Every time Judge Steve Power attempts to reboot, he gets a blue screen of death.
Warning! Incoming game!
Way back in 1994, computers were still something of an enigma to many; the 486 was state of the art, the internet consisted of about seven web pages (three of which were probably porn), and massively multiplayer consisted of however many people you could gather together with a Super Nintendo and a copy of Street Fighter II. In this naive time, the idea of an animated television show created entirely out of zeroes and ones was certainly an intriguing one. Enter ReBoot, a show that not only spearheaded a new revolution in computer animation, but embraced its digital heritage with a story built upon the geek heritage of the machine world. After years of pining, fans have been rewarded, but is ReBoot still worthy of the praise? Or is this one better left to memory?
Facts of the Case
Bob is a guardian, sworn protector of the city of Mainframe, located somewhere inside of your average desktop PC. Alongside his friends, the young courier, Enzo, and his female partner, Dot Matrix, he does battle with vile viruses like Hexidecimal and Megabyte. Then there are the games, incoming glowing green cubes that bring chaos and terror to the city, a chaos and terror fueled by "The Users," mythical beings from beyond the grid.
One cannot simply write off ReBoot; when Canadian upstart, Mainframe Entertainment first started work on the show in 1991, they were explorers carving new paths through the jungle of animation. I doubt anyone knew of the technology boom lurking right around the corner with the advent of Pentium chips and 28.8 modems. It's easy to forget that when this show first aired after three years in the making, there was nothing else like it on the tube or the big screen. Toy Story was a year off, Shrek wasn't even a bad idea.
The idea of embracing the technogeek subculture proved to be a fortuitous one, with a concept ripped right out of Tron: Computer AI versus we the players, told from their perspective, the show would endear itself to those pre-teen and teen gamers who grew up with Nintendos, C64s, and Tandy 1000s. At the time, the animation certainly turned heads, with pretty much anything coming from the guts of a Silicon Graphics workstation grabbing the pop culture conscience in the wake of ILMs triumph on Jurassic Park. Computer graphics were the "cool" thing to do, and ReBoot, in truth, really did it first. The "games" our heroes faced week after week covered all the bases, from your average shooter to an early take on co-operative role playing games. The show played on your average gamer or computer whiz. Nine chances out of ten, if you were under the age of 17, knew what a CPU was, or held a controller on any sort of regular basis, you had no doubt seen ReBoot.
Shout Factory has worked their usual magic in dredging up a relic of the past and giving it the sort of presentation that the hardcore fans deserve. The transfer on these discs is about as good as one could expect, considering the age and antiquated digital source of the program. I didn't notice any major errors, and the sound came through loud and clear, I dare say it probably looks better than it did when it originally aired. The only extras to speak of are commentary tracks on select episodes by some of the people responsible, and they're reasonably entertaining and informative, if a little dry at times. The tracks are presented spanning multiple episodes, and I did notice some issues, particularly when we hit the end of an episode and lose chunks of the commentary as the next episode starts up. It's hardly a deal breaker, but it's there, and it feels a tad sloppy.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While ReBoot has its loyal followers, and the plots did get rather more mature and intriguing as the show went on, these early episodes are largly a collection of kiddie-oriented mush. Characters are thinly drawn and played in average to poor fashion, and continuity from episode to episode is non-existent. Sure, the writers eventually began to take their little creation seriously, but the early efforts were targeted squarely at the Saturday morning thumbsuckers. Everything feels genetically designed to be bright and colorful, a sterilized franchise pre-packaged to sell action figures and bedsheets.
There's no easy way to say this, but the animation in ReBoot, such that it is, stinks. CG was nowhere near capable of doing then what it does now, not on a television budget anyway. Like those early 3D polygonal games that ushered in the era of graphics accelerator cards and Sony Playstation, the simplistic character models, poor movement, and blank emotionless features of the characters just doesn't hold up. ReBoot deserves the niche it has carved in history, but unlike traditional animation, where the only hurdles to overcome were man hours and imagination, it's just downright painful to watch.
The amount of enjoyment you get from this particular set will likely depend on whether or not you've been anxiously awaiting ReBoot's presence on DVD. If you long to revisit an old favorite, you will very likely not be disappointed. The flipside is that in spite of the show's place in the annals of animation history, the production is definitely dated, and the appeal to the uninitiated will very likely be limited.
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