Reviews: Agent Carter and Zootopia

Being a dutiful employee I found myself hauled to the other side of the world at short notice and hence stuck on a plane for a long time. The positive side to this experience was catching up on some films and TV shows that I hadn’t had the opportunity to see. To this end, I binged watched the first half of Agent Carter (season one) then watched the animated anthropomorphic feature Zootopia and then watched the rest of Agent Carter.

Perhaps it was the odd pairing coupled with the dislocating nature of watching TV on a plane but I was struck by how much the two productions meshed. Both dealt with a character of obvious competence who is repeatedly sidelined in her work for a police/security organisation, who therefore has to conduct their own investigation into a spoiler-spoiler spoil that does something very similar to people/animals in that it spoilery-spoils them. Both productions also neatly navigate between the more kooky aspects of their premise (superhero universes on one hand and Disney talking animal movie on the other) and an intelligent and insightful plot. Both stories manage surprises and twists and treat their audience as intelligent people who like fun things.

Agent Carter follows Peggy Atwell’s character from the Marvel’s Captain America movies into her post-WW2 (and post Captain America’s apparent death) career. Peggy Carter is now working in New York for the SSR, a quasi-FBI organisation dedicated to the kinds of technology-led exotic threats that necessarily exist in a superhero universe. Unfortunately, the exceedingly capable Carter is stuck within the resurgent sexism of the post-war world and often overlooked by her male colleagues or relegated to menial work. However when her former friend Howard Stark is apparently framed for selling super-weapons to America’s enemies, Peggy Carter finds she needs to take things into her own hands…

Zootopia follows Judy Hopps – the first rabbit police officer in the city of Zootopia – a metropolis anthropomorphic mammals that is tailored around appropriate habitats for each of them. Although nominally at peace, the society of Zootopia is one that has some inherent divisions, most notably between species that were originally predators in the wild and those that were prey. However, the film also shows us that other divisions such as that between large aggressive animals (including non-predators such as rhinos or wildebeest) and smaller animals, also play a role in the dynamics of this society. Hopps finds herself marginalised into low-status police work (enforcing parking regulations). However when a chance encounter with a fox con-artists gives her a lead into a chain of mysterious disappearances, Judy Hopps finds she needs to take things into her own hands…

The world’s our protagonists find themselves in are richly imagined and both productions make use of effective parallels between modern society and their quasi-fictional ones whilst avoiding overt allegory. In both cases, they get that the ideas portrayed contain absurdities that are inherently fun and comical but which the stories and characters need to commit themselves to so that the threats and narrative challenges work.

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2 comments

  1. KR

    “Fox” con artists. heh-heh. 🙂 You are good at writing reviews.
    The internet is so strange and flattening, unmoored and unmooring and yet paradoxically confining at the same. Your voice appears the same on screen though you are thousands of miles away dutifully employeeing far away from home. Images disconnected from their physical size, presentation, and context. When I stop to think about it, I feel a bit of vertigo, like I need to grab on to something tangible. Hope you are having fun there too, and collecting frequent flyer points while watching TV in the air. These are some crazy, modern times, man.

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