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Ben 10: Alien Swarm(TV) (2009)
In this thrilling, live-action adventure, Ben breaks rank with Gwen, Kevin and Max to help a mysterious young woman uncover an alien threat to our world. But it will take all the super powers they have to battle this unstoppable alien technology. The stakes are high and the action is intense as Ben fights to protect our planet from the Alien Swarm.
For more about Ben 10: Alien Swarm and the Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray release, see Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on December 5, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ryan Kelley, Alyssa Diaz, Barry Corbin, Dee Bradley Baker, Alex Winter
Director: Alex Winter
» See full cast & crew
Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray Review
An uninspiring Cartoon Network original lands on Blu-ray...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, December 5, 2009
Before I begin over-analyzing yet another recent kids' flick or sermonizing about the ails and ills of children's entertainment, let me make one thing clear: if I were eleven, Ben 10: Alien Swarm would be a permanent fixture in my parents' Blu-ray player. Loud music, roaring cars, motorcycle chases, massive spiked boulders careening down a highway, a winged creature battling a tornado of nanobots, a massive monster smashing its way through a series of formidable foes, a clash of tiny titans inside of a devious villain, brain-dead crowds of zombified adults... were I an excitable member of Ben 10's target audience, I would be unabashedly, undeniably ecstatic. However, as a parent, I find myself sliding anything my son wants to watch beneath an increasingly harsh light. Alien Swarm certainly thrills, but it also succumbs to the same pitfalls as similar productions that have crawled out of the primordial direct-to-video ooze. It has little to offer beyond entertainment value, its story has next to nothing to say about the world or times in which we live, and its characters' worst choices come and go without consequence. Am I looking too far into things? Probably. Does it change the fact that Alien Swarm is a relative waste of any grade-schoolers time? Particularly when more rewarding home video releases are available for their consideration and investment? Nope.
Based on Ben 10's second animated series, Ben 10: Alien Force, and hot on the heels of Cartoon Network's first original Ben 10 film, Race Against Time, Alien Swarm finds mainstay shape-shifting hero Ben Tennyson (Ryan Kelley) racing to uncover the source of a new threat with the help of his superpowered cousin, Gwen (Galadriel Stineman), and his density-shifting, jack-of-all-trades pal, Kevin Levin (Nathan Keyes). While on a seemingly routine assignment, the trio are approached by Elena Validus (Alyssa Diaz), a girl whose father (Herbert Siguenza), a dishonorably discharged Plumber (an agent tasked with defending Earth from intergalactic beasties), has been kidnapped. Ben's grandfather Max (Barry Corbin) immediately suspects the worst -- her father was once his prized pupil before a bitter betrayal destroyed their relationship -- but Ben is more trusting, disobeying his grandfather's orders and breaking Plumber protocol to help Elena track down her missing dad. Calling upon the power of the Omnitrix (a glorified wristwatch that allows its wearer to transform into a variety of alien creatures), Ben has to figure out if Elena is telling the truth, prevent an aggressive hive-mind from taking over the world, and save his friends and family from a terrible fate.
Never mind the fact that Alien Swarm inadvertently reinforces a go-to theme of recent children's programming; that adults are short-sighted, quick to judge, and woefully inept at handling crises. (Mull over that one for a bit before considering how many kids' films teach the very same lesson. No worries, I'm sure it isn't the sort of philosophy that has any negative ramifications.) Never mind the fact that the film requires viewers to have an extensive knowledge of the cartoon series. (Even after plowing through the whole thing, I didn't realize Ben and Gwen were cousins until I had to assemble my plot synopsis. Maybe I missed a snippet of dialogue, but it was just the first of many blanks that were left unfilled.) Alien Swarm just isn't a sharply written flick. Character development is MIA, logic is tossed out the window, and every plot thread appears to have been swiped from more iconic Sci-Fi fare. The film's low budget dictates the number of times Ben can transform, not the lame excuses the script offers when his Omnitrix conveniently malfunctions. Weak subplots limit the heroes' ability to get answers, not the menacing alien overlord who steals all the credit. Laughably bad extras allow Ben and Elena to escape, not their driving prowess. Occasionally lackluster effects limit the magnitude of the hive-mind's invasion, not the trio's quick-thinking or problem solving.
