?You won?t understand. You might as well be watching Tenet.?
It?s been a long time since I?ve heard a line of dialogue that summed up a film so well but, for newcomers to the Aqua Teen world, this quote from Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm sums up the viewing experience perfectly. Fueled by madness and mayhem, Plantasm is a chaotic, outrageous and ridiculous film that makes little sense and rips away at its humour like a chainsaw tearing into the nearest forest.
It?s also very, very funny.
For those that aren?t aware, Aqua Teen Forever (also known as Aqua Teen Hunger Force) features the anti-hero team of the hyper-intelligent Frylock, shape-shifting Meatwad and self-absorbed leader Master Shake. Living next door to their horrid neighbor Carl, the team works tirelessly (and toxically) to save the world from villains like tech mogul Neil and his evil shipping corporation, Amazin?.
Having aired its first episode over 20 years ago,?Aqua Teen?is a survivor from the original foray into ?adult animation?. Originally a spin-off from now defunct?Space Ghost Coast to Coast, the Adult Swim fave continues to slice away at pop culture with irreverancy and chaos. But now, despite having been off the air as a series since 2015, the animation world (like the team themselves) never truly dies. Animation revivals have become commonplace in recent years with the returns of?Animaniacs, Futurama?and the just announced?King of the Hill?and, finally, the team has begun production on five new episodes.
But first, we get the Plantasm.
Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm?follows the team after a traumatic event drives a wedge between them. Angered by Master Shake?s selfish leadership, Frylock steps out on his own to prove his brilliance to the world. This abrupt split causes the team to splinter, leaving Meatwad and Shake to figure out what to do next with their lives. However, after Frylock ends up working with Neil (Peter Serfinowicz) at Amazin?, he inadvertently helps cause a disaster that threatens the world, forcing the team to set aside their differences once again.
Firing on all cylinders from the opening credits,?Plantasm?blasts away at pop culture with satirical ferocity. Even after all this time, creators Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis clearly have an affection for their anarchistic creations and they continue to lean into the wild humour that made the series popular. While this style of humour will not (nor has it ever been) for everyone, there?s a certain level of joy amidst the chaos of the series.
Normally, this is the moment where this writer likes to delve into the deeper meaning of content, exploring its cultural messages and relevancy. Admittedly, there are some conversations taking place within this universe but they are quickly disseminated within the story. Frylock yearns to be recognized for his brilliance and contribution to the team, leading to a separation between them. However, the inevitable reunion between them comes with little reconciliation or change from other team members. Faced with the end of the world, they simply must get back together. (“This [feeling] is the type of guilt you say but don?t mean,” they say flatly.)
At the same time, Carl?s personality as a ?toxic male? remains unapologetic in a time where the very nature of masculinity has been put into question. In fact, he wears that badge with pride. (?This country is in need of a real man. A real toxic man like me,? he proclaims.) However, this conversation is never further pursued with any intent to create deeper meaning. Instead, we laugh at him because Carl simply doesn?t make sense.
Rather than pursue any particularly grand message, Plantasm is content to sit in the madness of our culture and mock indiscriminately. The Moonanites rip away jokes at the expense of the show you?re currently watching (and, even remove pieces of it). Plantasm slashes away at corporate overlords like Amazon or pop culture icons like Marvel and several Warner Bros. products. At one point, they even mock the viewer for watching their own film, reminding the viewer that ?theatres rejected it?. In this way, the joy of Plantasm lies in the chaos off-screen as the film recognizes the insanity of our daily lives.
In short, our world is as crazy as theirs. And Aqua Teen knows it.
Again, it?s fairly clear that this will not be everyone?s style of humour. As always, Aqua Teen Forever is more than willing to lean into its late-night R-rating with free-wheeling glee. But Plantasm has such fire and fury that one cannot help but laugh at the bedlam.
Aqua Teen Forever: Plantasm?is available on Blu-ray now, will stream on HBO Max on February 8th, 2023 and will air on Adult Swim on March 12th, 2023..