1:30 pm EDT, August 17, 2019

‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus’ review: Driven by more than just nostalgia

Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus is as hilarious, absurd and maniacal as ever — but with a surprising amount of heart, too.

Nostalgia driven remakes, reboots and revivals are all the rage these days.

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And you know what? I am pretty much ok with that, truth be told. I’m nothing if not indulgent, and given the absolute garbage fire we’re currently living in, I definitely don’t mind indulging in some nice, warm nostalgia.

It’s comforting to fall back into a piece of fiction that you’ve loved and had to leave (or had taken from you), and the experience can be wholly pleasant because it runs over well-worn paths with which you’re intimately familiar.

So in this way, yes, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus is a nice, warm dip into nostalgia.

It immediately and easily reminds you why you loved this strange and dark sci-fi show so much, and why it’s endured as a cult classic despite running only two seasons on Nickelodeon.

Despite the 13 years since its final episode, the world, the characters and the writing feel as familiar as if we’d only waited a week between the final season 2 episode and Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus rather than over a decade.

All the voice actors immediately settle back into their characters with ease, and as someone who would’ve listed Invader Zim as my favorite show when it ran during my middle school years (and was in fact the reason behind my very first purchase with my own money — a GIR shirt from Hot Topic), hearing Zim’s loud, maniacal laughter brought a smile to my face and a warm feeling in the center of my chest.

(Yes, the insane laughter of an incompetent space alien invader made me feel that way, but such is the nature of being an Invader Zim fan.)

Zim in Enter the Florpus

The show is just as funny as ever, too — a high-octane mix of physical comedy, clever one-liners and just pure, sheer absurdity. GIR creates a song about how peace is nice (better than chicken and rice), there’s a scene where the police arrest a cat, and the movie features a self-aware ship that really hates butts. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times throughout the movie, and all other times appreciating the sharp writing as much as I ever did.

To any fan who was worried: Don’t be. This is the Invader Zim we loved from 13 years ago, and it’s just as insane and funny and fresh as it ever was.

However, here’s the thing which elevates Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus beyond most revivals: It tells a story that goes beyond pure nostalgia.

Of course, the movie appeals to fans of the original show, and there are enough callbacks to its original run to delight long-time fans.

However, there’s enough context and seamlessly integrated synopsis for newcomers to enjoy the show as well. In about the first ten minutes, viewers who never watched the show will know enough to get going — and, given the high quality writing, acting and animation, will most likely want to.

You get the impression that writer-creator Jhonen Vasquez wasn’t worried about whether the movie would appeal to enough new fans or appease enough current ones to warrant a continuation — he simply had a story he wanted to tell about Zim and Dib, and he was going to tell it.

And it’s that new story that he tells with the characters fans know so well that makes this more than just a fun and breezy nostalgia-romp.

Dib and Zim in Enter the Florpus

Because yes, this is the same Zim that we know: hopelessly deluded, impossibly arrogant, addicted to maniacal laughter, and — most of all — deeply incompetent.

And yes, this is the same Dib: dedicated to stopping Zim, frighteningly obsessive, desperate for attention, lonely and alone.

What makes Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus different — or at least something more than 70 minutes of pleasant nostalgia — is what it does to these characters.

Invader Zim the series gave us Zim, an alien determined to conquer Earth in the name of the Irken empire, and Dib, the human boy hell-bent on stopping him.

What Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus gives us is the answer to this question: What if they both got what they wanted?

It pushes the characters in new and interesting ways, and allows us to see them in ways we haven’t before.

We see Zim depressed and apathetic for the first time, stripped of his fervor for world domination and his penchant for hysterical laughter.

We also get to see him finally succeed — not by accident or happenstance, but by actual planning and a long streak of competence.

Dib in Enter the Florpus

In doing so, we likewise get to see Dib take on a role he’s only ever imagined — that of a hero, one with a real, tangible threat to fight against.

In fact, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus is as much of Dib’s story as it is Zim’s, and gives Dib a nice character arc that I really enjoyed, despite it being a bit of a departure from what the series gave us.

While Invader Zim the series always had a wide streak of cynicism — sometimes bordering nihilism — running through it, Dib’s storyline in Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus is evocative at turns and — dare I say — even somewhat uplifting.

It’s a nice arc for the character and that part of the show, one that never feels out of place amidst the zaniness of the rest of Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus or forced into the show.

Instead, it feels like a natural evolution for the story, and it’s especially gratifying to see a show that often trades in pessimism and rage not be afraid to grow past itself and include genuine emotion and bits of hope in it as well.

I don’t know where Invader Zim is headed after this movie — if there’s an intent to revive the entire series or if this story is one final victory lap. As a fan, I’d obviously love for there to be more — and the end of the movie certainly doesn’t close that possibility off completely.

But I’d also be just fine if this really was the end. Jhonen Vasquez, his cast and his crew gave us a fantastic, fun and funny self-contained story, one filled with all the absurdity and maniacal laughter we’ve come to expect and love from Invader Zim — and enough heart and closure to make us happy and keep us satisfied.

‘Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus’ is now streaming on Netflix!

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