Friday, October 16, 2015

Dangermouse 2.0 E1: Danger Mouse Begins... Again

A Confession


I'll be upfront about this. When I was a kid, Danger Mouse was my favorite animated thing on television. I had only two shows I absolutely had to see every day, and both of them featured supercars. One had William Daniels scolding David Hasslehoff, and the other had a British mouse.

I was excited to see that DM was making a comeback this year, and to my utter delight I've been able to catch the show. I thought it might be fun to compare and contrast the old with the new, and see where each episode lands on the ol' enjoyment meter. If talking about cartoon mice who live in mailboxes doesn't do it for you, well maybe check out another post when I have more of them on here.

At any rate, here we go with Danger Mouse 2.0!

I love that it appears to be the same font as the old series!

Well, the title says it all, doesn't it?

 As we crash (and I do mean crash) headlong into the first episode, we see the updated car soaring make that haphazardly careening through the city of London, destroying all in its path.

And you thought I was joking.

The Mark III Mark IV ricochets around, knocking into the London Eye and sending it rocketing off into space, to bounce off a random flying saucer and really cheese off some aliens. They arm the giant laser cannons, but back on Earth, the Mark IV finally comes to a stop, revealing a petrified Penfold clinging to the controls shrieking for help. Danger Mouse himself appears in space to send the aliens packing before rocketing back to save Penfold and the Mark IV from plummeting into the city after ramping off of London Bridge. Upon arrival, DM apologizes to his assistant. For how slow the auto-pilot is.

Frog's Head Flyer 2.0!
And now back to business that was (apparently) previously at hand, as they face the updated (and much more colorful) Frog's Head Flyer, the signature vehicle of Baron Silas Greenback. It's von Greenback now. I guess he's German now. Anyway, despite what our heroes believe, it's not Greenback in there at all, it's a new character, Pandaminion! He apparently bought the vehicle on eBay. Specifically eBay. By name.

I just find it so weird that Nero the caterpillar has a mouth now. A visible one, I mean.
Greenback, meanwhile, is touring the talk show circuit (apparently this is a Jimmy Kimmel knockoff he's talking to, Jimmy Camel), talking up how he's given up crime and used all his stolen money to make a line of safety robot mice. You see, unlike that crazy Danger Mouse character, he's moved on with his life and is wanting to make the world a safer place. On that note, after a chase/battle scene that destroys most of London and interrupts Colonel K being knighted (and literally disarmed - lucky it's just his hologram!) by the Queen over what is apparently... the theft of a bamboo chair, DM is fired for being TOO dangerous. And also for blowing the series' entire budget with that chase/fight scene.


Sorry, just... have to interrupt for this. The Queen's a corgi! I just... wow. It's adorable AND appropriate! Also, she apparently has accidentally knocked off limbs before and has a collection of them.

This show just had a weirdly dark moment.

This show just had a weirdly dark moment. And then has another one. As K reprimands DM for his reckless pursuit and his insistence on fixating on the "clearly reformed" Greenback ("He said it on a chat show! What more proof do you need?"), Penfold asks when DM has ever been wrong. Other than that time he mistook a children's dress-up party for an alien invasion and blasted a bunch of 5-year-olds into space. Never to return. Screaming and crying for their mothers.

Weirdly. Dark. Moment.
And the best part is we got your replacement FREE from your arch enemy! No reason to suspect a thing!
 At any rate, due to budget constraints, Professor Squawkencluck's lab is now sharing space with K's office. She takes the time to introduce a new gadget, a fancy technological eyepatch that CLEARLY Danger Mouse is going to be getting before the episode concludes. He can't have it now though. He's not an agent. They have a Safety Mouse gifted to the agency by Greenback to replace him. (Ouch!)

And if you like that, wait until a SERIOUS parking violation happens!
DM tries his hand at a few new jobs, but his uniquely overzealous 80s Action Hero style means that he can't do anything without escalating it to thrill seeker levels. Penfold tries to console him, but Danger Mouse realizes that the only thing he can do is hope the Safety Mice really screw up and prove that he's the hero that England (and the world) needs and that Greenback is still a villain. Unfortunately, the Safety Mouses (Mice?) are performing so well that now every important person in the world has one!


After a pep talk from Penfold, DM decides to infiltrate the Safety Mouse factory and find proof of his suspicions. He super-spies his way into the building, through it, and back out again before he even realizes he's done it. Lucky for him, Penfold has a plan. They can just take the tour. DM implements his training to make them both disguises cobbled together out of a newspaper. It gets them in and somehow gets Penfold picked up by the automated system.

