Title: Ben Ten: Race Against Time
Rated: N/A but suited for almost all ages
Screen format: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Studio: Warner Brothers / Cartoon Network
Year first released: Screened on Cartoon Network 21 November, 2007
DVD released: April 8, 2008
Director: Alex Winter
Starring: Graham Phillips, Christien Anholt, Haley Ramm. Lee Majors
Sound Formats: Dolby Digital 5.1
Length: 67 Minutes
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
In Race Against Time the Ben 10 franchise leaps from cell animation to live action, We pickup up the story at a time in protagonist Ben Tennyson’s (Phillips) life when he has given up the heroic life of adventure he has been leading to return to more mundane life. Rather than stomping aliens with the use of his Omnitrix, a fantastic wristwatch device that allows him to bond his DNA with 10 separate forms that are trapped within it, Ben begins to deal with all the things that kids his age have to face, including fitting in with the guys, impressing the girls and staying out of the sight of his principal. Despite his low key intentions however the alien horde has tracked him to his home town of Bellmont, and an evil overlord named Eon (Anholt) begins to test Ben, looking for weaknesses in his skills and tormenting Ben, his cousin Gwen (Ramm) and grandfather (Majors).
Prior to this film the extent of my exposure to Ben 10 was in buying the toys for my nephews and having watched them play the video game on Xbox. To say they are nuts about it is putting it mildly, and their obsession over Ben and his many forms rivals the similar interest I took in Star Wars as a child, though today they have a lot more outlets than simple 3” figures. The story picks up on Ben long after he has come to grips with his powers and as such there isn’t a whole lot of growth in any of the characters or any real surprises about what he can do with them, so it mostly let me in on what has happened without filling in too many of the details, so while newcomers can get a pretty good sense of the characters history while not boring those intimately familiar with Ben’s adventures. I’d have probably preferred to the genesis of the characters though, there is always a lot of angst and drama at the beginnings of these stories.
Plot-wise there isn’t much of an arc here in this tale, which isn’t really surprising given the pedigree of the show, but the cast and crew interviews clearly showed that the intent was to make something that both kids and their parents could enjoy, but I think that was a little overoptimistic. Probably the best part of the disk is over in the first 15 minutes after Ben’s flaming form has seemingly vanquished Eon without getting started, and when the biggest laughs come from a mediocre food fight launched by a diminutive alien and the wit espoused by a nearly hobbled Lee Majors as a decrepit old man, and I’m not even sure how funny this is to kids.
Add on top of that the fact that only a handful of Ben’s many forms find their way into use, and I was relatively disappointed, but I have to admit having scored big points with my nephews, this disk will be on its way over to them once I complete this review and their wild eyes shone with reverence when I shared it with them. Even tho they caught it on TV last year, they can’t wait to play it on their DVD player again, and again. And again.
Sound Quality: 2.5/5
While the sound is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 the sound stage is very TV oriented. Most of the action is centered in the front speakers and bass is used very sparingly except in a few fight sequences. There are problematic areas with the dialogue too, especially during a scene near the end which takes place at a talent competition, as the effect of someone using a microphone is very strangely rendered. Musically I didn’t take much notice of the original composition by Andy Sturmer, but the theme music from the show and other transition sounds came through quite nicely.
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
For a kid’s TV show this was pretty well filmed, and the 3D effects are particularly well done, especially the opening battle sequence and the rendered DNA graphics are really slick. The rest of it isn’t super colorful, but it is clean and artifact free and pretty sharp.
Extra Features: 3/5
There are a total of five extra features included. Three are bundled together as ‘behind the scenes’, and each looks at a different facet of the movie. One of them gets the girl’s perspective on the Ben 10 universe by interviewing Gwen, one gets into the head of the bad guy by interviewing Eon and one goes for a big picture look at what it meant to make a live action version of this animated favorite. The next extra is a short clip of director winter introducing the film at what was billed as a Premiere but seems to have been to a very small audience of fans. You might remember Winter as one of the vampires from “Lost Boys”, or perhaps more likely as Keanu Reeve’s sidekick Bill from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Finally theres a selection of cast clips that were culled from Cartoon Network kids’ interview show, Fried Dynamite, which actually had some interesting questions and answers despite the kid focus.
Overall: 3/5 (not an average)
Ben 10 didn’t really work for me but I can definitely see its appeal to young boys. Who wouldn’t want to be able to be able to pick and choose the right super powers for any given situation? A little bit stronger of a story line and this could really have been something that appealed to everyone, but as it is I have to say it’s for fans only. Fans can look forward to some decent 3D effects and a nice set of behind the scenes looks at the making of, but don’t go in expecting the sound and video to knock your socks off.