Invader Zim was a cartoon that ran on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2006, with only 27 total episodes released. It was a weird show, one that reveled in dark humor, unnerving body horror, and a bleak dystopian view of the future. Its animation was dark, in the literal sense. Episodes were draped in shadows, emphasizing muted purples and greens. Despite, and perhaps because of, it’s dark overtones, Zim’s main humor came from a sort of randomness, twisting serious and dark situations into the absurd. It was a formula that worked, creating memorable visuals, instilling nightmares in the youth, and spawning a culture of “random” humor.
Today, Zim is, unfortunately, almost entirely associated with its random humor. There is a not-unsubstantial section of the fan base that recognizes what made them laugh but without seeming to understand why. GIR, Zim’s robot companion, shrieking about tuna is not inherently funny. It’s the juxtaposition of GIR shrieking while Zim’s eyes boil out of his skull in trauma-inducing visuals that creates the humor. Unfortunately, the new movie for Netflix seems to have missed this memo.
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus does a lot to make sure it feels like a continuation of the stories told from the original run. The hour-and-ten-minute “movie” opens with Dib as Zim-obsessed as ever. They crack some jokes about how time has passed, and it’s been so long since we’ve seen Zim, but it’s quickly brushed past to resume Zim’s usual hijinks. And from there, it really is just another episode of Invader Zim. Zim concocts a wild plan, Dib must find a way to stop it. If you’ve ever watched Zim before, you know how this story goes.
Unfortunately, though, the plot structure is where most of the similarities to the original show end. The clearest change is the visual enhancement. Every scene looks crisp, well animated, and brightly lit. This is not a good thing. With everything looking so good, the cracks in the animation are far clearer. The animation in the original show was janky, angular and gross, but it reveled in it, using its limited budget to enhance the weirdness of the show. Enter the Florpus looks a lot smoother, but the stylistic oddities that the new film attempts to bring from the original show look out of place.
It doesn’t help that the horror from the original show is gone. Even on a recent rewatch of the original run, I squirmed as an engorged Zim burped up an intestine he’d harvested in an attempt to appear more human. That’s still grotesque ten years later. Enter the Florpus, however, plays it safe. The movie offered plenty of opportunities to push the bar, especially since it is Netflix exclusive and no longer must worry about Nickelodeon’s TV guidelines. At no point do we see anything that’s even remotely upsetting, and that’s a bummer. This sanitized world also helps explain why the visuals look so strange. Aside from a few angles and weird teeth, the world of Florpus feels like a pretty ordinary cartoon, rather than the edgy world of Invader Zim.
And then there’s the humor, and once again we see why the Cronenberg-esque nightmares were needed. Enter the Florpus’s idea of humor largely consists of shrieking and extreme close-ups of characters. That’s not to say there’s nothing to laugh at, just that Florpus wants you to laugh at the same joke for its entire runtime. GIR, apropos of nothing, launching a pug into space was genuinely funny. But then Florpus doubles down on it. There’s never a break, just nonsense sight gag after screaming robot after big head. Humor needs pacing, setups, payoffs. Florpus attempts some of these things (looking at you, ham), but ultimately doesn’t really seem sure how to execute them in a larger scale. A lot of the jokes could work in smaller bursts, like in the two-minute web shorts that revel in this style of humor, but maintaining these jokes for over an hour is exhausting.
I haven’t spent a lot of time diving into the plot of Florpus, and I don’t really intend to. It lives in the space of the original cartoon, offering no new ideas or deeper themes. And sure, it’s a children’s cartoon, so why would I expect anything different? But this is a cartoon that has been dormant for years, and its target audience has grown up. There’s a lot that can still be done with the property to make it feel fresh and different. Netflix released a new Rocko’s Modern Life movie recently that also reveled in its own nostalgia but managed to update its ideas for a more modern era. The precedent is there, Enter the Florpus just chose to stay in its comfort zone.
Enter the Florpus sits in a weird place. There’s no denying it’s nice to see the characters alive and moving again, but much has changed from the original run. Gone is gut-churning body horror. The late-stage capitalist dystopia is there but doesn’t feel quite so terrifying. The art style got a serious update, which actively works against the grim world of Zim. The one holdover from the original run is the random humor, and they cranked that dial up to 11.
Ultimately, I’m left disappointed. There’s not enough depth to Florpus to hate it, I just wish it was better.
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Not just a disappointment but a failure in execution. I forgot I saw the trailer and didn’t leave any reminder to myself to let this sad, disgusting imitation of a sequel to a beloved series alone. The animation is probably the biggest mistake that sets the tone for how sanitized this is. Sharp, defined edges and shades replaced with everything rounded and non-threatening, Humor that was diverse and well-integrated felt entirely forced and dependent on references to internet memes and dated scenes from other series when it wasn’t bombarding you with “lol xd random” comedy that just falls flat most of the time, goes on for way too long or even ends up being cringeworthy.
