Thundercats Review

Sometimes, you have to love a random topic.  It can be anything and everything.  While I could go on and on about some strange idea for a story, or my favorite author, I thought I do something different this time; a review of a new show out this season on Cartoon Network, the Thundercats.

Long ago, in the 80s, the show first appeared as part of the after school lineup here in Oklahoma.  Even then, the storyline seemed kind of cheesy, but the plot worked well enough to keep it going for a decent run of three or four seasons .  It even had a nice, space version that was almost word for word of the show called the Silverhawks.  For those who do recall these two would agree they were very similar in plot and themes.

But, we are looking at the new and improved Thundercats tonight.

All the main characters are there, looking very much like they did then with the same talents and abilities, but there were many changes made.  Many are obvious and strike with the hard edge of the Sword of Omens and others are more subtle.  But, these improvements and changes have made this show spectacular along with new artists and plenty of computer technology to make the animation that much more cool and engaging.

Let’s start off with the main characters:

Lion-o.  In the 80s, he was a 10-year-old boy trapped in an adult’s body and no clue on what was going on.  While his innocence was charming back then, it detracted from the show over all.  He seemed way too buff for being in cryogenic sleep, which made little sense back then.  How he learned how to use the Sword of Omens so quickly was never explained, either.

In today’s version, he is a young adult, late teens, maybe early 20s.  He’s young enough to still be defiant and want to do his own thing without thinking it through, but old enough to understand and admit to his faults.  Now, he still looks quite a bit like the old version, but he’s been trimmed down, not so much muscle, and given a more realistic attitude about his lot in life.  He has an interest in technology which comes in handy but not enough to save his people or his father.  His skill in swordplay has been earned through practice and good teaching.  Gone is the innocence but there is a hint left that peeks out now and again.  Right now, he acts like a nervous teenager around Cheetara.

Speaking of Cheetara, she is the one character who has changed the least.  Only her role in the royal court has changed.  I’m not sure what she was before in the 80s show, but in today’s version, she is one of Jaga’s priests.  She’s still pretty, fast, and knows how to use her staff far better than her previous incarnation.  There’s no mature woman outlook in this lass.  No, she has a wisdom beyond her years, she’s not much older than Lion-o and yet, she’s made it her duty to keep an eye on him and guides him on his path to finding the Book of Omens.  Her character now is far more interesting than she used to be.

Snarf has made the most changes in this show in my honest opinion.  In the old version, he was annoyingly clingy to Lion-o and a worry wort over everything he said or did.  Honestly, I would have slit his throat within the first few episodes if I were him.  But, he was allowed to live and provide some comic relief.  In the new version, he is simply a companion to Lion-o and doesn’t speak.  Pretty much, he is an intelligent cat that looks younger than the old version but is far more enjoyable and funny.  His improvements were the most noticeable and welcomed.

Next, we come to Tigra.  In the old show, he was older, around 40-ish or so.  Old enough to know what’s going on and hardened by life, but he hadn’t lost his sense of humor or curiosity.  I liked that personality and seemed more like how a tiger would behave in adulthood.  In this new version, he is older than Lion-o, but only by a few years.  In fact, he is Lion-o’s adopted older brother.  And, like most older brothers (mine is a prime example), he is a total jerk towards his younger and doesn’t speak very kindly to Lion-o even though Lion-o is the rightful and sworn lord of the Thundercats before the end of the first episode.  Only a few episodes in, Tigra is still a jerk, but he has been put in his place a few times by little brother and told to follow or go home.  I’m thinking Tigra will eventually lose the whole jerk attitude and get over himself so that he’s a more enjoyable character.  Right now, I find him annoying but then again, he does remind me of my own older brother.

Panthro’s personality has also changed quite a bit.  He went from the tech savvy, jolly, black guy cat dude to a war hardened, gruff, cranky, tech-newb who thinks Lion-o is a young punk lacking the common sense needed to lead himself and others out of a wet paper bag on a good day.  But, his gruffness isn’t cliché or cloying, it feels real, like the sat down and talked to a few old war vets in the VA to get how they speak and act down to give this panther dude life and depth.  He is now what those few glimpses we saw in the old showed.  In his introduction, he came roaring in with a much grittier version of the Thundertank.  He is a big buff cat with an attitude and the nun chuks to back it up.

Wily Kit and Wily Kat haven’t changed much.  They are still mischievous kids but these two are commoners who had to fend for themselves rather than lucky kids who managed to escape death by being near Lion-o.  Their skills as thieves have come in handy, but their insatiable curiosity has gotten them into more than one spot of trouble.  They are cute kids down to their fluffy tails.  Out of all of them, they are the only ones who have tails.  Maybe this will come into lay later on.  The only differences between the old and the new is that the new ones aren’t as cocky as the old and don’t play so many pranks.

Then, we come to the villains.  There are only two of them so far.  The main one, Mum-ra, and Slithe, the reptilian man.

Mum-ra hasn’t changed at all between versions.  He is now as he was then, just a lot less cheesy and a lot more mean.  He attacks more directly and even bound Jaga’s spirit to a lantern in the first episode when the old priest died.  I think he’s more powerful in this new version than he was in the old.  He certainly does a lot more now and doesn’t change forms at the drop of a hat.

Slithe hasn’t changed either.  He’s just as dumb, greedy, and vengeful as he was in the old.  He does lead a vast army of reptilian people in huge mecha and tanks in their hunt for the survivors of Thundera.

So far, there’s not been mention or sight of Monkian or Vultureman in this new version.  I suspect they will show up eventually, but with their own armies to rage against the Thundercats.

I like how they characterize all these characters and I cannot wait to see how they lay the others as they come into the spotlight.  Each of them is rich and full of life, believable in so many ways.  They aren’t so one-dimensional like they were back in the 80s.  In fact, this show is definitely not for kids.  It is geared more towards the adults who loved these characters long ago.

There’s more than better characters to keep me wanting more of this show.  The artistry would keep me coming back time and again.  It is the traditional cell animation from what I can tell, at the general styling of it.  It is given an anime touch which makes the show come alive on the television screen.  You see only hints of the old in these new adaptations.  They show more of their feline side such as a ruffling of fur along the shoulders and the way the faces look.  The background look real, giving more life to the show.

Do I like this remake of an old show?  I would have to say yes.  On a scale of one to ten, I give it a nine.  If they had done a bit more to improve Slithe and Mum-ra, then I would give it a ten.  but, the rating I give is more than enough to say I love this remake and I can’t wait to see the next episode on Friday.

You can find the Thundercats on Cartoon Network, Friday evening at 8:30 Eastern/7:30 Central.  If you haven’t watched it, do so.  You just may enjoy it s much as I do.