Reviews: Thunder Cats 2011
Better on a Second Viewing
This series is one of my favorites. It isn't perfect, but it does have its strengths and stands out from other action cartoons. It may seem shaky on first viewing, but rewatching will lead to finding the series more subtle nuances. Thundercats is beautifully designed with a lot of imagination put into it, with great looking characters and stunning backgrounds. The art direction takes what was good with the original series, updates it, and corrects some flaws, such as adding more color variety to Tygra and Panthro. It looks like something from the 80s, but in a good way. Every character is cast perfectly and the voice actors all give great deliveries that capture their character's essence. There is a large variety of cool locations and something new each episode. In short, this show looks and sounds fantastic. Where the show falters is when it comes to the writing. There are a few nagging plot holes, some situations feel a bit contrived, and at times it seems as though the writers were more concerned with making twists shocking than believable. While most of the characters are very entertaining to watch, some are far less developed than others, especially Cheetara. Her lack of development was likely because the writers wanted to keep her mysterious, but it somewhat backfired as she ends up not being very interesting. Lion-O also hogs most of the focus, and at times it doesn't feel like the Thundercats are much of a team. One other nitpicks are that the fight scenes can be dull sometimes, Mumm-Ra is not always the best villain, and Lion-O and Tygra can be aggravating at times, especially when it comes to the love triangle with Cheetara. Despite these flaws, the series does have a good theme grounding the story; Lion-O's real mission is to atone for the mistakes of his own people while uniting the other races and cultures of Third Earth in order to defeat Mumm-Ra. While the search for powerful relics is the surface plot, this theme is the undercurrent and what I think makes this show great. Like the title says, this is better on a second viewing. Whether by accident or not, the show is good at subtle foreshadowing and gives hints at past events and character development, and some scenes make more sense in hindsight. This gives plenty of Rewatch Bonus. It's a shame that there will be no second season that could reveal the clues left in the first.
Starts strong, ends badly
The 2011 Thundercats reboot started off extremely strong. It embraced a serial format that simply wasn't possible to convey effectively in the days of syndication and local affiliates showing episodes completely out of order. It started numerous subplot threads that had the potential to last for several seasons, the kids and their desire to see the Third Earth version of El Dorado, El-Dara, Cheetara's subtle affection for both Lion-O and Tygra and the pairs own rivalry, a flashback sequence that hinted at the existence of both Mon*Star of the Silverhawks and the Tigersharks, and a wide cast of supporting characters. Sure the pace throughout the first 13 episodes was quite brisk, but one would argue that was a way to get the backstories out of the way. Then Episode 13 airs. For reasons I will never understand, the writers chose to resolve the Cheetara love triangle via a flashback that blatantly contradicts everything that the character had revealed up to that point. By coincidence, the plot of the series slows to an absolute crawl, and filler after filler is made, only picking up speed in the last two parter, which isn't so much an ending as it is a whiny, angry rant from the show's writers about their cancellation. Nothing was resolved, the heroes were left a broken mess, and the quest, far from over, just stopped. Character development was discarded on the side of the road, and the whole affair became broken. Best way to write this series off is that isn't canon. It was created on Megazone 23, along with a Thundercats pinball machine we'll never see.
When I first watched the pilot episode, I had good feelings about the show. It looked like the epic, mature fantasy not unlike Avatar The Last Airbender. I liked that the Thundercat Kingdom was morally ambiguous and that the Lizard guards saved Lion-O and Tygra. But as the season went on it became apparent that the show didn't really have a concrete plan of what to do or where to take it. The first season is good, my favorite episodes being "Song of the Petalars", "Legacy", "The Duelist and the Drifter", "Berbils" and "The Forest of Magi Oar". But the major problem is that the season arc is about Lion-O trying to be king. Its not really suspenseful because we know he is and the first bit of wasted opportunities is the fact that all the main plots are about Lion-O, who gets the most to do. The others are really just hangers on and contribute little to many plots. the Tigra/Lion-O rivalry only gets glanced at and piled on thick in the last 2 eps of the season. The cast never felt close or bounced off each other naturally, and Tigra and Lion-O don't feel like brothers at all. Season Two continues this problem. Alot of the character dialogue feels like it was recorded at separate times and edited in. There's also occasions like someone should say something but don't like in "The Pit" Tygra racist rants against Dog People and no one tells him to stop insulting the Dog People's leader in his face! Then he has the nerve to tell of a Bird Person for saying something racist about Cats. The greater problem is that we don't really know much of how the cultures of Third Earth are like. In Avatar we know the Nations and thw world in general are based in real life Asian cultures and philosophies but in this show we don't much. Also, we are told that the Thundercats are from a Kingdom that tossed its power around like it had several outposts or colonies but the show presents it as an isolated kingdom. We never see how Lizard culture works when it looked like they were servents to the Cats. And finally Mumm-Ra is not that good a villain. He's creepy but he does nothing but fail until the series finale. He's not particularly that interesting either, just really generic. I am sad to see the series get screwed over, but unlike Avatar it never really got off the ground and developed its characters or world but it was visually interesting.
