Another feature of...
And so, with an all-too accurate dose of Paganism, One-World Governmentalism, Anti-Nationalism, Anti-Americanism, Pro-Communism and Anti-Intellectualism – would it be to much to ask Gaia to toss in a Ring of Reason to match the rather more dangerous Ring of Heart, perhaps one that creates magically accurate cost/benefit analysis on proposed environmental legislation? – we begin our visit to Propaganda Land.
You might think the above recipe a tad overwrought. Okay, the Paganism is obviously there in the whole Gaia thing. But the rest? Well, once you’ve watched a few episodes of the show, believe me, the messages start coming through loud and clear.
The One-World Government aspect is reflected in the fact that the Planeteers -- for so is our team of youngster dubbed -- act as the ultimate Non-Governmental Organization. Or NGO, in the parlance. NGOs are extremely popular with environmental groups and other ‘progressives.’ They tend to seek accreditation from globalist organizations like the World Bank and, in particular, the United Nations.
The advantage of being an NGO is that you needn't be concerned with the autonomous laws of whichever country you’re currently castigating. (Well, OK, the United States and Israel, if we’re going to come down to it.) You’re Internationalist, and if you want to haul somebody into a World Court, one where perhaps the legal rights of whichever nation they live in aren’t applicable, then you can do so. This isn’t true in every case, or even in many at present. Yet it’s truer now then when the Captain Planet cartoons were originally broadcast, and is becoming more accurate all the time.
With the backing of Gaia, the Planeteers have bigger fish to fry than concerns about borders or national sovereignty or piffle like that. They pretty much go where they go and do what they do, without much checking in with of local authorities. On those occasions when they bother to do so, of course, they are invariably welcomed. This is true whether they're acting within the borders of a Western democracy or the most tyrannical dictatorship. Unless the dictator is a polluter, of course. However, pollution here is almost invariably identified with the Western Democracies, to it’s not really an issue.
The anti-nationalism is obvious, with each member linked not to his or her home country, but to a continent. Except, notably, for Linka, who hails from the Soviet Union. This is part and parcel with the Pro-Communism I was referring to. More on that in a bit.
The bulk of the series' anti-nationalism is directed at, surprise, the United States. In the origin show, which unfortunately I don’t have on hand to review, we meet each teen in their home country. Wheeler hails from America. An America which is portrayed, and I kid you not, as pretty much a post-apocalyptic Mad Max urban wasteland.
Wheeler, we soon learn, is homeless. Because, I suppose, the United States is the sort of country that uniquely has a lot of homeless people. Wheeler lives among his own destitute kind in the aforementioned burned-out, urban wasteland, surviving only on his wits. (Such as they are.) His role in the group, needless to say, will be as the White Shallow Jerk of the Planeteers. As an American, he will needs be taught by his betters the all-consuming importance of rejecting capitalism and modernism, even if he’ll initially whine about it.
Wheeler’s introduction is thus part and parcel of the program's Anti-Americanism. Another hint comes from the fact that he alone is identified by his last name rather then his first. This again is to illustrate his natural distance from the overriding importance of environmental issues.
Even in the opening credits Wheeler is the only Planeteer shown acting in an urbanized setting. Linka saves a forest, Gi rescues a netted dolphin on a sparkling beach, Kwame captures poachers on the savannahs of Africa and Ma-Ti saves animals from a forest fire. Wheeler, meaning, halts a city-bound car chase by using his Fire power to melt the tarmac under the miscreants’ car.
Now let's return to
Linka and the pro-Communist thing. As noted, Wheeler is introduced as an
occupant of a horrific slum. Linka, however, is first shown to us in a
pristine primordial forest. Said surroundings, laughably (and appallingly)
enough, are obviously meant to represent the Soviet
Union in the same way the wasteland is meant to represent America.
For example: Here in the U.S. we’re currently debating whether it's safe to store radioactive waste under a mountain, in a facility the government has already spent 20 billion dollars on. Although ‘debate’ is too lofty a term for it. Many of the people against it, and I’m including almost all of the organized opposition, frankly don’t care whether it’s safe or not. They’re just against anything that might cause the public to become comfortable with nuclear power.
During its time, meanwhile, the Soviet government disposed of nuclear and toxic wastes by sticking them in steel drums and burying same beneath a couple feet of earth. The idea that environmental depravations are linked almost solely to Western consumerism is, to say the least, simplistic. Insane would be a more accurate assessment. Still, such notions drive a certain, politically-dominant kind of ‘environmentalism,’ and that sort is exactly what’s on display here.
By the way, after the downfall of the Soviet Union, Linka was instead identified as being from "Eastern Europe." I could practically hear the grinding teeth of the cartoon’s producers when they had to make the change, and the thought always made me laugh.
On to the show's anti-intellectualism.
This is largely displayed in the crudity and self-righteousness of the
messages conveyed here. Such as they are. The Captain Planet cartoons are
as coarse and simplistic and judgmental as any Jack Chick Bible tract.
Besides which they’re aimed solely at children, which the Chick tracts aren’t.
Answer: Very bad.
[*After Tom Cruise’s name was bandied about to provide the voice of Captain Planet, only to have the actor pass on the opportunity, the equally famed and distinguished David Coburn stepped in to take the reins. May I theorize that David Coburn is a relative of James Coburn, perhaps his son, and perhaps accounts for the elder Mr. Coburn’s appearance here?]
Perhaps I still haven’t
convinced you that the series is, in fact, consciously promoting the
political agenda I’ve indicated. In response, I’ll point out that every
element I’ve listed is a publicly-held view of the man who caused the
cartoons to come into existence: Ted Turner.
One of the great asses of the 20t Century, Turner is the sort of person people like me are thinking of when they acidly refer to ‘liberals.’ He’s one of the few people who I’d group with bête noires like Al Sharpton or Barbra Streisand or Michael Moore.
