Giant robots are a mainstay in anime, with several franchises, such as Gundam, Macross, and Voltron. The series range from the deadly serious like Neon Genesis Evangelion to the farcical like Martian Successor Nadesico. Live action mecha have made their appearances as well, including MechaGodzilla and the various Zords from the Power Rangers franchise. In contrast, Western production featuring giant robots were either in the context of superheroes, such as the mutant-hunting Sentinels from Marvel’s X-Men, or walking tanks commanding battlefields, such as in BattleTech.

However, for two years from 2004 to 2005, there was one Western cartoon that matched the output of anime – Megas XLR. Created by Jody Schaeffer and George Krstic, Megas starred David Deluise as Coop, Steven Blum as Jaime, and Wendee Lee as Kiva. Krstic was one of the co-creators of MTV’s Downtown, with Schaeffer having been one of the series’ directors, which is why Goat, played by Scot Rienecker, made appearances in Megas. The series made no apologies for being what it was. The opening theme pumps the audience up for what is to come.

The premise of the series is that two slackers, Coop and Jaime, get possession of an advanced giant robot and wreak havok on Jersey. Megas starts in the future, the year 3037, with Earth on the losing end of an invasion by the war-like Glorft, commanded by Gorrath (Clancy Brown). Kiva has managed to obtain a time drive and has it placed in the Mechanized Earth Guard Attack System, eXtra Large Robot. The plan is to go back to when the Glorft first invaded and use Megas to turn the tide against the invaders. A stray shot causes the time drive to glitch, sending Megas, Kiva in her own mecha, and two drones back in time.

Switch to the present day. Coop is looking through a pile of junk at Goat’s junkyard. The pile has been around for so long, Goat has forgotten what’s in it, so is willing to sell anything Coop wants for $2.00 each. Coop makes the discovery of a lifetime, the headless body of a giant robot. He takes the robot home to work on. When he’s done, Megas has been completely rewired, with its head replaced by a classic Plymouth Barracuda convertible. The controls are what would be expected by a slacker gearheaad video gamer – a combination of a car’s controls with every video game console made. Mind, given Coop’s shape, using a Dance Dance Revolution pad as an emergency manual backup was just asking for trouble.

Kiva tracks down Megas shortly before the Glorft do. In a move to make the numbers even, Coop smashes Kiva’s drones before charging into the Glorft army. The battle leaves Jersey much worse for wear and the Glorft in retreat. Kiva is stuck in the past; the time drive was destroyed in an act of senseless violence.

The rest of the series follows the trouble Coop gets into with Megas. When the Glorft aren’t responsible, other threats discover that Earth has Megas and draws the entire crew into trouble. Most of the time, Coop saves the day using what he knows, mostly smashing and bashing. Half the time, Coop causes the problem he needs to solve, attracting the wrong type of attention. However, at the end of the day, the Earth is safe, even if POP TV and Jersey are part of the trail of collateral damage behind Megas.

The series spoofed many soruces through its run, from anime, classic and then-current, to video games to WWE wrestling to urban legends. While mecha anime was the obvious source, Megas spoofed other series. “Bad Guy” featured a group of augmented teenagers, S-Force, who were based in part on Voltron in part on Power Rangers, and in part on the Sandy Frank dub of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Battle of the Planets. S-Force returns in “S-Force S.O.S.” with the team on better terms with Coop and needing his help. “Ultra Chicks: features a magical girls team along the lines of Sailor Moon, who accidentally kidnap Jaime, thinking he’s the pilot of Megas. “Space Booty” introduces Captain Warlock, based on Captain Harlock from Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Even Star Trek is spoofed in the two part episode, “Rearview Mirror, Mirror,” where Coop accidentally transport himself, Megas, and Gorrath to a mirror universe where evil Coop has defeated the Glorft and founded an empire.

The core of the series is two slackers who have access to a giant robot and have to fight alien threats, taking what could be dark and grim and keeping it light thanks to the characters. “Rearview Mirror, Mirror” represents what a dark Megas could look like. Even then, Coop defeated his mirror self by keeping hope (and massive collateral damage). With a new version, format matters. A new animated Megas XLR should just carry on from where the original left off. Why mess with what worked?

A live-action remake, however, brings in new possibilities. It’s been almost twenty years since Megas first aired. Remakes tend to happen every twenty to thirty years, long enough for a new generation to come into existence. What should a live-action Megas XLR movie contain? The origins of Megas should be there; the Glorft are an ideal antagonist, so having them hunting Megas provides a plot. The past twenty years has seen a number of new potential works to spoof from film, television, and video gaming. Pacific Rim is right there, and while the original series had a Transformers parody in “Coop d’Etat”, the Michael Bay films are ripe for parody.

Casting will be important. Coop and Jaime are nowhere near being Ryan Reynolds. WIth comedy, a movie can get away with a lead that isn’t the ideal male physique. Kiva is the competent one of the group, outside of video games. She knows Megas inside and out, has fought the Glorft, and has commanded troops to defend Earth. The three characters do get along considering the circumstances.

With today’s CGI, Megas can be a presence on screen. The key to getting Megas right is to ignore other works with giant robots, mostly Transformers and Pacific Rim, where the robots lumber around. Megas should be more agile than Coop. Sure, low bar, but Megas has performed elbow drops. For Coop, it was a button combo on a controller; no physical agility needed. Keep the classic convertible as the head and pack it full of classic and modern controllers. Toss in an Intellivision as an Easter egg.

The action scenes should be full of action. Megas isn’t the ponderous mecha of Pacific Rim or BattleTech. And with high-octane action comes massive collateral damage. Coop should be responsible for at least half the damage, some of which was intentional. Jersey should need to be rebuilt by the end of the film. In the original series, S-Force came to Earth to stop Coop, not the villain, because Megas was seen as the danger. Let the extras worry about not being crushed by demolished buildings.

The tone of the adaptation needs to remain light. No getting dark and gritty. While giant robot works can go there, Megas doesn’t. The original series brought the protagonists to the edge of defeat multiple times, but, in the end, they pull through, using skill, luck, and the “5 Minutes Until End of Episode” button. Ignoring the video games, the labelled buttons, and the slapstick action is to miss what made Megas Megas. The darkest the original series got was with the two-part “Rearview Mirror, Mirror.” Even then, even at its darkest, the protagonists prevailed without losing their lightness.

From “Coop d’Etat”, the button that appeared five minutes before the episode’s end.

The likelihood of a Megas XLR revival is slim. The series was used as a tax write-off and the rights are in limbo. Not much would need to be changed from the original other than to update the range of video games and giant robot anime to use to spoof. Anime today is mainstream even compared to 2004. A loving spoof of modern and classic giant robot series would find an audience today.


This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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