In general, I am a fan of animated television. Ben 10 is one of the bigger names on Cartoon Network. It was never on the top of my list of favorites, but it was a fun show with some interesting ideas, although I wasn’t in love with many of the characters.
Then came Ben 10: Alien Force. The spin-off was unique enough to be interesting, although I am not loving the new season. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the live-action adaptation, Ben 10: Alien Swarm.
Apparently set some time after the current Ben 10 series, Alien Swarm finds us with a ~16 year old super-team, their powers including transforming into aliens, absorbing and becoming different materials, and energy pulses. The increased age is a good step over the first live-action Ben 10 movie (but that’s another post). Overall, the move is what you’d expect from a TV flick on a Wednesday night. The story is fairly common: alien invasion on the way, our squad there to save it. However, there is a surprising amount of character involved.
Enter Elena, childhood-teen friend of Ben. Apparently her dad is in trouble, but Ben’s boss/grampa Max doesn’t trust her. Now, what I expected to happen was this: Ben believes Elena, being the love-struck teen, and so goes against Max’s orders, only to find out that Elena was tricking him, proving grampa Max and snobby cousin Gwen right (not that he would have gotten any sympathy for being the victim of a manipulative girl).
Instead we see a surprisingly sensitive side of Ben, striking out on his own as he does what he thinks is right. He must continue to protect Elena, and in the end help to save her father. He isn’t played for the fool and he always manages to keep his cool, even standing up to the bully-ish Kevin and often domineering Gwen. He isn’t the butt of any jokes and isn’t overly mocked or treated like an inept child.
I was also surprised by how mature Ben is about his relationship with Elena. It is said that he has a crush on her, but he doesn’t go bleating after her. He doesn’t believe her blindly, but he trusts her and he acts on that trust, not on raging hormones.
In the series, I always found Ben to be too much of an egomaniac, but here he is more sympathetic and comes off as much more heroic. He is a capable young man who stands by his beliefs, showing confidence and caring for those around him. He is a good, strong young man, well grounded and in touch with his feelings.
All in all, I much prefer Ben as he is seen in this move to his more childish, egotistical cartoon self. This movie is not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun 90 minute romp with some cool CG. And it didn’t leave me feeling guilty for being male, which happens all too often in today’s media.