Some evidence of Mr. Turner's beliefs is no doubt in order, lest my statements be dismissed out of hand as mere crankery.
Is Turner a pagan? Perhaps not. Still, he’s made a well-documented series of bigoted remarks, in public forums, about mainstream religions. Christianity in particular draws his ire. He’s called it "a crutch." He declared, "Christianity is for losers." He said he’d tell the Pope, had he the opportunity, to "Get with it. Get into the 20th Century." He also said he would show the Pope his foot and tell him it was a "Polish mine detector."
The most telling incident occurred at CNN anchor Bernard Shaw’s company birthday party. Turner, the network founder and president, came across an employee with a smudge on her forehead. Initially, and it says something that he himself would have the balls to tell this story, he was bewildered by this. Finally realizing that it was Ash Wednesday, Turner called the woman to her face a "Jesus Freak" and said she "should be working at Fox." (She probably should; their ratings are higher.)
Pro-Communist? Definitely. Turner’s networks have repeatedly rewritten history to present Communist countries in a good light. His magnum opus in this regard was the TNT polemic / mini-series The Cold War. Turner's general conceit seems to be that it was America and her allies that really caused the whole thing. After telecasting the series, he attempted (with, I sadly suspect, perhaps some success) to have the show used as a general education aid in elementary schools. As with our current subject, Mr. Turner seldom quibbled about serving up raw propaganda to impressionable children.
He’s also buddied around with the murderous tyrant Fidel Castro, and even said it was Castro who inspired him to start CNN. (This I have no trouble believing.) In a recent speech at Ogden College – see more below – Turner reportedly praised Castro while vilifying President George W. Bush as "another Julius Caesar." Whether he fantasizes about the Senate assassinating this president was left unanswered, although one can see John McCain casting himself in the role of Brutus.
Furthermore, Turner has repeatedly championed China’s forced ‘one-child’ policy. Sort of an odd position, you’d think, for someone who inevitably describes himself as ‘pro-choice.’ He’d probably reply by asserting that he wouldn’t make this a matter of law. If so, it’s notable that he generally urges our country to adopt this as a ‘policy.’ Asked about his own five kids, he said that having them was "a mistake," and the in the past he "didn’t know any better." Ah, the Love.
As for hating America, well, he certainly has contempt for it as it presently exists. He married a real-life traitor, for instance. He constantly runs down the US in interviews, especially as compared to putatively progressive countries like the former USSR, China and Cuba. He thinks the best way to help the world solve its problems is to give the United Nations a billion more dollars to waste. *
Once, during a CNN-sponsored speech to foreign journalists, he stated, "The United States has got some of the dumbest people in the world. I want you to know that. We know that. It's a disgrace. I mean there are times when I have been so discouraged about my own country.'' On another occasion he stated, "people who think like us might be in the minority, but we’re the smart ones." He’s also called for replacing the "Star Spangled Banner" as our national anthem because it’s "a war song."
[*In an ABC news program entitled "The Value of Greed," journalist John Stossel investigated the idea that self-interested capitalism had accomplished more concrete good for the world than non-profit political and social organizations and agents. During the course of the program he interviewed Turner, who was then being lionized in the mainstream press following the announcement of his UN donation. Despite the fact that Stossel’s generally libertarian leanings are well known, Turner was dumbfounded when Stossel asked "Why are you giving this money to a group that may or may not spend it well? Why not invest the funds in your own companies, create more jobs, and make people better off?" In one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in my life, Turner grew red-faced and apoplectic at being so questioned. He started shouting invective at Stossel, tore off his microphone and stalked off camera. This, remember, is the guy who so values ‘journalism’ that he founded the Castro-inspired CNN.]
Mission To Save Earth, the video box tells us, is a "Full-Length Feature." This is entirely true, assuming that the phrase "full-length feature" means ‘three unconnected TV episodes lumped together on a video cassette without even the fig leaf of new linking footage.’ Admittedly, the episode Mission to Save Earth is a double-length one. Still, shows running a slim forty minutes are seldom described as features, much less 'full-length' ones.
The first thing that strikes you when watching a Captain Planet cartoon is how incredibly poor the animation is. Considering that gazillionaire Turner considered this his legacy to the world*, and that he had the gall to try to rope Tom Cruise into playing the title role -- Richard Gere was another eventual vocal no-show -- you’d have thought he could have pumped a little more money into it. Or wait…could it be that he actually intended to make a profit (eeeew!) off these cartoons, and thus had to stick with a certain budget?! Could that also explain why they marketed a line of Captain Planet action figures in non-biodegradable plastic?
[*The Brown Alumni Magazine Online describes an address Turner gave at Ogden College in February, 2002: "Turner called himself a modern-day Paul Revere. "I’m saying, ‘To arms, to arms! Environmental degradation, disaster is coming,’ " he said. Asking if anyone in the audience had seen the cartoon series Captain Planet, an environmentalist show for children, he said, "I thought of Captain Planet!… If humanity somehow does turn it around, partly [the credit] will go to Captain Planet."]
So we watch a barge full of apples or tomatoes or something red going down a river. The vessel, for no real reason, suddenly hits some rocks. The red stuff turns out to be barrels of toxic waste. Like I said, the animation isn’t very good. The collision dislodges some barrels, which were heaped very high and kept unsecured – flagrant deck-stacking being the general modus operandi of the program, ha ha -- and they fall into the waters. With the barge now completely out of control, it careens into a big boat of some sort, perhaps a yacht. C’mon, I’m doing the best I can in describing this.
We cut to a couple of nearby, napping fishermen. They must be quite pooped to have so far slept through the barge’s blaring klaxons and the collision. They awake just to time to run off the pier before the barge, now mysteriously reloaded with barrels, takes it out. This last bit, with the barge smashing into a small wooden pier after knocking into rocks and a yacht, causes it finally to erupt in flames. (??)
