There are a lot of superhero flicks out there. Some might say too many. I say not enough, however; there are plenty of superhero flicks that go either unnoticed or unloved. I plan on dedicating the month of January to re-watching and shedding some light on superhero flicks that have either been largely forgotten, scoffed at or ignored by the viewing public. You won't find stuff like The Avengers on this list. No Dark Knights or Hellboys. If there's a movie you'd like to to tackle, comment and let me know and I'll do my damndest to find it and add it to the series. The criteria for this is pretty loose, if the movie features a superhero, you're in. It doesn't have to be a DC or Marvel guy. Anyways, let's do this thing.
This is the first film on this list with a bona fide badass female in the lead. It's also the movie with the best soundtrack on the list. Tank Girl is a movie that I grew up enjoying, with its comic book stylings, impressive direction by Rachel Talalay, who's basically abandoned feature directing for the safe shores of television direction. It's interesting to see a director go from competent feature filmmaker to in-demand episode director. Folks like Brad Anderson, Jeremiah Chechik and others have focused primarily on television, even though they've crafted well-made features.
Tank Girl has Face to Face on the album. Normally, that'd be enough for me, however; there's also Devo, Hole, Joan Jett, Veruca Salt, Bjork and L7. You can't top that lineup of awesome in any other superhero movie. The action sequence where Tank Girl engages Water & Power while Face to Face is blaring over the soundtrack is boss-level awesome, in my opinion. The "Let's Do It" sequence is the highest point of absurdity in an otherwise completely batshit superhero flick. "What is that?" a Water & Power executive asks. "Sounds like Cole Porter, sir," his henchman replies. I love it. I love the silliness.
Lori Petty isn't exactly an A-lister. It's a bummer because she's pretty fantastic in Tank Girl. Hamming it up while sporting an amount of costume changes that would make Madonna blush, Petty rises above her bratty little sister character from A League of Their Own, where, even though she was basically playing one speed, she excelled at it. Playing a hero like Tank Girl really lets Petty strut her stuff, all while providing a fantastic counter-culture hero in 1995, long before the trend of badass counter-culture heroes like Blade, Wolverine and others hit the big screen. Petty looks like she's having the time of her life shooting this movie. You have to appreciate it when an actor dives into their work in such a way.
Malcolm McDowell, who seems like he'll do anything for money these days, plays the head of Water & Power, who, of course, are an evil conglomerate that has taken over the entire wasteland's water supply. He's his usual creepy and evil self.
Naomi Watts is Jet Girl, the mousey and nerdy sidekick to Petty's Tank Girl. Her natural Australian accent is full-on here. She finds her inner strength through flying a badass super-jet plane. Hence the name, Jet Girl.
Let's talk about the Rippers. Ice-T plays the vicious T-Saint, alongside Jeff Kober as Booga and a slew of character actors as the rest of the genetically-enhanced warrior-kangaroos. They're pretty terrifying on-screen, in all honesty. Animated, they're sorta' cute and cuddly, but when voiced by Ice-T, they're the furthest thing from cuddly and cute.
The creators of the Tank Girl comic would later talk about how awful the experience was in making the movie, which I can totally understand. You can't expect a movie like Tank Girl to happen on your own terms. The fact that they were even asked to be involved in the first place is a miracle. The film has apparently picked up a cult following in recent years, which is rightly deserves, so hopefully a resurgence in Tank Girl is right around the corner. I know the comics have continued their popularity, so, that always bodes well for a franchise.
Talalay, according to Roger Ebert at the time, "dipped into the bag of filmmaking tricks," and used just about every single one to make Tank Girl happen. I think we're better off for it. Tank Girl is a schizophrenic, high-octane character, bursting at the seams with color and silliness. It deserves a filmmaker who's just as nutty as the material. I think Talalay should be on the short list for the Deadpool movie, if it ever happens. Her eye for action, silliness and manic style are exactly what Deadpool needs.
I'm glad Tank Girl exists. We need more female heroes who ride giant, semi-sentient tanks into battle against Malcolm McDowell.