Fred Perry’s Gold Digger comic book is one of the oldest examples of what some call “Amerimanga,” where an American comic artist adopts the style and conventions used in Japanese comics, or “manga” as they are known in Japan.
It is also one of those comics that I repeatedly saw on the shelf of the comic shop but just wasn’t intrigued enough to actually buy. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Recently my friend Chris Holm (who is apparently creator Fred Perry’s biggest fan/stalker) told me that Gold Digger was Tomb Raider before Tomb Raider came along. After sheepishly admitting to Mr. Perry that I had never read his work at the South Texas Comic-Con, I bought a copy of “Gold Digger Max” to see what it was all about.
I like what I have seen of Gold Digger so far, Fred Perry has created a fascinating world that is filled with exotic locales and lots of interesting characters and adventure. He does a good job of tightrope-walking between world-ending seriousness and comedy. It is a shame that it took me so long to discover it. Comparing it to Tomb Raider is something of a disservice because it is so much better than Tomb Raider.
Fast-forward to the third day of San Japan :3 and as dealers are oft to do on the last day of a con, the Antarctic Press table is having a sale. I figured I would give the Deluxe Edition of “Gold Digger: The Movie” a try. According to the box text the movie “retells the very first Gold Digger adventure” so I figured it might serve as a nice little introduction to the GD universe. After having a bite to eat for dinner and doing laundry for the week, I fired it up.
As the top menu appeared, I heard a blast of music. I quickly reached for my receiver’s remote and immediately turned down the sound. I figured I had left the sound up from listening to the radio earlier but that is not the case. The DVD is just loud. I normally have the sound adjustment on my PS3 maxed out, because DVDs tend to be relatively quiet, but in this case I ended up turning it down to zero to make sure I don’t end up with angry neighbors or blown speakers. After making the adjustments, I shrugged my shoulders and started the movie.
My initial impression is that Gold Digger: The Movie is intended for fans of the comic: it is assumed that the viewer already knows certain things. As an example, there is no explanation given as to why Gina and Brittany refer to each other as sisters until near the end of the second act. We also never find out just why the Digger sisters are looking for the Time Raft, and wouldn’t a 7-foot tall were-cheetah prove that some myths are valid? That is my inner anal-retentive nerd talking, but a viewer unfamiliar with the series might be a bit puzzled at certain aspects of the movie. I need to show it to someone unfamiliar with GD to see if my inner nerd should just be quiet and enjoy the show. Actually that’s probably true, anyway.
The story is fairly straightforward: The first third of the movie establishes the adversarial yet good-natured relationship the Diggers have with each other and showcases their bad-assery in two Big Fights. The middle of the movie features plenty of exposition and of course, we have the Climactic Battle at the end. In truth, though, the movie is really all Gina and Brittany, and we gradually learn more and more about them as their adventure unfolds. The sisterly bickering between the two survives the transition from comic to animation quite well and provides some of the movie’s funnier moments. The other characters aren’t quite as well developed, and the villain does his duty,
Much to my chagrin, sound issues persist throughout the DVD. There is an odd echo whenever Gina Diggers speaks and Dreadwing’s voice sounds overprocessed. This effect seems to lessen over the course of the feature but it never goes away completely. The audio mix also gets a bit weird in the second act. The music becomes too soft, and there appeared to be one or two ‘dead air’ moments. In one scene Brittany is on the ground struggling to escape and while she appears to be growling or grunting we don’t hear anything at all.
As I watched the 3rd episode again to hear Fred Perry’s commentary, the audio completely turned to crap in the last few minutes. This combined with Gina’s echo and the loud volume at the start make me wonder if something happened during the process of making the DVDs or if the audio was just poorly done to begin with. I also thought it might have have been my Playstation 3, but the same thing happens when I play it on my iMac.
The animation gradually improves form episode to episode and really shines in the action sequences. It is fascinating to see Fred Perry progress as an animator throughout the adventure and I look forward to seeing what he does next.
Gold Digger: The Movie doesn’t quite do as good a job at being “Gold Digger 101” as I had hoped, though. As I mentioned near the start, there seems to be an assumption that the viewer already knows certain things.
The voiceover work ranges from good (Gina Diggers) to adequate (Dreadwing appears to be trying to channel Tony Jay but doesn’t quite pull it off) to annoying (I quickly found Brittany Diggers’ voice grating but I think that’s more a reflection on me than anything else) to inconsistent (Elves). Overall, it does the job, though.
Technical issues aside, fans of Gold Digger will be excited to see it come to life. Strangers and neophytes to Fred Perry’s fantastic world might find themselves scratching their heads now and again, but nevertheless, Gold Digger: The Movie provides an hour of action-packed fun and I recommend it.
NOTE: The author received no compensation for this review.