The Planeteers show up in their magical jet-saucer thingee. I say magical because, well, it is. See, the people behind the cartoon presumably worried about how their characters could zip around the world saving the environment, but without themselves polluting. So they gave them this futuristic-looking aircraft that is supposedly fueled by, what else, solar power. Since I’ve only seen a couple of these shows -- give me a break, I’m only human -- I’m assuming Gaia provided the thing, along with their magic rings and big Hall of Justice-esque headquarters.
About the first thing I thought when seeing my first episode of this show was that if the Planeteers really wanted to save the environment, why the hell didn't they share their solar power technology? Needless to say, I doubt if this topic was ever pursued.
"There’s the runaway barge," Wheeler blurts, as we see that its amount of cargo has yet again changed, "and it’s spilling toxic yuck!" Again, being a White Male American, Wheeler is ipso facto assumed to be not only ignorant but also childishly facile. "That yuck," Kwame [LeVar Burton] sagely replies, "threatens the entire river!" Gee, really? Landing their craft (while throwing up a great cloud of dirt, meaning that they are negatively effecting the local ecosystem – those bastards!), the team spills out. Boy, this animation sucks.
They run down the riverbank, shadowing the flaming, out-of-control barge. This is possible due to the fortuitous fact that the out-of-control craft is tooling along at a pace roughly equal to that of jogging teenagers. (Actually, half the time the barge is shown as sitting still in the water, other times as racing down the river. Make your mind up, would ya?)
Linka asks, "But what can we use to stop it?" Um, your magic rings? "How about Water," Gi shouts – probably because she’s got the Water Ring. Man, Gi, it’s always got to be about you, doesn’t it? Egomaniac. Being a moron, Gi doesn’t cause the waters to begin gradually flowing backward, thus slowing the boat down incrementally. Instead, she whips up a big ol’ tidal wave. This crashes over the boat, putting out the fire but tossing hundreds of the barrels into the river.
"Nice try, Gi!" Kwame sagely asserts. "Only now there’s more toxic [sic] in the river than ever!" Hmm. So thoughtless, hurried environmental activism can make a situation worse? There’s a lesson the show could have taught a bit more of. Still, what matters is that you care, not that you actually make things better. And would somebody please think about the children?!
Wheeler suggests a ‘team beam.’ Kwame, the de facto leader of the Planeteers – being the only one played by a ‘celebrity’ – concurs. "Let Our Powers Combine!" he says. This is the Planeteers’ motto, like "Avengers Assemble" or "It’s Clobberin’ Time!" Captain Planet’s mantra, meanwhile, is "The Power Is Yours!" This is directed at the kids in the audience, letting them know that if the world’s going to be saved they have to harangue their parents about why they use a washing machine.
Merging their beams, Water, Fire, Earth, Air and Heart (blech!), they bring forth the titular Captain Planet. Actually, Captain Planet just seems to be one guy with all their powers, so I’m not sure why they need him. No, wait, he can fly under his own power. Which doesn’t seem that huge an advantage, but anyway.
"By Your Powers Combined," he shouts, "I am Captain Planet!" He says this every time he’s evoked, and it must annoy the Planeteers no end. Or so you’d think. Instead, they stand in a poorly animated formation, pumping their fists triumphantly into the air and shouting, "Go, Planet!"
"If I don’t contain those chemicals, we’re in for a serious spill," the Captain avers. "Time for me to ‘barge’ in!" As you will note, the Captain has a habit of talking to himself. This tends to manifest itself in two main fashions: One to spout raw exposition, the other to make bad puns. And not amusingly bad puns either. The other kind.
Anyhoo, he flies ahead of the barge and tunnels through into one of the riverbanks. This results in a sort of holding pen, which a whirlpool (?) diverts the barge into. Then he causes sand to fly over the barge and hits it with lightning, which turns the sand into a perfectly shaped glass bottle to hold the ship in. He ends by ‘corking’ the bottle with a giant rock. And yes, this all looks fully as dumb as it sounds.
The Planeteers run up, cheering their hero. "We will make sure that toxic mess gets cleaned up, Captain Planet," Kwame sagely assures him. The obnoxious little butt-kisser. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help noticing that while the barge has been contained, all the leaking barrels of toxic yuck we were shown floating in the river have been entirely ignored. You morons! And yes, I mean both the characters and those who made this cartoon. "The Power Is Yours," the Captain inevitably shouts, and lasers back into their rings.
We cut to a really, really badly drawn aircraft carrier-type, uh, thing sitting in the ocean. "Welcome to the S.S. Plunder," villain Looten Plunder (!!) [James Coburn] (!!!) proudly announces, "the ultimate Earth-plundering machine!"
A really, really badly drawn ‘army’ of guys appears. They all look different at first, but this is one of those repeating things used in animation to save money. By which I mean the first guy is a blond guy in a beret, then a black guy in a safari outfit, then an East Asian looking fellow in a turban, then repeat. These are, we’re told, "The best mercenaries money can buy, an all-terrain attack force ready to loot entire continents of their natural resources!"
Joining Plunder, a yuppie executive-type with a ponytail, are his fellow supervillains: Dr. Blight (Meg Ryan), a jumpsuited ‘60s-styled femme fatale sporting a Veronica Lake hairdo; Sly Sludge (Martin Sheen), a, uh, fat guy with bad hair in a white safari suit; Duke Nukem (!!) (Dean Stockwell), who wears a Hawaiian shirt and swim trunks and looks like the results of Ben Grimm and a pineapple falling into the Brundlefly machine; and the hooded half-man, half-rat Verminous Skumm (!!) (Jeff Goldblum). "And it’s all rotten cheese," the latter announces, because he’s half-rat and rats are big on cheese, don’cha know, "if Captain Planet gets in our way!"
