I loved “Ben 10” when it premiered back in the early aughts. I watched it for a long time, and even followed a few of the unnecessary reboots. While the more modern iterations have stunk, I still love the mythos, and how the producers took a failed attempt at “Dial H for Hero” and transformed it in to a unique science fiction series. Cartoon Network and Alex Winter go to great pains to keep this an accurate film for the audience. Ben looks just like Ben, Gwen looks as if she lifted off the one dimensional series, and Max is pretty close. Not quite, but I accepted Lee Majors in the role, since his gravitas compensates for the inherent lack of faithfulness to the character mold.
He’s funny, he’s sympathetic, and he’s still a great force of logic and common sense to the brash, irresponsible Ben Tenneson. “Race Against Time” is set after the series where Ben has arrived from Summer vacation traveling around the country with Gwen and Grandpa Max fighting aliens and all kinds of supernatural menaces. Though there aren’t any shots of them in action, this is mentioned numerously. After writer Mitch Watson gets past the typical angst of school bullies, elitist popular girls, and inept uninvolved parents, “Race Against Time” finally picks up as the newest villain Eon arrives to seize the “Hands of Armageddon.”
Ben now needs the help of Grandpa Max and “The Plumbers,” an elite army of alien fighters that arrive to clean up alien messes and disappear into the night. For better and for worse, director Winter brings the tone of the franchise into a darker atmosphere. Ben is no longer a charismatic child, but kind of dull, while Gwen is no longer a loud shrill big cousin, but a more authoritative moral center who doesn’t get a big chance to work off of Ben too often. There’s also a small budget for Winters to work with, which only allows a few of the aliens from the watch to be featured, so fans expecting a lot of switching with aliens and action, might be disappointed.
I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, but delivering a “Ben 10” movie without a lot of aliens defeats the purpose. That said, Majors is a nice touch as Grandpa Max, and the live action format works in the series favor. I just wish we had a higher budget, tighter writing, and a sequel that would help expand on big screen potential. “Race Against Time” is a solid live action adaptation, despite its major flaws.