Voltron: The Final Battle ADVANCE DVD ReviewA movie review article by: Penny Kenny
Mechanized flying lions that combine to form one giant, fighting robot. Stalwart heroes. Plucky princesses. Purple skinned villains. Alien, robot controlled armadas. Techno-magic wielding witches. Visitations from beyond the grave in times of greatest peril. Space mice who pilot their own robot fighter.
Welcome to the wonderful SF-Fantasy world of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, a program that began life as two unrelated series, Japan's Hyakujû-Ô Go-Lion and Kikô Kantai Dairugger-XV. Spliced together and heavily edited and rewritten, Voltron became the story of the heroic members of the Earth's Galaxy Garrison and their fight against the evil Drule Empire. Go-Lion, or "Lion Force Voltron," the more popular portion of the series, focused on the planet Arus and its fight against King Zarkon, his equally evil son Prince Lotor, and the techno-witch Haggar.
Vivendi Entertainment's Voltron: the Final Battle collects eight "Lion Force Voltron" episodes that lead up to the "final galactic battle of Season 1!"
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. In comparison to today's animation, Voltron looks a bit dated. Its hand drawn cels lack the crisp look of Nicktoons' new Voltron series.
There are some continuity errors in the story-telling, things said in one episode are contradicted in the next. The movements of the mouth flaps and voices don't always sync. There is also some rather lackadaisical voice acting going on in the crowd scenes. In "There'll be a Royal Wedding," when the giant Iron Maiden robeast is crushing helpless prisoners in its hands, the victims' cries of terror are singularly unconvincing.
That being said, Voltron is a show that quickly sucks you in if you let it. There are unabashedly heroic characters, ready to give up their lives for others without hesitation. If the extras aren't voiced with sufficient emotion, the lead characters are. Even in the melodramatic moments, the voice cast of Michael Bell, Neil Ross, B. J. Ward, and Lennie Weinrib bring sincerity to their parts.
At this point in the series, the main characters have developed all they're going to. It falls to the supporting characters to create the human moments between robeast battles in two well-done arcs. The first involves Princess Romelle, cousin to Princess Allura of Arus. When she first appears, she's a prisoner of Prince Lotor and his intended bride. She's actually rather annoying in "The Captive Comet," as all she does is cry, throw herself on the floor, and lead the Voltron Force into a trap. After she's thrown into a pit to die in "There'll be a Royal Wedding," she improves greatly, becoming an inspiring figure willing to sacrifice herself to save others. As her arc weaves in and out of the episodes she becomes quite the military leader.
The second character driven arc covers two episodes and focuses on Coran, the Voltron Force's advisor.
After many years of believing his son to be dead, Coran is overjoyed when the young man is found in "Return of Coran's Son." It doesn't take a genius to see where this story is going, but it's handled well and has some genuinely sweet moments. There is a scene where the original animation art suggests a much grimmer story than the one being narrated, but the more optimistic take fits the Americanized version.
The dvd is rather bare bones as far as extras go, featuring only a preview of the Nicktoons' Voltron, the top five powers of the new Voltron Force, and an ad for the Voltron collector's figure. However, the episodes themselves look good. The colors are sharp, the audio is clear, and at 195 minutes, there's plenty of transforming, robot action.
Narrated by Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen, Voltron: the Final Battle is a classic giant robot show with action and heart. This collection works as both a solid introduction to the franchise for newcomers and an enjoyable memory album for fans.
For the past thirteen years, Penny Kenny has been an elementary library paraprofessional in a rural school district. For the seven years prior to that, she headed a reading-math program designed to help first grade students with learning difficulties. Her book reviews regularly appeared in Starlog from 1993 to the magazine's unfortunate demise in 2009 and she has published several e-novellas under a pen name. She has been a reviewer with Comics Bulletin since 2007.