There’s a general consensus on this point. Blight, however, believes she has an answer. She calls up Mal (John Ratzenberger), her sentient, I guess, computer interface program. Mal and she have a flirtatious verbal relationship, because…I have no friggin’ idea. Obeying the wishes of "my toxic bombshell," he shows the others the operation of Blight’s latest gizmo: A "molecular duplicator" that can create a copy of pretty much anything.
Oh, did I mention that the copies it makes are "eeee-vil opposites"? For instance, Blight puts a white bunny rabbit in one pod; seconds later a scary blue copy with fangs, claws, threadbare fur and a bad attitude is produced. Now, I don’t want to get all technical and everything. Still, I’m not sure a machine that produces an ‘evil opposite’ of something is, strictly speaking, a 'molecular duplicator.' And what if you throw something evil into it? Does it make a good opposite?
Let me take a moment also to go over one of my primary pet peeves with the Captain Planet show. Which is the ludicrous notion that pollution of the environment is caused mainly by people whose explicit goal is to, well, pollute the environment.
Obviously, there’s a capitalist or two in this crowd of villains. Because, you know, that’s who pollutes. The rest, though, are what can only be called Pollution Terrorists. Why? Got me. And where do they get the money to create all these devices and formulate all these plans? Is there really money to be had from, say, purposely spilling tanker loads of oil into the ocean?
And how does Official Group Capitalist Looten Plunder expect to make money from his "four hundred million dollar" army designed to "loot entire continents of their natural resources"? What kind of markets would be left to purchase these goods? Even buying that you could do such a thing. And what do his stockholders think?
Actually, I’m pretty sure that most of the continents have the combined military muscle to defeat a private, "four hundred million dollar" army. That’d be a lot of million to invest in, say, a pizza parlor. National military forces, however, generally run a little more than that. Why, the United States alone spends over double that on its Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Every year!
Blight’s scheme is to kidnap the Planeteers and make Evil Opposites of them and their rings. So she lays a trap, causing a "distress signal" to emanate from an island somewhere. Sure enough, the Planeteers are quickly on the scene. After flying over the large, heavily wooded island for a total of about five seconds, Linka worriedly notes "there’s no one in sight." Following this, from behind some clouds comes a plane with Sludge and Skumm in it. They shoot some sleeping gas at the Planeteer’s vessel, which somehow gets inside and knocks them out. Gi manages to land the craft first, though.
The villains follow them to the ground. They grab the Planeteer’s rings, aided by the fact that Our Heroes’ magical solar powered jet wing doesn’t come equipped with door locks. Oh, and don’t just shoot them while you have the chance, ya mopes. Before they can carry off the teens, though, a dude drives up in a weird sort of bulldozer kind of thing. He orders everyone off the island.
"Where’d that soldier come from?" Skumm asks. How he knew the guy was a soldier is beyond me. We’ll later see that he’s wearing camo pants and a matching vest, but those aren’t currently visible. Maybe Skumm has some sort of advanced ‘soldier sense.’ In any case, the soldier unleashes the bulldozer’s main armament, which is a water cannon. (!!) Realizing they can’t counter such an awesome weapon, the knaves flee. (Presumably they’re out of sleeping gas. Actually, we’re probably just not supposed to dwell on this too much.) The soldier also orders the awakening Planeteers off the island before taking his leave. The teens are horrified to find their rings missing.
Plunder is less than pleased when Skumm and Sludge -- man, I’m embarrassed just typing that -- return to the Plunder without the Planeteers. "You said that island would be deserted," Sludge replies. "We just barely got out of that rat trap with our skins intact," Skumm concurs. I think he was referring to when they were sprayed with water. Nukem, meanwhile, wants the kids out of the way, since even without their rings they represent a threat. Unlike, I guess, the combined armed forces of all those continents they intend to strip.
Blight has another plan. She sends a false message to the soldier, who’s name is Commander Clash (!!). Clash [Louis Gossett, Jr.], who hasn’t heard from his superiors in some years. Oh, bru-ther, it’s the Japanese-Soldier-On-A-Jungle-Island-Who-Doesn’t-Know-The-War’s-Over thing. Blight tells him that the Planeteers are spies.
Back at the Ship, which is how I’ll refer to the Planeteer’s flying whatsit, the youths find that their craft has been damaged. Kwame notes that they will only be able to fix it with Clash’s help. Wheeler argues against this course, because he’s the group’s Dumb White Guy Who Always Says and Does the Wrong Thing. As usual, he’s outvoted by his wiser minority teammates.
Meanwhile, Blight is putting the rings in the duplication pod. Soon evil opposites of the power rings are created and handed out. Being Evil Opposites, they are all tarnished and crappy looking. Plunder gets the Deforestation Ring, Sludge gets the Smog Ring, Nukem the "Super-Radiation" Ring, Skumm the "Toxics" Ring (?), while Blight assigns herself the Hate Ring. Hate being, I guess, the Evil Opposite of Heart, just as sure as Super-Radiation is the Evil Opposite of, uh, Water. Or something.
As the Planeteers stroll around looking for Clash, they all walk over a fully visible rope trap. Unsurprisingly, the one to trip it is Wheeler, because he’s the group’s Dumb White Guy Who Always Says and Does the Wrong Thing. Luckily he trips on the rope, in a way that look pretty much looks impossible, and a spear flies over his head and imbeds itself in a tree. As we’ll later learn, the island holds a sophisticated advanced-warning radar station. So you’d think they – apparently the U.S. Military stationed Clash there, although this is never explicitly stated -- could do better than one soldier who defends the place with spring-loaded spears. But, you know, IITS.
