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Captain Planet: "Rain of Terror" Review
guest starring Jeff Goldblum
By your powers combined, I am...a big white guy beating up the disenfranchised!
I admit it's out of character for me to review a singular episode of Captain Planet, years out of date, when the site's neither based on nostalgia nor a callow Seanbaby-esque ripoff (anymore, at least). But I have a very good reason for reviewing the second ever episode of Captain Planet: it features one of my favorite actors, Jeff "Jeff" Goldblum as the villain, Verminous Skumm. Yes. A villain named Verminous Skumm. Those writers sure weren't subtle about their opinions, were they? If they weren't, they wouldn't be writers on Captain Planet, then. Anyway. The Goldblum involvement is why I felt the need to download this early episode of Captain Planet and review it. Really, isn't a Goldblum-related justification the best kind of justification?
The show's one of those cartoons which lays out everything you need to know in the opening credits. And Captain Planet's such a maligned show every child of the 80s and 90s should know the basic trappings. But for the sake of thoroughness, let me recap: the 90s environmental problems have reached past the zenith tolerated by Gaia, the hippie pagan spirit of Earth (Exhibit A that Ted Turner hates God). So, like all omnipotent beings, she calls upon five teenagers to do her work for her. Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from America (Wheeler? What the fuck? That's not even a name.), Linka from Soviet Union, Gi from "Asia" and Ma-Ti and his monkey from South America. I like how 3 of the 5 Planeteers come from an undefined region on a large continent (although once the USSR collapsed, Linka's location was changed to "Eastern Europe", which could've actually fueled some hilarious stories about separatism, ethnic cleansing, and NATO). It just furthers America's ignorance about everywhere else.
Design taken from Pakistani editorial cartoon depiction of Ariel Sharon.
As the title would suggest, the issue of the episode is acid rain. Verminous "Jeff Goldblum" Skumm, a monstrous rat-man, and his gang of like-visage rat men, take over an abandoned factory and burn coal in order to create an acid rain cloud which...I'm not really sure. The lesson is pollution is bad, but then again that's the lesson of every goddamn episode of this show. Mr. Skumm is poorly characterized and it's not explained whether he's a rat-man, a man-rat, a man with deformities, or something else entirely. You have to expect from the name Verminous Skumm that the guy does not try to mingle within human society. I cannot imagine someone reading the name Verminous Skumm on a job application and still deciding to read the rest of it. Well, except for Blackwater. The Planeteers of course defeat Verminous through their own abilities and their combined call to Captain Planet, a cocky asshole who hates anyone who's not as pure as him. Captain Planet essentially fills the void animation had during the heyday of Power Rangers. Gaia = Zordon, Captain Planet = Megazord, Planeteers = useless Ranger kids. The environmental message is an added bonus from Ted Turner's money addled pseudo-mind.
His line here is, seriously, "Guess I better make like the wind and blow!" You said it, Cap.
After the main plot wraps up, as is customary, the episode closes out with one of those annoying and ubiquitous PSAs telling kids what to do (a "Planeteer Alert", to be precise; Christ, sounds like one of those lame progressive groups' e-mail newsletter). This one concerns acid rain, and acts as an epilogue to the main story, because on Captain Planet there always must be a scene of the kids powerlessly complaining about the issue of the day. So they complain, list the things acid rain does to the environment, and then Linka destroys the show by addressing the viewer (when they're supposed to be talking to Captain Planet) with this winner of a line: "write a letter to your Congressperson to support our environmental laws". Captain Planet adds: "the power is yours!" Wait, what? Why does Linka believe writing to Congress works when she lives in the USSR? Shouldn't she realize during the Cold War neither country cared about the environment during their effort to out produce the other country? Isn't it funny the same method suggested 15 years ago is the same method suggested now? Well, maybe not ha-ha funny. Infuriating funny, though!
This is how the First World and large multinationals view South America.
"Rain of Terror" contains an amazing political allegory subplot of the South American kid, Ma-Ti, feeling bad because he's so physically weak and impotent and always needing help from the other Planeteers (most notably the Soviet Union and America). The first time they try to confront Verminous Skumm, he tells American Wheeler to just leave him alone. I find this is a very prescient development in US-Latin American relations. Perhaps Ma-Ti is in fact a proto-Hugo Chavez? Unfortunately, due to the juvenile limitations of the program, the plot soon turns into one of those bullshit "the team is only as strong as its weakest link" and Ma-Ti saves the Planeteers from death despite having no real skills. Really, his monkey pal could've filled the role better than him, cause the monkey has a prehensile tail. Everyone knows how useful those are!
And this is how the First World responds when South America asks for aid.
Or perhaps Ma-Ti IS useful. See, I've been thinking about the connotations of controlling 'heart'. The Internet says he's an empath capable of altering people's emotions and thereby influencing their thoughts. You know what this means? Ma-Ti is the Rape Planeteer. He could easily influence the emotions of women and make them hot for his cock when normally they'd be ambivalent about fucking what looks to be a 10 year old prostitute hired by George Michael. If I had his abilities, I wouldn't waste it stopping business tycoons and going all Aquaman in the jungle, I'd tell Kwane and Wheeler to fuck off while I have a threesome with Gi and Linka. Once again, the subtext of a children's cartoon series is far more interesting and entertaining than the text.
