartoons could, aside from a pilot episode that established the setting and perhaps a big doomsday scenario to end the season, often be watched in any order. Loonatics Unleashed does little to venture from this.

That’s a big reason I got so mad at “It Came From Outer Space.” We’re evidently left to assume, mainly from one instance of Lexi hugging Bugs in the first season, that Bugs is refusing to let anyone take Lexi because of an understated romantic interest between the two of them. In most anime worth their salt, the capper for that episode would be the characters realizing the depth of their feelings for each other and either taking their relationship to the next level or realizing they can’t do that while <X big threat> is still hanging over their heads. Thus resulting in subdued but still present romantic feelings. In Loonatics Unleashed, they went home, had one last lame gag, and end credits.

Even when it tries to inject a bit of humor into the proceedings, it can’t find a good balance between that and its bigger emphasis on action, and changes gears poorly. Case in point, Daffy having huge rocks fall on him twice in a row in this episode and being okay, because it was supposed to be funny. Then immediately after that, the show decides it's going to be serious now and rocks falling on the Loonatics will suddenly kill them.

Then again, there’s the big changes that took place, and how maybe I shouldn’t be comparing this show to anime since they made it more in the style of DC Animated Universe. Populated by such favorites as Batman the Animated Series, Superman the Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League (Unlimited), and so forth, because of the unfriendly reaction the original trailer got. But I dunno, maybe part of the reason those shows succeeded where Loonatics Unleashed failed is because they were about superheroes that had been around for decades and were already familiar to audiences. Yes, everybody knows who the Looney Tunes are, but whenever they did superhero cartoons, those were always parodies. And despite my insistence on sticking to the old names because these can hardly be called a new cast, the show wants you to think that’s not Bugs, Bugs is this guy’s ancestor! Totally new set of characters!

And those shows did make time to explore their characters. Especially ones like, oh, the star of Batman Beyond who didn’t have any previous adventures to refer to.  Even the guy from Zorro: Generation Z had a life outside of fighting crime, but not the Loonatics. Lame one-liners are not character development. Not all by themselves, anyway.

And taking the show’s new directions a step further, there’s the proliferation of reinvented characters this season, in an attempt to make this show viable after the serious direction didn't prove marketable. What if that idea worked, as they were obviously hoping it would? Where was there left to take the lighter direction? What new versions of old character were there left to roll out other than, like, Lightspeed Gonzales, (Planet) Crusher, and Space…Witch Hazel?

Where was there left to go with that idea? In case you don’t remember, and who could blame you, I made a point that the characters who were harmless comedic antagonists before are still harmless comedic antagonists now. Fudd, Sylvester and Sam didn’t work as threats this time, forget about round two. The only old/new villain who with any believability was Marvin, who was so tough the Loonatics only beat him because the show literally forgot his ship was supposed to be indestructible

Would they have ventured even farther looking for guest characters? Maybe descendants of Pinky and the Brain? Well, they already had the voice actors…

Guess that’s it, nothing much else to say.

Oh wait, my reaction to the “guardians of the universe” remark?



Can't be any plainer than that, can I?

Might as well add I was no fan of Duck Dodgers, but if you want an example of a cartoon that combined Looney Tunes-style humor with serious action when the story called for it and did a decent job, there you go.

Merry whatever-you-celebrate!

2 comments:

  1. Great retrospective once again, though I find it odd that you'd pick this particular cartoon to pick apart. It's just so... blah. It's the Nickleback of animated television: not "terrible" in all aspects, but aggravating in how aggressively mediocre it is.

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  2. I saw a review for the pilot on the Agony Booth some time ago and it piqued my curiosity. Looney Tunes + X-Men and they're (mostly) not kidding. I couldn't just leave it at that ridiculous premise, I had to see what came out of it. Besides, I find it kind of ironic that the wiki devoted to this show only has detailed summaries of episodes and big screencap galleries after I cranked out articles for them.

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