Way to go, Penfold! That's using your... butt?
After being put through the assembly process, Penfold attains one of the strange chips that Greenback's longtime minion Stiletto is putting onto the completed robots. Together, Danger Mouse and Penfold flee the factory and take a look at their prize. The apparent (but broken) "supervillain exposition rant" hologram that it plays is all the evidence DM needs to nab Greenback and drag him in. However, when Squawkencluck plays the entire holo, it is a decidedly benign "if found, please return to owner" message. Disgraced for the second time, DM is forced to chauffeur his despised enemy home in his cab.

The secret to successful villainy: knowing when to run away, laughing manically.
 At Penfold's prompting, DM decides to go and apologize to the Baron. He blunders in on Greenback glorying in how his plan has worked perfectly. But it's too late to stop him! Greenback takes off in the Frog's Head Flyer, leaving DM to receive a panicked call from Colonel K about how they've discovered Greenback can control the Safety Mice remotely. Every important person in the world is being nabbed by their own Safety Mouse and being held prisoner! Including K!


Oops! Animation flub on DM's eye, there.
Fortunately, the quick-thinking Squawkencluck and the... perhaps just slightly daft K hid themselves as a lamp and a painting. DM seems a bit disappointed that Squawks just stuck a lampshade on her head instead of using some kind of sophisticated invisibility cloak technology.

At any rate, the Safety Mouse has only captured K's hologram! (The narrator's as confused as we are on how that's worked.) DM and company are the world's only hope! The group suit up (and Danger Mouse attains the eyepatch gadget, giving him +12 perception, +8 communication and a -9 charisma for the default ringtone it has. Together, they set off to rescue theworld's leaders from Greenback. Lucky for them, he's updated his Spam Chops (YouTube) page with all the pertinent information they need.

He even plugs his website and invites you to subscribe to his feed. It's all very authentic.
I'm still trying to figure out how the eyepatch think works. Is it a neural transmitter? Does DM actually HAVE his left eye and this whole thing has been a style choice this whole time, or what? I'm going with neural transmitter. Purely because it sounds the most sci-fi.

The Queen is NOT amused.


Stiletto and Greenback have seized the Queen (and repossessed Buckingham Palace), but see DM and co. coming. Taking refuge in the nigh-indestructible Flyer (which Greenback is happy to call DM and remind about how it's made of "pure convenientium"), the bad guys sic the army of Safety Mice on our rag tag hero squad. They're unable to make much of a dent in the horde until DM uses one of the electromagnet balls that Squawks brought to magnetize the whole lot to a construction crane from the repairs being done to the palace.
"Oh, we're doing this old school?"
With the robots out of commission, Greenback orders a retreat. Unfortunately for him, the Flyer has been fitted with a boot for illegal parking. Greenback's certain he's safe, since the Flyer is impenetrable... except to K's hologram, which has been reminded it can just walk through walls. DM gets in when the Baron accidentally hits the door button, leading to an 'eyeballs in the dark' gag as the Baron attempts to get the advantage in the fight. He forgets his night vision goggles for a moment but grabs them. As you can probably guess, he's whalloped anyway.

Cheese decor? I mean really...

So the world is saved! And since Squawkencluck seized the Baron's financial assets, there's enough money to pay for all the damage caused in this episode, and build a brand new Secret Service home base! It's cleverly disguised as a commonplace pillar box. One large enough to house a base. It's monstrously huge. The new base even has an updated version of the old sunken sofa/elevator, which is a nice touch. Proving already that there's no such thing as privacy OR secrecy, Greenback calls on the videophone to assure DM that this is only the beginning. As we conclude our first episode, the narrator has questions. A LOT of questions. Questions mostly about the Colonel's hologram and just how the writers plan to explain it.

Comparisons and Callbacks 

This first one is going to be a bit long, so hold tight because there's a lot of ground to cover!

Opening/Theme song



The lyrics are the same, but the open has had quite a face lift! The music is updated, and the stylized opening of the new series is really something else. Veering between stylized visuals with the titular character and his faithful sidekick is a fun treat. Sometimes the updated car looks a bit off and plastic against the screen, however. Naturally you couldn't have the opening without DM saving his faithful assistant, but where the 80s had DM and Penfold escaping a hungry croc and an ever-growing series of bombs (seriously, those bombs got bigger and bigger as the song progressed), this one has DM rescuing Penfold from some sort of laser doomsday weapon and a lake of magma before swooping through London. The logo retains the bomb motif of the old series.

