Yes, this is how the episode introduces the cast. Strap in, kids. This is going to be one of those rides.
If you’ve been around here long enough you know how I took the news about Thundercats Roar, and I’m far from the only one not looking forward to this mockstalgic dumpster fire. Co-developer Victor Courtright had claimed that the show was one he grew up with due to his brothers and that he thought the concept lent itself to comedy, hence he decided to throw the action science fantasy series into the parody grinder. Fans of both the original and the 2011 reboot (just shy of a re-imagining but not by much) were not happy with this new tone, clearly inspired by OK KO: Let’s Be Heroes, a fun show that doesn’t invoke the feel fans want in a new incarnation. The fact that Courtright and fellow developer Marly Halpern-Graser have few if any credits outside of parody or shows like Right Now Kapow (I think that would qualify as surreal but it’s definitely different) probably didn’t help much.
So guess what? It’s actually out. I didn’t know that. I don’t watch a whole lot on Cartoon Network anymore…actually I think Transformers Cyberverse is it and sometimes I watch that on the Transformers YouTube channel…so maybe there was an ad and I missed it, but given how many websites and YouTube commentators I follow who have mentioned this thing I thought I would hear about it sooner. Instead I just saw CR from Familiar Faces posted a video on it, and even then I thought it was just that he heard it was finally coming out and was giving a pre-airing thought. It turned out to be an actual review so I stopped and looked for the episode myself. I wanted to give this an honest assessment past the biases I already had because I want to be fair to this. I admit my biases but I do try to make an honest review rather than just praise what I love and trash what I don’t. One of the themes I try to keep going on this site is that quality of work is not based solely on my enjoyment no matter how much I have against it personally going in.
Now understand where we oldskool fans come from here. A quality work is also not the same as a quality adaptation, another recurring theme in my reviews. Thundercats Roar is not trying to be a faithful adaptation or reboot. It wants to be silly and on that level it succeeded. The art style works for the story, the acting is decent, and one or two jokes got a chuckle out of me. I hope those of you who liked that enjoyed those last two sentences because its the limit of positivity I have in this review. If I got any enjoyment out of it, its because they aren’t horrible creators and frankly my opinion was already so low that it couldn’t go much lower unless the creators WERE incompetent boobs. That doesn’t mean I liked it; I just didn’t hate it as much as I expected. I’m still going to trash this thing, but I do give credit where it is due. Well, there it was, so hang on! Note there will be spoilers but in this case I consider it a good deed.
You just saw the first few minutes of part one, which is how it airs on Cartoon Network’s website and presumably their app. I watched it on demand via cable so I ended up with a full half-hourish episode. Cartoon Network is continuing this alleged web series approach to run times because the people in charge don’t realize that the reason cartoons on YouTube are so short is because they don’t have the budget of a longtime television channel owned by the same company that has their own animation studio. Unlike Cartoon Network, owned by Warner Media which is now owned by ATT. And yes, you did hear music from the original series, thus adding to the comparison and the desire to just watch the original series instead. This is how the show decided to introduce these characters to audiences who many not be familiar with the old show, who probably would be the only ones who want to see this and wouldn’t care about the old show. Further enraging fans? The pilot episode is called “Exodus”, the same name as the pilot episode of the 1980s classic. I’m hoping this isn’t a trend.
After the ship crashes on the planet we get to see how the characters are going to be depicted. We already know Lion-O is going to be an idiot. In this story he’s an action-seeking nitwit who doesn’t know how to be a leader. Apparently we’re also still dropping the artificially aged kid but unlike the 2011 series he still has the same maturity level as your average ten-year-old. (Or however that translates into cat years.) Tigra is the serious one and tries to get him to act like a proper leader, Cheetara is the cool one, Panthro is…technically still Panthro through an OK KO lens, the Thunderkittens could have been worse, and Snarf is apparently a robot that looks like a cute creature. Yes, they thought the way to make Snarf “cool” was to make him Dynomutt if his bionics actually worked, meaning he could easily become the deus ex machina as long as he’s fully charged. (At least he had that weakness.) These characters might be interesting if they were original creations but as a take on the classic heroes? Did I mention Lion-O is an idiot now and Snarf is a mute robot?
Granted I think Jackalman is going to be a bigger moron but villains are supposed to be dumber than the heroes in these kinds of stories. Meanwhile Mumm-Ra is in an unusual situation so it’s hard to get a bead on him. Thanks to the Doomstaff he is now a giant version of the Everliving form we know and anytime anyone says his name they get zapped by it. I’ll come back to that. The Thundercats learned to work together to destroy it and he ends up in his mummy form. How he’ll act from here out I can’t say. At least he was a decent threat and Lion-O learns something and nothing at the same time because it screwed up his own message, with they lampshaded. I’m guessing the music use, the mockery, and the small nods like Ooze making a cameo are going to be the highlights of “see, we watched the old show and made it funny because that’s better” mentality we were all worried about.
Making this show enjoyable, when they’re on, are the Ro-Bear Berbils. They’re ridiculously nice and helpful but they have two big personalities that make them funny. One is an obsession with building things and the other is Bill constantly saying Mumm-Ra’s name and getting zapped. This is actually part of how they help the Thundercats by distracting Mumm-Ra so Lion-O can grow the Sword Of Omens to supersize (we never get to see it do anything besides grow and cut through their own ship because Lion-O can’t find a door when the ship crashes) and cut the Doomstaff. There, now you don’t have to watch the episode. But if you were, the Berbils and robo-Snarf are probably the only reasons to do so. The rest wasn’t very funny and all of it was not what fans want to see.
Had this been alongside an airing of the original, which has the same name for a pilot so bring on the confusion, maybe it would have been tolerable, but this is an action sci-fantasy franchise and seeing this mockery of the characters is a punch in the gut. I’m sure it may find an audience. Teen Titans Go has and it’s a parody of something fans of the prior incarnation loved. If these had been original characters in the style of OK KO (although the jokes fall flat for me there usually as well, so if that’s your taste here’s more of the same) it might have been worth it, but as a take on classic heroes at a time when mockstalgia and non-stalgia are all the rage that’s what this series induces…rage in fans. It’s not the dumpster fire I was expecting but as a Thundercats series? Just get the original on home video or streaming somewhere. Not being as bad as expected doesn’t make it good.