As I mentioned in my previous review of episode one, I have come back to provide you with a comprehensive review of the first season of Voltron: Legendary Defender produced by DreamWorks and distributed by Netflix.
Before I begin, the way I entered this review is that of a split personality: "The Fresh Eyes Critic" and "The '80s Critic." Using those perspectives, I split the article in two parts to showcase how the new series works for the modern animation crowd and how a hardcore fan might compare it to the original.
Beginning as the Fresh Eyes Critic, Voltron 2016 provides us with a new, enormous multi-part robot piloted by five palatins. These space explorers have little-to-no knowledge of Voltron and its components, the five colored lions. The story line and plot are superb, providing the audience with a great amount of substance as well as a fair amount of suspense to keep your attention and to continue feeding that hunger for wanting more.
The battles with King Zarkon and the interaction with Witch Hagger and their minions also captures your attention especially when Voltron appears to have little chance of winning. Couple this with a beautifully drawn Princess Allura and a very high strung castle liaison named Koran keeps one curiosity poised throughout.
As the episodes continue, the battles become stronger while we learn more about the palatins, the castle (which becomes a space ship), and the role of Voltron as a defender for all peoples in need of help. We learn the characteristics of our pilots with great comedy and the logistics of how they are transported to the lion cockpits. In addition, the lions seem to have souls and can operate themselves or spiritually influence the pilots to use new features such as the sword.
Overall, Voltron: Legendary Defender by itself has an impressive storyline, plenty of action and comedy, and is very welcoming to the cartoon world. I believe this has a great chance at gaining momentum, stretching it into at least two more seasons if written and directed well.
Now, allow me to shift into the split personality of the '80s Critic. As stated earlier, though a bit skewed, the storyline still has some reachbacks to the original 1984 storyline. These nods are within a degree of acceptable parameters as far as grabbing my attention while not distracting me too much with small variances. I've made a list of likes, dislikes, and things I questioned while watching the new series:
We get Voltron and the Castle of Lions as well as a majority of the cartoon cast such as Keith, Lance, Pidge, Hunk, Princess Allura, Koran, King Zarkon, and Witch Hagger.
There are also the familiar locations of Planet Arus and the lion dens within the pilot episode. Hunk is hilarious and it fits him better than being the muscle and mechanic of the crew.
Voltron's wings convert to become a shield and the lion weapons are great, especially the return of the mouth weapons. This was a very welcomed reachback from the 1984 series.
Pidge's little float bot friend is a good touch to add to her character.
The storyline and action married with the comedy of Koran and Hunk upholds the show and held my interest throughout (and wanting more!)
What happened to calling it the "Blazing Sword"? That was part of the coolness of Voltron's arsenal as well as the forming sequence which is also non-existent.
Keith is not the leader and is piloting Red Lion while Lance is piloting Blue Lion. This throws me off a bit, however I am hopeful that there will be a reason for it later.
There are no keys for the lions, however it is somewhat explained because they have "souls" and are able to move on their own.
There is no form Voltron sequence. It's simply form Voltron and we see him assemble. In fact, the same verbiage is used to launch the Castle into a space craft.
The Lions reside within the castle rather than in their dens in various locations throughout Arus. Though this appears to be a reachback from the more recent Voltron 2011 (also housed within the Castle,) the lions receiving their powers from the elements was unique and simply made Voltron that more intriguing.
These concerns communicate that the new writers may not have been that knowledgeable about the original Voltron or chose to move away from WEP's previous production.
Koran's character, although comical, can detract from the episode because in the previous versions he was the level headed, father-like base commander for the Castle of Lions.
Another questionable area is Pidge's character. I understand today's "P.C." world and didn't dislike Pidge's character changing to a female role, but it is a bit different for those of us who grew up with Voltron. To a degree, it is a welcomed addition to gain more female characters and fans.
Overall, I am very thrilled to see Voltron reborn and pray that this cartoon stays for another couple of seasons. It would be grand to see Keith promoted, add characters like Sven and Prince Lotor, along with some killer robeast competitions where Voltron could expound upon his capabilities. I don't expect everything from prior Voltrons to be reintroduced, however some things like the form Voltron sequence and Blazing Sword in my humble opinion should be reintroduced. Nonetheless, I will anxiously wait for season 2.