Settings/World




While the use of photo backdrops has remained, the images used in the new series are colorful and vivid, and really have some pop to them. (And a few fictionalized landmarks, perhaps) There are several other differences in this series' world and the old one, though. I'm pretty sure that this isn't meant to be the "same world" as the 80's series, since in the old show the world was human-scaled for the most part, and human characters were known (and occasionally shown) to exist. In this world, everything is scaled to roughly DM's size, and the world is populated entirely by similarly-scaled anthropomorphic characters. That said, we sometimes see references to the old show. If this is a different world, what are those doing here?! It's a little confusing.

Compare DM sitting near this pillar box...

...with the ENORMOUS ONE that they created as a "secret" HQ
And then compare to the clearly human-world version from the OS

One thing I don't care for in the series (pretty much the ONLY thing I dislike so far) is the affinity for the word "Danger". Danger Mouse is now one of several "Danger Agents", and pretty much all of his gadgets have "Danger" as the prefix for the name. I think DM's eyepatch gadget (should we call it the iPatch?) is the only thing that's been completely immune to Danger-Naming so far.

Characters

Everyone has a new voice! That said, it's not a huge adjustment to make. Except the narrator, that one still jars me a bit.



Danger Mouse (real name still unknown?) is still the world's greatest secret agent, but where he was once ridiculously adept at nearly everything without really having to exert much effort into trying, he's now allowed to be more... well.. ridiculous. He's a bit zanier, more of an adrenaline junkie, and makes no excuses for the fact he prefers to live with the threat of constant peril. The old DM got more quick asides of wit, but the new one is a lot of fun, not in the least because he's flawed and fallible. His first question after trying out the eyepatch gadget: "Does it have any games?"

Ernest Penfold is still a coward, but he's no longer (as the old narrator would say) "the World's Worst Assistant". In fact, he's now apparently "the World's 12th Greatest Sidekick". Penfold's got a bit of skill and capability now, which makes him much more believable and interesting. Instead of the nearly blind hero worship and constant peril-magnet status he had in the old show (albeit endearingly), Penfold's a much more developed character in this iteration.

Colonel K is still in charge, still rocking that fantastic mustache, and we still don't know what exactly it is he does. K's certainly a bit goofier in this series, but he's also more technologically-adept and he plays a more active role than just being a face on the screen.

Professor Squawkencluck is a totally new character with the same name as a similarly-employed character from the old series. Where Prof. Squawks was once a mole (man), the new character is a chicken lady with a Scottish accent. Frankly, she's head and shoulders above the old character. And I don't just say that because she's taller.

  


The Mark IV supercar replaced the old series' model, the Mark III. I love what they've done to the car. I seriously love it. The design is sleeker. The wheels fold under Back to the Future style when it's in the flying configuration, it's just fantastic.

It's a thing of beauty.



Baron Silas van Greenback, like DM, has had an attitude adjustment. Where the old version was a scheming, sinister sedentary mastermind with a chronic laryngitis voice, the new version is a scheming sinister mastermind who is more dynamic, goofier, and more of a showman. The fact he has a Spam Chops page is enough to tell you this guy is very different from his predecessor.

Stiletto Mafiosa, Greenback's main minion and the series' biggest trench coat enthusiast, is a bit more cowardly, and has his Italian accent once again. The U.S. version of the 80s series had Stiletto overdubbed with a cockney accent, apparently because there were concerns Italian Americans would be offended at the suggestion that a frog supervillain might have a crow henchman that might have connections to the mafia.

Nero the caterpillar, Greenback's loyal pet, is pretty much the same as he ever was. Except minus the antennae and with a mouth. The mouth really throws me, guys.

Rating: 4.5/5

There is a LOT of setup and exposition to deliver when relaunching/rebooting a series, especially one that's as old as Danger Mouse. The first episode managed to set up the world quickly and mostly understandably, and still manages to be ridiculously fun to watch. I've been alternately looking forward to and dreading this, but before the episode was even half over I was grinning like an idiot whose inner child was on a sugar high.

There are a couple of things I don't like (Danger This, Danger That), but considering how ridiculously fun the show is so far, I don't think you could call it anything but triumphant. It's a boisterous combination of familiar characters, familiar disregard for the fourth wall, and a more irreverent writing style that is almost like the Disney series Darkwing Duck at times. The CGI vehicles look a little off at times, but no worse than pretty much any other series using the technology.

Callback Moment



Spot the 80s Frog's Head Flyer in this episode! Also the Mark III! (Is that a museum?)

2 comments:

  1. WHY?!! Just give me ONE GOOD REASON WHY we have THREE DIFFERENT BBC CHANNELS AND NOT ONE OF THEM PLAYS THIS SHOW!?!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Clearly you've gloated one time too many about how great the DVR and satellite cable is.

    ReplyDelete