WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
Jhonen Vasquez’s infamous 2001 Nickelodeon series was on rocky ground from day one. It was expensive to produce and, despite critical-acclaim, the ratings were consistently low when compared to its peers. Further to that, it was always intended to be a show that pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable on children’s television, and that made it particularly vulnerable to media controversies.
After being unceremoniously cancelled midway through production of its second season, an episode was cited in a 2005 juvenile murder case and seemingly put any hopes of a revival to bed, once and for all.
Despite all of that, the show amassed a devoted cult-following that put it in good standing when, in 2015, Nickelodeon realised they were sitting on a mother-lode of shows to mine as part of the then-new trend of television-revivals. They’ve been kicking about countless nostalgically-driven projects designed to appeal to grown-up millennials ever since.
In 2016, an Avengers-style crossover movie, Nicktoons, was officially announced, featuring everyone from the Rugrats to Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, but with no further updates in the last three years, it’s likely that the project has been quietly axed. Two projects that did make their way through production, however, are TV-special revivals of Rocko’s Modern Life and, of course, Invader Zim.
After a strange, last-minute decision to sell both of these to Netflix (rather than airing them on Nickelodeon as originally planned), Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling was released to critical acclaim, with Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus hot on its heels. While Rocko took the approach of directly addressing the 23 years that had passed since the show’s end, Zim plays out more like the series finale that the show was never given back in the noughties.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Invader Zim centred around its titular alien-invader who (poorly) disguised himself as a human child in order to attempt to prepare Earth for invasion by the rest of his species. He was routinely thwarted by Dib, a sort of Fox-Mulder-if-he-was-a-child character and one of the only humans capable of seeing him for the alien that he is.
In Enter the Florpus, Zim finally realises that his fellow Irken aliens have no intention of ever coming to Earth, having only sent him there to get rid of him, prompting him to enter an emotional crisis.
Remarkably, to say that it’s been 17 years since the show last debuted a new episode on television, Enter the Florpus feels as though Invader Zim has never been gone. If it weren’t for the switch to widescreen and HD, there would be nothing to clue a new viewer into the fact that this wasn’t produced back with the series, nearly two decades ago.
The show was always a darkly funny and incredibly inventive production, incorporating often beautifully-twisted sci-fi concepts. Enter the Florpus is a fairly typical Nickelodeon TV-movie in that it retains everything that made the show work – its humour, its characters, its tone – but it suffers from messy pacing and (surprisingly to say that it features Earth colliding with alternate realities) not having quite enough scope to feel like more than an extended episode of the series. Still, it’s an enjoyable 71 minutes and an absolute treat for fans to have one last outing.