Still, the alien-vs-alien action is enjoyable, so much so that tots and preteens will be bouncing in their seats by the time the credits roll. Yes, thirty-plus minutes of the film are devoted to dense exposition, but any boring chit-chat will be forgotten the moment Humongousaur lumbers onto the screen. The young actors' performances help matters as well. In fact, given a proper script and reasonable dialogue to chew on, Kelley and his wrinkle-free cohorts would almost be as engaging as Alien Swarm's CG monstrosities (Smallville's casting director should be racing for the phone). So where does that leave the majority of you, presumably parents considering whether to buy your kids a live-action dose of one of their favorite cartoons? Frankly, I don't envy your decision. Alien Swarm will not hone your child's cinematic palette; it will only give them a taste for 'splosion-fueled, CG-laced junk food. It won't leave them satisfied; hollow actioners rarely do. It won't teach them anything of value, other than how wonderful everything turns out when they ignore your instructions and do things their own way. It won't even give them anything to ponder after it's over; it's nothing more than intellectually devoid filler. I know, I know... can't a kid just enjoy a hyperkinetic romp through a seizure-inducing adaptation? That, dear moms and dads, is thankfully up to each of you.
Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray, Video Quality
At least Warner's unexpectedly striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer makes Alien Swarm a joy to watch. While skintones and other elements have intentionally been robbed of color, Ben 10's patented greens are bold, explosions flood the screen with vivid flames, and blacks recall the stark inkiness of the cartoon series. Contrast is just as strong, granting the image fairly convincing depth and dimensionality, and shadow delineation is revealing. Even fine detail, long the bane of television films and direct-to-video productions released in high definition, is razor sharp and surprisingly refined. Edge enhancement is nowhere to be found, textures are crisp and lifelike, and a hint of faint grain lends most scenes, dare I say, a filmic appearance. Moreover, aliasing only affects the opening title card letters, banding is rare and never a distraction, crush isn't an issue, and compression artifacts, while flitting into view during a handful of CG-heavy dust-ups, is kept to an acceptable minimum. My only major complaint is that source noise spikes whenever the lights go down, particularly during Ben's third-act assault on a shadowy warehouse. Regardless, I was more than pleased with Alien Swarm's video presentation and I'm confident young fans will be thrilled with the results.
Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It's also nice to see Warner devoting a full-blooded Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track to a lower tier release, even if it relies on blunt force trauma more than legitimate immersion or subtlety. Recently, any television title from the studio has been saddled with weak-kneed Dolby Digital audio. Here's hoping the negative reactions that have ensued have reminded Warner of the every-BD-will-have-a-lossless-track promise that was made in 2008 (before being broken, time and time again, in 2009). But I digress. Alien Swarm is, by design, a front-heavy endeavor that only comes to life when Ben takes advantage of his Omnitrix or Kevin gets behind the wheel of a car. Dialogue is clean and intelligible throughout, but rear speaker activity waxes and wanes as readily as the film's on-screen explosions. Likewise, LFE output packs some punch, but only when an energy blast or a shattering nano-probe requires some extra oomph. That's not to say the experience is disappointing, particularly if your expectations are in proper order, just that it lacks the precision, movement, and nuance of a summer blockbuster's mix. As a result, directionality is rather two-dimensional, pans alternate between smooth and stocky, and dynamics prioritize volume over proficiency. That being said, Alien Swarm sounds pretty good, especially considering the low-budget nature of the production. I'm tempted to give it a higher score, but I know I'd be rewarding the mere presence of a TrueHD track more than evaluating its actual quality.
Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Ben 10: Alien Swarm doesn't have much to offer. A brief "Behind the Scenes" featurette (HD, 2 minutes) is little more than a flashy commercial and a There for Tomorrow "Music Video" (HD, 3 minutes) is only good for laughs. The disc's only saving supplemental grace is "Ben 10 Alien Force: Vengeance of Vilgax" (HD, 44 minutes), a two-part episode from the Cartoon Network animated series presented with an impressive technical transfer; one that bodes well for a potential Blu-ray release of the show.
Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Ben 10: Alien Swarm doesn't try to be anything more than it is: an action-driven extension of an animated television series. It forgos context in the hopes that its viewers are up to speed, it shrugs off logic in the hopes its fanbase is too young to notice, and it skirts a meaningful story in the hopes that its defenders will be smitten with its alien beat-downs. Its Blu-ray release is more up to snuff, arriving with an excellent video transfer, a decent TrueHD audio track, and an underwhelming smattering of supplements. I wouldn't run out to buy Alien Swarm anytime soon. If your children are begging for some live-action Ben 10 goodness, renting this one is a wiser, less costly course of action.
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Ben 10: Alien Swarm Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Ben 10 Film Coming to Blu-ray - August 20, 2009
Cartoon Network in conjunction with Warner Home Video have announced that they will bring the live-action sequel 'Ben 10: Alien Swarm' to Blu-ray on December 1st, day-and-date with the DVD release. The film is set to debut on November 21st, so fans won't have to ...
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