“It’s hero time!”
The best show you’re not watching now has its fourth season on DVD, packed with crazy-looking aliens, explosive battles, giant monsters, motor home chases, and much, much more. Out of the kindness of their hearts, the folks behind this DVD have also included the full-length animated feature, Ben 10: The Secret of the Omnitrix, which aired on Cartoon Network shortly after this season, taking the characters into outer space and finally revealing where Ben’s powers come from.
Over a highly eventful summer vacation, young Ben Tennyson, (Tara Armstrong, The Powerpuff Girls) came across the Omnitrix, a device that allows him to transform into more than 10 alien creatures, each with different powers and abilities. Traveling around the country with his cousin Gwen (Meaghan Smith, Surf’s Up) and his grandfather, Max (Paul Eiding, God of War), Ben has encountered several other aliens, most of whom are up to no good, as well as various other super-powered criminals. Using the Omnitrix has helped Ben save the day time and time again, but what will happen now that summer’s at its end?
This episode list was found inside one of the Rustbucket’s secret compartments:
• “Perfect Day”
Ben wakes up one morning, and it’s a great day. Max and Gwen are being extra-nice to him, and everything’s going his way. Then a second Max and Gwen show up, and Ben discovers that his perfect day is not what it seems.
• “Divided We Stand”
While having fun at the beach, Ben discovers a new alien form, Ditto, who can replicate himself into numerous Dittos. Now, to stop the latest plot evil geneticist Dr. Animo, Ben has to learn to work together…with himself.
• “Don’t Drink the Water”
While in Florida, Max and Ben encounter water from the legendary Fountain of Youth, located in the unlikeliest of places, and it’s making them younger and younger. That makes it a bad time for evil sorcerer Hex to show up seeking the Fountain for immortality.
• “Big Fat Alien Wedding”
Ben must serve as a ring bearer at a relative’s wedding. Wearing a tux is totally not his style, but he has bigger things to worry about when a mudlike alien tries to sabotage the nuptials.
• “Ben Four Good Buddy”
While driving across the desert, the Rustbucket, Max’s beloved motor home, falls under attack from three Road Warrior-type bad guys.
• “Ready to Rumble”
When Ben thinks he’s broken Gwen’s laptop, he starts sneaking out at night using his Four Arms alien as a pro wrestler to earn money to buy her a new one. Shockingly, the wrestling business has a sleazy side, and Ben ends up running afoul of some gangsters.
• “Ken 10”
It’s another visit to the distant future where the adult Ben, now known as “Ben 10,000” gives his son Ken an Omnitrix of his own. When a familiar face from the past returns for some vengeance, will Ken prove himself a hero?
• “Good Bye and Good Riddance”
In this outside-of-continuity “what if?” tale, summer vacation ends, and Ben returns home and to school. When Ben’s arch nemesis Vilgax returns, once again in search of the Omnitrix, Ben must reveal his secret both to his father, and to the entire world.
• “Ben 10 vs. Negative 10” Parts One and Two
A whole gang of Ben’s former enemies return, and they’re working together to steal some top-secret alien tech. Outnumbered—and outsmarted by the mastermind behind these events—Ben and company brace themselves for one final showdown at Mount Rushmore.
Then, in Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix, Ben is struck by a “DNA bomb,” which sends the Omnitrix into self-destruct mode, giving Ben only four days to live. With help from a former ally, Ben must journey deep into outer space to find the Omnitrix’s creator. Unfortunately, Vilgax has escaped from his null void imprisonment, and he sees this as his chance to obtain the Omnitrix for himself.
There’s no other way to say it: Ben 10 is good old-fashioned cartoon fun. All the internet cynics out there will no doubt scoff at stuff like humanoid aliens, mad scientists, explosions in the vacuum of space, etc. But if you can let go of that and just enjoy a colorful, lighthearted adventure story, then you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Ben 10.
Remember the old-school Saturday morning adventure cartoons, before cable and anime ate them all up? OK, so the animation on those was a little clunky, but the imagination was all there. As kids munched on their overly-sugared cereal every Saturday, the cartoons weren’t just a diversion, there were a gateway to other worlds, to grand adventures and epic struggles against evil, with a good dose of humor along the way. Ben 10 is a return to form. If you’ve ever sat through something like Yu-Gi-Oh and wondered, “Why don’t they make ’em like they used to?” then Ben 10 is for you.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, the core concepts of the series are such that the individual episodes never feel repetitive. By this point, Ben now has more than 15 aliens to turn into, and because the Omnitrix malfunctions sometimes, you never know which one he’ll turn into. Also by this point, the creators have built up an impressive cast of villains, and several “one-off” baddies from past seasons return, letting us get to know them a little better. The downside to this is that this season is not so newbie-friendly, but those who’ve followed all this craziness from day one will appreciate all the continuity.
Interestingly, previous seasons were all about Ben and company discovering sinister aliens running around secretly among us, but in this season, the antagonists are almost entirely Earth-bound. Of all the in-continuity episodes (one takes place entirely in the future and the other is a “what if”), only one features an alien menace. This year’s villains are costumed criminals, mad scientists, and the occasional sorcerer. My pet theory for this is that writers might have written themselves into a corner last season when they revealed that Ben can use the Omnitrix to turn into any alien he touches. This upped his powers considerably, and increased his choices to far more than 10. To keep Ben from going overboard with turning into new aliens, this season features human villains after him.
Of course, when comparing Ben 10 to the Saturday morning toons of old, it’s worth noting that Ben 10 looks much better than the sometimes herky-jerky old TV animation. The movements are smooth and fluid, the colors are bright and vivid, the backgrounds will take your breath away, and the action is nicely tagged and not once confusing.
All the same could be said for the feature-length Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix, but more so. The creators really brought their “a-game” to this one, and it shows. An extended scene in—and escape from—an intergalactic prison is a highlight, with all manner of alien and set designs as eye candy. Story wise, the plot not only reveals where the Omnitrix came from, but it also pushes Ben to limit emotionally as well as physically. He learns the value of sacrifice, and he is faced with the question of why be a hero-is it to genuinely help others, or is it only for the adrenaline rush? This is also the long-awaited rematch between Ben and Vilgax, for real this time, and, as usual, Vilgax proves himself to be a truly nasty baddie, and a relentlessly tenacious one at that. With all due respect to Ghostfreak, Kevin 11, and the others, it’s Vilgax who is truly the Lex Luthor to Ben’s Superman.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
• Why does Ken 10 not think Wildvine is cool? Wildvine can do all sorts of cool stuff, and Ben liked him a lot.
• I thought the Cooper character from the two-part finale was a girl until part two when someone referred to him as “he.”
• Just what do the show’s creators have against Mount Rushmore, anyway?
This DVD release highlights the animation nicely, with the colors really popping off the screen. The stereo sound is surprisingly rich, with the explosions and score booming out of the speakers. The audio also features a number of smaller touches, such as little crystalline tinkling sounds heard as Diamondhead moves around. For bonus features, we get four different versions of Secret of the Omnitrix, the “red,” “blue,” and “gold” versions, as well as one with a text commentary. How this works is that there are three alternate opening scenes, with the rest of the movie the same. The “red” one is the one that aired on TV, and it’s the one with the text commentary. The single-disc version of the movie, available only in certain locations, doesn’t contain these alternates, making this one to buy.
This is your last chance to enjoy Ben 10 as it was. The next version of series was the live action TV movie Ben 10: Race Against Time, followed by the revamped animated series Ben 10: Alien Force, which is just as fun, but with a different, more serious feel.
Do you like cartoons? Cartoons with aliens, robots, and explosions? You’ll like Ben 10, then.