HBO Go review: 'Ben 10 vs. the Universe' is a thorough throwback for loyal fans

Fred Hawson

Posted at Oct 17 2020 06:13 AM

A scene from 'Ben 10 vs. the Universe.' Handout

The animated TV series "Ben 10" is the longest-running franchise on the Cartoon Network to date. From that classic series (December 2005 to April 2008) spun off three succeeding series, "Alien Force" (April 2008 to March 2010), "Ultimate Alien" (April 2010 to March 2012) and "Omniverse" (August 2012 to November 2014) all about Ben as a teenager. From 2016 to the present, there was a reboot series which brought Ben back to being a 10-year-old

The main story of the classic series involved 10-year-old Ben Tennyson who discovered a mysterious watch-like device named the Omnitrix when he was on a family road trip with his Grandpa Ben and cousin Gwen. When Ben wore it, he was able to transform himself into 10 different alien beings with all sorts of superpowers which he used to fight alien villains, human criminals and even supernatural beings.

There had already been four other Ben 10 films before this new one, all made for TV. The first one was "Ben 10: Secret of the Omnitrix" (2007) which combined the final three episodes of the fourth season of the series to make a full-length film. The second film was "Ben 10: Race Against Time" which was a live action version (2007), starring Graham Phillips as Ben 10. The third film was another live action film "Ben 10: Alien Swarm" (2009) based the "Alien Force" story, starring Ryan Kelley as teenage Ben. The fourth film was "Ben 10: Destroy All Aliens" which was a CG rendition of the original series featuring the original voice cast.

This latest film "Ben 10 vs. the Universe" is based on the 2016 reboot series. Team Tennyson had spotted a meteor about to collide with planet Earth. Ben was able to find a key which could unlock major abilities from his Omnitrix to make him able to fly into outer space to engage the meteor. However, things did not go as planned as Ben was drawn into another dimension called the Null Void where Omnitrix creator Azmuth was, while the "meteor" landed on earth to release Vilgax who was on his quest for universal domination.

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The movie was full of appearances of various characters, both human and alien, which would really be a lot of fun for all loyal fans. Aside from Grandpa Max and Gwen, the other human characters include Phil Billings, Max's old friend who was a tech whiz, and Kevin Levin, originally an anti-hero bully who made his own "Anti-trix" who would later learn to team up with Team Tennyson to get closer to Gwen. Most of Ben's alien forms make an appearance, as well as several various aliens he had encountered in previous seasons.

I was more familiar with the look and tenor of the original series of Ben 10, and not familiar anymore with how it was in the 2016 reboot series. That is why I was totally surprised with how juvenile the artwork, how shrill the voice work and how seemingly "dumbed-down" the storytelling was for this new movie compared to the old Ben 10 I knew. Ostensibly, this reboot series was aimed for younger children, and despite the unfavorable reaction from old fans, it was still able to attract the loyalty of a whole new set of kids to make it last five years and merit this full-length film to boot. Colorful, fun and cheery, I am sure these newer kiddie fans would rate it higher than I did.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."