Saturday, December 24, 2016
Danger 5 (2012-2015)
It's World War II, and Hitler has the world in a grip of terror, but not for long, as Allied supergroup Danger 5 is ready to fight. Made up of the Australian Tucker, British Claire, the American Jackson, the Russian Ilsa, and the French Pierre, this team must face Hitler at every turn and thwart his nefarious plans for world domination...
Series 1 of Danger 5 is a unique show. It's a completely off-the-wall comedy-actioner, set in a very 1660's inspired WWII, showcasing various high concept ideas. With titles such as I Danced for Hitler, Kill-Men of the Rising Sun, Lizard Soldiers of the Third Reich, and Fresh Meat for Hitler's Sex Kitchen, you know you're in for a treat!
As for what some of these wacked-out concepts are, there's stuff like nazi dinosaurs, giant kaiju monsters, and sexually transmitted /nazism, among others. It really is is a joy seeing how crazy each episode can get, and they never disappoint.
The humour is great, with some jokes, setpieces, and costumes that are inspired! One of my favourite things about the series is Colonel Chestbridge, the bird-headed colonel in a Prisoner outfit. He's hilarious, and the mission briefings are always a hoot (I'm so sorry for that pun) because of his dialogue, as well as the interactions between him and Claire ("What would the nazis want with"...-"Shut up girl!").
The characters are a distinctive and varied bunch, from the enthusiastic] Tucker, to the prim and proper Claire, the ultra masculine Jackson, the suave, laidback drinks enthusiast Pierre, and the uncaring and uncouth boozehound Ilsa.
Probably the least best episode is The Diamond Girls, which is a web-prequel to the main show. It feels like it's a pilot, and the creators are still working out the kinks of the show. Perhaps the biggest difference is the characterization of Ilsa. Though it's not as good as the series proper, The Diamond Girls is still definitely fun, and has one of my favourite moments in the entire series!
There are a few things I didn't like about Danger 5 S1, but they're all pretty minor. The occasional gag here and there didn't do it for me as much, and one that did, but was overused a little too much was the 'suicide' one in the first episode. The only character that I didn't take to was the briefly appearing animated one in the final episode.
I also didn't like the ending for Jackson (also the ending overall), which I found a little mean spirited. I wouldn't actually have much of a problem with it, as it's perfectly in character for the events to happen, except for Ilsa beckoning him over first. Why did she do that if she was just going to XXXX? That single-handedly seems to make the scene a lot more jerk-ier.
One final thing about D5 S1 to discuss isn't a problem that I had, but others might. It's the kind of show that might wear on some people on a while, though I never had that problem.
The actors in Danger 5 all deliver great performances, from Sean James Murphy as Tucker, to Amanda Simons as Claire, David Ashby as Jackson, Natasha Ristic as Ilsa, Aldo Mignone as Pierre, and Carmine Russo/Andreas Sobik as Hitler.
The effects in this show are a ball! They're intentionally fake, noticeably models, and with obvious strings, etc. There's also some genuinely good stop-motion, as well as great modelwork! The only effect I didn't like was the one for the shark in the final episode, because I wasn't sure if them having legs meant they were mutant shark people, or if they were meant to be normal, and the joke is that these regular sharks are being played by people with cardboard outfits stuck on their upper torso.
By the way, something I never noticed until now is that the post-credits scene actually foreshadows the decade tone-shift for Season 2! It flew over my head the last time I saw the series, because that was back in 2012, before S2 came out.
This is a very lingual series, with English, German, Russian, Italian, Japanese, and more! It's awesome!
The lack of an intro does bug me, but the party montages over the end-credits makes up for it. I also dig the faux-advertisements at the end of each episode.
Finally, the score. It's really good, with many really nice tunes. My favourite are the ones that play over the aforementioned ads, and party wrap-ups.
Danger 5 Series 1 is a great time all-round, and while not perfect, it's a fantastic way to while away an afternoon! Definitely a favourite...
Say, did you watch Kung Fury, then think to yourself "Hey, you know what, I really liked that, but it should've been crazier, and three hours long!"? If so, do I have a treat for you!...
It's the 80's, and things are calm and peaceful, until an old evil returns-Adolf Hitler! Colonel Chestbridge is murdered, and Danger 5 must team up again to stop Hitler one last time, encountering many threats along the way, from a returning rogue faction of nazi dinosaurs, zombies of the third reich, Nikita Kruschev, and the authorities, who believe the team has gone Communist. During their adventure, the team meet Holly, a vapid young girl who the nazi tyrant seems oddly interested in, for terrifying reasons. Can Danger 5 save the world from Hitler's nefarious plans in time for Christmas?!...
I have incredibly mixed feelings about this season. Whereas S1 felt more subdued (despite its own craziness), and had a sort-of British/European vibe to it, S2 feels excessive in a distinctly American way, and that's hardly a good thing! This series seems to embody loudness, as well as vulgarity in some places.
