SAVING THE WORLD AND SELLING THE MERCHANDISE
BEN 10 LIVE: TIME MACHINE
Presented by The Cartoon Network
at Opera House, Wellington
14 Apr 2012
Reviewed by Jo Hodgson, 15 Apr 2012
I'm not sure if a review is needed to fill a show like Ben 10 Live: Time Machine, judging by the sea of mostly boys with an average age of 7 or 8 with their Mums, Dads or Grandparents, waiting with excitement for the first show to start this morning. The appeal of superheroes and fisticuffs between good and evil just keeps on selling.
I have to admit to feeling a little apprehensive as to how such an action-packed frenetic cartoon could be turned into a cohesive live show but, accompanied by my 5 year old friend Thomas, we are soon thrust into the world of ‘Hero Time' and I go with it.
Ben Tennyson is a 10 year old boy who has the Omnitrix watch which can turn him into alien superheros such as Swampfire, Dimondhead, Fourarms and the Big Chill to save the world. With help from his cousin Gwen and their Granpa Max, he battles foes like Vilgax and The Highbreeds to name a few.
This particular production joins together all 3 of the Ben 10 series in a race against time through past present and future where Ben (aged 15 from Ben 10 Alien force) and Ben (aged 16 from Ben 10 Ultimate Alien) help Ben 10 (on the eve of his 11th birthday) to defeat and thwart the Highbreed Commander's ultimate destruction of the world of humans, using the Commander's own powerful Uniglass Time Machine against him.
The storyline from writers Anton Berezin and Theresa Borg (also director) is stereotypical in the good versus evil stakes but the collective superhero power needed from all 3 Ben 10's to save the day gives it more of a problem solving and collaborative feel.
A multipurpose interactive moveable screen is used for special effects where laser blasts, magical cyclones and time vortices are screened as well as used for entrances and exits. These light shows (from lighting designer Keith Tucker and Video and sound designer Brenton Van Vliet) certainly have the young audience riveted. The soundscape is full bore and way too loud to start with (but improved in the 2nd half), giving the superhero/baddie battles the added intensity needed. Nice voice effects on all the Aliens too.
The costumes are cleverly constructed (DT Entertainment/EXIM) and realise the forms of the cartoon characters well, although some are a bit clunky and not overly easy to manoeuvre, so make the fighting scenes a little comedic and WWF like – which actually makes the fights a little less gratuitous than the more visual violence in the cartoons.
Maybe the human characters of Ben (at various ages), Gwen and Granpa could have been more human, i.e. seeing their faces and expressions and not quite so cartoonish, leaving the Aliens to be the out of this world characters they are. The actors had to over act with their bodies somewhat because of their over sized head masks with no facial expression, which made me feel the age appeal wouldn't be much beyond 10yrs.
The choreography (Katie Ditchburn) is well executed, particularly that of the droids with some excellent dance and acrobatic fight moves.
Its nice to see a positive girl role model in Gwen, who looks out for Ben when he gets a bit ‘hero happy'. She has her own special magical powers which also save the day and Ben finally, albeit grudgingly, admits they are pretty cool.
Ben and Gwen do, however, bicker and name-call which raises the question of whether writers should mimic what happens in real life for these ages, believing kids will identify with the characters and find humour in it, or find other ways of modelling behaviour.
A 20 minute interval in the middle of what would have been an hour and 10 minute total show is unnecessary. Cynically I'd say it is there to sell the merchandise this whole industry revolves around but perhaps the actors also need a break from lugging around those huge costumes.
All-in-all a successful outing and by the appreciative chatter of the children around me – the feeling sounded mutual.
Thoughts on the show from Thomas (5): "The end battle was the best and I liked the alien that had sticky out eyes like a Hammerhead."
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.