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Film / Zenon

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A Disney Channel movie first aired in 1999, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century is set in 2049, where Zenon Kar (Kirsten Storms) is a 13-year-old who literally gets grounded as she is forced to leave her Space Station home and live on Earth. The first film concerns her trying to get along with some Earth kids while taking down a plot by Parker Wyndham to destroy the space station.

Although it never became a TV series as expected, it did spawn two sequels. Zenon: The Zequel follows Zenon as she clashes with General Hammond and his military forces who are taking over operations of the station; to make matters worse, Hammond's daughter is Margie, Zenon's Alpha Bitch enemy from the first film. Zenon: Z3 focuses on Zenon as she enters the Galactic Teen Supreme contest, while Sage Borealis, a Moon preservation activist, and Selena, goddess of the moon, urge her to stop contest-holder Pat Numbar from colonizing and exploiting the moon.

If you want to read the original book by Marilyn Sandler, choose this link.

Not to be confused with the Devilman villain.

This film and its sequels provide examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The trilogy starts 50 years from the first movie's release date in 2049. The zequel takes place in 2050, and the third in 2054.
  • Adaptational Dye-Job: The front cover of the 1997 book has Zenon depicted with black hair. Kirsten Storms kept her natural blonde hair for the DCOM trilogy.
  • Adults Are Useless: Zenon and her friends are the only ones who can save the Space Station from crashing. Only Zenon and her 13-year-old friend manage to piece together an anti-virus. Back at the space station, the adults, many of whom are scientists, are freaking out and have no idea how to fix the virus. That said, Zenon and her friends are aware that the system failures are intentional sabotage, and not simply malfunctions much earlier, giving her friend more time to work on the problem.
  • Aerith and Bob: Names like Mark, Leo, Greg, Parker, and Margie are lined up with Zenon, Astrid, Aquila, Nebula, and Lynx. A rare case like the Trope Namer where for the most part the female characters have irregular names and the male characters have normal ones.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Pat Numbar at the end of Z3, who offers Zenon another chance at properly winning a contest by joining him in a new one on Mars along with her friends. Zenon's reply?:
    Zenon: Mr. Numbar, if you thought Selena was hard to handle, let me just point out to you that Mars is the god of war.
    • Two seconds after hanging up, she adds that "some people just never learn."
  • Almost Kiss: Zenon and Greg are sitting side-by-side, facing the same direction, in awkward silence. Zenon tells Greg that if he wants to kiss her he should get over it and just kiss her already. After a pause, they both turn suddenly towards each other at the same time - and accidentally smash their faces into each other, ruining the moment.
  • Almost Out of Oxygen: Zenon and Dasha nearly run out on their way back to the Lunasphere after Zenon speaks to Selena at the Sea of Tranquility in Z3.
  • Artificial Gravity: The Space Station, courtesy of spinning futuristic rings. This accurately reflects current scientific ideas on how to maintain gravity. In-story, the generated gravity is also much weaker than Earth's gravity, which makes it difficult for Zenon to function on Earth.
  • Artistic License – Space: To be expected in a movie like this. One notable example comes up in Z3. Selena gives a deadline of “the next Earthset” for everyone to leave the moon base. In reality, the moon is tidally locked to Earth, so Earth never rises or sets from the perspective of someone on the moon.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: In the zequel that introduces aliens, Zenon deduces that the aliens are good, with no irony, because their spaceship is too beautiful for them to be evil (one of the military soldiers described it as looking like a "flying rainbow"). She was right, of course.
  • Beta Couple: Judy and Commander Plank form one by the end of the first movie. They get married in the ending of the zequel.
  • Big Bad:
    • In the first film, Parker Wyndham is the mogul who owns the space station, and sets out with his assistant Lutz to implant a computer virus that will destroy it, killing everyone inside, so he can collect the insurance money.
    • The Zequel plays with this in regards to General Hammond and Marge; Hammond is the main antagonist of the film, taking over the now-damaged station and planning to dismantle it, which would put everyone on the station out of a job, and is trying to capture Zenon. However, he is not doing it to be malicious, but to protect the people of Earth from a possible Colony Drop, and to protect Zenon who is endangering herself trying to find an alternate solution, making him more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist. Meanwhile, his daughter Marge is a standard antagonist who is an Alpha Bitch to Zenon, but becomes nicer to Zenon halfway through and becomes an ally instead of an antagonist for the rest of the film.