To start, Danger 5 S2 didn't really seem to feel like anything from the 80's that I've ever watched, and comes off more like a grotesque parody of the decade in general. While at first this bugged me, I actually grew to appreciate that Danger 5 S2 doesn't really parody much specifically, and has its own identity.
Now let's get to some of my problems. First is how it kills off Claire! That feels SO wasteful! She was such a fun and nice character, and it just seems pointless and depressing to kill her off 1 episode in.
While I enjoyed the insanity of the first series, S2 just feels a bit too much. It feels like everything is trying to be as absolutely insanely weird as possible, and I just found it to be stupid and trying too hard in quite a few places, like how Ilsa's mother is a parrot, and sister is a living ash tray with 5000 children, to the living skeleton and snowman that pop up every now and then to watch what's going on, or how a sentient ball Jackson frees from a vending machine vows to pay back the favour someday. That's just to name a few!
I actually kinda wish this was an altogether different show from Danger 5. While it still wouldn't be perfect, that would erase a lot of the problems I had with it. Like for example, killing off Claire. If she was just some random new character, then it wouldn't matter anywhere near as much that she gets killed in Episode 1, as opposed to a returning lead from seasons past.
While Danger 5's first season felt like a series, with new plots every week, Season 2 is more like a particularly long movie split into 7 installments. That kinda reflects in the endings to each episode, which are always incredibly abrupt (especially musically, as it always cuts the scenes off mid-tune, making the problem so much worse). This nature makes it a great show to binge-watch, while shows like Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, or indeed Season 1 of Danger 5 might start to wear on some people if they watch too much at once.
Another big issue with this season is that the plot kinda gives out after a while. It feels like just action action action, with jokes in-between, and it's all simultaneously a bit much, and also far too little, if that makes any sense. I also feel that Episode 6 would've been a great stopping point, as well as nice and even, but instead we get a seventh ep, and this made the proceedings feel a little dragged out (as well as needlessly depressing). Granted, that problem's not the fault of the amount of episodes, but rather the writing itself.
Other problems are how the story totally forgets the plot point about the team being fugitives. Hell, after what Tucker did to those innocent FBI agents, they should be fugitives!
Ok, time for some positives. One thing I really liked is that this portrays more of a fully realized world than Season 1. Not to say that series was lacking in any way-It was just a lot simpler, with 6 relatively short individual episodes. The characters also genuinely feel like they've changed from the first episode to the last, and I really appreciate that.
One thing the ending absolutely nails is that after 7 episodes and nearly three hours of high octane action, it really gets across a sense of calm and rest
What I found most divisive about Danger 5 S2 is the humour. Some jokes are really funny, but others I either didn't find very funny, or strongly disliked. Starting with one that simply bugged me is how no-one seems to recognize that Hitler is Hitler at first, even though he makes no effort to disguise himself, and is still literally named Hitler. I get that's the joke, but I just don't much like it. Maybe because of how stupid it makes the characters seem?
The recurring joke that pissed me off the most was aptly the 'Hitler pissing on henchmen' gag, which was actually not used as much as I remembered from my first time watching this. It's still not all that funny too me, just plain gross, and used too often, even if it isn't in every single episode like I misremembered.
Not every joke in the series annoyed me though. There are still quite a few funny moments. Appearing in the first couple of episodes is Jackson's old police boss, and he's a commie-hater who constantly says 'piece of shit'. While the gag is overused a tad, lines like "You're a piece of shit, you goddamn piece of shit!" crack me up! The dialogue is frequently great, and super quotable, with some true gems. "Now stop being a flannel, and let's live happily ever after.", "God Christ no, Michael Rat's a communist!", "Dammit, Pierre, speak American!", "Yay for dino damage!", and the classic "Suck a stiffy, Hitler!"
The toy advertisements at the end of each episode are pretty funny, albeit a bit too fast, loud, and chaotic at times, just like the season itself. I love the punny episode title Back to the Fuhrer! And finally, the 'normal tracking' of the Dinosaur logo at the end of each episode is hysterical!
As much as I hate what happens to Claire, I really dig Tucker's reaction. I love the concept of the revenge-seeking action hero constantly carrying the body (or in this case, severed head) of their loved one with them on their adventure. I found it to be morbidly funny.
Back to the Fuhrer is my favourite episode by far, because it's a throwback to the previous season's style, and just the funniest ep in general. It's supremely entertaining when the Ilsas and Jacksons meet, what happens between them, and how both Ilsas are into it, while neither Jackson is. I don't so much like the plot hole at the end though, which is never explained. On that note, how the heckballs did Jackson survive a knife to the head in Episode 5?!
Now onto the characters. They're fun sometimes, but also annoying in other places, Tucker most of all, but each one gets their moments to shine! As for Claire, thankfully she has a more substantial role in the aforementioned time travel episode. Speaking of, can I just say how annoying it is that this season actually has a history altering time travel episode, yet doesn't bring Claire back to life?!
