STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $14.98
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
•  “10 in 10″ Challenge

The Pitch

Five years after the original series, a now-teenaged Ben, Gwen, and Kevin reunite to make jokes, fight aliens, and get retconned all over the universe!

The Humans

Yuri Lowenthal. Ashley Johnson. Greg Cipes. Paul Eiding.

The Nutshell

A 15-year-old Benjamin Tennyson tries to lead a normal life, but after hearing a probably-coded message from his definitely-missing grandfather, the former Ben 10 realizes it may be time to go… back to the mansion in order to free the green tentacle Grandpa Max. He digs up the Omnitrix (from his closet), summons magical cousin Gwen (from karate practice), and the two head off to fight what is quickly revealed as an alien invasion/conspiracy/gun show. Their party grows, taking on a sympathetic alien, a past nemesis, and various other powered-up youths from across the land.

“And now, to give us his opinion on Connecticut’s electoral votes, a cartoon character voiced by the guy who does the Colonel in Metal Gear Solid.”

The Lowdown

There is not a single thing original about this kind of kids-on-a-quest show. Our heroes are each special in some way, and the Muggles of the world understand neither said specialness nor the threat from the Yeerks. There are mentors, sidekicks, and enemies, who can’t help but fit into clichés. There’s Phlebotinum to retrieve/destroy, and monsters of the week to fight/befriend. The list goes on, but you know what? That doesn’t mean the show isn’t good. (The show is pretty good.) I’ve watched and read a lot of crap, and I can tell that the guys behind Ben 10: Alien Force are a little bit more thoughtful, the characters a little bit more genre savvy than in your average young adult fiction.

That’s not to say that you should drop your Runaways hardback and immediately pop in these discs; the show’s not in that league. It’s not up there with a Buffy or a Powerpuff Girls, either. For one thing, the dialogue – while clearly influenced by Whedon, and legitimately funny at times – is, just as clearly, written with kids in mind: the characters repeat everything to make sure you get it, and they never shut up even though they could say what they mean just once in half the words (and have more space for jokes or nonverbal goodness).

However, if you have a young sibling or child, this show, along with its fine contemporaries like Avatar: the Last Airbender, would be a great introduction to the world of sci-fi and fantasy entertainment. It would prepare him or her for the good stuff, and it would almost certainly be better than the shite we watched when we were kids.

“Kevin, I just wanted to ask… that is, I snuck a look in your collection, and I was wondering: would you trade your Yawgmoth’s Will? I need it for my combo deck.”
“LOL, no.”
“So I, uh… I’ll seeya later then.”
“Yeah. You will.”

The Package

This set contains one disc, covering the first five episodes of the first season. If you want to blow the better part of a week’s allowance, or if Mom lets you toss one item in the shopping cart for yourself, congratulations, Cartoon Network has made the set for you. If you’d rather scoop up a whole series, season, or at the very least, a complete story arc all at once, then such a release schedule is bound to annoy. I won’t dock too many points for this, because I realize that it’s reasonable considering the show’s young audience. I will dock a bit for the lack of good bonus features. There’s only one: a quiz on the show’s aliens, where each one is slowly revealed from a blurry state and you try to guess its name. But it’s not interactive (the name just pops up after ten seconds, with no user control at any point) or interesting. With a show so steeped in mythology, and an audience so perfectly suited for electronic extras, this one lackluster feature disappoints.

7.0 out of 10