Tank Girl was a major flop when it hit theaters in 1995. Loosely based on the comic book created by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett, director Rachel Talalay envisioned Tank Girl as the ultimate girl-with-an-attitude film. Lori Petty is the irreverent, free-spirited Tank Girl, a heroine for a new age. Taking a cue from the tongue-in-cheek approach of Adam West’s Batman television series, Tank Girl uses a post-apocalyptic world as the setting for its lead character to fight maniacal villains and romance kangaroo men. The film has some kitsch value but there are solid reasons why it has firmly remained a cult film with a limited audience.
The year is 2033 and a large comet has hit Earth, rendering water the most precious commodity on the planet. The scarce water supply is controlled by Water & Power, an evil corporation headed by the diabolical Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell). Rebecca (Lori Petty) is a member of the underground resistance fighting Water & Power. The Earth has mostly been reduced to desert in this post-apocalyptic wasteland. Kesslee captures Rebecca and decides to torture her, hoping to brainwash her for his evil purposes. It is there that Rebecca meets and befriends Jet (Naomi Watts). Jet is an introverted mechanic looking for a way out of Water & Power, where she is treated horribly by its henchmen.
Rebecca survives her rough treatment at the hands of Water & Power and breaks out with Jet. Using Jet’s knowledge, Rebecca immediately falls in love with a giant tank that she steals from the company. She is now Tank Girl, a sassy and tough fighter willing to crack a joke along the way as she battles the villainous corporation. This narrative is threadbare at times and has to be held together by animated interludes to tell a semi-complete story. Tank Girl is constructed around a few large setpieces, built off action sequences that rarely have any sense of danger to them. Tank Girl’s over-the-top action owes much of its goofy sense of adventure to comic book flicks from the late Eighties and early Nineties, such as The Shadow and Dick Tracy.
Tank Girl and Jet join up with the Rippers, a gang of half-kangaroo men also fighting Water & Power for their own reasons. Stan Winston designed their brilliant prosthetics and the make-up looks incredible for the Rippers. Ice-T plays a tough Ripper but you will only recognize him by the sound of his distinctive voice. The R-rated film goes to some strange places here for an otherwise comedic script, implying the women end up in physical relationships with these mutant kangaroos. There is also a musical number performed by Tank Girl in a brothel. It’s hard to imagine what type of intended audience they were going after with these disparate elements in Tank Girl.
Director Rachel Talalay set out to create a unique film in Tank Girl and in that regard succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Tank Girl as a character somewhat works as a feminist anti-hero but the script is inconsistent enough in tone to render that meaningless. The problem is that a few interesting characters do not make for a great movie. Talalay forget to include a few vital things, namely a coherent plot. The more mature elements feel out of place given the sarcastic tone of the punk comedy. What makes Tank Girl mildly watchable is Lori Petty’s boundless enthusiasm in the lead role and the fact that it never takes itself too seriously.
Tank Girl was licensed from MGM by Shout Factory. Shout Factory has provided a very pleasing film transfer from a clean telecine master. Tank Girl was shot using Super35 and this Blu-ray has one of the better-looking images for a movie from the Nineties. The main feature runs a total length of 104 minutes, presented in its native aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Spread out over a BD-50 due to the included special features, the AVC video encode averages 27.26 Mbps and handles the fine grain with zero problems.
Tank Girl is rendered in a bright, vivid color palette. The film print is fairly clean and almost entirely free of debris, left alone by either digital noise reduction or sharpening. The film-like picture quality has startlingly clarity with an even contrast. The level of brightness might be a bit high but that never affects the black levels or finer shadow delineation. Close-ups display solid levels of high-frequency content, from facial detail to rougher textures.
Tank Girl was a big-budget production from MGM and its cinematography holds up quite well today. One wouldn’t consider it demo material but Shout Factory has used a very nice Hi-Def transfer. The telecine looks to have been made relatively recently, given the lack of overt digital processing and its superior resolution. The film elements are in great condition. I wish more films of this vintage received quality film transfers such as Tank Girl.
The punk comedy of Tank Girl used a number of popular musical acts from the Nineties. Courtney Love as music adviser picked a bevy of big acts current at the time, from Bush to Portishead. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack reproduces that music and much more in excellent fidelity and separation. Its audio design is lively and engaging, using all 5.1 channels including some excellent LFE moments. This is a high-end action mix made for nice home theaters.
Shout Factory has also provided a secondary English soundtrack in 2.0 DTS-HD MA. The stereo presentation lacks the expansive surround elements but is fine in its own right. English subs are provided in a white font that display partially outside the scope framing of the film.
Shout Factory is possibly the best distributor at the moment regarding supplemental features and Tank Girl is no exception. The Blu-ray and DVD combo pack includes stylish reversible cover art. The interviews are all recently made, which tend to produce much better answers than interviews made in the wake of a recent film. They are extensive segments with in-depth answers.
Audio Commentary With Director Rachel Talalay and Actress Lori Petty – Talalay discusses the trials and tribulations making Tank Girl, from studio interference to other difficulties on the shoot. This is not a free-flowing conversation and some gaps with silence pop up. It’s not a particularly entertaining commentary unless one happens to be a big fan of Tank Girl.
Baseball, Tanks & Bad Haircuts: An Interview With Lori Petty (22:37 in HD) – A very interesting interview in which Petty answers questions on a wide array of subjects, including some of her other film roles. A lot of of Petty’s natural personality obviously seeped into her performance.
Too Hip For Spielberg: An Interview With Rachel Talalay (23:53 in HD) – Some personal insight from the director on her creative process behind Tank Girl and some personal anecdotes from her adventures trying to get the film made.
Creative Chaos: Designing the World of Tank Girl With Production Designer Catherine Hardwicke (18:08 in HD) – The designer has fond memories of her time making Tank Girl.
Vintage “Making-Of” Featurette (05:03 in upscaled SD) – A promotional piece from MGM that features on-set interview clips from several actors.
Theatrical Trailer (01:36 in HD) – The vintage trailer is a great blast from the past with some classic voice-over work.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.