Volton: Legendary Defender Review (Very Lite Spoilers)

I just finished watching the first season of Netflix and Dreamworks’ new attempt at rebooting Voltron, and I have to say I was impressed. This is no surprise, since the people behind the reboot are the same team and studio behind Avatar: The Legend of Korra, and they bring their trademark style of character, action, and humor to the project. So what did I like and didn’t I like?

Likes

  • The animation is beautiful, and they’re not afraid to mix different styles together and do tricks like dropping to black and white line drawing at certain dramatic scenes. They’re very in control of the medium, and even though we’re looking at a mix of CGI and 2D animation, it all blends very nicely.
  • The story is overall well written, and while it starts a little rushed it picks up quite well as it goes along. While each episode stands on its own, there is a clear overall story and progression, and they deftly avoid falling into the “Voltron fights monster of the week” trap. (In fact, I was shocked by how few monster battles there actually are.)
  • The monster battles that happen are extremely well thought out and well choreographed, not “fight>fight>fight>blazing sword>end” but requiring the characters to think each monster through as a problem, not just as an obstacle to their goals. (Which makes the monsters more scary and actually intimidating.)
  • They made Hunk, Lance, and Pidge into distinctive (and very loveable) characters who all have a purpose in the story and aren’t just sidekicks.
  • They’ve expanded Zarkon’s forces into an actual race, The Galra, and treat them like an actual military force and even gave them bits of their own language.
  • The shift towards an active role for the team instead of passively sitting there waiting for the next monster to attack.

Undecided

    • The original Voltron used Keith as it’s core anchor, and then slowly expanded on the rest of the cast as it went on. (It was following the formula set up by Gatchaman (aka Battle of the Planets/G-Force) and which is still used in Sentai today, where the Red Ranger is always the default hero/leader.) This new series is all ensemble, all the time, with no clear focal character except a character that the episode might choose to focus on. While this works okay, I found this results in the Hunk/Lance/Pidge trio getting the majority of lines and screen time, while the actual more heroic warrior characters of Keith and Shiro kinda get shafted in terms of story focus. Keith and Shiro start the season as enigmas, and pretty much end there too, in fact Keith is now reduced to being just another skilled but generic pilot, and a boring one. (Imagine a Legend of Korra where they spent 75% of their time on Mako and Bolin instead of Korra, and Korra just turns up to fight.) I’m hoping this is because Keith is now on a slow-burn towards hero-dom and it will be remedied in the following seasons.
    • The new Voltron design is okay, not great, not bad.
    • Every time they form Voltron, I keep having GaoGaiGar flashbacks, because the new Voltron combining sequence is a total GaoGaiGar “homage”. Watch…

Forming Voltron (however, this is the shorter version, there is a longer version which is even more like GaoGaiGar’s Final Fusion)

GaoGaiGar’s Final Fusion sequence for comparison.

Dislikes

  • I’m oldschool this way, but to me Voltron isn’t Voltron without this theme! (Which I’ve been humming since my childhood.) Instead we get a bunch of really lackluster synth music that’s functional but nothing exceptional.

Overall, it’s a very well done show, and in some ways is superior to the original. It kind’ve reminds me of the Thundercats reboot they did a few years back, although that show had a little more depth to it. This new Voltron series is just a simple and fun retelling of the original Voltron story, and I look forward to seeing where they go with it.

Rob

P.S. Here’s your useless Trivia of the day! The original Voltron series wasn’t supposed to be translated from Beast King Golion at all. It was supposed to be translated from another series called Daltanius, which also featured a robot with a lion component. However, during pre-production World Events Productions asked their Japanese partner to send them tapes of “the one with the lion” and Toei Animation accidentally sent tapes of Golion instead! WEP liked Golion so much they decided to translate it instead!

And now you know…the rest of the story.

Movie Review- Singham

Friday night is movie night in my household, I collapse onto the couch, pick a movie from Netflix and go to it.

This week, I decided to go for something a little out of the ordinary and this poster caught my eye…

singham-1-poster1

Now, the fact that it’s a clear ripoff of Iron Man’s aesthetic aside, it is a pretty impressive poster and so I read a few glowing reviews and decided it was time to finally face my destiny. You see, to my eternal shame, I’ve never actually watched a whole Bollywood movie, just seen pieces of them here and there. So, I decided to settle in and see if this movie earned it’s cool poster.

Short answer- it did.

The basis of the film is super simple- Singham (the guy you see in the poster) is a modern Hercules (or rather Rama) who works as a much beloved policeman in a small rural village where nobody ever actually goes to jail because of his wise guidance and judgment. Unfortunately, he runs afoul of an urban gangster from the nearby big city of Goa and the gangster uses his corrupt influences to get Singham transferred to the big city where the gangster is the one who has all the power and is determined to destroy our hero. Of course, things don’t quite go as the gangster planned.

For my first Bollywood film, I think this was a good choice. The plot was dead simple, the music was catchy (this is Bollywood, of course there are song and dance numbers!) and it was just plain fun to watch. My only issues were that it’s actually a bit long (it drags in a few spots) and the ending is really odd and brutal by North American standards, it’s not a Hollywood ending, and was a little unsettling in some ways. (Ethically and morally, but it’s good to see non-Hollywood endings from time to time and different perspectives.)

If you’re still on the fence, just watch this clip, and you can decide whether this is your kind of film:

Ironically, I had seen this clip months ago, but didn’t realize it was from this movie until I got to this part.

Singham!

Rob