WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, streaming now on Netflix.
Introduced early in Invader Zim as the father to Dib and Gaz, Professor Membrane initially appeared as one of the most distinct characters in the series. As a world-class inventor, he's one of the most famous figures in the world. But while he was only really a minor character in the original series, he plays a much more significant part in the new movie, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus.
In fact, Professor Membrane not only gets a great deal of character development in regards to his relationship with Dib, he also proves to be an even more absurdly powerful inventor than we ever imagined.
CBR spoke with series creator, Jhonen Vasquez, about his expanded role in the story, and how his expanded role grew in the film.
Professor Membrane serves many roles within Enter the Florpus. His difficult relationship with Dib hasn't gotten any better since the end of the original series. He still holds out hope that Dib will finally get over his fascination with the paranormal and extraterrestrial. This feud fuels most of their relationship over the course of the movie, with his dedication to proving alien life to his father becoming a major part of Dib's motivations.
Meanwhile, he's been hard at work on a new invention that could utilize the energy of the world's children to unleash waves of empathy and joy around the planet. But by accidentally exposing Zim to the technology, Dib inspires a new plan in Zim to teleport the Earth to the Irken Empire and capture Membrane.
The second act of the narrative then focuses on Dib and Gaz trying to rescue their father from the space prison he's been trapped in, requiring the normally antagonistic Gaz and Dib to work together.
Discussing the decision to pair together on the hunt for their father, Vasquez revealed, "There’s a reason for it, and it’s kind of commented on in the movie, but really, because of the longer runtime, a feature-length Zim needed to be a little more varied in terms of how the characters behaved, and wall-to-wall screaming and hatred would have been a bit much. So, I opted to mix it up a bit while still retaining the wall-to-wall screaming. Still, I was super wary about moments of sincerity feeling cloying and wrong in the movie, dialing it back as the production went on so that it still felt right for the tone of the show."
After saving their father, Dib and Gaz head back to Earth to try and save the world from the repercussions of Zim's machinations. In the process, Membrane reveals the full extent of his abilities and technology. This includes showcasing his robotic arms and energy manipulation abilities.
He's got rocket boots, fast inventions, and at one point, he even creates an energy blast that has the power to basically be a technological Dragonball technique. It turns Membrane into a figure not too dissimilar to Iron Man, even at one point fighting of an entire army of robots with his mechanical aspects.
"Membrane in the series never quite hit the way I wanted him to," Vasquez admitted. "He was supposed to be this impossible mix of celebrity, man of science and superhero, an unmovable wall of power. Making him more central to the story was just something that happened naturally while coming up with the story, and as part of a conscious effort to make the Membrane family a bit more of a family than they were in the series."
Directed by Jhonen Vasquez and Jake Wyatt, Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus stars Richard Horvitz, Rikki Simons, Andy Berman, Melissa Fahn, Wally Wingert, Kevin McDonald, Rodger Bumpass and Olivia d'Abo.