Alright, so I thought season one had ended with episode thirteen but it turns out I was wrong. So here's my review of the second half of the first season. In my previous review, I said that the series was alright, but that it could use some improvement. So is this the improvement I've been waiting for? Yes and no. On the positive side, one of my major complaints has been adressed: the narrow focus on Lion-O. Tygra, Panthro and even Kit and Kat all have episodes centered around them, and they work pretty well. Cheetara is still woefully underdeveloped, though. There's another flashback to Lion-O's ancestor, which was one of my favorite episodes of the first half of the season. And then there's Pumyra, who is a great addition to the team. So how does it all hold up? Well, when it's good, it's very good, but when it's bad, it's really bad. Especially the final stretch before the season finale was just awful - Kit and Kat's encounter with that raccoon guy (even if it all did turn out to be plot-relevant), the episode involving the potion peddler and the one about the Soul Sever - no, that didn't work for me at all, a major disappointment coming so shortly after the awesome stuff in Dog City and the mines. The season finale, though, is much better and has a few genuinely shocking plot twists, and one can see the myth arc coming slowly together. Still wondering when they'll finally get to El-Dara, though. However, the series' biggest weakness at this point is Mumm-Ra. I can deal with a one-dimensional bad guy trying to conquer the universe as long as he's menacing, and Mumm-Ra just isn't. Despite transforming into one super-mode after another, he just keeps getting defeated with remarkably little effort. Also the lizards: the pilot hinted at a more sympathetic treatment of Mumm-Ra's mooks, but that plot thread appears to have been forgotten entirely. Still, despite its faults the series is often entertaining. I'll keep watching to see how it all turns out. (EDIT: Apparently, there may not be a second season. Which would really be a shame. Like I said above: despite its faults, I did enjoy the series and would like to get some closure.)
Impressions from the first season: decent, but could use some improvement
It's an animated series with anime-inspired artwork about a band of youngsters trying to save the world from great evil. Sound familiar? Of course Avatar The Last Airbender didn't invent this kind of story, but it has set the bar incredibly high. So how does the Thundercats remake hold up? It's enjoyable, but that doesn't mean that it has no flaws. Now that the first season has drawn to a close, here are my impressions. We'll start with the positives: the art is great. The voice actors are doing an excellent job and the battle scenes are awesome. However, the quality of the show can be a little uneven. It starts with a bang: "Sword of Omens"/"Ancient Spirits of Evil" is a great series opener. However, the very next episode, "Ramlak Rising", is one of the dumbest things I've ever seen. A sea of sand and fish people on ships? I got the impression that even for Third Earth, this is weird, but we barely have a sense of what Third Earth's like - save the weirdness for later, people! Things improve with the introduction of Panthro and we get a string of good episodes, culminating in "Legacy", my favorite episode so far, which fills in backstory and has some truly awesome battles. And then we get an episode that is symptomatic of the series: "The Duelist and the Drifter". The story arc comes to a grinding halt with a filler episode that focuses squarely on Lion-O and reduces the other characters to mere cameo's. Which brings me to the show's greatest fault: character development. Nearly all of it goes to Lion-O, with only a tiny smattering for Tygra, Cheetara and Panthro (who does admittedly get some good lines). As a result, whenever the main characters get into a conflict, it feels forced. The season finale, "Between Brothers", is symptomatic of this. Much of the episode revolves around Sibling Rivalry and a Love Triangle, but both have not been explored in-depth before, so the conflict comes across as rather forced. Despite these faults, I did enjoy most of the show. It's decent, but the creators have to up their game to make it truly great.
It might not have tiger blood, but it's still winning.
When I first heard of an announced reboot to Thundercats, I was surprised. While certain shows from the 80s were revived and worked well, Cartoon Network has a sketchy history of their own revivals (remember the failed revival of He Man in 2002? Of course you don't). After I caught the official premiere, I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually pretty good! Better than the original, even. The animation was as crisp as Avatar The Last Airbender's, the plot evolved from simple 80s' fare to an epic of changing moralities and character development. Voice acting was excellent, including the Mythology Gag of Lion-O's father being voiced by the original Lion-O. Of course, every show has its flaws. For Thundercats 2011, it's pacing. As of today, there are only seven announced episodes of the series. As such, plots and character development that would normally take several episodes to play out in now must be resolved in a matter of minutes. One example would be Wileykit and Wileykat's introduction to the team; the two try to join, Lion-O rejects them, and they decide to join anyway. Another problem is the lack of violence in the show. Despite a rating of TV-PG, the same as Dragonball Z Kai, there is absolutely no blood in the series. This is okay if the show uses bludgeoning weapons and the like, but the pilot has somebody getting stabbed in the back. It just seems unnatural. Despite these flaws, Thundercats 2011 is still an excellent show. It's practically required viewing for anyone who watch the original Thundercats in their youth, but it's also goood for kids who loved Avatar The Last Airbender and want a Cartoon Network equivalent.
New Thunder Cats - A Great Reboot
I never really was a fan of the old Thunder Cats show. It's good for its time, but it just doesn't float my boat. There were some cheesy moments and Snarf was really annoying, but for all that it's worth, it was a good show. Then I hear about the new series coming out, and I'm pretty skeptical. They redid [[He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe He-Man]] back in 2003, and while it was an interesting concept, it didn't really do the old show any justice. So I tuned in to the premiere, and HOLY CRAP IT'S AWESOME. There's plenty of good story-telling elements here, betrayal, defeat, revenge, all that stuff. The character designs were a little throwing off at first glance, but I adjusted to it. There were some throwbacks to the old show, as well as some new elements of its own that, when put together, make for a very good action series. The plot is as follows: Lion-O is in the shadow of his brother, Tygra. The cats and lizards are going through a great war. The lizards invade, Mumm-Ra kill Lion'O's father, and they pretty much destroy their town. There's also something about the Sword of Omens and technology, but I'd rather you see it for yourself. Character Development is always a heavy part of any pilot. You start to actually connect with the characters and feel what they're going through. There's plenty of it here. Snarf isn't annoying and whiny, either, just a Ridiculously Cute Critter. I look forward to more episodes. Overall: 10/10 Pros: Thunder Cats is now 20% cooler, great storyline, something for old and new fans, and Lion-O's dad is voiced by the old Lion-O, among other things. Cons: Character design will throw you off at first, but you'll adjust to them.