Monday, July 6, 2015

Firebreather (2010)

I am a comic book geek, through and through. There's no getting around it, I dig visual literature and often find myself chomping at the bit for the next part of the story. I cut my reading teeth on comics (notably Conan, Vampirella, Heavy Metal, and Eerie) at a very young age and have only gotten deeper as time went on. I own more trade paperbacks of comics that I do novels.

Some might say I have pretty good taste in comics too.

And if the above photo isn't a dead giveaway, I am indeed a fan of the work of Robert Kirkman. Who is that? Well, he's the guy who created The Walking Dead. You've heard of that, right? Yeah, it was a comic first and is still going strong, getting better with every single issue. over at Image Comics, he's basically a living breathing money printer. But he does other stuff too, namely some superhero books like Haunt and Invincible. Invincible has an entire universe of characters that interact with one another and coexist, not unlike the Marvel and DC comic universes. Much like those, not every character the coexists is the creation of one person. One particular character actually sticks out as quite interesting indeed. Firebreather, a character created by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn, is that character. He's a teenager who does indeed have powers and abilities...but it's how those abilities came to be that makes him show up in this little month. Because, you see...his dad's a kaiju.


Imagine being grounded by a guy who can level a city.
Yes, he's half human and half giant badass monster, which definitely creates a lot of questions that he definitely doesn't want answers to. This makes him probably the most unique superhero concept there is, because I can't think of a single other character with this kind of background. I applaud his creators for actually thinking outside the box here. Now, while his comics were never the biggest crowd-drawers, I always found them pretty cool. Then Cartoon Network, of all companies, announced a film was in the works and I didn't know what to expect. This was during an era where they did some very strange things that definitely confused people. But I was willing to give it a shot, so join me as we see whether the movie turned out to be trash or treasure.

Let's do it quick too, before our hero gets sent to his room for sass.
16 years prior to our story, the great kaiju race was at war with humans until their leader, Belloc, did something really weird. He fell in love with a human woman named Margaret Rosenblatt. Weirder still, the happened to give birth to a son named Duncan, creating a link between their species. Margaret has to be one seriously flexible lady, that's all I can say. Barring the obvious questions about how the conception happened, our hero is born and our real story begins as he (Duncan) and his mom movie into a new place in a new town. The kid's pretty worried too about how people might think he's a bit odd, what with the orange skin and the eating coal. I'd be worried too...someone might think he's a Jersey Shore fan with that skintone. That's true terror, right there. From there though he goes to school and things feel not unlike your basic teen movie. He makes friends with the "weird" kids, gets a crush on the popular girl, and the jock asshole targets him because, of course, said popular girl is his ex.

Throw in Kevin Bacon and some dancing and this feels oddly familiar.
Of course, Kevin Bacon didn't breathe fire and our boy Duncan does. His new friends also happen to have particular feelings regarding kaiju too as the girl, Isabel, is rather a massive kaiju fangirl. I wish I had known some of those in high school, maybe I would've stayed out of trouble. Meanwhile his other new buddy, Kenny, feels less happy towards kaiju and has what one might call an obvious crush on the cute kaiju obsessed girl. I wonder if that will come up later? There's also the issue of these small frog kaiju things called Gomorradon who are attracted to larger stronger kaiju, thus they're attracted to our boy Duncan. That's not an easy one to explain.

Quick, tell them your mogwai ate after midnight!
Of course, because Isabel sees him with the Gomorradon, she gets a crush on him. But who wouldn't? Look at that hair and vaguely scaley complexion! He's a dreamboat, he is. Later, because douchebags in movies do shitty things, Troy (the jock ex) breaks into popular girl Jenna's locker to steal the money she raised for Homecoming, thus keeping alive the proud lineage of 80s movie douchery. I won't be surprised if he tries to "sweep the leg" later. The next day at school Duncan does what all decent guys do, defending his new friend Kenny from the bullies, leading to him being chased through the school in the greatest high school chase scene since Trick or Treat! While defending himself, he accidentally breathes fire at the asshole and the coach grabs him to take off, as Coach Blitz Barnes is actually there to watch over the kid for the government. They head to the lab where Duncan's mom is, where they go over his newly manifested power.

Are we sure this wasn't just caused by the lunchroom food? I know I've had some similar sensations come from eating there.
Blitz smooths things over with the Principal, using the excuse that Duncan used a trick to fuck with Troy, and they get sent to clean up the mess they made. Isabel then informs about a party Ms. Popularity is throwing, leading to the obvious "hero wants to go there to woo the pretty girl" moment of our film. Seriously though, why is he so hooked on the girl he's barely talked to? Isabel is actually cuter (design-wise) and has a clearly defined personality outside of being the pretty popular girl. Oh well, moving on to the party, Troy tries to tell his ex that Duncan is a fire-breathing freak (which is actually a pretty cool occupation) but is swept away by his dad, because he's in trouble for being a douchebag all the time. Our hero then actually talks to Jenna, letting us see some bit of character for her, but the moment gets ruined when the subject of dads comes up as her dad is dead. Ouch.

