Invader Zim has endured for nearly sixteen years after it was abruptly yanked off the air by Nickelodeon, existing as a beloved cult classic in the minds of many. Its twisted and manic art style, character designs, and sense of humor was an instant hook for audiences, but due to its sudden cancellation (airing only a measly 27 episodes), it’s a series that was never able to fully reach its potential.
After many years and countless online petitions, the constant demand for more Zim finally paid off. Enter the Florpus is a tremendous return to form, giving fans not only some long-desired closure with the universe and its characters, but a wonderful reminder of just what made Invader Zim so great in the first place.
Similar to both Hey Arnold: The Jungle Movie and Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling, Enter the Florpus has its fair amount of nostalgia inducing feel-good moments, but it also has much more to offer than just that. It’s hard to try and wipe the grin off your face, the whole time the movie’s on; like Nickelodeon’s other movies for series that ended long ago, the feeling you get when you’re watching something that you never thought would exist, much less the fact that what you’re watching is actually very good, is an incredibly special one.
Enter the Florpus gives a quick rundown for those unfamiliar or forgetful of what the show was about – Zim (Richard Steven Horvitz) is Irken, part of a dominating alien race that take over any and all planets, who has arrived on Earth with plans of conquering it. Zim is, however, horribly incompetent at his job, and receives no help from his robot assistant, GIR (Rikki Simons), who’s more interested in watching TV, rolling around in cheese, and eating everything in sight.
Dib (Andy Berman) is a paranormal investigator, and the only one who knows what Zim really is. No one other than his sister Gaz (Melissa Fahn), who couldn’t care less, believes him, especially not their father, Professor Membrane (Rodger Bumpass), a man of science. The show was always a constant back and forth between Zim and Dib as the two tried to continuously outwit each other, usually always ending in mayhem and disaster for both of them.
Invader Zim was never much of an emotional show, but Enter the Florpus wades into those waters, at least a tiny bit. The relationship between Zim and Dib has always been more than simply enemies. They’re each other’s sole source of validation. Zim being sent to Earth wasn’t a real mission, it was banishment. He was hated and cast out by his race for his repeated failures as an invader, but on Earth, thanks to Dib being a constant hindrance to his mission, Zim feels like he’s actually working toward his goal – the fact that he has an adversary that takes him seriously affirms to him that he’s a real invader and a real threat, which is all he’s ever wanted.
Likewise, Dib is shunned by everyone because they think he’s insane. Dib’s constant screaming about aliens and ghosts and Bigfoot make everyone give him a wide berth, so when Zim, an actual real live alien, arrives, Dib’s warnings about him are completely ignored. Membrane, as a scientist, doesn’t believe in anything his son is constantly telling him about, and is a mostly absentee father on top of that (the family get dinner together only once a year), too focused on working to improve the world through his inventions. Dib is the only person standing in Zim’s way of world domination, making Dib feel like the lone defender of Earth and giving him validation in the paranormal things he believes in.
The two need each other more than they realize, and Enter the Florpus brings this to a head. Dib is feeling especially low after his father continuously tells him to give up on his childish beliefs, leaving him feeling ignored and disrespected. Zim finally realizes that his leaders, The Almighty Tallest, who he idolizes and is constantly trying to garner approval from, have never had any intention of coming to Earth. Horribly distraught, Zim feels like he’s lost the respect of his own father figures, and the two boys are left without purpose, leaving them only with desperation. Dib plans to reveal a defeated Zim to the world during his father’s unveiling of a new technology intended to bring peace to the world, and Zim is seemingly willing to let him do it.
Invader Zim has always been about both characters – their dynamic, and the care given to it, is what elevates the movie above being a mere nostalgia fest. The original voice cast returning is a big win, with particular praise going to Horvitz and his downright astounding performance. It feels like he never took a break or even aged; Enter the Florpus as a whole doesn’t miss a beat, making it feel like the series never left in the first place. Its energy and strangeness is something that no other show, animated or not, has ever come close to replicating, but any worries that a sixteen year absence would make the movie not feel the same are immediately put to rest. Everything that was loved about the original series is back in a big way.
For devoted fans of the series, Enter the Florpus is a genuine miracle. What little emotion is there is surprising but very welcome, and the movie doesn’t lean too much into it, because that’s not what the series ever tried to be. It all feels so completely natural that at times it comes across as a pilot – a way to gauge interests in a possible revival of the series. One can only hope, but if this was it, it’s a damn good way to have gone out. Hilarious, exciting, but most all, true to itself, the movie is one of the best of the Nickelodeon revivals.
4.5 / 5 Stars
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus is now streaming on Netflix.