After tackling a sensitive topic in my last review, I decided to finish work on what amounts more to a rant. You see, the original Ben 10 was a great show. It ended, I think, on a high note; I never wanted a bloody sequel—we got one, though. Ben 10: Alien Force is one of the worst spin-offs I’ve ever seen; despite not being as terrible as the likes of “Teen Titans Go,” Alien Force still fails at nearly everything. Basic character development, emotions, action, and so many other elements seem to be beyond the scope of Alien Force. Eight or ten episodes in (if I remember correctly) and I was bloody done.
Why “Ben 10: Alien Force” is Terrible
When I heard that they were making a sequel to Ben 10, I expected it to act as a continuation of the original show while delving into darker themes—like Naruto Shippuden was to its prequel. Instead, what we got was utter garbage. Ben 10: Alien Force sacrifices the great action scenes of the original for… well, you’d think that the lack of action means they’re trying to focus more on characters and internal conflict, but there really isn’t any of that in Alien Force. There really isn’t anything redeemable in Alien Force.
Alien Force starts off with a bang as we hear Ben referring to himself as “Ben 10,” despite rarely (if ever) having been referred to thusly in the original. Let’s start with the least of the show’s problems: Alien Force’s version of Ben Tennyson is entirely overpowered. In the original Ben 10, there was a limit to how long Ben could remain in alien form, and the Omnitrix had a cool-down period before he could transform again. This gave Ben a clear weakness and meant he wasn’t too powerful for his enemies to pose a real threat. The few times these limits were removed, we were treated to some unbelievable action sequences because he was fighting against enemies so strong that he needed such a boost to his powers.
In Alien Force, the limiter has been removed from the Omnitrix, so Ben can “go alien” whenever (and for however long) he pleases; of course, he can also transform directly from one alien to the next. Without his main weakness, the battles are no longer as interesting. This wouldn’t have to be the case if Alien Force saw Ben pitted against more powerful enemies, but that’s not what happens. Instead, the action scenes last for a few seconds before Ben “talks it out” with the villain and solves everything peacefully.
This last complaint is more subjective than the others, but the ~10 aliens at Ben’s disposal in the original series had a certain charm to them. Beyond that, their powers and appearances were each distinct enough from each other that there seemed to be a point in having ten of them. Sadly, Alien Force decided they needed to give Ben an all-new collection of aliens. These new aliens aren’t really new at all; they’re just combinations of Ben’s aliens in the original. The main difference is that they have no charm; they are boring and indistinguishable from one another.
In the original Ben 10, the characters brimmed with personality. Here, however, they are among the blandest I’ve ever seen. Ben, in particular, has been stripped of all his personality and is now just an empty shell of a character and whatever the story needs him to be at any given time. At first I was tempted to blame the new voice actor (it’s hard to live up to a role that was first voiced by Tara Strong), but he’s not to blame; indeed, he’s played loads of emotionally charged roles in much better shows (Code Geass and Naruto, for example). In Alien Force, however, his performance is dreadfully half-assed, though this is all due to writing and direction. At no point does this version of Ben show any emotion—not even when faced with the death of a loved one.
Gwen is the only character in Alien Force who ever reacts to anything, but even she’s been given much the same treatment as her cousin. I thought Gwen using more of her magical powers would be cool, but unfortunately, the show did the worst thing they could possibly do: retcon the whole thing so magic no longer exists! One of the best things about the world of Ben 10 was how it involved both magic and science-fiction elements, but Alien Force groups them both into the latter.
Worse still is Gwen’s forced relationship to Kevin, Ben’s former nemesis. It comes out of nowhere and seems to be based on nothing more than the shallowest physical infatuation, and yet she trusts the former criminal completely. In fact, they both become angry with Ben for having quite reasonable doubts mere days after Kevin supposedly turned over a new leaf. The episode ends with the moral that Ben should trust Kevin even if he acts untrustworthy, which is ludicrous! Kevin’s past revokes his right to keep secrets!
When I first heard that Kevin was going to join Ben and Gwen, I expected a lot of Zuko-ish internal conflict, but there’s virtually none of that to be found in this pathetic excuse for a spin-off. Kevin is accepted into the group with little hesitation, and even Ben soon trusts him with no particular reason to do so. Of course, Kevin’s powers have also been screwed up in this series. In the original, Kevin was described as an “energy sponge,” which meant he was able to absorb energy and use it later, which allowed him to absorb power from the Omnitrix and gain many of Ben’s powers. In Alien Force, he has somehow gained the ability to assume the properties of any matter he touches. Please note that I wouldn’t be complaining about new powers if the characters were interesting enough. However, their abilities are all that these bastardized versions of the characters have to them.
Episode 6: “Max Out”
Now let’s take a look at an episode of this thing. This one’s called “Max Out,” and it’s the one where they kill off Grandpa Max, one of the main characters from the original series. Despite being one of the few episodes I’ve seen of this that doesn’t end with everyone just talking it out, it’s still the worst of them.
The episode begins with Max beating the crap out of a shape-shifting alien in a diner. Then we get the title sequence, which is okay. I mean, it would be a good title sequence if it weren’t for the fact that it hints at part of why this show isn’t good. The theme song of the original Ben 10 had a sense of humour, not to mention a catchy theme and interesting visuals. Although the orchestral theme of Alien Force is pleasant, it lacks that humour, which is a big problem when you’re trying to follow up such a great opening theme. Indeed, the end result here feels a bit stiff, especially as the equally uninspired visuals leave much to be desired. There was a great sense of passion that’s just not there in Alien Force.
