Reviews

'Titan Maximum': Stop-Motion Giant Robots!

The latest effort from the creators of the hugely popular spoof animated series Robot Chicken, Titan Maximum is raunchy, awkward, and extraordinarily well produced.


Titan Maximum

Creator: Tom Root
Director: Chris McKay
Cast: Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, Rachael Leigh Cook, Eden Espinoza, Dan Milano,
Length: 110 minutes
Studio: Adult Swim
Distributor: Warner
Release Date: 2010-08-10
Website

The latest effort from the creators of the hugely popular spoof animated series Robot Chicken, Titan Maximum is raunchy, awkward, and extraordinarily well produced.

Drawing on influences ranging from Japanese anime to the Transformers TV show to classic stop-motion puppetry, the show features five pilots with clashing personalities. Their ships join together to form the giant robot Titan Maximum, and they typically wreak a whole lot of havoc while accidentally managing to save the day. The nine episodes in the first season follow the team as they travel around the solar system (set in the not-so-distant future when space travel is apparently the norm) trying to track down their former team member turned arch-nemesis, Gibbs (Seth Green).

The team is led by the ego-maniacal, testosterone-soaked Palmer (Breckin Meyer), who never stops with his put-down wisecracks and need to claim every plan of action as his own. The two arms of the robot are Jodi (Rachael Leigh Cook) and Sasha (Eden Espinoza), who are polar opposites of each other and constantly cat fighting. Jodi is the goody two shoes of the team and the only real voice of reason in the show, though her teammates constantly veto her ideas. Sasha is the sex bomb, using her sexuality as a weapon and vowing she can destroy any of the monsters or other robots they come across, as long as they have a crotch she can use as a target.

Since Gibbs has jumped ship and is trying to take over the universe, the team is rounded out by Palmer’s teenage brother and engineering genius, Willy (Dan Milano), as one of the legs. The other leg of Titan Maximum is Leon, a monkey previously working as a janitor in the storage facility where the ships were kept. Leon has no lines, but a presence all his own, and he’s in the show because, heck, “everyone loves monkeys”, as one of the creators puts it.

The bulk of the show is taken up with a barrage of fast and furious insults, comebacks, and fantastically rude comments about the fights the team engages in. I recommend watching with the subtitles on the first time so that you don’t miss any of the laugh-out-loud mockery. A character might save the world just to be informed that his fly has been down the whole time.

Then perhaps on the second round watch without the distracting text and take notice of the incredible attention to detail on the sets and costumes. Titan Maximum has a huge production team that does outstanding work and clearly takes an enormous amount of pride in what its created. Certain shots are computer generated, like action sequences of the ships zooming out of a space station. The show is an excellent blend of puppetry and animation.

The solar system has been well colonized, and there’s a logic to it. Mercury (closest to the sun) has become a sort of Florida, populated entirely by the elderly. Visiting permits are required, and if a grandchild hasn’t been sending mail, they’re not likely to be well received. Another planet, reeking of methane gas, is host to a colony of inbred hillbillies who shock Sasha by eschewing her womanly charms for Willy’s boyish ones.

An extended 42-minute “Design Showcase” featurette walks the viewer through set construction, lighting, character design, and the nitty-gritty of actually making the puppets. From the height of the actual sets to the how-to of the lacquered hairstyles, for anyone who is truly interested in how puppet animation works, crew members voice over the images, explaining step by step how Titan Maximum evolved and was executed.

In an extras interview, co-creator Seth Green remarks that the idea for the show developed out of a series of photographs he and his buddies were taking of their action figures. As Green sees it, the world can always use another show about a dysfunctional giant robot.

There are interview clips with loads of the production crew, and clips of the voice actors recording. The lighting was changed for every planet or setting that was shot, and details about the set production are impressive. One of the costume designers talks about the miniature stitching, how every stitch counts; being off by a millimeter could ruin an outfit. Crew mug shots show the unbelievable number of people involved to pull off the creation of a whole new universe.

A series of deleted animatics scenes show some of the difficult choices producers had to make to keep to short episode lengths. It’s great to see some of the drawings and sketches that were part of pre-production.

An episode re-dubbed on the fly and another episode with accompanying subtitled trivia round out a rather amazing set of extra features given the relatively short length of the feature material. Not to mention five or six versions of the trailer, each substantially different.

Before seeing the first season of Titan Maximum, I wasn’t convinced that we needed another series about a Transformers-style robotic fighting team. Now I can’t wait to see season two.

8

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