Cartoon Network Delivers Monster-Sized Adventure, Action with Firebreather
· Peter Chung
· Jesse Head
· Dana Delaney
· Kevin Michael Richardson
· Reed Diamond
· Amy Davidson
· Josh Keaton
Television Review: Firebreather
by R.J. Carter
Published: November 9, 2010
Cartoon Network takes the plunge into original CGI programming with Firebreather, adapted from the comic book series by Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn. Artwise, it's a somewhat mixed bag, but the story is engaging and the setup follows a classic formula for past successful franchises.
16-year-old Duncan (Jesse Head) is the cynosure of this coming-of-age series. He's moved from school to school, and his mother, Margaret (Dana Delaney), tries to ensure he lead as normal a life as possible. But Duncan is far from normal. Discounting his orange-ish tint and his somewhat scaly complexion, Duncan's stronger and faster than his peers. Because Duncan is only half-human. In fact, his father is royalty -- King of the Kaiju.
The Kaiju are what make Firebreather seriously exciting. The series posits a modern world where the possibility of being attacked by 200-foot monsters straight from the set of "Gojira" is a distinct possibility. There's even a military organization, MEGTAF, which stands in readiness for the next attack, even though the last attack was over 16 years ago. Coincidence? Not at all. When Margaret met Belloc (Kevin Michael Richardson) in all his skyscraper-stomping glory, it was love at first sight, and served as the foundation for the Kaiju going underground and leaving the surface dwellers alone. But all that is about to change, because with Duncan's powers emerging, Belloc wants his boy to consider his place among the Kaiju, as Belloc's successor. One problem: the other Kaiju don't take kindly to the idea, and decide to remove the teen prince, permanently.
MEGTAF is painfully aware of Duncan's origins, and have long ago placed him -- with his full knowledge -- under surveillance. He's constantly looked after by "Blitz" Barnes (Reed Diamond), and has regular medical visits with Dr. Pytel (Nicole Sullivan) to monitor his evolution -- which has accelerated of late, manifesting in his ability to breathe fire, among other surprising and powerful talents. Unfortunately, they're not immediately useful for helping him with his social life, as he becomes smitten with Jenna (Amy Davidson) and runs afoul of her ill-tempered ex-boyfriend Troy (Spectacular Spider-Man's Josh Keaton). If anything, they make him even more of an outcast than he already was -- until the time comes when they're really needed.
Breath Mint? Duncan experiments with his new firebreathing ability.
Having the world of Japanese giant monsters as a backdrop is a fun concept, one that delivers in the action and adventure department. The CGI artwork has its ups and downs, but shines in the moments that count. Like most CGI animated films, the weakness is in the human characters, which sometimes look too SIMS-like to be fully acceptable. However, when rendering the Kaiju, suddenly we have intensely detailed characters with fluid movements. It's almost like the animators have an engine for spitting out human bodyforms, but had to put more effort into the creatures and landscape.
Make Room for Daddy. Belloc, the absent father, returns.
Flaws aside, Firebreather has the stuff: An adventure-filled environment, an incredible origin story (that even Duncan has trouble comprehending, as evidenced in one hilarious scene where Margaret tries to volunteer the details of Duncan's conception), and the promise of a lot more building-leveling action to come.
Firebreather premieres Wednesday, November 24, at 7:00pm | 6:00pm CT, on the Cartoon Network.