Last night, Nicktoons aired the 90-minute world premiere of this new series. I missed this 90 minute premiere, but I did DVR it. I gotta say, this looks like it could be the best, most competent Voltron series yet. I mean, let's face it, Defender of the Universe is a classic, but it really doesn't hold up, coming off as seeming rather "kiddie" by today's standards. The Third Dimension, while better written and better acted than its predecessor, didn't prove as successful and is a largely underrated series. This new one, however, seems to be going for a fresh approach to appeal to both old audiences with the updated take on the classic look, and new audiences with the cadets begin so prominent.
Though, I did have some issues in regards to the continuity of this series in comparison to the previous two, but I'll get to that later.
First, let's look at, well, the look of this series. The animation is crisp and smooth, blending 2D animation with CGI graphics; a common practice with today's cartoon shows. The lions, ships, and some of the background details use the CGI, while the characters and pretty much everything else are in 2D.
The lions all bear a fair enough resemblance to their iconic looks with some modern day adjustments made their designs. Gone are the brick-like blocky look of the lions. These five are now much more sleek and kinda skeletal looking, almost sort of like a subtle Movieverse take on the lions while still retaining that cartoonish look. The combined form of Voltron itself is just as altered, looking less like a human-shaped stack of rainbow bricks and more... well, human-shaped. The sleekness in the lions' shapes has integrrated itself into Voltron to make him look more agile and more detailed than ever before.
The design of the Voltron Force's battle suits seems to draw more infuence from the suits worn in The Third Dimension than those of Defender of the Universe, as they have that more high tech look and feature lion head-shape helmets instead of the plain-looking helmets from the classic series. Oh, and their suits all match their lion colors just like The Third Dimension.
The theme song for this show is just lame. It's not the classic theme whatsoever (which even The Third Dimension retained), but is instead a lousy rap song. However, the classic theme tune is integrated into the series' background score.
As for the story itself, it has been some time since the Voltron Force defeated the forces of Planet Doom. Lotor is dead (having been killed by Voltron directly), Haggar also seems to be dead, and Zarkon is oddly absent from this series. Following the victory over Lotor's forces on Doom, Voltron has been decommissioned, deemed too dangerous and unpredictable a weapon to keep around, and the Voltron Force has disbanded from their group of five. Lance, Hunk, and Pidge are now high-ranking members of the Galaxy Alliance military, Allura has returned to Arus to resume her royal seat of government, and Keith... is a wanted fugitive on the run from the Galaxy Alliance, which has placed a bounty on his head, as he searches to recover the Black Lion.
During this time, two cadets of the Galaxy Alliance academy, Daniel and Vince, as well as Princess Allura's niece Larmina, are enlisted by Lance to be secretly trained as the next generation of the Voltron Force... against the orders of the Galaxy Alliance, or rather, of Sky Marshall Wade, a very high ranking and corrupt member of the Alliance. Lance, Pidge, and Hunk distrust him for his hatred of Voltron and secretly work behind his back to bring back Voltron.
Meanwhile, an alien military commander, Kala, and a master of dark genetic sciences, Maahox, work to resurrect "King" Lotor, and succeed by using Haggar's lifeforce, "Haggarium". Upon his return, a RoBeast is sent down to Arus to wreak havoc. To counter this, the The Voltron Force and the cadets must make a hasty decision to reactivate the Voltron lions against orders. The lions claim victory once Black Lion is returned to Arus by Keith, but Sky Marshall Wade catches wind of their recent activity and so moves to arrest the Voltron Force, as well as replace them with his own army of robotic soldiers directly controlled by him.
Angered by the defeat of his RoBeast, King Lotor is reassured by Maahox that the RoBeasts of Lotor's generation were insufficient compared to what he has in store for Voltron. Using his knowledge of genetic manipulation and Haggarium, Maahox betrays Commander Kala, using her as a text subject for the creation of a new breed of RoBeast that emanates Haggarium radiation from itself and severely weakens the powers of the Voltron lions.
Soon, the forces of Doom launch a full scale assault on Arus, with Wade's robot army fighting back against them, but prove more harmful than helpful. The lions, minus the still recovering Black Lion, go to face the enemy, taking out the ground forces, but prove inadequate to beat the new, more powerful RoBeast. Wade takes the opprotunity to unveil a secret project of his own: a gigantic robot lion of his own, controlled by a link between his mind and the lion. He uses this lion to strike at both the RoBeast and the Voltron Lions, but the RoBeast disables it and merges with it to become even stronger.
When Daniel, Vince, and Larmina bring in the finally repaired Black Lion, it does well in the fight against the RoBeast, noticeably yet mysteriously unaffected by the effects of Haggarium. The lions form Voltron and prepare for battle. Voltron finds this new RoBeast very difficult to overcome, since four of the five lions are weakened by the Haggarium radiation. It is not until one of the cadets, Vince, undergoes a strange reaction that miraculously enables Voltron to overcome the effects of this Achilles' Heel and "Form Blazing Sword" to kill the RoBeast once and for all.
