Hey, everyone! Voltron: Legendary Defender is back!
This is the first in a three part response to Episode 1: The Rise of Voltron
The Rise of Voltron is actually three episodes cut together for a 1 hour premier. I’m not sure what the point was, since all of the other episodes are highly serialized and each one picks up where the previous episode left off
The opening image is a space shot that pans to a view of Pluto’s moon, Kerberos. The imagery is reminiscent of Defenders of the Universe, but the lackluster score dampened my nostalgia. I found the space shots disconcerting, since I was waiting for something high-impact like the intro of the original series. Legendary Defender drops us into the action without much ceremony.
The scene on Kerberos establishes the status quo. Earth is still in the early stages of spaceflight, with ships that can barely make it out of the solar system and no contact with alien lifeforms. We see Shiro guarding a couple of scientists, who play a part later. There’s some talk about how meeting or seeing aliens would affect them, and then (on cue) their exploratory mission is suddenly interrupted by a Galra warship.
The Galra are suitably scary, Zarkon is terrifying AF, and the interior of the ships are awesomely spooky , but not much is revealed.
Then we cut to a year later with what looks like another shot of Kerberos. Lance, Hunk, and Pidge are flying a rescue mission, which turns out to be a simulator exercise. It’s a good thing because the team bombs the mission, Hunk pukes in the gearbox, and Lance is a total fathead.
This is the scene that made me let my guard down and stop waiting to be disappointed.
In the original Defenders of the Universe series, Hunk and Pidge were often played for comic relief, but the humor was a lot simpler. I’m a sucker for banter, and this scene has it in plenty. I don’t know why but the idea of Hunk having a problem with motion sickness just cracks me up.
Next, there’s a dressing down from their flight instructor and we learn that the only reason Lance is in the program at all is because another pilot had a discipline problem and flunked out.
It’s fairly obvious that the “other pilot” was Keith, and I was instantly intrigued by the whole set-up. All my favorite space commanders have discipline issues in their backstories, and I’m drawn to stories where the heroes have to earn their way to success instead of naturally excelling at everything. It’s clear that Pidge is a child prodigy, but none of the characters are shown to be very competent here. Since I already knew what they were capable of and that they were soon going to become the only thing standing between Zarkon and complete domination of the galaxy, I was totally drawn in–and eager to see Keith.
Another “team butting heads” sequence gets the three of them involved in rescuing Shiro, but Keith beats them to it. Lance is annoying, just like his DotU counterpart. He’s more concerned with what seems to be his own one sided “rivalry” with Keith than making sure Shiro is okay. Keith has no idea who Lance is at first, then shrugs him off. “Weren’t you a cargo pilot?”
In the chase scene that follows, Keith snarks back and forth with Lance, but it still seems more like two adolescents posturing than it does a pilot-to-pilot rivalry. Evading their pursuers, Keith is cool and collected to the point that I would describe him as icy. There’s an edge of recklessness and defiance about him that makes me intensely curious about his past. As I mentioned earlier, my favorite space commanders are the ones who have discipline problems in their backstories.
There are only a few moments where Keith shows any emotion other than vague dislike of Lance. He’s concerned about Shiro, and it’s clear from both the animation and the dialogue that the two characters have history prior to the Kerberos mission.
The characters end up out in the middle of a desert, at a hut where, presumably, Keith has been living since he got kicked out of Galaxy Garrison. (More questions: how’s he paying for that? Where did he come from before?)
After introductions with Shiro, some exposition, and some more character banter—pay attention to Pidge’s diary–Hunk decides to build the “Voltron geiger counter” I mentioned in my last post.
I find the technology in this show intriguing, and I’m probably going to analyze it—or want to—way more than the writers intend.
Next, we FINALLY get down to business and see some Lion action!!
The team finds Blue Lion in some caves, share a joint vision of the Lions forming Voltron, and then Blue Lion itself mystically leads Lance through a space fight with the Galra and escapes through a wormhole. The animation on the ships and technology is so good I forgot that I was watching a cartoon. It’s great to see a classic, 2-D animation style get this much love and attention on a space-related production.
Blue Lion comes down for a landing in front of the Castle of Lions. We don’t see much of it in the shot, but things are about to get more interesting…
Tune in next week for more or head on over to Netflix and watch the Rise of Voltron for yourself!