Aug 12, 2010

[Movies] Ben 10: Alien Swarm (2009)

Ben 10: Alien Swarm (2009)Cartoon to live-action movie adaptations have often resulted in near disasters in entertainment, what more when they're not even meant to be shown on the silver screen. I suppose it's because the big studios assume that kids have much lower entertainment standards and thus they can parade any hastily assembled piece of drivel and call it a movie.

But that really shouldn't be the case - kids are a lot smarter than most people give them credit for. All the more when it comes to shows that they're very much into or passionate about. Kids can become experts on the toys and show that they follow eagerly week after week and discounting that kind of intimate understanding is folly. And thus a franchise can rise or fall based on the respect the network executives keep in mind for their audiences.

But then there are those instances when they get things right for one reason for another. Whether or not this is some calculated move or some moment of random dumb luck, it's hard to say. However it does provide a glimmer of hope for such adaptations. It's not like we don't want to see them in live-action. We just want to make sure they're done well!

Ben 10: Alien Swarm is actually the second live-action movie that Cartoon Network released as based on the Ben 10 series of cartoons. Ironically enough, this was my first serious attempt to get into the Ben 10 series beyond randomly catching an episode or two on TV.

LONDON - NOVEMBER 15: Galadriel Steinman, Ryan...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The movie is actually based the second leg of the Ben 10 series - Ben 10: Alien Force. It starts with Ben (Ryan Kelley), his cousin Gwen (Galadriel Stineman) and Kevin (Nathan Keyes) are posing as buyers of alien technology. However things make a surprising turn when one of the dealers turns out to be Elena (Alyssa Diaz), Ben's childhood friend. The four find themselves dealing with a new threat as the very computer chips that were up for sale come alive as they're being controlled by some mysterious figure above. Kevin naturally suspects Elena is somehow in on this twist and sets out to prove she's not to be trusted.

Back at their headquarters, they start their analysis of samples of the chips and Ben's grandfather, Max (Barry Corbin), shares the history of Elena's father, Victor Validus (Herbert Siguenza). Victor was had been dishonorably discharged from the Plumbers for stealing the very same chips they were now investigating. Thus Ben is left to figure out whether or not Elena is like her father in this sense as they unravel the mystery behind these alien chips.

For a made-for-TV movie, I was most impressed by the special effects involved for such a production. Given that Ben's made ability is to be able to transform into a variety of alien beings with diverse abilities, this was a key component in the movie. They certainly did well in their execution and it certainly felt like a good translation of the cartoon versions of these same characters. And the various configurations of the alien chips was pretty interesting as well and were something I could see in some lower-budget silver screen movies.

The actors selected to perform the different roles were also pretty good. The core cast of Ben, Gwen and Kevin certainly felt a lot like their cartoon counterparts and managed to convey the spirit of their characters' camaraderie. Usually studios go the easy route and just get people who look like the characters but can't act if their lives depended on it. Thus for them to find these fairly talented young actors who also look like the Ben 10 crew was a good thing indeed.

And sure, the plot was a tad shallow but not overly so. It certainly felt like an extended episode of the original cartoon, which was definitely a good thing. I hate it when the feature-length adaptation ends up feeling like an odd puppet show with the characters merely parroting lines given to them that don't feel like they would be things that would actually be said by the original team.

It pains me to think that this movie felt like a major improvement versus recent big screen adaptations like The Last Airbender and dare I say it...Dragonball Evolution. It's a sad reality that a TV production could turn out to be a heck of a lot better at translating a cartoon than the major Hollywood studios. Then again, it was probably a key success factor that this movie was still handled by the same network that produces the cartoon series and thus creative control was still respected. And thus I look forward to future releases under the Cartoon network banner with the hopes that they maintain the same level of quality in all their ventures.

Ben 10: Alien Swarm is a rather impressive TV venture and a good example of how such adaptations should be handled. I'll definitely take the time to explore the original cartoon series because of this movie. It gets 4 witty yet still cheesy puns spoken during battle out of a possible 5.
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  1. I love watching Ben10.

    They should get a green light to do a big movie of this for better effects and everything!

    CN does make good real life adaptations. Imagine what they could do if they made adaptations for Powerpuff Girls, Dexter, or even Samurai Jack!

  2. I hope they don't go overboard - the PowerPuff Movie left much to be desired, hehe. There's something that goes terribly wrong once you give these guys a feature-length movie budget.