Clash comes along and orders them to surrender. Instead, the teens retreat, as Clash stands around idly and issues warnings at them about how they’ll never escape. Easier than actually chasing them, I guess. Along the way both Gi and Ma-Ti fall into traps, although, sadly, these are of the non-lethal variety. (Why would one trap be deadly and the others conspicuously not so? Why ask why?) Their friends captured, the remaining cowards, er, teammates run off. Kwame opines that they must adopt guerilla tactics and set their own trap if they are to win their friends’ release.
Cut to Linka hanging from a loop trap, shouting for help. Clash drives up, meaning to capture her. However, the teens have set their own loop trap. I’m not sure where all this rope is coming from, but anyway. Despite the trap being completely visible, Clash sure enough sticks his boot in it and is hauled up and left hanging from a tree.
Wheeler demands to know where Gi and Ma-Ti are, but Clash only responds with his name, rank and serial number. This confuses Wheeler, because he’s the group’s Dumb White Guy Who Always Says and Does the Wrong Thing. Dumb guys are useful in shows like this, since it gives the other characters somebody they have to explain everything to. Still, Wheeler really takes the cake in this regard. Can this guy even chew his own food, or do the others masticate it for him and spit it down his throat? Again, I really think Gaia should have tossed an Intelligence Ring in there.
Kwame vainly tries to convince Clash that they are not spies. Then the tree Clash is hanging from splits near its broad base (??). Clash falls into some shallow mud and cuts his way free with a knife. (If he had a knife, why didn’t he do that earlier?) "You should have calculated the strength of the branch," he explains. Except that it wasn’t the branch that snapped, it was the whole damn tree. Who made this stupid cartoon, anyway?
In any case, the mud is quicksand, and Clash starts to sink. You’d think that after all these years of patrolling the island, he’d know where the quicksand pits are, but I guess not. Needless to say, the teens save him and blah blah. Being in their debt, he reluctantly takes them to where he’s holding the others. Just so we get that Clash will prove a good guy, they have Wheeler note that he’s a man of few words. "Few words," Kwame sagely opines, "but many feelings." Wow!
Back on the Plunder, the villains are testing their rings in ‘humorous’ ways. This involves destroying things as Plunder moans over the money they represent. Skumm splits open the deck and toxic wastes bubble out. I have no friggin’ idea where they are supposed to be coming from; the rings allow you to manipulate stuff, not create it out of thin air. I guess Plunder just had a huge chamber full of toxic waste below deck. Nukem melts an anti-aircraft gun with a blast of "super-radiation," while presumably giving everyone watching this cancer. Smudge makes smog, etc.
"Quiet, you fools!" Blight shouts. Two seconds ago, everyone was up topside, now they’re in the ship’s lab. It’s the magic of Continuity-Free Animation! She and Mal have deduced that if the Planeteers can combine their powers and make Captain Planet, they should be able to do the same and make his Evil Opposite. Sure enough, the combined beams from their jewelry merge and the evil Captain Pollution is born.
I had been hoping that, being Planet’s opposite, he wouldn’t be annoying. Instead, he’s even more so, since he speaks in Surfer-Dude dialect. Presumably because surfers are well known for their polluting tendencies. Captain Planet draws him power from the purity of nature. Captain Pollution, meanwhile, is soon lounging in a bath of toxic waste and drawing sustenance from it.
Back on the Plunder, the group argues over whether Our Heroes remain a threat without their rings. Blight argues that they should make sure the Planeteers are neutralized. "The Planeteers are very resourceful," Mal agrees. "They might figure out a way to destroy your new army and short circuit all your plans." As is often the case with badly written shows, the Planeteers will only gain the upper hand (oops, sorry) because their enemies don’t ignore them. Or, more obviously, kill them. They actually decide to off the smarmy brats (although this is stated elliptically), but send Captain Pollution to do the job.
Further evidence of Clash’s good guy status is provided when the teens see his headquarters. The whole set-up is powered in ‘environmental’ ways. "Hey, neat," Wheeler squeals. "He’s got a solar generator and a water wheel!" The significance of this develop is made explicit for the show’s younger viewers. "Pure, clean power," Linka agrees. "Just what every country in this worlds needs," Kwame sagely concludes.
You might have thought I was going to mock this apparently ludicrous array of fantasy energy sources. Well, I’m not. For the Captain Planet cartoons themselves were written, sent overseas to be animated, and returned here for broadcast without one person involved with the show employing any fossil fuel or nuclear power based energy source.
Because otherwise they’d all just be fabulous hypocrites, right? And that’s not too likely.
Seeing a radar dish, the kids deduce that Clash is manning an early missile warning base. (Either that, or he gets cable TV.) Clash leads them inside, where Ma-Ti and Gi are in a cell. At the push of a badly drawn button, the two are freed. Clash tells them to get out, so that he may resume his work. The teens, though, know that, with the Soviet Union gone, "there is no more enemy." Boy, yes, war’s a thing of the past now. How prescient this cartoon seems today.
Now, you might be wondering why Clash remains uninformed of end of the Cold War. "I was told never to break radio silence," he explains. That’s why, when he hadn’t heard from his superiors in any number of years, he didn’t bother to contact them either. Man, that’s so much like the military that I’ve got chills running down my spine. Setting up their environmentally powered, one-man advance warning radar bases on remote islands, telling the guy not to phone in and then forgetting to tell him that the base is no longer needed. Why, this whole situation is ripped from today’s headlines!
Promising not to break radio silence, Linka is given permission to call up data from the Planeteer master computer. Or something. By the way, Clash, good security protocols. One second you think someone’s a spy, the next you’re letting her fiddle with your master control panel. Yutz.
Anyhoo, Linka pulls up a couple of seconds of very poorly animated footage representing the fall of the Berlin Wall. (It’s probably so badly executed because nobody connected with this show could stand illustrating such a depressing historical event.) "The enemy you were guarded against," Kwame sagely explains, "no longer exists." Yep, it’s Peace for All Mankind from here on out.
