Tank Girl (1995)R

CapeCapeHalf a cape

Yes, it’s about a young woman who drives around in a tank. And gets it on with a kangaroo. Okay, a genetically engineered kangaroo-human hybrid. (The story was originally set in Australia, though the movie has only one Aussie character left.) If you think this sounds like a character who was invented with the help of a lot of beer, you’re right.

Though the title character is much toned down from the source material (the original is about as close to Hothead Paisan, Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist as a character created by males can get), as far as filmmaking technique goes, this may be sticking closer to its comic origins than any other comic book film that isn’t animated. Several of these films use drawings from the source comic in the opening or closing credits, but this film uses them throughout. There are even some animated segments, which generally do not constitute a very literal part of the story, but are more or less fanciful. There are other things here that can’t be taken very literally. Some comics take advantage of the graphical medium to tell stories in a way that isn’t just about representing a concrete physical scene on paper, using more stylized or abstract or facetious kinds of artistic techniques to convey the point. The Tank Girl comic apparently does this often, and some of that style is carried over into the film. There are things that definitely couldn’t happen if the storytelling were sticking to the real world... including a full-scale Cole Porter song and dance number. In a whorehouse. If you place comic book films on a spectrum from most like real life to most artificial, this one’s about as far over on the artificial end as anyone’s gone yet. And if you get into it, the artificiality kind of helps, so you aren’t asking silly questions like “With so many people shooting at her, why isn’t she dead?”

I mentioned there was only one Aussie character left... hey, look who’s playing Jet Girl: it’s Naomi Watts! Nobody had noticed yet that she was going to be one of the great film actresses of her generation.

Unfortunately the studio, in a fit of perhaps greater than usual faintheartedness, cut out numerous scenes that they considered objectionable even with an R rating — things like kangaroo shagging, getting stoned, TG’s collection of sex toys, joke use of condoms, and the bad guy injecting TG with disease organisms. Fucking worthless invertebrate cowards... I’m surprised they didn’t demand she quit smoking. Then they had to add lame voiceovers to cover for things left out.

Still, it’s certainly not hard to enjoy this movie. It has a big sense of fun, the adventure is adventurous and the jokes are funny. It has lots of punk 'tude, and an alt-rock soundtrack put together by Courtney Love, who was a fan. The title character is a young lady who is very tough, but also very childlike, and these qualities combine in an endearing way (though it’s a little creepy when she laughs at having just killed someone). So if you want a big dose of grrl power and some good clean dirty fun battling an evil corporate menace that is taking over the world, go take a ride in a tank.