TV Review: Ben 10 'Alien Force'.

TV Review: Ben 10 ‘Alien Force’.

When thinking like an alien helps

By Mark HadleyWednesday 12 Feb 2014TV and StreamingReading Time: 3 minutes

Ben 10 was always one of those shows that, as a parent, I steered my boys away from. It wasn’t so much the themes as the series’ look. After all, who wants their children dreaming of becoming a creature with tentacles? But I’m starting to think there may be advantages to encouraging my boys to think like an alien…

Mark Hadley reviews Ben 10:Alien Force

Ben 10 is a cartoon series that focuses on 10-year-old Ben Tennyson, an immature boy who stumbles across the Omnitrix during a camping holiday with his grandfather. The device attaches itself to Ben’s arm, giving him the ability to transform into one of ten alien heroes, each with its own special abilities.

This first series was more comic in tone and about Ben learning responsibility. Its sequel, Ben Ten: Alien Force is currently available through the Seven Network, free to air and its on-demand web based properties. At the end of the first series Ben’s secret identity was revealed and he was finally able to remove the Omnitrix. Alien Force begins years later with a 15-year-old Ben who willingly reconnects with the Omnitrix in order to find his missing grandfather, a member of the intergalactic space police force known as ‘The Plumbers’. Ben is unsure of the commitment, knowing what his service as a hero cost him the last time around. Consequently Alien Force is darker in tone and more geared to boys who grew up on the original Ben 10. 

The sequel series still includes more of those icky-alien transformations. The creators of Ben 10 – Man Of Action – clearly take their visual lead from the Japanese anime industry. Fans of films like Spirited Away and Avatar:The Last Airbender will recognize the similarities between Ben’s alien identities and the various creatures that emerge from the spirit realm. Though I don’t think this amounts to a bridge between cartoons and Shinto beliefs, it’s not a connection I’m thrilled about – at least for young minds. However Alien Force also includes at least one theme worth watching for: the responsibility associated with opportunity.

When Ben is trying to make his choices about the path ahead, he’s given some advice from one of his grandfather’s alien police partners:

Ben: “I just wish [grandpa] was here. He would know what to do. He always knows what to do.”

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Fishface: “Well he ain’t! You’re the one with the Omnitrix. You’re going to have to figure out what to do on your own.”

It’s a call to own up to whatever the opportunity to serve is that’s sitting in front of you. There’s an implied responsibility for those who can do something to not turn away just because it might cost them. The advice is similar to a warning that the more down-to-earth James, the brother of Jesus, offered on to early Christians:

“If anyone knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  

This is the sort of lesson that can do with affirming in a world where storylines too often tell kids that any relationship that requires them to give more than they’re comfortable is one to be avoided. James points out that God deliberately draws us out of this sort of selfish thinking, making us aware of good deeds we could do. James even rates that resistance to serving our brothers and sisters as sin, because it opposes the good opportunities God gives us. Now that’s a lot for anyone to walk away with from a Ben 10: Alien Force episode. But if a cartoon can help kids understand that the power to act = responsibility then that’s not such a bad thing.

Rating: PG
Distributor: Seven Network/Cartoon Network
Release Date: Various