Shaken by these images – indeed, what American serviceman wasn’t horrified by the fall of the Berlin Wall? -- Clash *gasp* breaks radio silence. "Home Base" tells him that his base is "no longer necessary." Boy, you’d think they could at least have said ‘my bad,’ given the whole, ‘oh, yeah, we forgot to tell you’ thing. "This station is obsolete," a dejected Clash says. "And so am I." Wow!
The kids, of course, tell him this isn’t so. "You are brave and intelligent," Linka replies. "The world will always need people like you," Wheeler agrees. (Screw the world, he should just go home and live off the accumulated back pay he’s racked up.) Their efforts come to naught, however, and in a badly drawn fit of rage, well, OK, pique, Clash smashes the control panel once with a chair. There, now no one will learn our secrets.
The kids are shown hiking back to the Ship. "At least Clash gave us tools to repair the Geocruiser," Gi expositories, as we cut to her holding a badly drawn lunch box-sized tool kit. In other words, the Planeteers have been trapped on the island because they don’t carry a couple of screwdrivers, a pliers and a monkey wrench in their ship. No wonder the Ecovillains are embarrassed to be constantly defeated by these mooks.
Ma-Ti expresses regret that Clash "lacks the courage to come with us." This statement surprises Wheeler, because he’s the group’s Dumb White Guy Who Always Says and Does the Wrong Thing. He replies that Clash is about the bravest guy he’s ever met. (On what evidence?) "To fight an enemy, yes," Ma-Ti sagely retorts. "But to face a New World? No." Wow! "Ma-Ti is right," Kwame sagely agrees. "The bravest courage is the courage to change." Double Wow!
The group spots their badly drawn craft, when suddenly there’s a badly drawn eruption of earth and a badly drawn Captain Pollution pops into sight. (If you look quickly, you’ll see the Geocruiser in the background of the shot has mysteriously become a helicopter!)
Pulling up trees – the power of deforestation, one assumes -- the Evil Captain tosses them around his foes, creating a massive one-foot tall barrier all around them. "That’s just the beginning," he smirks. What, there’s more?! I guess. For instance, he now sets fire to the tree trunks. This might have been more effective if the kids weren’t shown running away in the distance by this point.
You might think that Captain Pollution would get his targets pretty quickly, given that he can fly and stuff. However, he just stands there and fires badly drawn and wildly inaccurate blasts of radiation at them. Linka notes that they are sitting ducks without their rings. "We still have our wits," Kwame sagely replies. These they exhibit by hiding behind a rock as their nemesis flies overhead. Yes, you’ve got him on the run now, Planeteers!
The kids are saved, unsurprisingly, when Clash appears in his bulldozer/battle wagon thing. He draws Pollution’s fire, and in perhaps the most ineptly drawn sequence yet – a bold assertion, true – he drives around and dodges Pollution’s repeated radiation blasts. Dodges them, lest I’ve failed to explain this adequately, in a bulldozer.
"He has one chance," Kwame sagely blurts, "and I know what it is!" This brainstorm involves using the bulldozer’s one offensive weapon, the previously established water cannon. Brilliant idea, oh Kwame! Why, Clash never would have thought of that himself! So Kwame sagely yells out his idea, and Clash reacts by assuming a "Yes, I must use my one offensive weapon!" look.
Pollution is sprayed with water – personally, I’d have thought that a guy who could fly could avoid a stream of water shooting from a bulldozer, but what do I know? – and since water is, like, you know, all pure and natural and stuff, is severely weakened. After being doused with what must be several hundred gallons of water, despite the lack of any visible tank for all this fluid, the vile villain is forced to retreat. He heads back to the Plunder to recuperate. This sets up further choice dialog:
Somebody got paid to write that stuff. Just think about that for a while.
Back on the island, Wheeler worries about how they’ll defeat their numerous foes, Captain Pollution and Plunder’s giant army of mercenaries. You remember, the one trained to "strip entire continents of their natural resources." The answer? "We must get our rings back," Kwame sagely replies. They ask Clash for his assistance in this goal. However, we’ve still got about twenty minutes left in this episode – er, portion of our full-length feature. So Clash reiterates the "I’m obsolete" thing and stalks off to stare at the badly drawn ocean.
Ma-Ti appears to give him a pep talk. Would someone who’s obsolete, he asks, build a nifty solar powered radar base? (By the way, if this sort of technology is so easy to whip up, why are we still using fossil fuels? Oh, right, the bad guys. The ones sitting on the plans for cars that run on water and such.)
Ma-Ti then points out an area of burnt-out trees, presumably the result of Captain Pollution’s earlier rampage, albeit one that in no way resembles the footage we were shown. Like James Bond’s martinis, Clash is shaken by this sight. Unlike James Bond’s martinis, he is also stirred by Ma-Ti’s speech. And so he agrees to lead the teens into battle.
Sitting down for an hour or two, he casually whips up devices to replicate the powers provided by the Planeteer’s rings. Wheeler is given a "wrist-mounted flamethrower!" (Oh yeah, that looks safe.) Gi is afforded a backpack water cannon with what looks like a two-gallon tank, Linka an air bazooka, Kwame is sagely equipped with a "sonic jackhammer."
This is great stuff, as you’d imagine, especially when Kwame gets his device and sagely exclaims "A sonic jackhammer!" Apparently it’s the sort of gizmo one can instantly identify on sight. Ma-Ti, of course, doesn’t need to given anything. "No one can take away your heart power," Clash explains. Yeee-uck.
The Plunder pops into badly drawn view, looking to land a force on the island. However, Clash and the teens first sneak up on the ship in a rubber raft covered with reeds. Yes, that wouldn’t draw any notice as it drifted towards the craft from the shore. Luckily, despite the supposedly continent-threatening army on board, no one appears to be on watch.
