Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Combat Wombat (2020) - Movie Review

Yep, it’s a double feature today, as director Ricard Cussรณ and Odin’s Eye Animation certainly haven’t been wasting time as not only did this come out this year, but another one has already been finished and slated for release in 2021. After being pleasantly entertained by Wishmas Tree, I was certainly hoping for something just as good with their follow-up, and making it about superheroes is certainly an easy lay-up for me. And yeah, I like this. More so than Wishmas Tree. By a pretty hefty margin.

I already got into the animation quality in the last review (and not that much has changed here), so I’ll try not to repeat myself, but this still looks decent. Going for a more urban aesthetic as opposed to the more naturalistic from last time shows the animators bringing that same level of detail to the locales (not to mention the sight gags, like a public pool that got emptied due to “Code Brown”). The sense of movement with the characters combined with the ‘camera’ work brings some engaging energy to the proceedings, and Ack Kinmonth’s soundtrack this time around has a lot of triumphant, ‘here I am to save the day’-type compositions that really fit the mood.

There’s also how the superhero genre itself is treated, as this has a sizeable amount of cynicism about the whole thing. Pitting the title character (Deborah Mailman) against the city’s resident hero and Aussie Captain Amazing equivalent in Flightless Feather (Frank Woodley) brings out the PR side of the superhero game, along with CeCe (Judith Lucy) as Flightless’ manager, and how melodramatic it all is when you really think about it. When a character talks about the acting experience offered by all this, it’s hard to not to associate that with how many actors got their mainstream breakthrough by playing superheroes on the big or even small screen.

Not that it seeks to completely deconstruct the genre, though; it just approaches it in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion, which ends up working nicely alongside the characterisation of Combat herself. A widowed housewife turned reluctant caped crusader, Combat Wombat might be one of the most quintessentially Australian superheroes I’ve ever seen. Mailman’s vocal delivery helps with that, as does her first words to the press after her public debut being “I’m going back to bed”, but something about this kind of origin, of an ordinary Australian woman taking up the charge and becoming an inspiration for others, is kind of unique and rather gratifying to see. Even the recurring jokes about her butt end up working, since that’s pretty accurate to real-life wombats, the literal hard-arses of Australian wildlife.

I mean, yeah, the plot itself is fairly standard, and quite a bit of it is obvious from the get-go, but that didn’t make seeing it unfold naturally any less entertaining for me. I had quite a bit of fun with this, since it’s really damn cool hearing local talent like Mailman, Woodley, and even Ed Oxenbould as Combat’s sidekick Sweetie/The Gallant Glider, working so well within the superhero framework. When a lot of this kind of fiction is imported, and the superhero genre is one quite close to my heart, I feel a certain sense of pride that we have a hero like Combat Wombat to call our own.

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