Upon first hearing of the Voltron reboot, I was sceptical. The focus of the show was to be on giant flying robotic lions that could combine together to form an even larger robot. It made me think that it would be a lesser version of a Transformers/Power Rangers mash-up. Two things made me decide to give it the benefit of the doubt. One was the fact that it was on Netflix, which has yet to disappoint with any of its original shows. The other was the fact that the creators of the beloved Avatar shows (Legends of Aang and Korra) were the show runners. I’m happy to say that my expectations were blown straight out of the gate and that I’m now a Voltron fan.
The concept of Voltron is undeniably cheesy but the show’s so cleverly written that it feels more like a natural part of the plot than a gimmick. The overarching storyline is pretty standard; a group of young heroes come together through a series of events and are chosen to be the pilots or paladins of the Voltron lions. Their task is to be the protectors of the Universe, with season 1 specifically focusing on the evil Galra Empire.
The series is well structured and tightly paced. Honestly, it feels more like one big movie than a show of several episodes. This makes it ideal for binge watching of course, though it may seem as if it’s over all too soon. The energy and action blend smoothly together, making you crave the next installment. The anime-ish art style and combination of cel-shading and traditional hand-drawn TV comes neatly together to make a work of art.
Having said that, some parts of the show are a little generic and tropey. You have the standard coming together as a team, everyone gets separated, and then they get betrayed by a seemingly friendly person. Then again, a lot of things these days are pretty tropey (cough Stranger Things cough) and as long as the execution’s spot on (which it definitely is for Voltron!), it can be forgiven. If tropes are something you actively despise, this show may not be the one for you. Aesthetically, there are a number of similarities between this show and the Avatar shows. This is not surprising given they share many showrunners. It’s not just the animation style and action sequences, even some of the jokes are in a similar vein. Of course, this is brilliant news for anybody who was a fan of either Avatar, and desperately needs something to fill the void. While some of the jokes can get a little bit cringey at times, it never feels like too much and is always in a fair balance.
The main characters are also enjoyable and well written. Initially they come across as the usual generic heroes you would expect. However, with each episode, you learn more about their back-stories, quirks and traits; ultimately you end up rooting for all of them. Each pair-up and adventure brings out different sides of the characters and it can be both endearing and humorous to see the different personalities interact with each other. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the antagonists who are the series’ weak point. The Galra Empire serve as the season’s villains, basically being the heroes’ punching bags either directly or indirectly. They’re portrayed as a typical alien race, bent on having the ultimate weapon and conquering the galaxy. They are never given motivations beyond this and are never shown any depth or given any development; basically they’re ripped straight from the Marvel movies. It feels like their entire race consists of serious, angry war generals, making you wonder why they haven’t eradicated themselves from in-fighting.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a small point, which in no way detracts from everything else. I’m not sure how similar or dissimilar it may be to the older Voltron shows, but this version is without a doubt an epic, colourful, and funny take on a classic 80’s series. In a world where things are becoming increasingly dark and gritty, it’s a welcome change of pace to see Voltron: Legendary Defender embrace its goofy and outlandish roots while being an epic adventure in its own right.