Once upon time in 1995, a film based on the comic series written and illustrated by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett was released in theatres. This film was called Tank Girl. Set in the post apocalyptic future of Australia where, due to a meter crash on the earth’s surface, has not seen rain in eleven years. Our lead character Rebecca, played by Lori Petty, is a rebel that is a part of a resistance movement that steals water from an evil company simply named Water and Power. Run by a psychopathic and tyrannical man named Kesslee, played by Malcom McDowell, Water and Power controls all of the world’s water and electrical resources; this company withholds all water and sells it at inflated prices only to those who can afford it. One night, Rebecca’s hideout is raided by Kesslee’s men and she is taken in to work as a slave for Water and Power. Teaming up with a woman named Jet Girl, played by Naomi Watts in her first film role, the pair aim to take down Kesslee and Water & Power; along the way teaming up with a group of genetically altered kangaroos that call themselves the Rippers.
At first glance this storyline seems kind of silly but there are reasons and ways it could work. The graphic novels gained majority popularity and were enough of a success to warrant a feature film. Without going too deeply into it, much of what lead to Tank Girl failing at the box office had a lot to do with studio interference. Although the studio that picked this film up understood that taking risks on independent properties could be profitable, they were panicked at just about every aspect of the dailies that were coming back to them for review. They decided to change so much of this film that, with the exception of character names and basic plot outlines, it came out looking nothing like the graphic novels.
Well, many years have passed since 95’ and, with the evolution of the film industry, I believe that Hollywood should take another look at bringing Tank Girl back to life. Why you may ask? Now is probably the best time to remake this film. Due to the growing popularity of dystopian futures, sardonic humor and downright crazy plot twists, it only makes sense that a story filled with all of these elements should be remade. Novels, comics and graphic novels that have been adapted into film recently have been following this trend of dark humor and a rather depressing view of the future. For argument’s sake, let’s take a look at one of the most popular books adapted to film in 2017; The Hunger Games. Yes, I know that comparing themes from Tank Girl to the Hunger Games is like comparing Twilight to Pulp Fiction but bare with me here.
The popularity of the Hunger Games spread like wildfire when it was the released. It tells the story of a dystopian future where, after a massive civil war, America has been split into 12 districts. All districts have a specific industry that serves the main district, which is district 1 where basically the 1% live. To prevent future rebellions, the government of district 1 has decided to implement a fight to the death where one young male and female from each district murder each other and the last one standing becomes the “Victor”. In my opinion, this story became so massively popular because of the political climate at the time. People were upset with the state of the economy and the direction the country was steering in at the time. So much so that people actually saw this scenario happening in real life. Given the current state of our economy and political climate right now, in 2019, it only makes sense that the same people who enjoyed this would enjoy the dystopian wasteland Tank Girl provides. Not only that, but you have a whole oppressive system and a rebellion fighting against it, completely insane characters you end up rooting for and let’s not forget genetically altered fighting kangaroos.
Another reason Tank Girl would do well if rebooted: The rise of the cult classics. Due to Hollywood’s complete misdirection a while back with bad remakes, the general public turned to the lesser known films and helped bring them into a special class of films commonly known as “Cult Classics”. Once these gained immense popularity, the film industry caught on and started taking risks with rebooting those classics. We’ve seen the success of this with films such as Blade Runner 2049 and Jumanji 2 Welcome to the Jungle to name a few. Cult classics are very popular right now and rebooting them, provided you have the right writer, director, producer and cast, can only mean profit. Speaking of, this brings me to another major point; casting.
Having the right cast for a film, especially one as unique as this one, requires the talents of very flexible individuals. Tank Girl is filled with complex and downright psychotic characters that need to be portrayed in a particular way to get the context to fit. That’s why it pains me to hear that a lot of reviewers and a few other people who enjoyed the tank girl comics believe that Lori Petty was a terrible choice for Rebecca. I happen to think that Lori Petty was an amazing fit for this role; she was enthusiastic, sarcastic and brought enough charisma into her performance to make me really believe she was Tank Girl. Hell, she even shaved half of her head before going into her audition to prove that she was a good fit for the role. Naomi Watts as Jet Girl was perfect in this movie. Although she was only a secondary character, her performance was amazing and you can tell what her level of potential was from that early point in her career. Unfortunately, in an interview a few years ago she listed this film as her least favorite role. This baffles me because this does not at all show in her performance. She looked like she was having fun and keying off of Lori Petty to really nail down her character. But, I guess that was her amazing acting ability taking over to get the job done. If Tank girl were rebooted, I believe the following would be amazing choices.
Tank Girl — Ruby Rose
Not only is she a real Australian, she has the look and attitude of Rebecca. Drawing from my personal experience watching her in one season of Orange is the New Black, she can pull off badass, tough and independent woman very easily. I don’t believe this role would be outside of her wheelhouse at all. Honestly, all she would have to do to nail the look would be to dye her hair blonde.
Jet Girl — Bella Heathcote
Another Australian rounding out the cast here, Bella Heathcote would be a perfect fit for Jet Girl. I have seen her acting in a few other films but the one that stands out the most to me would be her performance in the 2016 film the Neon Demon. Although she played a Wiccan who helped take part in the murder and devouring of a woman, she seemed very scared and unsure of herself. Although she faked her fear for quite some time, she had a vulnerable way about her. No matter how “put-together” she acted she seemed very fragile and, eventually, gave into that nature. This is exactly who Jet Girl is and these are the qualities that help level Rebecca out. Rebecca breaks Jet Girl out of the Water & Power work camp and basically takes her under her wing. Although Jet Girl does develop a lot of personal strength, she is still very shy and vulnerable. All of these factors are exactly what I see in Bella Heathcote in both her physical appearance and performance.
Kesslee — Ray Winstone
Do I even need to justify this casting choice? Being a veteran actor with an incredible skill for portraying “bad guys”, Ray Winstone is basically the epitome of this character. Drawing from his performance in the 2014 Darren Aronofsky film Noah. Playing the psychopathic leader of the people of Cain, he brings to life a power hungry, tyrannical and self entitled disgrace of a human being. Yeah, this is definitely the character of Kesslee to the extreme.
Casting is indeed a very important part of bringing this film back to life but another important factor is definitely the studio who handles this property. A big part of what lead to Tank Girl bombing in the box office was the interference from the studio United Artists. This studio ended up cutting out so much of the original storyline that the end product became an absolute mess. Complete scenes that tied the story together were cut simply because the studio did not understand them and, through their warped logic, believed the audience wouldn’t understand it either. If Tank Girl were given a second chance, I believe it should be handled by an independent studio; one that would trust the story to tell itself and help bring it to life the way it was meant to be. In my opinion, Netflix would be the perfect choice to handle this property. I say this because not only is the video on demand market booming, but Netflix has proven again and again that they know how to reinvigorate previously mishandled properties; just take a look at what they’ve done with Daredevil and the Punisher. Not only this, but they have been killing it with their original content. Personally, with the onslaught of terrible reboots and sequels hogging the big screen, I much prefer to stay in and watch a Netflix original film than paying an absurd amount of money to see a film that I’ll end up hating.
I could go on for several more pages about how this movie could be remade now and how it could be done but I’ll save you all from my rant and wrap this up. Tank Girl, although drenched with dark, sardonic humor that may go over people’s heads at times, is a great original story and one that deserves a second chance to prove itself as the next indie hit of our generation.