Friday, October 19, 2012

Television Review: Mighty Max (The Show)

Anyone who was a child during the 1990's is doubtlessly familiar with the name Mighty Max. If you're not, a little background. In 1983 Chris Wiggs invented a toy called Polly Pocket. It was basically a miniature dollhouse built into a case the same shape and size as a makeup compact. In fact, Wiggs' prototype was literally built into one of his daughter's old, used up compacts. The toy became relatively popular and in 1992 the company started producing a version marketed toward boys, called Mighty Max. Mighty Max was the same basic concept, except while Polly Pocket was all about pretty clothes and bright colors, Mighty Max playsets had gruesome monsters, wicked villains, and a boy protagonist instead of a girl.

Even as kids we all instantly recognized that Mighty Max was totally a knockoff and it instantly became known as "Polly Pocket for boys." That said, that didn't stop us from buying the toys, and Mighty Max quickly dwarfed Polly Pocket in popularity. In fact, screw it, even though Mighty Max came second, I'm calling Polly Pocket "Mighty Max for girls" because, like with almost everything else, the boy version was just so much better.

Please allow Kenner to make my point for me. Click on the picture for a better view.

The toys became so popular, in fact, that they eventually (as in, one year later) inspired an animated television show. The show lasted for two seasons and features characters from the toys as heroes and villains. It also added two other heroes: Vergil, a chicken-like humanoid creature with the ability to see the future, and Norman, a gigantic swordfighter. (Incidentally, both of these characters would end up appearing in later toys too.)

If I had to describe the show in one word, that word would be "weird." If I had to describe it in three words, it would be "pancake bunny mushroom" because after watching this show I'm pretty sure part of my brain leaked out. The sky tastes like yellow.


Wait, let's try again.

So yeah, this show is really, really weird. This show is so weird sometimes that I honestly can't even tell if it's racist or not. I mean, yes, I get that if a show depicts all Africans as spear-chucking savages with bones in their noses that yes, that's racist, but what does it mean when a show's depiction of an average Congolese native is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white man wearing bear pelts and wielding a caveman club? When that same show's depiction of Haiti includes an Aztec pyramid filled with mind-controlling zombie bugs, what does that mean?

Sometimes, though, the show is weird in a good way. My personal favorite part of the show is how ridiculously violent it is. Max, Vergil, and Norman are the polar opposite of politically correct. When they meet ice aliens, there's no "we come in peace." Hell no! Max lights their asses on fire and blows up their spaceship. Screw you, ice aliens! The best part is, that despite this the show never depicts any acts of "traditional" violence. You hardly ever see anyone use a gun and when they do they never hit anything. Also, while Norman does have a sword he only uses it on things without blood, like rock monsters and giant skeletal turtles. So what do they do with humanoid enemies?

Well, they choked that guy with a chain, then threw him into an iron maiden, then dropped the iron maiden into a pit of freaking spikes.

Holy shit, Max and Norman do not play around!

KR Rating: [4] GOOD

Like most television shows based on toys that were developed back in the day (for example: Transformers, GI Joe, My Little Pony), the Mighty Max television show was pretty obviously mostly intended to sell the toys. That said, there's definitely something here that's worth a look, and the show does manage to do some things that are fairly original. I like the way the show depicts the concept of destiny and prophecy, and it's also an interesting choice to have the main character be less heroic and more...well, kind of a dick really.

There's also the talent on hand. Mighty Max was voiced by Rob Paulsen, better known as Pinky from Pinky and the Brain and Yakko Warner from Animaniacs. He also did the voice of Rev Runner from Loonatics Unleashed, but we can forgive that because he was also on The Boondocks. Tony Jay, the voice of Vergil, was also Chairface Chippendale on The Tick and a whole lot of video game characters, most awesomely the Elder God from the Legacy of Kain series. Finally, there's Richard Moll who plays Norman, who also played Two Face on a whole lot of shows including Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and The New Batman Adventures. He also had a part in Justice League, but it wasn't Two Face because that would be too awesome. It also has Tim Curry as the voice of the main villain, SkullMaster. You might have heard of him before.

Of course, the show does have problems too. For example, the season 1 finale, which really should have been split up over multiple episodes. I can't say much without spoiling it, so let me just say that when we're introduced to not one, but four major characters in just about six minutes, it's going to be very hard to make us care about them. This is actually a problem with quite a few episodes: the writers try to cram way too many ideas into their half-hour episodes and the results sometimes feel rushed.

Also, news flash, writers of Mighty Max: you can't spend an entire episode telling me that Africans and cavemen are interchangeable, then expect me to think you're smart because you end with an "educational" segment about how silverback gorillas are endangered. You morons.

At the end of the day, I would suggest this show to anyone who is a fan of action horror and animation, and I would definitely suggest watching it for anyone who was a fan of the toys. If that doesn't apply to you, there might still be something interesting here for you, but probably not. Unfortunately, the show isn't available on DVD or on Netflix, though you can very easily find episodes posted on YouTube.

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