Tank Girl

In the year 2033, two unlikely super-heroines fight to save Earth, which has become a rainless wasteland controlled by an evil mega-corporation.

Year: 1995
Certificate: 15
Director: Rachel Talalay
Starring: Ice-T, Lori Petty, Rachel Talalay, Jeff Kober, Naomi Watts, Don Harvey, Malcolm McDowell, Reg E. Cathey, Scott Coffey, Stacy Linn Ramsower

Information Page: https://uk.newonnetflix.info/info/60020240

On the weekend of the release of “Wonder Woman”, I thought I’d take a look back at one of the other few female-led comic book movies out there, 1995’s “Tank Girl”. Let’s just say I hope “Wonder Woman” is a more satisfying viewing experience.

Tank Girl’s (Lori Petty) only superpower is her sass and, well… her tank. The film acts as an origin story, tracing her beginnings living in a commune in a “Mad Max”-like apocalypse where water is a treasured commodity. When Water & Power, the evil corporation that rules this wasteland, storm her home, she is captured and put to work. It’s there that she meets Jet Girl (Naomi Watts) and first lays her eyes upon her treasured battle vehicle, which the two of them then use to fight back against their overlords.

Rachel Talalay, the director, cuts in panels from the original comic book, which adds to the film’s spunky, irreverent tone. But most of the spark comes from Petty in the lead role. She delivers a committed performance and totally inhabits this quirky character. She also plays well off a young Watts. Unfortunately, “Tank Girl” doesn’t have much beyond that.

While boldly presented, you’ve likely seen most of the sci-fi elements before. There’s the “Mad Max” world, the evil corporations of a Paul Verhoeven film (think “Total Recall”, “Starship Troopers” or “Robocop”), the B-movie cheese of Robert Rodriguez (“Spy Kids” and “Machete”) and then little touches from “Predator”, “Aliens” and beyond, and the bloody violence of all of the above. This certainly isn’t one for kids.

Talalay does juice up these familiar elements with a postmodern punk look to the costuming and design. In that regard, it seems faithful to the original books, but it does look dated. Not necessarily in a bad way, but there’s no mistaking the fact that it was made in the mid-90s. The comic book panels are sometimes brought to life in hand-drawn animated sequences. A whole film in that style would have worked better I think and ensured it held up over time.

The plot is ultimately neither here nor there, and the creative team seem aware of that. The combination of the comic book art inserts and a number of music video-like diversions show the film up for not having a lot going on beyond the crazy visuals and the weird world.

That being said, there is a welcome feminist bite to the film. In Talalay’s hands, the film is sex positive and indulges in both the male and female gaze. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the main character; Tank Girl lives by her own rules and weaponises her sexuality against the evil men.

A minor cult favourite it may be; but, without any pre-existing nostalgia for the film, “Tank Girl” just plays as a cartoonish B-movie somewhat rescued by a feisty protagonist. For the film’s loudness, it gets tiring pretty quick.

Have you seen this film? Let us know your opinions in the comments below and of course if there are any films on Netflix UK you want us to review let us know!

About Benedict

Freelance culture journalist and Film Studies graduate. Netflix is his happy place.

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