Comics have come a long way since their inception. Once dismissed as a childish pastime has become a global industry with the obscurest of comic-book heroes becoming household names among millions. But to get to this point required disruption, as the family focused consumers of comics grew into adults and attempted to insert their rebellious sense of style, in short, comic books needed to find their cool. In 1992 through the help of veteran alternative animator, Ralph Bakshi, they found just that in Cool World.
In 1945, World War II vet Frank Harris, after getting into a freak accident, ends up in Cool World, a bizarre cityscape where cartoon characters rule. He quickly settles to his life as a ‘Noid’ (or a human in this cartoon world) and takes up work as a Detective for the corrupt city. Meanwhile, legendary artist in the alternative comic scene Jack Deebs, who has made a name for himself chronicling the events of Cool World (mainly based around blonde Femme Fatale, Holly Would) finds himself also in Cool World and begins something of a taboo physical relationship between him and Holly Would that brings Holly into reality and places the fabric of time and space in jeopardy.
Based on that plot description, you might think that this isn’t your Who Framed Roger Rabbit family caper. You would be right, but when you consider that this is from the imagination of Ralph Bakshi, it makes sense for this feature presentation to be provocative. With shocking larger-than-life characters both in Cool World and outside that would feel comfortable in the most lurid Tex Avery short, or at home in Robocop’s Detroit City slums. Even the ‘Noids’ feel fleshed out with the presence of star talent, like Brad Pitt, Gabriel Byrne and both the voice talents and live performances of Kim Basinger.
The world of Cool World is a wonder for the senses, with stylishly detailed backdrops and inhabitants to be combined with the raunchy sounding soundtrack of Dark Techno and Rock that not only fits the seedy community to a tee but is incredibly listenable both inside and outside of the film. Employing hit alternative artists such as Moby, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and even bringing in the likes of David Bowie.
Cool World is a smart and enjoyable semi-animated caper for those who grew up with comics and understand that there can be a more torrid side to the colourful cartoon characters. It serves as another heady exploration into the inventive, yet twisted world of Bakshi with a whole lot you’ll want to explore. Like the refrain of the Thompson Twin’s inclusion on the soundtrack, Cool World tempts you into playing with it, and for the most part, it’s not an offer you can refuse.
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