They’ve taken an obviously brash 22-minute advertisement for on-shelf or upcoming Hot Wheels toys (which is fine, no problem with promoting through cartoons, it’s an age-old practice) and made it vastly more obnoxious by transforming it (sorry, had to do it) into an animated version of a Michael Bey film – and, um, that’s not a good thing – at all.
There are limited swipes at humor, some hit, but most miss. The origin story is beyond rushed. Though it may be boring to the audience they’re looking for, showing some kind of training on the cars could’ve been a fun, action-filled, and most of all, character-building episode. More character equals more identifying with the characters or developing feelings about both good and bad guys and that in turn leads to a more devoted following of those same characters. That’s pretty basic stuff, completely thrown away here.
It has interesting enough “cel-look” feel to it, but as far as distinctive looks go, that’s about it. To give you an idea, it’s executed in the vein of the newest version of the animated Spider-Man and has been seen in swipes on several shows. It’s an initially cool look that wears thin once the animation begins to break down into stilted digital shadow puppet-like movement.
The episodes are the standard one-off episodes, all ending well and never really putting the heroes in any sort of peril. And that’s all fine and dandy, it’s expected. But that’s what this cartoon’s major problem is – it’s all very, very expected - in its stories, characters, and above all style.
Stylistic choices in animation based on what people think viewers will like rather than making a choice to make the cartoon stand out now and in the future is what has made so many modern cartoon series fall short. This one is absolutely no exception.
Series like Genndy Tartakovsky’s first Clone Wars (along with the previous and to this day still brilliant Samurai Jack) series went with a style that wasn’t already a safe bet and wound up setting a new pace and in turn a high-water mark for others to follow. Though I totally get why studios are reluctant to do it, they have to look at the fact that when it is done, it’s typically regarded as, at the very least, interesting to watch. That interesting often turns into more stable over time which can translate into long term sales of the attached merchandise (looking at it from Mattel’s point of view).
Unfortunately for series like the current Clone Wars and Hot Wheels: Battle Force 5, they’ve strategically sidestepped having the guts to go out on any creative limb in favor of being as vanilla as possible. And hey, I love me some good vanilla, but we’re talking blue stripe, plain wrap, and flavorless here.