Friday, September 2, 2011

Thundercats: Journey to the Tower of Omens/Legacy

I got to watch Thundercats on TV tonight. This is an unusual occurrence, and even the smaller, fuzzy-screened TV that I was relegated to while my brother watched Shaun of the Dead on big screen was a nice change from my laptop. I turned the TV on a bit early because I was pretty sure I had forgotten which channel Cartoon Network was and wanted to check. I happened to come across the last half hour of a TV movie that had an animation style similar to Clone Wars, so I waited to see how that was.

What pulled me in was the gigantic clawed feet stomping across a high school gym floor. This movie had monsters attacking a high school and girls with rocket launchers, and the lines "I ain't no farther figure" and "That guy with the jetpack looked like my gym teacher." It passed the Bechdel Test, at least for a moment, and had some glorious scenes of great dragonlike things having visceral animal fights. It had characters screaming and yelling like they didn't know what they were doing, and then some dizzying flying effects as they figures out that they did. I was immensely amused. Turns out it's called "Firebreather", and is a made-for-TV movie, not a weekly show at all. Alas. Further Googling reveals a pretty stock high school angst plot, but what I saw was pretty awesome.  I recommend it.

So, Thundercats. I didn't talk about last week's because I sortof needed time to decide what I thought of it; this week's brought a similar reaction. "Journey to the Tower of Omens" had a great Temple of Doom homage. I love Temples of Doom, with pitfalls and ledges and spinning saws and all. This temple obstacle course was used to good effect, showing off each character's strengths. Panthro is by far my favourite. The end fight was very cool: I don't remember if Mumm-Ra had wings in the original show, but he uses them to great effect here. However, Cheetara still bothers me what with not...doing much.

This week's episode was called "Legacy", and the previews showed a lot of sci-fi elements that reminded me of Knights of the Old Republic. There was a big Star Wars feel this episode: in the corridors, in the spaceships coming into the battle station, even in Mumm-Ra's voice. (Lion-O even reminded me of the galaxy a long, long time ago with his comment "Who knew the past looked so much like the future.")  The premise for the episode is basically Lion-O uses an Animus. He astral projects or something into the body of his ancestor, "Leo", who once served Mumm-Ra alongside a Tigra relative and an unnamed female who may have been a panther. Leo and Mumm-Ra had a dynamic that reminded me a lot of Carth Onasi and Admiral Karath, or even Darth Vader and Palpatine.

On a whole, this episode was...unusual. Because of the setting in Third Earth's technology-rich past, it was aesthetically very different both from the previous episodes and what I remember of the original. The show seems to be trying to incorporate both space opera and high fantasy, which...is in fact pretty great. I'm curious as to see where it goes, even if it's jarring to begin with. This episode also just brimmed with cliches, and I found myself mentally using the "but it's just a cartoon" excuse at certain lines.  The beginning and end had moments of cleverness. I just wish there had been more of them. There's great potential here-- Lion-O dealing with his ancestors and speciesmates serving the Big Bad; explanations for the dynamic between Leo and the Tigra analog; what it was like for Lion-O to wield the powered-up crystals his ancestor wrested from Mumm-Ra and then go back to having only one crystal and the body of a younger (cat-)man. I hope some of that will be discussed in the next episode when we get to see the team's reaction to Lion-O waking up from his trance. The fight between Lion-O and Mumm-Ra in their powered-up forms felt like a boss fight, and I suppose it was for Leo. It was a bit strange placed in the middle of the season, but was in fact intended to be a flashback to a "more civilized age", so I suppose that's what it was for.

 I did feel that Lion-O's  inhabiting the body of the older, larger Leo was a nice callback to the the first episode of the original show, in which the teenage Thundercats put in stasis woke up to grown bodies. Characters having to grow up fast (sometimes literally, in the case of the Petalars), and the mutability of age seems to be a theme in Thundercats. It's a fitting one too, if, like me, the viewer also has to think about how many other people of her age are still watching cartoons.

"Legacy" is both a look into the past and a doorway to the future. It sets up the arc that, I presume, the rest of the season will follow. The initial MacGuffin, the Book of Omens, has been found in episode six but also introduces two more. The team is going after magic crystals now, with no idea where to find them.  I'm going along for the ride.

The image that sticks with me most from tonight's cartoons, though, is the protagonist of "Firebreather" in a metallic blue-lit room, flicking a clump of burning ash off his fingers.

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