'Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus' Review of Doom
Zim Is Back Onscreen, But for How Long?
From March 30, 2001 to December 10, 2002, Invader Zim aired on Nickelodeon. After it got cancelled, several finished episodes ended up on DVD in 2004 and didn't air in the US until they ended up on Nicktoons in 2006. Since then, the 2015 comic series has been the only ongoing Invader Zim content. But now, we have the Netflix movie Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, which reflects the art style of the comics and brings familiar characters on an absurd and hilarious adventure.
Non-Spoiler Impressions of Doom
Without spoiling anything, the film opens with a fantastic visual gag that feels like a love letter to some artists in the Invader Zim fandom, intentional or not. The familiar humor from the show still persists throughout the film. Even some of the dark humor aspects that somehow made their way past censors back in the day.
However, what feels a bit off is the sentimentality that has been added to the story. Fans are used to the show simply being mean-spirited and the characters being unpleasant to each other, but there is a father-son story pertaining to Dib and Professor Membrane that feels somewhat reminiscent of Disney's Chicken Little, though in Dib's case, his father does not undergo substantial changes throughout the story. There is one visual gag regarding Professor Membrane, however, that changes how I view the character on the show, but not in a bad way. It's just a cool little thing we see. Another thing that does feel a little bit off is that Gaz doesn't feel as unpleasant as she used to be. She's still unpleasant, but not to the degree that she was on the show. One could chalk this up to character growth, but the differences are noticeable.
One thing that might contribute to the film feeling less unpleasant is the absence of Ms. Bitters. Perhaps her absence is due to the passing of her voice actress Lucille Bliss back in 2012. Even if the character had been recast, it is difficult to figure out where in the story she would have fit. But the characters who do return are utilized pretty well. Zim's second sidekick Minimoose appeared in only one episode, "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever," where it doesn't have a whole lot to do. But here, Minimoose is actually a pivotal part of the plot. So it's nice to see that the characters who do return are given a fair amount to do. Despite the differences, the film is still a fun romp and feels like an extended episode of Invader Zim.
Comics and Continuity of Doom
The first 20 minutes of the movie adapt the first issue of the comic series that began in 2015. It's pretty faithful but has slight differences. One of my concerns going into the film was that it might end up being a straight up adaptation of the comics with no surprises whatsoever. I also questioned whether the deviations would render the comic series non-canon.
Thankfully, the story is completely new after those first 20 minutes. But it does raise the question of where that leaves the comic series. Since the second issue continues directly after the first issue, the newer events of this film cannot really be placed in between those issues. Theoretically, one might come to the conclusion that only the second issue is non-canon, and that the rest of the comic series could take place after this film. But that doesn't account for the slight changes to issue 1. And the events of issue 2 are referenced in issue 9. It might be cleaner to just say that the whole comic series is a separate continuity so that Invader Zim wouldn't have to worry too much about continuity if it continues onscreen.
One thing that Enter the Florpus introduces is the concept of alternate realities. We only get glimpses of what some of these alternate realities look like. But it's possible that the comic series could be an alternate reality even if it is unseen within the film. So it wouldn't be in continuity with the TV series and the movie, but it would still exist as an alternate reality within that multiverse. If that's the case, then it's not really a big deal. One issue I've had with the Invader Zim comics is that they're more slice of life and haven't really advanced the storyline as it seemed to be going in the show. So not having the comics be in-continuity doesn't undo any progress, because there really hasn't been any.
Possible Future of Doom
That being said, Enter the Florpus! does not really advance the story much. It feels like a 71-minute long edit of a mostly self-contained episode. Invader Zim has had a lot of self-contained episodes, but there were episodes here and there that had an impact on the direction of the show. "Battle of the Planets" and "Hobo 13" had appearances by Invader Skoodge, who conquered Blorch and would have become Zim's roommate. We got "Megadoomer," in which Smikka Smikka Smoodoo rebelled against the Irken Empire by allowing malfunctioning SIR units to be sent to Invader Tenn, sabotaging her mission to conquer Meekrob. "Tak: The Hideous New Girl" introduced Tak as a potential recurring adversary for Zim, and gave Dib a ship (which appears again in this movie, complete with Tak's personality interface). We got "Backseat Drivers from Beyond the Stars," which introduced the Resisty who could have potentially teamed up with Dib against the Irken Empire. These episodes had pieces that would have fed into the cancelled season 2 finale and the cancelled TV movie "Invader Dib."
Given the film's runtime and what had been showcased in teasers, I prepared myself for the possibility that none of these elements would be furthered along. Jhonen Vasquez even said the following on Twitter: "People who are super excited for the INVADER ZIM movie to finally answer all their questions and conclude things the way they've been hoping for many years, apologies ahead of time. It's just MORE ZIM." So Enter the Florpus was never intended as a conclusion to all the threads, and it certainly does not feel like it. Enter the Florpus can be appreciated for what it is. But if this ends up being the last onscreen Invader Zim story, then it could end up feeling a bit disappointing if this ends up being the last taste of Invader Zim onscreen.
In an interview with Collider (linked below), Jhonen Vasquez expressed how he "got incredibly frustrated" and "very impatient" working on the movie for years. He has a desire to work on other projects, but he adds, "I would still definitely like to see these characters living and doing other stuff. But really, it all depends on what kind of arrangement would I be allowed. Maybe I’m just writing it and I’m writing it from my space station far away and I don’t have to be going in to a studio like I used to. I’d love to be able to work on other stuff while keeping Zim alive." His guess on what the success of the movie on Netflix could mean for potential future Invader Zim stories is as good as anyone else's.
I cannot help but compare Invader Zim to Futurama (Funny enough, Billy West voiced Zim in the original pilot.). Both shows got cancelled and eventually came back with a movie in which an anomaly is opened in space (albeit at different points in the respective movies). Futurama had three more movies and then continued as a show until it got the satisfying conclusion that it deserved. As an Invader Zim fan, I'd like for something similar to happen here. Whether it be follow-up movies or a final season, I would like for the threads laid out on the original show to conclude the story of Invader Zim.
Verdict of Doom
Enter the Florpus! might not be the conclusion that Invader Zim fans have been waiting for, and it is uncertain whether or not there will be such a conclusion. However, the movie is entertaining on its own. It pretty much met my expectations, though it would have been nice for a bit more. And perhaps my expectations for what I've wanted for the future of Invader Zim has influenced how I feel about the movie. Others might feel differently, but this is the score I'd give the movie as of now:
8.5/10 - A film that does not advance the story of Invader Zim by much but manages to capture enough of the feel of the show for it to be fun. Support it on Netflix, and who knows what we might get next? For now, one can dream.