Episode Titles: "New School Defenders," "Defenders of Arus" and "Defenders of the Universe"
Writer: Todd Garfield
Story by: Jeremy Corray
Director: John Delaney
It seems like a safe bet that most TV viewers don't remember the original "Voltron" animated series. Which is fair enough. It's been about 25 years since the Japanese series "GoLoin" was Americanized into what we now know as "Voltron." The premise for the show was fairly straight forward: five space explorers from Earth journey to a distant planet called Arus in order to revive Voltron — a giant robot made up of five robot lions — and use it as a weapon against the advancing Drule Empire of King Zarkon and Prince Lotor.
Under a haze of nostalgia, almost anything can be seen as a classic. The original "Voltron" had its share of flaws, but most of the animation was impressive and several of the voice actors brought enough life to their roles that it didn't feel like a standard English dubbed Anime. World Event Productions — the company behind "Voltron" — has tried to bring back the series before, to lesser effect in "Voltron: The Third Dimension."
Which brings us to "Voltron Force," the latest attempt to resurrect the franchise. Airing on Nicktoons, the new series takes place years after the original and paints a world in which the first Voltron Force defeated and killed (!) King Lotor before the Lions were sabotaged by a corrupt Galaxy Garrison official, Sky Marshall Wade (Gary Chalk). Some time later, a young cadet named Daniel (Vincent Tong) dreams of being the new Black Lion pilot; while the original pilot, Commander Keith (Giles Panton) is on the run as a fugitive.
The first thing that immediately becomes noticeable is how ugly the animation is. The character designs aren't terrible by themselves, but this show looks like it was animated on a budget of $5. The robot lions are by far the worst visuals in the show. They appear to be CGI creations mixed in with the traditional 2D animated sequences, but they lack the consistent design and grace of the original lions. The first sequence in the show event mimics the classic Voltron poses after it forms together and brings out the blazing sword. However, it's done so haphazardly that the moment simply reminds us why the original worked better.
I have to assume that the prevailing wisdom for animated series these days is that kids won't be interested in a show unless children are also the central characters. Which brings us back to the previously mentioned Daniel, the only cadet in Galaxy Garrison who isn't afraid to ask what happened to Voltron and the pilots who flew it. His sidekick/partner is Vince (Doron Bell Jr), a young kid who seems to have a magical connection to the Voltron robot. There's also Larmina (Shannon Chan-Kent), the niece of Blue Lion pilot, Princess Allura (Ashleigh Ball).
The problem with the kids is that they just aren't that interesting. Larmina is too perfect. She's such a great fighter that she practically holds off an invasion by herself. And yet by making Larmina such a flawless character, she's too remote to relate to. Vince is kind of underdeveloped and the only thing that Daniel seems to care about is getting his chance to fly in a Voltron lion.
There's also a surprising degree of toilet humor in the first episode. Lance (Andrew Francis) actually assigns Daniel and Vince to bathroom duty in order to steal the keys to Voltron while Sky Marshall Wade is taking a dump. And I swear, I did not make that up!
Hunk (Ty Olsson) and Pidge (Samuel Vincent) also show up to reunite the classic "Voltron" characters. And to a certain extent, there does seem to be a genuine effort to advance the characters from the first Voltron force. However, the voice acting is flat across the board and Allura barely seems to have any personality at all. Only Keith comes out largely unscathed, although he takes a backseat to Daniel and Vincent.
I forgot to mention that the three kids also get objects that act like personalized Green Lantern rings because… why the f*** not?
Somewhere along the way, Lotor is resurrected and he immediately leads an assault on Arus with a Robeast… because that plan has obviously never failed him hundreds of times. Lotor himself is one of the bigger disappointments. He was always over-the-top, but Lotor had an appealing arrogance about him that made him more of an anti-hero than simply another evil conqueror. Here, he's just a standard issue snarling villain.
I'm not spoiling much by saying that Voltron is reunited, blazing swords are formed and children are piloting the robot lions. Look, I understand that this show was targeted towards very, very young boys. But did it have to be done in such a sloppy, half-formed way? This incarnation seems to treat its audience like they're a bunch of morons.
Maybe the kids will like it. However, if you're over the age of 12 or a fan of the original series, there's nothing here worth coming back for.
Crave Online Rating: 2 out of 10.