This Venture Bros. movie review contains no spoilers.
“It’s like a job trying to follow this nonsense.”
How does one say goodbye after 20 years? That’s the lofty task that The Venture Bros. faces with this concluding movie-length finale, Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart, and it does so with nerdy, passionate grace. The Venture Bros. has produced seven seasons, but it made its Adult Swim premiere back in 2003 when the then-fledgling network only had five original programs to its name and superhero parodies were niche, not the new normal. Now, it celebrates its swan song during a time when most people will view this series finale feature film on Max, sandwiched between endless superhero content. The animation industry and television as a whole have greatly transformed since The Venture Bros.’s debut, yet Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart proves that The Venture Bros. hasn’t changed a bit and that’s absolutely beautiful.
There are many ways in which The Venture Bros. could say goodbye, but Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart becomes a clever narrative that’s about the nature of saying goodbye. Venture Bros. examines the importance of this ritual, and the closure that it provides for someone who’s devoted their entire life to one pursuit. It’s hard to not envision creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick in place of Dr. Venture when he’s told that it’s time to move on. This was a prospect that was heartbreaking back when the show’s initial cancellation was announced, but there’s now an odd peace to this fate as The Venture Bros. uses this final opportunity to properly say everything it needs to before it bids its devoted fans farewell. Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart does feel like Hammer and Publick cathartically working through their business and having a dialogue with their fandom, but it’s also a deeply entertaining action spectacle where a fractured family comes together.
“This is a feature, not a bug,” is a phrase that’s said early on in this special and while it’s not one that’s wholly specific to The Venture Bros., it’s hard to not think about how this ethos has defined the series’ scrappy can-do attitude from its start. Earnest nostalgic reverence may be out of control in pop culture, but this is the only language in which The Venture Bros. knows how to communicate. This passion isn’t annoying or hollow like it may be in the latest legacy sequel; it’s what The Venture Bros. does best and this finale properly celebrates this and allows the iconic cartoon to go out swinging on its own terms.
All of this is great news for any hardcore Venture Bros. fans and Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart unsurprisingly doesn’t try to be accessible to newcomers or work as a standalone story. This is very much the finale to an ongoing story–which it pokes fun at itself for–and not just a fun bonus story with these characters. There’s perhaps a world where this finale could have also attempted to hold outsiders’ hands, but it’s ultimately for the best that this gets its priorities straight and just plays the hits for the fans.
The Venture Bros. is wise to quickly address the slew of superhero content that’s now available, how they got ahead of this curve, and the series’ own increasingly convoluted lore. There’s heavy focus placed on the Monarch’s eternal obsession with arching Dr. Venture, building his entire identity through this, and his inability to move on past it. The Venture Bros. has previously flirted with the Monarch outgrowing this addiction. However, he now needs to make this commitment since the series is coming to a close.
Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart could be subtitled “The Search for Hank,” which becomes one of the film’s central driving forces. Picking up from the series’ conclusion, Hank heads down a Batman-esque journey of self-discovery where he confronts the many past versions of himself as if they’re rogues for him to defeat. It’s such a smart way for Hank’s psychological baggage to manifest as seemingly physical threats for him to overcome and manifest his best self. Evidently, sometimes it only takes one person to become a mecha-shiva.
Hank’s quest also features a fantastic Darkman riff, which is only appropriate considering that’s how the series ended. Hank learns a lot about who he is during this finale, but he’s not the only Venture brother to do so. Dean also figures out who he is without his brother, which is just as important as Hank’s internal struggle as years of codependency come to a cathartic close.
There’s a sequence where Hank takes a trip down memory lane when he visits the old Venture compound that’s really excellent and destined to be one of the most popular scenes for the hardcore fans. It really highlights just how far these characters and this show have come, but through a really visually artistic manner. On the topic of nostalgia, Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart also delivers answers to all of The Venture Bros.’s major questions in a way that feels natural and not what audiences will expect.
Some of this movie’s most effective material involves some scathing commentary on society’s growing overreliance on technology through mass-produced H.E.L.P.eR.s or “Arching” antagonist apps that streamline what used to take intense passion and determination to pull off. Now, anyone with a bloated bank account can be a top tier villain and in doing so it’s a powerful indictment of how lazy superhero storytelling has become in comparison to the meticulous foundation that The Venture Bros. was built upon. On some level it almost feels like the series knows that it’s the perfect time to leave the party because of how much the lowest common denominator and apathy reigns supreme. The Venture Bros. truly, deeply cares and in a time where cynicism sells there seems to be less of a home for this sincere brand of Silver Age era comic reverence.
The Venture Bros. fans have patiently been awaiting a conclusion for more than five years and Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart somehow lives up to these impossible expectations. Audiences won’t be disappointed with this grandiose finish that makes the most out of every single minute and never feels bloated or gratuitous. It gives Venture Bros. fans everything they want and plenty of things that they didn’t know that they needed. This hopefully won’t be the last that audiences see of Team Venture, but it’s the perfect place to leave these characters in the meantime.
And yes, Brick Frog gets his due.
The Venture Bros.: Radiant is the Blood of the Baboon Heart is digitally available on July 21 and available on Blu-Ray on July 25