Kevin is a Jerk
After the disappointing title sequence, we see Kevin acting like an asshole as usual. Apparently Ben’s other cousin Ken (whom we’ve never heard of) has disappeared, and Kevin refuses to help look for him because… he’s an asshole! This is a big problem with Kevin’s character in Alien Force; he’s supposedly a good guy now, but there’s been no character development to get him there. He’s still just as horrible as he was in his much better days as a villain. Indeed, his reaction to hearing that Ben’s cousin’s in trouble is as follows:
“And I’m supposed to care… why?”
Gwen’s Brother From Nowhere
Gwen replies that it’s because Ken’s her brother we’ve never heard of, and because Kevin has the hots for Gwen—and for no other reason—he agrees to help; like I said, he’s a total asshole. I think now’s the time to complain about Ken. If you think the introduction of Twilight Sparkle’s brother in A Canterlot Wedding was sudden, then you’ve clearly not seen Ben 10: Alien Force. Despite being introduced somewhat abruptly, Shining Armor was essential to the plot of the episode and still exists after the episode. Ken Tennyson, on the other hand, could have been replaced by any bystander with no change to the plot; indeed, as he’s so unimportant, he is never seen again.
We cut to the three of them on the road. Gwen says that Kevin’s “sweet” for doing this, and Kevin acts like an asshole. We find out through exposition that Ken’s apparently “the coolest guy in the world,” which is why he’ll never be seen after this episode. They find Ken’s car, and Kevin finds alien technology stuck on the engine. A couple of rednecks arrive, and of course they turn out to be more of the shape-shifting creatures from before. Ben turns into one of his new boring aliens and they beat the aliens in the space of a few seconds. They find another one tied up and interrogate it; it tells them that Ken’s in a place called “the hatchery.” Cut to Ken being questioned in the hatchery. One of the aliens possesses him. Moving on.
Max Gets Captured
Meanwhile, Max infiltrates the alien base and finds Ken with an alien parasite attached to him. Of course, being possessed, Ken tazers Max and he passes out. While Ben’s gang sneaks into the base, Max is brought to the alien leader, who reveals that he’s using the parasites to turn humans into “DNAliens,” and of course Ken was kidnapped to serve as bait for Max.
Ken the DNAlien
Ben, Gwen, and Kevin arrive in the hatchery and fight some aliens in a really boring fight scene. Gwen realizes that one of them is her brother. The Omnitrix starts talking for some reason, and then it gives Ben the ability to correct genetic damage. He’s able to remove the alien parasite, and now Ken’s fine. Ken tells the group that Max has been captured, and they immediately go and rescue him with no trouble at all. It’s at this point that it strikes me; why does Ken have to exist? I mean, he exists so that Max has a relative that he has to rescue, but couldn’t one of the main characters have been captured? What about one of Ben’s or Gwen’s parents? Ken just doesn’t have to exist!
The Death of Maxwell Tennyson
Max tells them he’s proud of them, even saying,
“You too, Kevin. You’ve come a long way. Might even earn that Plummers’ badge you swiped!”
Come a long way? No. No, he hasn’t. Moving on.
They hear an announcement on the intercom that the aliens are going to ship a bunch of the parasites and build an army, so Ben and his friends start fighting the DNAliens. After wiping out every parasite they can find, they see lights coming from the hatchery, and they run in to find Max. Turns out there are a load more eggs. Eventually they notice that Max is fighting the alien leader, who then grabs him and threatens to kill him if they come any closer. The alien leader reveals that he’s got another army outside and that they’ve only delayed the DNAliens’ victory.
Ben Reacts to His Grandfather Dying
Max pulls out a grenade and decides to blow himself up along with the alien army. We do at least get Ben shouting “Grandpa! No!” as Gwen puts up a forcefield around them, but the moment the dust clears, no one has any reaction whatsoever. All we get is a remark from Kevin:
“That was pretty hardcore.”
Followed by Gwen saying,
“He saved the whole world.”
Finally, Ben says with almost no emotion,
“Yeah, he did, for now. But I don’t think those things are giving up anytime soon. I’m saying that it’s up to someone to protect this planet, and like it or not, I think it’s up to us.”
Then, instead of leaving us with even that crappy semblance of grief, the episode ends with a scene of some aliens recovering some of the parasites the following morning. And what, you may well ask, happens next?
What Happens Next?
Well, the next episode begins with Ben happily cheering for a football game and has nothing to do with his recently dead grandpa! Instead, it’s a comedic story about him going on a first date with his crush! When we finally do get some much-needed mourning, it’s from Gwen; Ben’s totally fine—despite having been the less emotionally stable of the two in the original—and even then, the episode doesn’t linger on it for long. None of the characters care, so why should we? Why should we care about anything that goes on in this pathetic, passionless, cash-grab of a show? Just imagine the reaction the real Ben Tennyson—not this shell of an imitation—would have if his Grandpa Max got blown to smithereens! He’d be inconsolable! The Ben of Alien Force, however, couldn’t even be bothered to sulk about it. Ben 10: Alien Force is an abomination!