Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the Move

I like to think myself open to the possibility that a remake or a reboot can be enjoyable, but instead I often default to an instinctive dislike, even when I have no interest in the property at hand. Yet, I caught that nine-minute series of clips of the new ThunderCats cartoon and it looked very exciting, something I’d be certain to watch out for if it came to Canada.

However, I’m not a ThunderCats fan and have little investment into what a remake could mean for the original; my interest is because the new series looks exciting on its own. This isn’t to say that I know nothing of ThunderCats, however. While I was too young for the original broadcasts, I rented some videos at age eleven or so (all starting with a determined but stupid quest to somehow find a Ratar-O toy at retail in 1994).

I liked ThunderCats all right then, but viewing reruns as an adult on Teletoon Retro wiped away all that childhood goodwill. The series had terrible voice acting, weak world-building, a random mixture of fantasy and sci-fi elements, and idiot villains. The only opinion that had changed for the better was that now I appreciated the comparative subtlety of the heroes’ “humans in makeup” design, rather than wishing for them to be more animalistic as I did as a preteen. (Though the original series would sometimes show Thunderans with more blatantly feline features--as a child I idly wondered if they were ever the victim of racial discrimination).

Everything that I’ve seen so far has lead me to hope that the ThunderCats remake will actually make some alterations to the premise, rather than only make the smallest nods to modernity as the 2002 He-Man did. In the ThunderCats remake, I see signs of more complicated and detailed relationships between protagonist and antagonist, and among heroes on the same side, which makes for more interesting storytelling. The He-Man route is fine for others, but my preference is for a remake that turns out to be a thing I’d enjoy watching, and I tend to cringe at archetypal eighties cartoons, with some exceptions. The new ThunderCatscartoon looks like a good piece of heroic fantasy, made with some care behind it.

There’s a heavy anime influence in the artwork, but like Avatar: The Last Airbender there is an unmistakable western-ness in the tone and in some way, the designs. Not being a fan, I don’t have any strong opinion on how the new designs compare with the old ones. I’d probably be satisfied with them if I were, since they are very familiar-looking. As an aside, turning the annoying animal-thing Snarf into a non-talking pet is probably a good idea for several reasons. Not only does it shut him up, it was kind of odd that he looked like an animal but was sentient.

Overall, I’ll probably catch this if it comes to Canada, or turn to…other means if word-of-mouth is good enough.

This interest is more than I can say about Transformers: Prime, sadly. I am a lapsed Transformers fan, but I try to catch up on each of the series following Beast Machines. I dropped whatever I didn’t like, but I enjoyed Transformers: Animated and hoped I could do the same for its successor. But this…the show is very, bland.

There’s been something of a backlash against Transformers fans who dislike the human sidekicks, but Transformers: Prime still brings out my “Robots, dammit!” side (I liked Sari from TF:A, so the slack must be cut). Much of the material, including a notable amount of the problem-solving, seemed to come from the kids’ POV, which diluted the fundamental appeal of a Transformers cartoon, namely that the protagonists are living robots. Filling out the Decepticon ranks with interchangeable drones also isn’t that exciting.

It’s a pity, since the oddly primitive-looking CGI makes me nostalgic for the days of Beast War and Mainframe animation, my gateway into Transformers fandom, leaving me wishing, maybe unreasonably, that some similar kind of magic could have been captured. A friend has told me that Transformers: Prime has some better episodes down the line, which I might want to look into, but I’m currently on the fence.

Despite my nominal excitement over ThunderCats, however, the Transformers franchise is always going to be the king of eighties cartoon “revivals”, because it has never been just about picking up an eighties cartoon and remaking it decades later, but about putting out reams of material ever since 1984. Transformers is a broader, richer multiverse than its stablemates, and has been doing it since before the eighties became retro.

In other Transformers news, however, I’m making clear my intentions not to see Dark of the Moon. Despite some buzz about it being “the good one” among Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, I’ve heard enough to believe that I still wouldn’t like it. The only Bayformers movie I’ve seen was the first one, and that was only because crazy brain fungus told me that I “had to” see it, simply because I was a Transformers fan. It was terribly boring, and I heard enough to stay away from the second. And so on, and so on. I’m just not interested in a raunchy sex comedy/cheesy action flick which that has robots in the background doing stuff.

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