Voltron: The Final Battle
by Jef Burnham
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Now available on DVD from Classic Media, this collection features the final eight episodes of the first season of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, in a digitally remastered presentation. The cross-section of the series begins with the Voltron Force’s attempt to rescue Alura’s cousin Princess Romel and culminates in a battle against the most powerful Robeast the Voltron Force has confronted. This collection of the iconic 1980s cartoon series is, at once, action-packed and incredibly goofy. These eight episodes, it seems, are far more characteristic of the series as a whole than are the eight episodes of Classic Media’s previous release, Voltron: The Legend Begins, which is to say, unbelievably difficult to watch.
The excitement I felt watching Voltron: The Legend Begins was not sustained by The Final Battle. Sure, Voltron himself is amazing, being a giant, fighting robot made out of smaller, lion robots, but the format of the series simply couldn’t sustain a storyline suitable for an adult viewership. The series was crafted by re-dubbing two animes mashed together without translating the originals, so it is perhaps no surprise that Voltron is a mess. And as much as I find this difficult to say given my childhood affections for the series, working my way through this set was an unbelievable chore.
Writing dialogue to lay over existing footage creates innumerable head-scratching moments, and blindly accepting the events that transpire onscreen becomes impossible. Yes, inconsistencies abound. To show how deep the confusion runs, let’s look to pronoun usage, something that surely couldn’t be screwed up, even in the Voltron format. Because I can’t stop wondering, how is Voltron a “he”? To refer to Voltron as a “he” implies that Voltron is a sentient being, and yet Voltron can only function when operated by the Voltron Force. This he is a machine. Maybe it’s like calling your car a “she,” you might suggest? But it’s not that simple here, because Voltron is personified to such an extent that the Voltron Force is entirely removed from the equation when discussing Voltron so that Voltron is situated as having taken the actions. Now, you can imagine that if such confusion exists in the series’ usage of pronouns, confusion at the narrative level is unavoidable.
Much like Classic Media’s Voltron: The Legend Begins, The Final Battle also acts as a promotional tool for extra-textual Voltron products and material, which appear in pre-menu trailers and the disc’s special features. Among these are a Voltron video game, a Voltron collector’s figure, and, of course, the Nicktoons series, Voltron Force.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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