MEAD is adapted from the 1972 underground comic book Fever Dreams written by Jan Strnad and illustrated by the late and renowned comic illustrator Richard Corben. Acting as director, writer, and animator, J. Allen Williams’s tonally and thematically layered film adaptation is commendable in its scope, dazzling with action, humor, and heart.
M.E.A.D, which stands for Mobile Extra-sensory Autonomous Deceptor, is an AI-powered spaceship. It was created by the nefarious Admiral Gillette (Robert Picardo) as a weapon to conquer the galaxy. However, M.E.A.D (Patton Oswalt) grew a mind of its own and became averse to the admiral’s plans, ultimately absconding with a fellow space crusader named Friz (Samuel Hunt). Together, they try to remain undetected from bounty hunters and military forces.
MEAD begins with Friz and M.E.A.D battling a bunch of Martian bounty hunters. Their greatest weapon is the power of illusions, making their enemies see things that aren’t really there. This is a battle tactic that always works, and better yet, nobody gets hurt, at least not typically. The duo never intend to inflict physical harm with their illusions, but a malfunction causes the enemy’s ship to explode, leaving behind a sole survivor. Her name is Phoebe (Lillie Young), and Friz is immediately attracted to the inmate. Low on fuel and high on emotions, the ragtag crew is not totally sure what awaits them now.
“…Friz and M.E.A.D battling a bunch of Martian bounty hunters.”
There is something inherently fresh and unique about the friendship between M.E.A.D and Friz. Despite one being a human and the other an AI, their relationship is characterized by genuine camaraderie and how they both believe in non-violence and individual freedom. As the bug-eyed AI, Oswalt makes his presence known with an enjoyably mocking tone. Hunt plays it calmer and cooler, although he also does clumsy well, as backed up by his attempts to charm Young’s character. The entire cast is impressive, with Robert Picardo being a credible adversary with a comically brash demeanor.
The rather straightforward plot of MEAD revolves around the crew trying to find dark matter. They are confident that their illusion abilities will get them through anything, which entails the use of special effects. Williams makes it work on a strict budget, letting the CGI and live-action segments co-exist without prioritizing one over the other.
That said, there are pacing issues, particularly during a scene at the enemy’s headquarters which drags on. In fact, the excitement and humor kind of dwindles as more and more illusions are employed, and too much unfolds without the necessary weight. Still, the actors are dynamic enough to keep everything in focus. The back and forth between Hunt and Oswalt alone is more than enough to fuel enjoyment.
MEAD is a diverting love letter to Richard Corben and his visual creation. In more ways than one, Williams’ film adaptation of the graphic novel is very much akin to Spaceballs in terms of tone and style. However, it has less polish, which is to be expected and ultimately admired. Prepare for a fun, wacky live-action and animated journey through a galaxy not yet explored.
"…a fun, wacky live-action and animated journey through a galaxy not yet explored."