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Appellate Judge Mac McEntire's Blog
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Ben 10: Race Against Time
So the live action Ben 10 movie debuted just before Thanksgiving weekend on Cartoon Network, and I figured I’d share my thoughts on it, since it’s because of this site that I’ve become a Ben 10 junkie. And you know what? I enjoyed it.
Those who were expecting something along the lines of a Spider-Man 2 or Batman Begins from this movie might be disappointed. It is what it is – a low-budget made-for-cable movie. If you look at it in that context, then it’s pretty good. It’s certainly far more entertaining than those flaccid flicks the Sci-fi Channel coughs up every Saturday.
As the movie begins, Ben, his cousin Gwen, and his grandfather Max have finally concluded their summer vacation cross country road trip, although no one questions why it took about four years. Anyway, Ben spent the summer using a device called the Omnitrix to transform into any one of 10 different aliens, which he used to save the world from evil. But now he’s got to face an even bigger challenge – the first day of school.
The pressure is on Ben to be just an ordinary kid instead of going hero and fighting monsters every five minutes, and he’s finding it hard to adjust. He’ll soon be back into action, though, because a new baddie named Eon has shown up in town. He has a connection to both the Omnitrix and to the secret organization Max once worked for. Eon’s power to manipulate time, however, might mean he’s too much for Ben to handle.
The pyrotechnics and mass destruction seen on any given episode of the TV series isn’t quite the same here. The creators made the most of what they had, saving the big special effects shots for a handful of scenes. I have to admit, Ben’s alien forms, now in three-dimensional, CGI do look pretty good, if still a little cartoony. It’s too bad we don’t see all of Ben’s aliens, but the ones we do see are impressive.
The young actors playing Ben and Gwen, Graham Phillips and Haley Ramm, do an OK job. At times, it feels as if they’re merely reciting their lines, but each of them does have a moment to shine. Lending the acting a little more credibility are some notable performers, including Lee “Six Million Dollar Man” Majors, Robert “holographic doctor” Picardo, and Beth “used to be on The Daily Show” Littleford. As Eon, Christien Anholt spends most of the movie with his face partially obscured under his costume, but he sneers and snarls just as good as any cartoon villain.
I looked this movie up online after watching it and, ouch, a lot of folks on the internet really hated it. Some of their concerns – such as not seeing all of Ben’s aliens during the runtime, or replacing Richard Horvitz with some other voice actor for fan-favorite character Greymatter – might be valid, but others struck me as out of line. Do the sets and the alien tech look plastic and/or cardboard-ish? Yes, they do, but this is a lighthearted kids’ adventure movie, not serious science fiction, so I’m more than cool with the B-movie look of it all. Yes, the kid actors are a little wooden in their line delivery, but come on, they’re kids. Yes, the villain doesn’t radiate menace the way Ben’s number one baddie Vilgax does, but bringing Vilgax to live action would probably have required a Transformers-like budget.
The fans should be delighted that this movie exists. Just think about how easy it would have been for Hollywood to “re-imagine” this series for live action. Writers and producers could have chucked the characters’ origins and history, replacing them with dumber ideas and trampling all over what people enjoy about the show. Instead, we get a live action movie that goes right along with the show’s continuity. It’s a real treat for those who watch the show and it’s a lot of fun for everyone else.