I grew up the right age to watch the original version of Voltron but I never really watched it. The way I knew about it was through my best friend in third grade who was really into it and owned these cool metallic lion toys. So Voltron sort of passed me by but I was very interested in checking out the new Netflix reboot version, Voltron: Legendary Defender, because of the talent behind it. Well, it came out within the past week and now we can take a closer look. Below is a spoiler-free review of the first episode.
The new show is 13 episodes, with the first episode being a double-sized hour-long pilot. The show is overseen by Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos who both worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra, both for Nickelodeon. This show uses the same animation company that handled Korra, Studio Mir, a South Korean animation studio. The plan is for Voltron: Legendary Defender to run 78 episodes.
The pilot sets up the five pilots of each lion, the alien race that created them, and the villainous alien who is looking to find them. It’s a fair amount to do in just one hour and the episode largely skips any deep character arcs for now, just setting up their personalities and a bit of motivation for them. The show focuses instead on two areas: action and comedy. And it handles those very well.
The revised version gives us five pilots (and it deserves a separate article to discuss how the characters have changed from the original show), four of which are cadets at a space training program and one who was abducted by the evil Galra empire on an expedition. They learn that the mech lions were built by the peaceful Alteans 10,000 years ago and sealed away across the galaxy to prevent the Galra, led by Emperor Zarkon, from finding them. Each of the lions has a personality to them and will only allow one person, known as a paladin, to control them. They learn this from the last two Alteans who were in a type of suspended animation all this time – Princess Allura and Coran, the Royal Advisor.
Coran was probably my favorite character. Played by comedian Rhys Darby, he just cracked me up. He’s pompous but not really an idiot. The characters each have distinct personalities that complement another well. Leader Shiro has the mystery of how he escaped the Galra Empire, brilliant Pidge has a side mission to figure out what happened to the other men abducted with Shiro, Hunk is a reluctant engineer who easily gets motion sickness and seems least likely to ever be a hero, Lance is a brash, egotistical second-best pilot and Keith is a naturally talented pilot with anger and authority issues.
The animation is the biggest selling point. It’s very fluid and expressive. Great motion. The characters are all traditionally animated but the lions and Voltron, the massive robot they can merge to form, are computer animated. It doesn’t clash, though. It works very well. Voltron looks amazing. They may do some animation cheats to get the lions to change into limbs when they transform and merge but it looks terrific.
The voice cast is pretty dope. Standouts include Tyler Labine’s Hunk, Rhys Darby’s Corran, and Bex Taylor-Klaus’ Pidge. But everyone is unique, expressive and likable.
Overall, I’m not sure if this show is quite clever or deep enough to warrant getting Netflix for. But if you already have it, it’s a very enjoyable show. It doesn’t move slowly. You can easily binge the episodes within a weekend and you’ll probably know if you want to within 10 minutes. I plan to.
I give it 2 .5 out of 3 thumbs!