Lotor is displeased and Wade is wounded but still alive (and likely not happy either). The Voltron Force and their cadets take in the moment of their victory, but the war has only begun.
A decent and solid start to the story that leaves us all curious for more.
The familiar characters are all pretty much the same, though with some edits. Lance is still the sarcastic, rule-breaker he always was, though his daredevil side seems to have been softened. Pidge retains his science and technical know-how, and bears a closer resemblence to his The Third Dimension self than his Defender of the Universe self. Hunk also seems like his 3D self (character wise, that is), being the tech engineer of the team rather than merely "the strong man". Allura has also gained some self-confidence and a more serious mind. In the previous two series, she was more meek and mild-mannered, whereas here she seems more strong willed and focused. Keith, however, is the most different. He's no longer by-the-book and prefers to work alone. Though, he still has his mullet at first, finally getting a haircut once he gets back to Arus. Lotor is King of Planet Doom and seems very threatening now, though his body is still feeling the ill-effects of being brought back from the dead. And Coran is essentially the same as he always was.
As for the new characters, the cadets are... kid appeal, but not necessarily bad. Daniel is the big dreamer of the group, wanting so badly to become a pilot of Voltron and to be the best that he can be. His eagerness and impulsiveness tend to get him into trouble, but he means well. So, yeah, he's basically G1 Hot Rod. Vince is the new tech genius and looks up to Pidge as something of a mentor. He also seems to have some kind of mysterious "power" that even he hasn't fully discovered yet, as it has just now begun to reveal itself. Larmina is Allura's niece, and is almost the complete opposite of how Allura was in the past two series. She is combat-savvy, focused, a bit rude, and more like a warrior than royalty. She at first dislikes being teamed up with the two boys, believing that they'll just hold her back, but she grows to respect them eventually. She prefers to fight up close and personal with weapons or hand-to-hand combat, rather than piloting machines like the lions or ships.
Sky Marshall Wade is a new antagonist for this series, and he is a very firm, very harsh man. He had a distinct hatred for Voltron, as he doesn't truly care about the safety of the universe, but instead is only interested in power and profit. He sees Voltron as an obstacle in his plans and convinces the Alliance of the unpredictability of the Lions to have them decommissioned. He's not really an evil man, just selfish and bigoted.
Commander Kala is a ruthless Drule commander with a keen military intellect and equaled bloodlust. Not much is known about her aside from her recruiting of Maahox to resurrect Lotor, as well as her being betrayed by Maahox by being used to create the new RoBeast. Maahox is not only a master of genetic science, but an exile for the same reason. He becomes Lotor's right hand man once he creates the new generation of RoBeasts.
The voice acting varies from top-notch to just okay.
- Mark Hildreth is a great Lotor. He gives him a very regal air to his voice, as well as sounding lke an updated version of the classic Lotor voice.
- Andrew Francis is a good Lance. He captures the sarcastic and joking nature of the guy perfectly.
- Ty Olsson is an alright Hunk. Though, at times, he had me fooled into thinking it was Scott McNeil voicing Hunk instead. Oh, if only.
- Gary Chalk is awesome as Sky Marshall Wade! I've been wanting to hear this guy play a cold villain for a while and boy does he delver in this! He's also listed as playing someone named Manset, who I think was a minor character.
- Shannon Chan-Kent is an alright Larmina, but she kinda makes her come off as sounding like the stereotypical "boy hater" girl.
- Ashleigh Ball makes Allura sound powerful, regal, and determined. Hers is a fitting voice.
- Samuel Vincent as Pidge is great fit. It sounds like an update of his last voice (and is a serious improvement over his awful original voice).
- Tabitha St. Germain plays Kala as cold a frightening, almost like if G.I. Joe's Snake Eyes was evil, female, and spoke.
- Giles Panton makes a good Keith, as he sounds firm, strong, and heroic all at once.
- Doron Bell Jr. makes a good voice for Vince. It's nothing too special, but it just fits his character perfectly.
- Vincent Tong is good at making us know what kind of character Daniel is. I just wish he were more than the G1 Hot Rod archetype.
- Ron Halder plays a very eerily-sounding Maahox, as he always sounds like he's got a scheme up his sleeve, being one step ahead of everyone else. He also voices Coran... to perfection! He plays this role as though he's always voiced this character!
And now, for the continuity issues. Zarkon is absent and not even mentioned. If he's dead, we don't know that. Haggar has, for reasons unknown, been reduced to a quasar in space, from which the villains got the Haggarium. Like I said before, Keith is a loner who no longer devoutly sticks by the book. The Galaxy Allaince has had Voltron decomissioned again, even after it had already been established in past series how he's both a necessary and a valuable asset to the safety of the universe no matter what. The upgraded designs of the Lions are unexplained, with them being treated as though they had always looked like that (even The Third Dimension gave an explanation for the Stealth Voltron upgrade, as that was a temporary form the lions assumed when traversing dimensions). And... WHY DO THE HUMANS NEED HUMAN SIDEKICKS?!!!
Overall, this was fair beginning for a interesting new series that has much more of a story to tell.