I don't think this is an accurate IDF.
In assessing the limitations of the episode, and there are many, I must say the biggest error the writer makes is turning the major physical conflict to the United Nations teenagers versus the thievery and amorality of the Jewish rodents. I understand the dangers of not safely disposing of dangerous chemicals and the environmental hazards acid rain can potentially incur. However, making chemical waste loving beasts Jewish? I don't understand it. Did the Jews gain some reputation for dumping toxic material with wild abandon in the early 90s? There are a lot more relevant issues to tackle regarding Israel, like their treatment of the Palestinians or how the United States Defense department subsidizes the Israeli effort to murder Palestinians for specious reasons. None of that reaches the cathode ray tube. Ted Turner just wants to focus on the Israelis and their love of acid rain. Unless acid rain is directed at Palestinian tenements and Palestinian tenements only, the military application seems suspect at best. Somebody tell Crazy Old Turner's nurse that shitting in his diaper and scribbling "JEWS" with his own shit on the bedspread does not constitute a plot idea for Captain Planet.
Designs stolen from Shredder and Krang.
The message of the episode fails to say anything substantial, because acid rain is not only one of those no brainer issues, it's also one of those issues which does not affect kids, nor can kids affect the issue. When I was a young lad, I never saw it rain acid. I didn't run an old 19th century England style factory either when I was a young lad, so my experiences with acid rain and the cause of acid rain (burning coal) were limited to, well, nothing. Maybe it would be more beneficial to children to highlight issues they can affect, like recycling, global warming, that sort of thing. Even with the o-zone layer you can tell kids not to use aerosol cans. What can you tell kids to do to stop acid rain? They don't fucking own factories. Again, the advice the show gives to kids about how to stem acid rain is to write a letter to Congress. Kids don't know how to write to their representative! And if they did, the rep wouldn't have time to read it during the all hours blowjobs to/from special interest groups! Come on. Most hippies at least come up with reasonable failed ways to change the world. If anything, this episode teaches calling on a big gay man will immediately nullify the impact of any pollution on Earth.
So he's gay, right? He's gay.
Captain Planet is probably the worst superhero ever outside of Bibleman and Hal Jordan. Despite his unlimited, never fully explained superpowers, the guy's a stupid asshole who only shows up in 5 minutes of any given episode. He ain't the focal point of the show, the shitty little teenage audience identification characters are. It'd be like naming Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers just Megazord. I must question also the motives behind having ethnically diverse kids assemble their magic rings to create a big white guy who solves all their problems for them. Though Wheeler serves as the "wow, I didn't know pollution existed" moron of the quintet, I doubt Captain Planet represents the United States, as not even Ted Turner could make the case the United Nations enacts measures to do anything about anything. So either Cap is the manifestation of the United States, or he's the manifestation of Ted Turner. Both have merit; America fits the annoying, smirking arrogance of Planet while Ted Turner plays to the naive belief one mogul can save the planet from lax industry standards and poor regulation. Does it really matter whom Captain Planet is modeled after when at the end of the day he's still a douchebag?
I've asked Jeff Goldblum himself to tell us a little something about his experiences on Captain Planet, as brief as they may be.
I, uh, well, um, that is, I was very excited to be doing this voice for the Captain Planet show. [cough] Ted Turner asked me if I wanted, to, um, I suppose you would say, "do" it, and I agreed based on, um, er, well, Ted Turner's promise of residuals. I didn't get any, well, uh, that is, fucking residuals I guess you'd phrase it, so that's why I only appeared in the first episode of Verminous Skumm. The other thing I remember about my guest appearance was, uh, um, well, that is, er, um, they had to edit down my acting and speed it up in post-production. They said my total 3 minutes of dialogue was so slow it was, um, well, 27 minutes in tape form. In the end, my, uh, well, to say, my voice was sped up 8 times the original speed to get my character Verminous Skumm to fit into the episode. I, um, well, er, uh, well, sounded like Alvin from Alvin and the [cough] Chipmunks. I hate those motherfucking Chipmunks.
Now I must move on to the most important aspect of "Rain of Terror", the aspect which makes or breaks it: the Goldblumminess (alternate spellings include Goldbluminess, Goldbumyness, and OPS). I'm sorry to say Goldblum does not lend Captain Planet his usual air of nervous, enthusiastic intellectualism. While the voice is definitely Goldblum's, the writers apparently did not allow for Goldblum to mix the dialogue up and pepper it with his trademark Goldblumming jerky delivery. Even in "A Fish Named Selma", when The Simpsons crew had to rerecord Goldblum as MacArthur Parker so the line delivery was faster, it still fell within his canon, in the wheelhouse he is famous for. This, no. I think it says much that Goldblum only voiced Verminous Skumm once and was replaced by Maurice LaMarche with the show not missing a beat. When the Blum is a superfluous element to a show, you know it's the show's problem, not Goldblum's. CAPTAIN PLANET IS UNWORTHY OF THE GLORY GOLDBLUM BESTOWS UPON A TELEVISION PROGRAM. FUCK YOU, IDEALIST HIPPIE ASSHOLE TED TURNER!