    • Z3 has Pat Numbar, the host of the Galactic Teen Supreme contest who is using it as a front to colonize and exploit the moon for its resources, greatly angering the moon goddess Selene who recruits Zenon to stop his plans.
  • Call-Back:
    • In Z3, Dasha's journal has an article detaling the military taking over the space station, which drove the plot of the previous movie.
    • Later when Zenon is talking to Bronley, he mentions her saving the space station and meeting aliens.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Zenon tries to expose the plot to destroy the space station but no one believes her until it is almost too late.
    • No one believes Zenon detected alien signals in the second film at first. Maybe if the AP lab had some sort of data archive or a recording device, that might've convinced people.
  • Catchphrase: Zenon's is "Cetus Lupeedus!"
    • In Z3 it becomes "Vega Omega!"
  • Colony Drop: A side effect of the Wyndham's plan in the first film. When the Zequel starts, the Space Station has been shifted out of its orbit enough that that this is a very real possibility, and preventing it is the real reason the army is so aggressive about dismantling the station.
  • Dance Party Ending: All three movies end with a Proto Zoa concert; the third has him do a duet with Cosmic Blush.
  • Declaration of Personal Independence: Zenon declares to her father that she's thirteen. Old enough to take care of herself.
  • Defrosting the Ice Queen: Margie starts off being completely antagonist to Zenon, but by the end of the second movie, they've become good friends.
  • Demoted to Extra: Nebula in the third movie who only gets a (very badly green-screened) cameo since she's on vacation on Earth. On the upside, she's played by Raven-Symoné once again.
  • Driving Test: At the start of Z3, Zenon takes her pod flying test with Co-Commander and uncle Klane as her instructor. Despite struggling with parallel parking, she passes with a near-perfect score.
  • Five-Man Band: In the first and third movies, Zenon has three of them for when she's down on Earth, back home on the Wyndcomm Space Station later known as Space Station 9, and at the Moonstock Festival on the Moon. On the space station, we have...
  • Future Music: The movie focused heavily on the music of a band called Microbe. The first being a 1999 Disney Channel movie, their biggest song sounds exactly like modern light tween pop, except with lyrics such as — sing along, contemporaries, you know the words — "ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM, make my heart go BOOM BOOM, would you be my Supernova Girl?"
    • Better yet: "Interplanetary, megastellar, hydrostatic! There's no gravity between us, our love is automatic!"
  • Future Slang: A particularly memorable example. Cetus Lupeedus, guys! The movie is totally stellanarious! And it's full of Action Major!
    • Including names like "Zenon" and "Nebula", although both those naming conventions and much of the Future Slang are more common on the space station than Earth; in the first movie, one of Zenon's Earth teachers accidentally calls her another noble gas; "Radon". When Zenon corrects her, Margie mocks the weirdness of Zenon's name, giving the viewers the first hint that only people on the space station have Future Slang names. This is further enforced when we find out that other kids on Earth have names like Margie, Greg, and Andrew, and they all have their own dialect of Future Slang— macro, micro, etc.
    • Not to mention an entire song whose lyrics include nothing but future slang (i.e. a bunch of unrelated scientific terms all jammed together). If you listen to it, it actually does make sense, albeit in a pop song sort of way. It's not much sillier than the vague space imagery in "Don't Stop Me Now" or "Rocket Man" or a million other songs from the seventies.
    • The books give further insight on the space station slang as well as featuring some phrases that may or may not have been used in the films.
    • Sci-Fi Name Buzzwords: Most of the Future Slang is essentially a bunch of vaguely "space-y" terms blended together.
  • God of the Moon: Selena, but Z3 makes no mention of her place in the classical mythology.
  • Gravity Sucks: In the second movie, as soon as it runs out of fuel, the shuttle Zenon, Margie, Proto Zoa, and Judy are on starts falling towards the Moon.
  • Green Aesop: The third movie appears to attempt to invoke this, except using the moon (and an angry moon spirit who literally tells Zenon that the humans are screwing everything up, as if Sage the moon environmentalist wasn't Anvilicious enough) as a stand-in for Earth. A bit strange considering the moon does not have any life forms...except for, apparently, the aforementioned grumpy moon spirit, who wasn't in any danger from the minor intrusion on her habitat.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The word "viral" is explicitly described as a synonym for bad or disgusting. In context, this makes sense given the space station is mostly a scientific colony, and the word uses a biological definition. To a viewer in the internet age, "viral" takes on the meaning of "shared frequently online."