Quick, light something on fire! It worked in Endless Love! Well, okay, maybe not the best example.
Things then proceed to get more awkward when Duncan's pop shows up to fetch his boy, leading not only to the party being ruined but also to Isabel finding out he's half kaiju. His dad tells him it's time to accept his birthright as his successor, but the kid doesn't want to be king of the kaiju. He's presented to the other kaiju and Belloc then shows how proud he is of his boy by tossing into a pit of lava.

And you thought Heihachi tossing son off a cliff in Tekken was bad.
But, rather than roasting him to death like Gollum in the fires of Mt. Doom, Duncan emerges in his fully realized kaiju-human hybrid form and promptly...faints. Our hero, folks. He gets manhandled by his dad, falls for a girl he barely knows, and faints when he looks like he's going to kick all kinds of ass. He wakes up in the desert, staggering his way to a trailer that turns out to be Kenny's place. Kenny seems hospitable enough, even not reacting too badly to him being half-kaiju (as Isabel told that little secret to him). No, it's not until Kenny finds out she invited him to the party that he turns into a monster all his own as jealousy takes over. Later at home, where there is much less drama, his mom and him talk about everything. She tells him that the plan was always for him to live a normal life and be a normal kid going to college where he would accumulate lots of debt that he'd be struggling to pay back for years.

Because America!
But things are far from normal, as he arrives back at school to learn he's the most popular guy there after Isabel told everyone he saved them from Belloc. Why isn't he trying to date her again? Because she's not blonde? Just checking. Speaking of his blonde fixation, he tucks a nice big crystal in her locker for her to sell for Homecoming funds, as her ex did steal those earlier. See, everything is adding continuity-wise! This leads to the two invariably talking again, which stops Isabel from invariably asking him out, and Duncan asks Jenna to Homecoming, which she accepts because he's so dreamy. The day takes a pitch-shift though as Blitz takes him kaiju hunting, resulting in Duncan having to battle a kaiju while his father watches on. But after trouncing the creature, he refuses to kill it and Blitz and his boys target Belloc. In the strangest move since knocking up a human, the kaiju king surrenders, showing that he's not as bad as his son thinks he is.

He's a kaiju with a heart of gold...no, really, his heart my be made of gold. Monster physiology and all.
Homecoming happens and everyone is there, including Astaroth and Abbadon. Who are they? Why, they're just two ambitious young kaiju out take the throne from Duncan, that's all. The stresses of being a kaiju prince, man. Being a teenager is a rough time for all of us. Teen drama is abound too, as Kenny blurts out Duncan's secret because he's still not keen about Isabel being into him, which then causes Ms. Popularity to run into doucheface's arms because cliches really do belong together. Isabel yells at Kenny for being a jealous asshole and then the previously mentioned kaiju show up looking for love in all the wrong places.

"I just want someone who wants me for me. Don't I deserve love too?"
Beating back his angst, Duncan gets his kaiju on and saves his classmates, revealing his secret in the most blatant way possible, and his mom takes popular girl who turned on with her because apparently she's still the love interest after all of that. They go to get Belloc to come help Duncan take on the gruesome kaiju bros, and the worried father reveals he could have easily broken out of his prison at any time. Menawhile, Duncan and Blitz are on their own against the big nasties and Duncan sprouts wings when trying to save his coach/bodyguard , flying them both to safety before going back to the fight. His mom and sorta-girlfriend crash a jet into one of the kaiju, Belloc shows up to lend a hand (or claw, as it were) and everything is going great. Except for the whole Duncan not wanting to kill kaiju thing. Instead he traps the two kaiju under a bunch of rocks via an avalanche, the day is saved, and his dad surrenders again so he can stay close to watch over his budding baby boy. Oh, and Duncan and Jenna get back together.

Yaaaaay, I guess...
Firebreather was a pretty good little animated film and a nice origin story for a young superhero. As I said before, the concept of a half-kaiju hero is pretty unique and Duncan is fairly likable as a protagonist. The other characters are fairly standard though, outside of Isabel and maybe Blitz, making it feel a bit too much like a recycled plot from an average teen film. As far as lover interests go, Jenna wasn't really offensive but also wasn't interesting or compelling. She felt very vanilla and uninspired making it harder to really see what Duncan saw in her beyond a pretty face. I really do think Isabel would have been a better choice for romance here as there was more character interaction with her and she had much more of a defined personality. It also would have made the scenes with Kenny being jealous more relevant, as then he really would've had a reason to feel threatened being that they liked the same girl.

And I still maintain that she's much cuter.
Overall, it was a good effort and I would've liked to have seen it lead to a series, as that is clearly what they were trying to make happen here. It definitely would've been more desirable than Annoying Orange or Johnny Test. As it stands, it's a perfect superhero movie for a younger audience to watch and be entertained, but still interesting enough for older folks to enjoy too. The animation is pretty good too, retaining the comic's art style while moving into 3D. Again, I do wish it had felt less cliche in some areas, but it still works as is and I would say it's worth a watch. So, until Astaroth and Abbadon finally get dates, I'll be here writing and wishing I wasn't the only massive kaiju fan in my life. Later days, bleeders!

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention his doctor is smokin' hot too.

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