“Has anyone ever told you you’re a strange and dangerous person?”
The good news: The best TV show of the year, Ben 10 Alien Force, gets a new DVD release. The bad news: There are so few episodes on this disc, it feels like Ben 4.
Ben Tennyson (Yuri Lowenthal, Naruto) is an ordinary 15-year-old, except that he wields the Omnitrix, a device that allows him to turn into 10 various super-powered aliens. With the help of his magic-using cousin Gwen (Ashley Johnson, Phenom) and metal-absorbing tough guy Kevin (Teen Titans), Ben uses the Omnitrix to battle evil. Good thing, too, because a sinister alien called the Highbreed and its army of “DNAliens” have a mysterious plot brewing.
This episode list just escaped from the Null Void:
• “Max Out”
The disappearance of Ben’s grandfather, Max (Paul Eiding, God of War), was the incident that started Ben and company on their current adventures. But where is Max? What has he been up to? Many answers are ahead as the Highbreed leads Ben, Gwen, and Kevin into a trap.
• “Pier Pressure”
Ben finally gets a date with the girl of his dreams, Julie (Vyvan Pham, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men). Unfortunately, as so often happens during the teenage years, the “perfect date” ends up ruined when an alien shows up and starts destroying everything in sight.
• “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
Ben and Gwen are reunited with their long-lost grandmother (Juliet Landau, Ed Wood), who has some surprising information about where Gwen’s magic powers really come from.
• “The Gauntlet”
School bullies Cash and J.T.—remember them from way back in the very first episode of Ben 10?—steal some illegal alien technology and wreak havoc. Has Ben finally met his match?
Four episodes, Cartoon Network? Really? A measly four episodes? As of this writing, Amazon shows that the Ben 10 season sets, two-disc sets with 13 episodes each, are each only a few bucks more than this disc. I’d hoped that this volume would contain the second half of the first season, concluding with the astonishingly awesome Alien X episode, but it looks like a separately sold volume three will wrap things up upon its release. One of the great things about DVD is that we can enjoy entire seasons of our favorite shows in a single package. Getting Ben 10 Alien Force doled out piecemeal like this is a total disappointment. While I’m complaining, I should also point out that these episodes appear to be out of order. The episode “Be-Knighted” originally aired in between “Pier Pressure” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”
Now that the gripes are over, it’s time to talk about how superb this cartoon is. The scripts are both exciting and smart, providing a lot of adrenaline-rush alien vs. alien action, but numerous character moments as well. It’s to the show’s credit that Ben and Kevin sitting bored in Kevin’s car or Gwen’s heart-to-heart chat with her dad can be just as fun and/or captivating as the big action set pieces. The voice acting is a big help, as the interaction between our three heroes sounds natural, like actual conversations three friends might really have.
That said, no one’s going to mistake this show for an animated Dawson’s Creek. This is sci-fi/superhero/pulp adventure/comic book craziness in the best possible way. In these episodes, we get creepy looks at the DNAliens in disguise, carnival rides come to life with deadly intent, a being made of pure energy, and a human gradually turning into a giant robot. The basic setting, that aliens are among us and only a select few know about it and can do anything about it, provides a lot of variety to the series, so that you never know where the story is going at any given time. Ben 10 Alien Force keeps viewers on their toes throughout, with a lot of delightful surprises and thrilling action.
The full frame picture on this disc is excellent, making the most of the show’s bright, vibrant colors. The audio might only be 2.0, but it’s solid, bringing the action to life aurally. The only extra is “DNA of a Scene” a short featurette that recreates a scene using original script notes, storyboards, and the finished product. This was nice, but too short. It would be nice to get a better look at some of that great storyboard art.
Humongosaur! (Sorry, but the big guy is just so cool that I had to mention him somewhere in this review.)
If this were any other series, I wouldn’t recommend a purchase because of how the season is being chopped up into three separate releases like this. But it’s Ben 10 Alien Force, and the show’s quality is so strong, it’s worth it.