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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 133 Minutes
It’s Hot Wheels! Guitar solo! Fuck you!
Featuring the voices of: Mark Hildreth, Michael Dobson, Kathleen Barr,
Noel Johansen, Brian Drummond, Gabe Khouth, Alessandro Juliani, Colin
Murdock and Kira Tozer.
Did you ever see the Poochie episode of The Simpsons? Basically this is
that. Hot Wheels Battle Force Five is extreme, in-your-face,
corporatized and wholly depressing. This is a cartoon so calculated to
sell toys to kids that the producers of Rubik the Amazing Cube are
likely spinning in their graves, appalled by its shamelessness. Like
verbal abuse it’s loud, aggressive and soul deadening. I suggest
inflicting neither on your children.
Hot Wheels Battle Force Five follows the exploits of a gang of race car
driving adventures named Blazer, Torque, Gear Shaft, On Ramp and Peel
Out (no they’re not; they’re really named Vert, Agura, Stanford, Zoom
and Spinner, but is that any better?). BF5 primarily operates in some
kind of Tron-like grid world, but through the use of wormhole
generating “battle keys” the team can access inter-dimensional locales
with exotic landscapes, all well suited to race hot rods in. Once there
the team will face off against the series’ alternating villains: the
Sark, a group of robots that drive race cars, and the Vandals, a group
of anthropomorphized animals that drive race cars. Little back-story is
given for any of this, and the regular conflict involves BF5 having to
retrieve a stolen battle key from one of the two groups — normally
resolving itself in a speed contest in which the bad guys are run off
the road. It’s the thinnest of premises, and most episodes rarely
deviate from this template. Story is not the primary concern here; with
the words Hot Wheels in the title the producers have no issue
fortifying a weak plot with gratuitous race action.
Mattel whistleblowers please note: your complaints to HR’s Cultural Sensitivity department will be kept strictly confidential.
The protagonists can be called characters in that they are physically
identifiable as human beings. But they are all generically identical
with their square jaws, spiked hair and take-no-shit attitudes. The BF5
team members are distinguishable only in that they are of mixed
ethnicity, but even with this the opportunities for character
development are bypassed for lazy, offensive racial shorthand (The
British guy is an upper-class twit; the Japanese guy is a Karate
expert). No soap defining personality through dialogue, either. Every
BF5 member is a cocky smart-ass, so most exchanges between characters
consist of one member telling the other to “eat my dust”, or some other
lame bit of NASCAR promo parlance. The villains are no better: the Sark
are retreads of every sentient robo-villain you’ve ever seen in a
cartoon, and constantly spout dialogue about “crushing” and
“destroying” the Battle Force 5 that was tired when Frank Welker paid
off his mortgage speaking it in every cartoon of the 80s. The Vandals
follow the familiar pattern of arrogant, hyper-macho leader (a tiger,
natch) aided by bumbling, cowardly henchmen. One of these henchmen, by
the way, is shark that drives a hot rod. And he’s wimpy, stupid and
totally sucks. Let me repeat that: a talking shark. Driving a fucking
hot rod. 90% of the work of making that a cool character is already
done for you. But I guess for these Mattel wangs there’s giving 10%, or
there’s clocking out of the office by 4:00PM everyday.
In next week’s episode Vert transfers to the Hot Wheels Drunken Vehicular Manslaughter Force 5.
How does it look? Well, it’s computer animation on a television budget,
so shitty. Sure, it’s technically proficient, but it’s the worst kind
of TV CGI — the kind that tries to emulate hand-drawn cell animation.
This is never convincing, and only has the effect of making the lead
characters appear more zombie-like than they already are. No effort is
made to sync up the character animation with the background animation,
all of which looks like every other post-Phantom Menace digital
landscape: busy but lifeless. It all adds up to shapeless collage of
visual noise further obscured by the camera’s incessant moving. I take
it Mattell figured that all kids love Michael Bay’s Transformers
movies, because that same brand of fast-cutting, incomprehensible
visual style is at play here. And I hope you like ramping, because
every time one of the BF5 vehicles jump something (about once every 10
seconds) boy, do we get ramping. The ramping is even more obnoxious in
this case once you realize that, as an entirely computer generated
show, there’s not even a real camera involved that needs to be slowed
down and then sped up. We are a nation in decline, aren’t we?
Whatever the specific criticisms of Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 are, the
takeaway is this: in the 21st century this kind of lazy children’s
cartoon is inexcusable. For God’s sake, Mattel, in the opening credits
you have a main character enter frame, wail on an electric guitar, and
then smash it Pete Townshend-style — what the fuck is wrong with you?
This is the era of SpongeBob SquarePants, superior Justice League
cartoons, and Dora the Explorer; all proof that if you make a
substantive and sincere program you can win over the kids and still
make gobs and gobs of merchandising money. An argument could be made
that those cartoons started with interesting characters and that the
ancillary profits came second. Certainly reverse engineering a cartoon
from an existing toy line smacks of corporate bullshittery. But that’s
no excuse to not at least try. The Pirates of the Caribbean films prove
that something entertaining can come from the corporate cash-grab
mentality. The thing is, Mattel: Hot Wheels ARE cool. Kids love them,
and because of that they are already willing to meet you halfway with
whatever cartoon you give them. Please respect that trust enough to
give them something more than just a half-hour commercial. But perhaps
I expect too much from a company whose logo is a giant spinning cog.
Oh, Christ, no…
Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 is a complete waste of your children’s time,
and of your money. If your kid approaches you in the store and asks you
to buy this DVD for him/her, I suggest that you take the $15 you would
have spent on it and instead buy the kid the equivalent amount in
actual Hot Wheels cars. I guarantee that whatever storylines the child
invents while playing with the real toys will have more heart and
imagination than any of these witless 22-minute streams of ones and
There are no special features, which I suppose in this case is a small
mercy. The sound and picture quality are razor sharp, but considering
how this show assaults the senses, you might find yourself wishing for
a duller A/V presentation.
0.0 out of 10