Using a grappling-hook pistol – a solar powered one, no doubt – the heroes make their way on board. (Forgive me for not believing that the youths, the girls especially [yes, yes, I’m a sexist bastard], would be up to scaling a forty foot-high line, more so while lugging water and air cannons and sonic jackhammers on their backs.)
In a series of deductions worthy of the Adam West Batman show, the group reasons that the rings must be in Blights lab, which is presumably near "the main generators." Because sheer proximity to generators is the key factor when powering a laboratory. As an alarm on the bridge goes off – whatever – we see that within literally ten seconds the kids have found the lab. And look, there are the rings, just sitting there. It’s pretty amusing to think that Our Heroes might have been stymied by Blight’s simply sticking the rings in a wall safe somewhere.
However, before they can reach the rings, the villains offscreen teleport to the lab’s doorway. Sludge attempts to stop them with his smog ring, although this merely provides the teens with cover. Here’s an idea, you guys. Forget the rings and shoot them! With a gun! Or at least use the radiation ring on them. Yeesh. Anyhoo, the cloud of smog is, uh, destroyed by Wheeler’s flamethrower.
Next Kwame sagely employ his sonic jackhammer, which miraculously shakes the part of the floor the villains are on but not that under the feet Our Heroes. (Things I Learned: Earthquakes are directional.) Their foes fall into a badly drawn heap. Linka blows air on the (suddenly standing) villains, thus, uh, whipping their hair around and forcing them to squint. Finally, Gi sprays them with a gigantic flood of water emanating from the small tank on her back. (And remember that Gi is like four feet tall to start with.) The one she hauled up the rope earlier. Apparently Clash used some sort of TARDIS technology to supply that thing.
Clash tosses the team their rings. As their enemies approach, they call up Captain Planet. Predictably, their opposites react by materializing Captain Pollution. Ah, it’s time for the most incredible bout since Fox’s last edition of Celebrity Boxing. The two beings begin grappling. Since Captain Planet is weakened by pollution and Captain Pollution by pure elements, my initial and overly optimistic assumption was that as soon as they came into contact with one another they’d both be destroyed. Sadly, this is not the case.
A really lame tussle follows, immeasurably un-aided by the show’s typically bad animation and some especially egregious ‘action’ music. Oh, and puns. Horrible, horrible puns. And not the good kind of horrible, horrible puns, either. "Better check your appointment calendar," Planet quips as he whips a rope around his foe (the rope was sitting there coiled on the flight deck). "I think you’ll find you’re all tied up." Does anyone think even a five-year old would find that clever?
With victory seemingly at hand, Planet is incapacitated by a sort of pollution grenade thrown by Nukem. Pollution snaps his bonds and prepares to finish his opponent off. Here things start getting a tad silly. "We’ve got to stop Captain Pollution with something unpolluted, like sunlight!" Ma-Ti sagely offers. "But how," Wheeler asks. "There! That radar dish is the answer," Clash responds.
Suddenly inside a room somewhere (??), Clash hits one button on a panel full of them. "We must turn the dish towards the sun," he continues. Amazingly, this is the turn-the-ship’s-radar-dish-towards-the-sun button, and a reflected beam of light falls on Pollution. He’s weakened and tosses Planet to the ground.
"We must get Captain Planet away from here!" Clash exclaims. "That plane!" he continues, indicting a badly drawn craft sitting alone and unguarded on the deck about ten feet away from them. "It will get us out of here!" Ah, exposition at its absolute finest.
Nukem shouts that they must be stopped, and Plunder reminds him "we have an entire army at our disposal." He hits an alarm bell sitting right on the wall there – man, this is the most ergonomic ship I’ve ever seen -- and maybe a dozen badly drawn guys appear on the deck. Despite the awesome forces arrayed against them, however, Our Heroes fly to safety.
Landing, the team carries the still weakened Planet to Clash’s HQ. There they assemble some sort of missile-sized doodad they refer to as an "ionizer." This is meant, we’re told, "to draw all the toxins out of Captain Pollution." Whatever, let’s just get this over with. Meanwhile, Plunder’s continent-stripping army, all three or four dozen of them – later there won’t even be that many -- hits the island’s beaches. The Ecovillains come in via helicopter, where they are met by a rejuvenated Captain Pollution. With the dastardly Pollution in the lead, their poorly animated forces are on the march.
However, Pollution is dealt a blow by a blast from the ionizer. Oddly, this device, while still ungainly, is quite a bit smaller than the components we saw a minute ago. Pollution takes a couple more hits before thinking to order his badly drawn and ever changing collective of mercenaries into action. You might think they’d just open fire with their rifles, thus killing their opponents instantly. Instead, the men rush forward whilst making watermelon, watermelon battlefield noises.
"We can’t stop them all," Linka worries. "Maybe we won’t have to," Clash replies. He stands up and calls for their attention. Sure enough, they all – like, the entire ten of them – come to a stop and lend Clash their ears. (Good mercenaries, there, Plunder.) Clash draws their attention to the burned out tree we saw earlier. This will be the fate of the world if they obey their masters and strip the continents of all their natural resources. This triggers a short and rather elementary debate, along of the lines of Plunder’s "Only money and power matter" against Clash’s "How do you spend it on a destroyed planet."
Clash continues. He blabs about the things that pose a greater threat than missiles, like "greed, selfishness, indifference, prejudice." Wow! It’s not exactly the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V, but what do you want? The subtext of this spiel is that joining the military to defend your country is missing the bigger picture. After all, external enemies are no longer really anything to worry about. And who could argue against that proposition in this strife-free modern age of ours?
In any case, Clash’s oratory turns the tide. The mercenaries, now afforded the more honorable nomenclature of "soldiers," throw down their weapons and walk away. Where to? Got me. Strolling through the dead trees, I guess.