This wasn’t Invader Zim proper, this is an extended caricature movie from another show lampooning Invader Zim. Gaz has had the most hideous character assassination, clearly meant to appeal to modern sensitivities and the creator/VA’s changed feelings towards her character. While others are bafflingly praising Gaz’s “””character development”””, all I see is a character that somewhat looks like the original doing completely out of character things, pretending to be Gaz. While I agree that it would be great to see Gaz go through a growth arc, it went way too far without nearly enough time to convincingly achieve it and in my opinion failed within the first 10 minutes when she’s not even scary to Dib in the first place.
I should have seen and heeded the warning sign when The Tallest literally forgot who Zim was because he was gone for a couple of months while in the first episode of the series they recognize and are traumatized by his voice after years of banishment. Characters are very noticeably dumber than in the original series and while they could be stupid or purposely unaware situationally, they were never drooling-mouth stupid as egregiously as The Tallest were in the movie. The “random” humor that was smartly placed and infrequently used to create memorable scenes in the show has been ratcheted up to the equivalent of cheap production line products hoping one of them will land.
I wish Vasquez had just allowed the series to die when he realized how much he’d changed from the person he was while initially making the series. A botched and late-arriving project that doesn’t capture hardly any of the old charm, aesthetic or dark humor/comedic pacing of the original, depending on the caricatures of the show to drive the film which obviously worked for those who I’m fairly certain to have only seen clips of the show rather than actually watched it at the time growing up or even seen full seasons of it later.
The person who changed Gaz was Jhonen himself. He did not like how her character turned out in the show and intentionally toner her down. As a long time fan this was for the better, Gaz was a one dimensional sociopath on the show and not in a good way.
The darkness of the show is so overblown. Episodes like Dark Harvest were mostly the exception not the rule. I am glad they toned down the edginess as it aged horribly. The dated early 2000’s humor and mall goth designs are a real product if its time. Pretty much everyone who grew up with the show have long grown out of the goth aesthetic. Not to mention Jhonen himself has greatly mellowed out over the years.
I’ve been a fan since it began and it stopped, and my kids grew up now to watch it. I truly believe they lost the essence which made it so attractive as Sean Mekinda put it perfectly ”The animation in the original show was janky, angular and gross, but it reveled in it, using its limited budget to enhance the weirdness of the show”, and to further add I did not realise it cost so much to do a show back then. Ive just finished watching all 45 episodes again to make sure my eyes arent deceiving me. I know these slight might be minuscule to a browser but to a true fan they make all the difference. I miss the jerky, slap stick, staccato manner in which expressions would change in the animation and punchlines you never saw get executed in great visual grotesque fleshy flair. I can’t stand how rounded and jovial and involved Professor membrane is, and I’m not sure who replaced Gaz with this happy, positive, smiling wide eyed girl, its just not the same timbre in the essence of this cartoon anymore. I get people now looking at it may feel it is the same, it is not, they are wrong, you may see some similarities, names, places, faces etc, even some mild attempts at the ridiculousness, but it just doesnt send home to me. If you can honestly say after watching all 45 original episodes, then Florpus, and still see it as an improvement or in keeping true to the original, kudos to you, I sadly am at a handicap, and I wish I could enjoy as a true Zim fan, but alas, it is not him, this to me is no Zim. You could have done better Jhonen Vasquez….just the honest truth from an honest fan.
Yea I’m no dude. I don’t believe you were ever a true fan of Zim. And I stopped watching the rocko reboot after it went stale when big head wouldn’t accept his daughter. They were off to a great start but lost it. The animation time put into the end and beginning of Zim was flabbergasting. The kameha style fighting of the membrane was great and unexpected. My only complaints were yes the color was a little pastel on the forefront but the back ground stayed the same. And they shouldn’t have changed a thing about Dib or especially Gaz. She was a goth, now she’s kind of not… but remained her creepy ness *shrug*. However the visuals were, stunning, I haven’t laughed this much in a long time, and computer became funnier too. All in all I’d still give it a ten. Are you even familiar with Jhonen Vasquez‘s works? He’s a stunning artist. This wasn’t just a remake like rocko, kicking bricks on a fourth wall while they brag about being the only people to be able to make such a remake. No, Jhonen doesn’t need to acknowledge those things. Zim was one of his babies and he basically kept him the same as he raised him. MmmwwwwEAAaaaaaHHaha Ha Haaaaaa!!!
”The animation in the original show was janky, angular and gross, but it reveled in it, using its limited budget to enhance the weirdness of the show”
Limited budget? A single episode of the original run took 1.2 million dollars to make. That’s one of the reasons they cancelled it.
In the first ten minutes of the film, we learn that Prof. Membrane’s arm was eaten by sharks, and that Dib has grown so disgusting that he’s actually fused with his chair. That’s exactly the kind of horror you’re claiming is missing. Did you even watch Enter the Florpus?
LIES! This made Iron Giant look like a stale cracker balanced on the rim of a bowl of warm soup… And Zim was that soup.