Dec 23, 2010

[TV] Ben 10: Season 1

Ben 10: Season 1Geeks tend to like cartoons. It's just a thing that seems to happen and I can't quite explain it. And this isn't just limited to TV geeks or comic book geeks. It tends to cross a lot of geek genres, although the geeky archetype tends to determine the types of cartoons or children's programming that they're into. Let's face it - there's a lot of good creative storytelling that goes into creating cartoons including some classic science fiction concepts or fantasy battles.

I'm majorly into cartoons - as many of you must have figured out by now given the frequency of my cartoon reviews. While the bulk of my animated obsessions tend to be classic shows from the 80's like ThunderCats, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and of course The Transformers, I do try my best to examine new shows to test their mettle.

Cartoon Network has been a good source of decent animated content in the world at large. Their various Star Wars shows based around the Clone Wars have been decent (although aren't getting any better) and I also enjoyed Samurai Jack a lot. But this show marks a departure from the safety of Genndy Tartakovsky creations (my safe haven in recent years) but definitely still within similar spheres of influence and inspiration.

Ben 10Image via WikipediaBen 10 is another Cartoon Network original cartoon series. The show was created by "Man of Action," which is actually a group consisting of Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, and Steven T. Seagle.

Ben Tennyson (Tara Strong) is your average 10 year old boy. He's immature, selfish and self-centered and has knack for getting into trouble. While on a cross-country summer vacation trip with his Grandpa Max (Paul Eiding) and his cousin Gwen (Meagen Smith), he encounters a alien device that appears to be a watch. The technology bonds to him somehow and gives young Ben the ability to transform into one of ten different aliens forms, each with unique powers and abilities.

As is the way of such things, various aliens are also after the device - later on revealed to be something called the Omnitrix. Thus Ben and his summer family continue their cross-country journey while battling different aliens, robots and other threats with the aid of the Omnitrix. They all slowly learn more about how the device works and its purpose and in time they learn more about their grandpa's unusual history as well.

The season is your classic first season for any action-oriented children's program. This means a lot of fights, a lot of actions, a chance to feature almost every single alien form as much as possible and very little plot development. The three main characters of Ben, Gwen and Grandpa Max remain highly one-dimensional for most of the series until they start tying things together in the very end. Yes, we are all in it for the big reveal that Max is not just some regular old man with a Winnebago. His surprising knowledge of alien technology and his familiarity with the big bad villain at the end of this arc more than hint at his complex past.

Gwen is pretty much your classic girl Friday mixed with your female peer for Ben. This means a lot of fighting and squabbling between the two of them and a great opportunity for the writers to include snide and sarcastic remarks in each and every episode. She serves little other function that being the smart one, and with the aid of her mastery of the internet she keeps everyone informed of whatever new menace they're dealing with.

And up until the last episode, Grandpa generally drives the team around and occasionally fights a bit only to get thrown to the side.

The series is fun, refreshing and certainly presented a strong premise with a lot of potential in its first season. However it lacked a lot of opportunities for character development and growth and thus it makes one want to ignore this season altogether in the hopes that future ones do better.

Ben 10: Season 1 gets 3 horrible alien form related puns out of a possible 5.
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  1. I particularly liked the season finale when the present Ben gets to meet his future self. That grounded the context of the alien-advocacy and made for a good peep into a more complex and interesting plot for the show. Plus, future Ben is kinda cute. :)

  2. Spoilers! This is only a season one review, LOL