Now that Plunder’s mercenaries are neutralized, Mal uses a built in cell-phone – that’s what it looks like, anyway – to send a jamming signal that shorts out the ionizer. Whatever. For some reason, this means that Pollution instantly recovers, even though he hasn’t been blasted by in it a couple of minutes. Pollution starts tossing radiation beams around, at the heroes and the former mercenaries alike. Then he and the Ecovillains march forward. Astoundingly, this bit is even more poorly animated than most of the rest of the show.
Clash leads the teens into a dead end canyon – good work, super-soldier – and the Ecovillains move in for the kill. Captain Pollution raises his fist to fire the fatal bolt of radiation and…three guess what happens next. Nope, you’re wrong. For suddenly, none other than a reenergized Captain Planet makes the scene and…oh. That was what you guessed? Sorry. (Too bad none of the Ecovillains thinks to pick up one of the numerous discarded rifles littering the area. They could easily finish off the Planeteers while the two Captain tussle. Of course, if even one of them bothered to carry a pistol they could have killed them off ages ago.)
Pollution vows to show Planet who’s boss. "There is no boss around here," Captain Planet replies. "We’re a team! And that’s why we’ll always beat you!" Yes, amazing how that whole chain-of-command thing gets in the way of accomplishing anything. Committees, that’s the ticket. You know, working together and all that. It’s another valuable lesson for you kiddies out there: Leaders are bad. Well, not the Intellectual Vanguard type of leaders. You know what I mean. The sort of leaders who think they’re ‘bosses.’ That kind.
Captain Planet, who inevitable weakens whenever he touches something nasty, continues to wrestle with Pollution with no ill effect. Whatever. Since this is the end of the show, Planet easily routs his foe. He does so by exposing him to all four (or as Planet says, "every single one") ‘pure’ elements – tunneling through the ground for ‘Earth,’ through a rather convenient stream of underground lava for ‘Fire,’ through the air for Wind, and into the ocean for Water. As the blaring of the action music comes to a triumphant close, Planet dumps the defeated Pollution on the beach.
The heroes, including the former mercenaries, cheer this awesome victory. Pollution, however, vows to return some day. (Oh, my head.) He turns back to energy to return to the Evil Opposite Rings, which for some reason now explode. Whatever. The now defenseless Ecovillains run away to the jeers of their opponents. Yeah, don’t bother, like, capturing them or anything. Morons.
This awesome victory achieved, we then see the former mercenaries tilling some land, or something. Is cultivating land ecologically correct? Maybe they’re supposed to be clearing the dead trees, but the animators forgot to paint them a dead gray rather than a healthy looking brown. Whatever. "Look at that," Wheeler expositories. "Clash has converted the villain’s army into an environmental clean-up force!"
Clash pulls up in his, uh, environmentally sensitive bulldozer. He’s now wearing a green shirt and a blue beret. (Hmm, don’t UN troops wear blue berets?) "My men and I will travel across this world," Clash explains, "cleaning up pollution and battling greed as best we can." And this will be funded by who now? Sorry, sorry, where’s my mind at? Anyway, there’s some last ‘inspirational’ dialog between Clash and the teens, who now must return to their base at, get this, "Hope Island." Yee-uck.
Our epilog is one of the show’s Planeteer Alert segments, which are intended to instruct the young viewer. "Countries spend billions of dollars on armies and weapons to defend themselves from one another," Captain Planet avers.
Hmm, funny, he doesn’t mention the countries whose armies and weapons are intended to menace other countries. Or maybe it’s me that’s wrong, and militaries are always defensive after all, like Hitler’s was. Luckily, progress has allowed non-bosses like Osama Bin Laden and Yasser Arafat to defend themselves from other countries even when billions of dollars aren’t available to them. Stealing commercial airplanes and ramming them into skyscrapers is relatively thrifty, and strapping a couple of hundred bucks worth of C4 to a fanatic entering a pizza parlor is cheaper yet.
Anyway, let’s move on. "But Earth faces a more serious and common enemy," Gaia continues, as we see guys with trash cans. "The enemy is pollution," Clash says, carrying on the thread. Oh, yeah, now I see where you’re going with this. "Let’s use our money, people and time to help stop this threat to our survival," he concludes. Now it’s Kwame’s turn. "Let us make it a mission," he sagely contributes. Then we cut to the entire group. "A Mission," they shout, "to Save the Earth!"
As if this weren’t an ambitious enough agenda for the show’s second grade viewing audience, we’re now treated to a special bonus Planeteer Alert. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! This one generically encourages physical fitness, albeit the message is inevitably sold with an ideological basis. "The health of our Planet," the good Captain explains, "relies on the health of its people!" Not to mention the Health of the Fatherland!
My suspicion is that this forty-second segment is a lame excuse to show the Planeteers engaging in various sporting pursuits so was to allow them to draw Gi in a leotard. (She proves to be surprisingly busty for someone I’m assuming is meant to be a fourteen or fifteen year-old Asian girl.) Making this more obvious is that her teammates manage to perform their workouts in their normal bulky shorts, T-shirt and vest combos. Also, isn’t it just a little stereotypic that while Wheeler does pole vaulting and Ma-Ti lifts weights, the Asian Gi is shown performing gymnastics on a balance beam?
And so, like the many TV cartoons that exhort their viewers to head outside and exercise while remaining secure in the knowledge that they’ll instead stay on the couch watching the program, Captain Planet and the Planeteers pretend to give us this vital message before waving so long. After all, we’ve got a series of sugary cereal commercials to get to.
By the way, there are still two single-length episodes left on this video, plus I’ve got another tape around here to boot. Frankly, though, my intensive, weeks-long exposure to the anti-nuke antics of Superman and the anti-polluting adventures of Captain Planet have left me as drained and defeated as the evil Captain Pollution. And so, as he did, I’ll have to vow to return some day to menace the Planeteers anew and then make my exit.
-by Ken Begg