  • Jerkass Gods: Selena in Z3 seems to be pretty temperamental, considering how she threatens to blow up Earth because a human wanted to colonize a tiny part of her moon.
  • The Metric System Is Here to Stay: Zenon is from a space station, but when she arrives on Earth, she explodes a test tube because she was thinking in Celsius when all the instructions were in Fahrenheit. In a science class.
  • Mook–Face Turn: Two of Wyndham's security agents, after trying to capture Zenon and take her to Wyndham, pull one after Proto Zoa calms them down and offers to take them under his wing.
  • Motile Vehicular Components: The alien ship in Zenon: The Zequel has four long, elegant wings that flap. In space. Yes, really.
  • Never Say "Die": Invoked. In the first film, when Zenon's space station home is in danger of being destroyed, she says in anguish, "everyone up there will be...finished" (y'know, instead of "dead"). Also possibly averted in that she tells Nebula that everyone on the station is in "danger mortus", which a viewer who recognizes the Latin root in "mortus" could figure out means in danger of dying.
  • Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Zenon: The Zequel forgoes proper spelling for Added Alliterative Appeal, and Zenon: Z3 marks the only numbered installment in the trilogy.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Nebula, Proto Zoa and the Microbes. The villains of the first and third movies aren't much better off, really.
  • Say My Name: Plank's "ZEEEENOOOOOOOOOOOOONNN", which happens in the beginning of the second movie.
  • Setting Update: The book is set in 2037, the film jumps ahead to 2049 for the sake of depicting more advanced technology.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The aliens in the second movie initially communicating through musical tones is very much like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
    • Margie also mentions what happened to the alien in E.T. as a potential reason for the aliens wanting to meet in space.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Deconstructed a bit. Zenon assumes that because she can 'swim' in space, that she knows how to swim in a pool for gym class. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome and Greg ends up saving her life.
  • Space Plane: All shuttles take off without any boosters and can apparently do so multiple times a day without needing maintenance.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Selena is obviously the Greek moon goddess Selene, but with an "a" instead of an "e" at the end.
  • Standard Establishing Spaceship Shot: Space Station shot. There are a couple in all three movies.
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted. Margie keeps her development in the second movie after having been Zenon's nemesis in the first and most of the second. Here she largely takes Nebula’s place as Zenon’s best friend in the third movie due to Nebula having a much smaller role.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Zenon ends up falling the first time she does anything energetic because she forgets that Earth gravity is not quite the same as her space station's artificial gravity.
    • General Hammond plans to have the station decommissioned and dismantled due to damage caused by Parker Wyndum in the previous film because he thinks it's not safe to live in anymore and to keep it from endangering the people of Earth. If someone tries to intentionally put people in danger, which causes much damage to a living space, then people like the military aren't going to think it's safe anymore, and will want people to leave said living space for their's and other people's protection.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Zenon and Greg's first date at a beachside diner. Zenon's never had Earth food before, and she orders nearly everything from the menu. She eats one onion ring. She sees Lutz and then chases after him, leaving all of that good food behind.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Strangely enough since the Disney Channel was entirely in charge of the trailer, the trailers for the third movie spoiled both the existence and true appearance of Selena the moon goddess, when quite a bit of the movie is Zenon trying to figure out her "viral moon dreams" and other weird supernatural things that keep happening to her. Oh, gee, it couldn't be that moon spirit the trailers showed, could it?
  • Zeerust: These movies are late 90s/early 2000s visions of what people thought the future would look like. The outfits alone show how dated the whole thing looks, as does much of the tech used in the movie.

Alternative Title(s): Zenon Girl Of The21st Century