Reviews: Captain Planet And The Planeteers

A bit cheesy, yet charming in its own way

I first watched this cartoon as a young kid, and as a result kept only vague memories. When I found the show on the Internet and started re-watching it episode by episode, I fell in love with it.

Granted, the protagonists sometimes behave in a face-palm inducing way, but they still are endearing. My favorite among them is Gaia - wise, powerful and motherly as well as having a beautiful smile. Seriously, I find it hard to not smile back at her. And whenever I stumbled upon an episode where she was in danger, I was worried as much as the Planeteers were. I also liked how the "kids" were able to work together despite their different personalities (visible mainly in Linka and Wheeler's interactions).

There's something that really bothers me, though. Many people around the Internet think of Ma-Ti's power of Heart as lame. However, in the first episode (A Hero for Earth), Gaia stated explicitly that "without a Heart to guide them, the other powers are useless" - and that's putting it mildly, as demonstrated in the 6. episode (The Conqueror).

All in all, if you are able to pardon the specific humour, some outdated (or a bit anvilicious) educational messages at the end of every episode and exaggeration on the villainous side of the main antagonists, I definitely recommend this cartoon. It certainly is unique.

I watched it for the adventure, not the preachiness

Captain Planet has a reputation for being preachy and moralistic, and as such, corny. But when I watched this show during its earlier seasons (before it DID become preachy at the expense of story), I really enjoyed it. It featured a lot of things I liked back then: a team of teens travels the world and ends up fighting evil. While the fight was connected to an environmental problem, and therefore meant to convey a message, it was still good vs. evil with globe-trotting teen heroes.

One thing that many people forget about this show, or don't often bring up, is that it was violent. The violence was often part of the message, such as having a drug addict break a window and cut himself on the broken glass and bleed to death, or showing people who were fed poisoned food mutate. The villains were also unbelievably cruel. Not just in their callous disregard for the lives of everyone around them, but also for how they'd often have the heroes tied up and put into horrible situations, not cartoony deathtraps. This, Inspector Gadget, and the Choose Your Own Adventure books probably helped cement my childhood interest in contemporary adventure stories that put kid or teen heroes in life threatening danger against cruel villains.

This cartoon is best known, however, for its preachiness. Somehow it all rolled off my back when I was a kid, as I was too busy enjoying the adventure. I did notice the messages and could tell the show had them, but they didn't stick with me. I was used to cartoons containing messages anyway, so it didn't strike me as strange.

I do remember being annoyed by Wheeler, the American, being an idiot. I was less offended by the Unfortunate Implications and more by the character himself.

What I really didn't like about the show, though, was its later seasons. The production values went up noticeably, the new theme song was catchier, but the stories became far less about the heroes actually doing stuff, and more about them passively learning a lesson. One episode consisted of little more than being put on trial by a bunch of talking wolves who forced them to explain why humanity was so cruel. It was annoying; I liked the show for its adventure, and didn't mind the preachiness. Remove the adventure, and suddenly I have no reason to watch.

Fighting on the Planet's Side-

Ah, man. This was the stuff. Waiting for my parents to come home from work, watching an episode of this I'd recorded. Nostalgia aside, though - how does a series like Captain Planet - well known for it's cheesiness, heavy-handedness and sometimes complete lack of research - actually compare? I gave a few episodes a looksee in preparation, and then was shocked to find myself enjoying the show not just for it's admittedly silly charm, but for it's own merits. There are a lot of cool things introduced in the episodes, both factual and 'almostfactual' that I remember looking up as a kid and that spurred me on into interest in the sciences and history. And when the show works, it works well. There are a few episodes that are genuinely powerful, moving, or frightening. And the core cast? Sure, they can be silly, but they're enjoyable to watch and that counts for a lot.

In the end, I find it's a lot like this. If you are the sort of person who goes entirely on popular opinion, don't go into it; if you've already made up your mind about it, there won't be anything to change it. If you're of mixed opinions, or easily change your mind about something, give it a try. Surprisingly enjoyable, with a positive and deliciously cheesy message that might just cause you to find out more on your own, even if only to laugh at the show itself. So, there you have it. Captain Planet is an enjoyable, entertaining, even educational show.

The power is yours!