tek's rating: meh and a half

Ben 10: Race Against Time, on Cartoon Network
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Caution: potential spoilers.

A live-action (and CG) movie based on the animated series Ben 10. What to say? Well, I like the cartoon, I think it has an interesting concept and all. It can be kind of cool, but I'm not sure I ever would have really called it good, in an objective sense. I have my problems with it, but yeah, I do like it, and as the series has continued I think it's generally gotten better. But the movie... oh, I was looking forward for quite some time to this live-action movie, but not without a certain degree of trepidation. And having finally seen it, I fear my half-dread was reasonably well founded.

The CG, I thought, was alright. We get to see a few of Ben's aliens: Heatblast, Grey Matter, Diamondhead, Wildmutt. They all looked okay I guess, but mostly they had different voices that I didn't care for that much. Probably the one thing that excited me most about the movie, before I saw it, was that Lee Majors was playing Grandpa Max. And he was okay. I guess. Most of the acting in this movie seemed worse to me than in the cartoon, but it's possible that's largely because the writing seemed worse than in the cartoon. In the first place the entire thing depends upon viewers being familiar with the show, in which Ben Tennyson had found this watchlike device called the Omnitrix, which attached itself to his wrist and let him transform into various aliens... Well, okay, you can get the basic plot just from the theme song. That's another thing I should mention, it's the same song, but it's been redone for the movie. And I vastly prefer the original version.

In any event, Ben had spent the summer (all four seasons worth of summer) travelling around the country with his Grandpa Max and cousin Gwen, fighting aliens and whatnot. In the movie, they return to their hometown of Bellwood. I should mention that this movie aired some time prior to the series finale, so some things didn't make sense at the time, such as the fact that Ben and Gwen went to the same school, when in the series they were from different towns. But when I finally saw the series finale, at the end of the episode it showed that Gwen had moved to Bellwood and started attending Ben's school. So that's okay, I guess, though there are still things that are a bit incosistent between the series and the movie. Most notably, Ben's parents seem considerably different in the movie than in the series finale. Also, by the end of the series, people in Bellwood, or at least at Ben's school, become aware that Ben is all the heroes who have been in the news over the summer, but in the movie, it's still a secret. Of course, the series finale did repeat a plot device from the season two episode "Gwen 10," which is an alternate reality beginning for the series. The finale, while having a similar framework, seems more in keeping with the regular reality, but I think it may serve as a hint that this movie could be seen as an alternate ending. Which is good, because I have no intention of considering "Race Against Time" as canon.

Anyway, another thing I should mention is that over the course of the series, Gwen began learning sorcery, but in the movie there's nary a trace of this. At one point she and Ben get signed up for a school talent show where they'll be doing a magic act, and I had some hope that this would end up being an occasion for her to use real magic (not that she didn't have plenty of alien-battling occasions to do so), but no. Not in battles, not in the talent show.

But I'm rambling on. Here's a brief synopsis of the movie's plot: Ben isn't happy to be back at school after his summer as a hero (or rather heroes). He's not supposed to use the Omnitrix or let anyone know about anything he's done. This includes his parents, who we meet for the first time, and the less said about them the better. Anyway, we soon meet a villain named Eon, who had been imprisoned long ago by Plumbers. (If you're familiar with the series, which is of course the only reason to bother watching the movie, you'll already be aware that Grandpa Max is a retired member of a Men In Black-like organization of alien-fighters called... Plumbers. Which the writers choose to explain, on the off chance that- as I meant to mention earlier in this review but got sidetracked- anyone might not know this, um... they have Gwen explain the Plumbers thing to Ben because he... acted like he didn't remember. Which is, in my mind, the lowest point of the movie.) Eon, we will eventually learn, is a time travelling alien who wants to bring his race to Earth via a machine the last remaining Plumbers are guarding, called the Hands of Armageddon. But to activate it, he'll need the Omnitrix.

And that's really all I can think to say about the plot. To reveal more might be too spoilery, but also the whole thing is too convoluted, too incoherent and nonsensical, for me to have any idea how to describe it, anyway. I couldn't really follow everything that happened simply because not all of it made much sense. I mean, unless you take into consideration that Ben was dumber than he is in the cartoon, Eon was nearly as dumb as Ben, Grandpa and Gwen weren't as smart as they are in the cartoon, and the Plumbers who are introduced in the movie were pretty bumbling. Honestly, the intention behind the movie is to be less cartoony than the cartoon, but personally I thought it was much more cartoony.

Whatever. I'm not saying it was all bad. After all, I managed to sit through the whole thing. And it had some slightly interesting ideas, some mildly amusing moments. And like I said, Lee Majors wasn't too bad, and the CG was okay. And um... I dunno. It was tolerable because I like the series. But like I said, I don't consider it canon, and I hope no one else does, either.

See also Ben 10: Alien Swarm.

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