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Tank Girl  

The early '90s saw a resurgence of interest in the medium of the comic strip, particularly since the rise in numbers of 'mature titles', and this lead to more movie adaptations of comic characters then ever before.

These films ranged from the good (Batman) to the abysmal (Barb Wire). It was at this time that Tank Girl, an inspired and sometimes juvenile strip written by Alan Martin and drawn by Jamie Hewlett about a girl and her tank caught the interest of Americans and Hollywood.

It is surprising in a way that America took to Tank Girl with it's very British in-jokes about Keith Chegwin and Tucker's luck. I can only put American's liking for Tank Girl down to the same reasons they loved The Sex Pistols i.e. as a hip fashion statement, loving the clothes and the look but to a certain extent missing the whole point of the band.


Tank Girl the movie similarly overlooks the frivolous humorous style that makes the strip work and keeps the superficial aspects of the strip, 'fleshing out' the story by placing the character in a highly inappropriate good vs evil senario where Tank Girl (now named "Rebecca".Tank Girl was punk enough never to need a real name in the comic) saves little children, kills guards and runs around pointlessly in underground bunkers until the obligatory showdown with evil water baron Malcolm McDowell.Water is a central theme in the movie due to most of the planet being desert.

Irrespective of the film's inability to reflect the true nature of the comic strip, Tank Girl fails as a movie. The Bond-villain-esque Malcolm McDowell is simply too cliched to be of interest and the water supply story tokenesque.

Tank Girl defeats McDowell with little more than a punch-up and there are few of the imaginative touches that make these kind of stories watchable, and keep the Bond films endearing. One also get's the impression of a film created chaotically with little control. Emily Lloyd pulled out of playing the lead just before filming began, reportedly reluctant to shave her head...I mean, did nobody tell her?. Surely during a preproduction phase this would have been discussed and a director who knew exactly what they wanted would have made sure of it.

The film ends abruptly, a sure sign of haphazard direction, not helped by an ill-thought-out animated sequence that fails to capture Jamie Hewlett's style. Tank Girl appears high on concept but short on actual thought. The occasional nods to the comic strip are either misrepresented (Tank Girl acts sultry to distract a guard - a complete misunderstanding of Tank Girl's sex appeal) or lost in the translation to screen (the kangaroos here known a 'rippers' though ok can't help but come across like the Ninja Turtles).

A spontaneous Cole Porter number complete with showgirls is perhaps the bravest attempt to capture some of the silliness of the comic but actually proves rather cringeful.

Could Tank Girl have ever been a good movie? Possibly not, the refracted humour and visual flair of the strip being unlikely to survive the transfer to screen. You can hardly blame the original creators Hewlett and Martin for taking the money and running in exchange for something they essentially created in their spare time.

Adrian Bamforth

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