Young Star

Thundercats! Huh?

- Ramon De Veyra -

MANILA, Philippines - In the now-constant strip-mining of older popular culture that can be fed into Hollywood’s Regurgitator for immediate “remaking,” “rebooting,” or possible ruination, no story (or “property,” or “franchise”) is safe, no matter how beloved. One of the latest attempts is the new Thundercats animated series from Cartoon Network, the announcement of which sort of made me feel “Tandercats.”

Still, it’s easy to see why it was a candidate: successful show, sold lots of toys, good story-world with much to exploit. Thus far, it’s been working: eight episodes in and ratings have been strong, with the first wave of toys already announced.

But how good is the show? Ah, well, here we have a mixed bag. Among the episodes aired there are four strong ones and four that, well, if this were elementary school, would be given a “needs improvement.”

So much of the show is intact, even things I didn’t expect them to keep, like the font of the title and the cat logo. Though it’s a reboot, it’s also a bit of a prequel, set earlier in the story when the ‘Cats were still on Thundera (or is it already Third-Earth? The mystery deepens.). Lion-O is younger, as is everyone else, except maybe Panthro. His relationship with Tigra is altered a bit: now Tigra is an older, albeit adopted, brother. Cheetara is a cleric, who studied under Jaga. For some reason I can’t seem to fathom, though, Cheetara’s a cleric who dresses like some barroom hussy, with remarkable cleavage for a show I thought was still aimed at a younger audience.

The pilot, a two-parter, kicked things off in impressive style by showing the rich history of Thundera and its socio-political climate. There was good action and pathos, real stakes, and real pain when the ‘Cats kingdom falls to the lizards. The very next episode was a disappointment, unfortunately, with an emo Lion-O being all broody and temperamental, seemingly for little to no reason. Then it was followed by the existential, philosophical, and touching “Song of the Petalars,” written by veteran comic book writer JM DeMatteis. The next two again delve into moving the plot along, exploring the past as well as what lies ahead. The two most recent episodes were basically Lion-O showcases, dropping the supporting cast. While interesting (one revealing that they share the same universe as the TigerSharks and SilverHawks!), they are occasionally marred by cliché dialogue and characters not being too smart.

While the quality of the episodes is unstable, the ratings are strong enough that the producers are going to have the chance to tell their story. We can only hope that they can improve the writing and shake out the kinks, maybe resulting in something as good as Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender series.









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