I liked the direction Jackson and Ilsa's relationship took. It was kinda nice that while she doesn't harbour any romantic feelings to him (and generally doesn't really give a shit about anyone), Ilsa does consider Jackson a good friend! It's kinda reminiscent of that moment in The Young Ones where Vivian introduces his 'Good friends Neil and Mike' (with Rick of course being 'a complete and total bastard'). With Jackson, the implication that he might be gay/bi is subtle, and well-handled, resulting in a sweet ending, and sense of closure for him.
Now, onto newcomer Holly. Some might find her obnoxious (including me, at some points), but I liked her. It's just a shame that she doesn't really get a chance to do much of anything. The plot revolves around her, but her character stays static as just a conceited and vain young girl who wants to go shopping, and that's pretty much it.
Hitler makes for a great villain, with many amusing moments, though I don't like how death proof he is, as it takes away any kind of tension. You know he can't die, so the characters' taking him down won't do anything, because he'll just get right back up again. Thankfully this is at least only a problem in the latter half of the season. Also, it's worth it for the ending to episode 4, and what happens when Hitler dies and goes to hell, meeting the devil. Let's just say that I didn't know you could bring guns to the abyss!...
The addition of Mengele feels a bit pointless, as he does barely anything before getting killed. Same goes for Rommel's return. That scene, by the way, is the perfect litmus test for whether or not you think Danger 5 (S2 at least) is the kind of show you'd be interested in or not, buuut I also don't wanna spoil that scene, so...
My least favourite thing about this series is how it constantly kills off characters (especially likeable ones). I found it really disappointing when it did this to a certain 'new' character in the final episode (poor Danger 1!). All this culminates in a disgustingly mean-spirited ending. Yeah, the slightly mean ending to S1 has NOTHING on this piece of shit ending! Way to leave the faithful audience/fanbase on such a fucking downer! What's even worse is that before that moment, it was a really upbeat conclusion, and I had a smile on my face the whole time!
The acting in Danger 5 S2 is varied, and all really good! All the leads turn in great performances, while the newcomers, such as Elizabeth Hay as Holly, and Chris Asimos/Fumito Arai as Mackenzie, are super fun!
Something to note is that the character of Pierre is recast. At first I thought was just for a joke, and it really bothered me that they'd get rid of a member of the main cast just for a gag. As it turns out though, this joke was also the Danger 5 team working around a bit of an issue, as at the time, Aldo Mignone was one of the main cast of an Australian period drama called A Place to Call Home, and thus his schedule was pretty full up, which was certainly surprising to find out! I never watched that show, and it doesn't seem all that great, but I did see enough to know who Mignone's character was, and I was like "Wait, that was him?!". Mignone was replaced in S2 by Pacharo Mzembe, who's great! The casting change threw me off at first, and it took me a little while to warm up to the new Pierre for that reason, but after a while, he really grew on me, and I began to greatly enjoy him. It's for that reason that, if for nothing else, it was worth rewatching Season 2 of Danger 5 just to revisit Mzembe's performance as Pierre, and see it in that new light the whole way through.
Steve Parker is good as Kruschev, and definitely looks the part of a hulking and intimidating leader. He's a little underused, but still gets time to shine. The rest of the acting is fine, with good/deliberately hokey performances all-round.
Ok, now that I'm finally past all that, let's move onto the effects. They're fun in the same goofy and over-the-top way the stuff in Season 1 were, but while they looked like obvious models, the ones in S2 look more like obvious toys, and I'm not as much a fan of that aesthetic. The gore effects are super neat, but the show goes just a wee bit overboard with the amount of headsplosions. Everything here is practical, by the way. There's not one single frame of CGI in this show, and that is AWESOME!
The animal heads all look great! They may be operated by sometimes obvious strings, but they still look damn good! On first viewing, I though S2 went overboard with the animal-heads, but on reflection, it doesn't, and has a perfect amount! Probably the only ones I didn't so much like were Tucker's parents, because of the silliness factor.
The 80's inspired soundtrack to this season is phenomenally good! It'd make for a perfect auditory double feature with the tunes of Stranger Things! I want this baby on vinyl!
Danger 5 Series 2 is hard to recommend. On one hand, I found it a huge mixed bag, with just as much that I didn't like as I did, but on the other hand, if you go into it and pretend it's its own thing, then you may find it a lot more tolerable. In fact, as I've said, I enjoyed it a lot more on rewatch, so your mileage may vary...
Danger 5 Season 1 is pure entertainment, and I loved almost every second of it! Even though I didn't like Season 2 as much, it still has really good qualities, and I still respect the living hell out of it for being such kooky genre entertainment. After all, how often do you see shows on TV where teddy bear Hitlers and Nazi zombies fight secret agents in time travelling rollercoasters? I thought as much! At the very least, Season 2 isn't just some potentially dull 'safe' entertainment, and it's infinitely preferable to the flood of shows inspired by stuff like Packed to the Rafters and Offspring. More Danger 5, Dead Gorgeous, and Mr. and Mrs. Murder, please! Who knows what the future may hold for this series, or Dinosaur. Here's hoping their next project is something different, as of course I had a lot of complaints about the second series not being a separate entity, but if there is more Danger 5 in the future, I probably won't be complaining too much...