Monday, February 26, 2018
Jonny Quest - The 1990's!
What is referred to as "Classic Jonny Quest" came to an end in the 1990's with two feature-length animated adventures from Turner Broadcasting. In both we see some of the grandeur and gloss of the classic 60's series by Doug Wildey and others recovered, but we also see that the magic which happened all those many decades before can never be recaptured. Spoilers below, so tread with care.
Jonny's Golden Quest is a giant adventure which takes the Quest team across the globe to defeat the latest schemes of the evil Dr. Zin. The story opens weirdly with Jonny's Mom Rachel Quest still alive. Not surprisingly she appears to die in the early part of the story and that death proves sensibly both tragic and damaging to the team. Jonny holds great resentment against his Dad who he sees as somewhat culpable in his Mom's death and Dr. Quest himself feels guilty about his decisions. Race and Hadji try to heal the rift between the two all the while attempting to track down the father of a young girl named Jessie who seems to be at the heart of a scheme to create synthetic gold using ancient techniques developed by Leonardo Da Vinci. They are battling (it will come as no surprise) the vile Zin and his rather creepy agents, mutated creations from his genetic vats. There are a number of secrets in this one. The animation is pretty decent, much better by a great measure than the 80's episodes, and there is a clear attempt to ground the story in real world locations as the story moves from the jungles of Brazil to the streets of Tokyo to museums of Paris to the sewers of Rome to deserts of Australian outback. That's all good stuff, but frankly the story itself and Jonny's internal struggle all seem a bit overwrought as the writers feel the need to constantly bang away at feelings which simmer underneath the action. All in all an above average adventure with a decent Quest vibe, though it plays hob with any sense of continuity we might have tried to have in the Quest backstory. This is especially evident in the addition of Jessie who turns out to be Race's daughter by a woman named "Jade" but who looks nothing like the beauty from the classic series, though I guess she's supposed to be her. It's likely best to imagine that this movie happened on whatever passes for Earth-2 in the Hanna-Barbera universe.
A few years later we get Jonny Quest Vs. The Cyber-Insects which visually is a festival. This time the story involves highly developed bugs (human size and much larger) who appear on the Earth at the same time that the weather across the globe goes completely crazy. To get to the bottom of the threat, Doctor Quest rides a shuttle into orbit to check with his team aboard an orbiting satellite which appears to be merely part of the sprawling Quest operation. It turns out that Dr. Zin is again the villain of the day and his insect hordes take Quest and the space station itself hostage while the threats on Earth rage on. Jonny, Race, Jessie, and Hadji all fight to deal with the problems and eventually it all shifts into space as they get aboard an asteroid Zin uses as a base for his defacto invasion of the planet. The action is set on an enormous scale and the notion that the fate of the planet rests in the hands of these kids is as scary as a thought as you might imagine it would be. The story frankly is not a Quest story, being far too large in scope and scale and being set in space requires way too much tech to make it a real human-sized story. If this were Flash Gordon or even Star Wars it might be okay, but as a Jonny Quest yarn it feels too big and sprawling by far. The animation is pretty impressive with some mighty bug monsters being revealed on a regular basis, but still it's just too much. Like its predecessor, any attempt to tie this into the classic shows will only make your head hurt. Take it for what it is, a high fantasy which features characters who look remarkably like the people from Palm Key.
My opinion on both these flicks is that they tell large stories which seeks to showcase big emotional moments for Jonny, but in both cases the emotional story gets overwrought and redundant. The large stories are just too mammoth for these to have anything remotely like the classic Quest vibe. Golden Quest is a worthy effort that falls a bit flat, but Cyber-Insects is off course from the get-go confusing hectic activity for plot development. Doug Wildey passed away in 1994 and this movie landed on screens in 1995, the last "classic Jonny Quest" movie. It's not, but it's neat they remembered Wildey in the closing credits. His magical touch was sorely missed in both these movies, but it will always be remembered in the exalted episodes from the 60's.