Voltron: Legendary Defender, Rebooted and Rewarding

voltronNetflix’s new animated series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, takes the much-beloved 80’s cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe and rebuilds the world of space battles, robotic lions, and strong friendships in a new take on the classic sci-fi adventure. With its second season having been recently released on Jan. 20th, fans have jumped at the chance to devour the new set of 13 episodes and now eagerly await more.

Our story centers around five humans from Earth – Shiro, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Keith – that discover a giant blue robotic lion that’s been sitting dormant in the desert. Once they’re inside, the lion activates and flies the five heroes into space – yes, a flying lion spaceship – where they meet two aliens named Coran and Allura. They are from the planet Altea, which was destroyed by the Galra Empire thousands of years ago. The Galra Empire has been continuing its tyrannical takeover ever since, and the universe needs Voltron to save it. What is Voltron, you ask? Coran and Allura explain to the five heroes that the blue lion they uncovered is one of five robotic lions that, when piloted, can combine into a massive, human-shaped robot of great power named Voltron. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Despite the absurdity of the idea, this show executes it so well. The action is intense, the alien civilizations wildly creative, and the animation a far leap ahead of its 80’s counterpart. The characters are developed and getting deeper as the show goes on, and the plot is fast-paced and entertaining. I saw the first season when it first released early in 2016, and the year long wait for Season 2 was worth it. The creators of the show, Joaquin Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, stay true enough to the original but have updated it in many, much-needed ways. They pay attention to their ever-growing fanbase and deliver quality episodes that continue to appease and surprise.

The characters are all individually enjoyable and have great dynamics together. Shiro leads the group as the paladin, or pilot, of the Black Lion and acts as the head of the group, as opposed to Keith doing so in the original series. Keith now pilots the Red Lion as its impulsive, ready-to-fight paladin. Lance is the flirtatious jokester and sharpshooter paladin of the Blue Lion. Hunk is the food-loving engineer and pilot of the Yellow Lion. Pidge, who is now a girl as opposed to her male 80’s counterpart, is a tech genius and the youngest of the group, piloting the Green Lion. Allura is the princess of Altea, and Coran is her advisor.

Not only have these characters been fully-fleshed out with backstories (although we’re still waiting on Lance’s and Hunk’s backstories) and motivations, but the new Voltron has made an effort to diversify its cast. Allura, Hunk, Shiro, and Lance are all people of color now, and Pidge’s gender change has brought a second female into the limelight. I for one am incredibly happy to see this push for diversity. The dialogue is conversational and natural, and the tone switches appropriately from light-hearted and goofy to serious and heartfelt when called for. In the newest season, the concept of prejudice is brought up and addressed exceptionally well. It’s progressive, and I love it.

Of course, the past 30 years have led to much better quality animation, leaving Netflix’s version with a style reminiscent of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. Voltron mixes CGI into the mainly 2D show in order to make the lions, Voltron, and fight scenes stand out. The character animation is exaggerated for comedy and detailed for intensity, switching it up depending on what the story calls for.

Voltron: Legendary Defender deserves a watch; go and see Season 1’s first episode, which is pretty plot-heavy, and you’ll have a good sense of the show’s dynamic. I applaud Netflix’s approach to this classic and anticipate next year’s season!

-Abby F., 12th grade

 

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

darknightA superhero film isn’t meant to be incredibly serious. A superhero film isn’t meant to carry emotional weight. A superhero film isn’t meant to be regarded as one of the greatest films of the 21st century.

So when The Dark Knight was released back in 2008, it truly wowed fans and critics. The second installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, it follows Bruce Wayne, played by Christian Bale, as he deals with a new threat, The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger.

This isn’t so much a superhero film as it is a crime thriller. No special effects, no green screen, just unfiltered cinematic brilliance. First of all, the film is shot very well with perfect camera angles and music that fits each scene. The plot is a cat-and-mouse game, with Joker performing a series of attacks on Gotham City. Batman attempts to save the day only to find Joker one step ahead of him each time. The Gotham police department is led by Commissioner Gordon, played by Gary Oldman. The relationship between Batman and Gordon, and also attorney Harvey Dent, is what drives the hunt for the Joker.

What really makes this film so legendary are the performances. With an all-star cast, consisting of names such as Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, the supporting characters are all quite interesting and play essential roles in the story. Christian Bale of course does a marvelous job as Bruce Wayne. But Heath Ledger really steals the show as Joker, putting on one of the best performances of the last decade, probably the best villain performance of all time. Maniacal and psychotic, yet deep and compelling all at once, Joker owns nearly every scene he’s in.

The Dark Knight is not your average superhero movie. It provides better plot, performances, music, and cinematography than most movies you’ll see nowadays. Any fan of thrillers, crime dramas, action, or Batman should definitely go see this.

-Ahmed H, 11th grade

The Dark Knight is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

MV5BMjM2MDgxMDg0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTM2OTM5NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_Many aren’t aware of the book which inspired the movie series for Jurassic Park (see Jurassic World in theaters now!), and like most books, the original is better than the movie adaptation.

Michael Crichton’s vision of a utopian theme park gone wrong set a revolutionary example for all sci-fi novels to follow. Most of the characters in the novel are well developed and bear significance in the symbolism of their fates. However, I would have preferred a wider range of female characters as there are only two, with only one portrayed in a mature, positive light. Although most sci-fi novels are geared towards a male audience, it’s a huge bummer for female readers who do exist and do enjoy the genre. And while Dr. Strattler’s minimal role may have been a representation of the sexism faced by women in the scientific field, I think Crichton could have helped break the non-inclusive pattern within the genre.

I’m interested to know if this bothered anyone else who read the book, or if anyone agrees that there is a lack of female representation in sic-fi novels or movies?

– Sara S.

Jurassic Park, both the novel and film, can be checked out from the Mission Viejo Public Library. A downloadable version of the book is available on Overdrive

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

tuesdaysmorrie_mitchalbomI really needed another book to read so I asked my mom if there was a book in her library that I could read. She gave me a book called Tuesdays with Morrie and told me that it’s about life lessons and stuff like that. It really didn’t sound interesting but I decided to give it a shot. It was so worth it. Tuesdays with Morrie, is more of a life lesson book for sure, but it is heart warming. Typically I like read the adventure/dystopian type novel so this story was somewhat out of my comfort level. So if you don’t mind reading a slower book then you should check out this book.

Mitch Albom tells about his own personal, strong relationship between himself and his favorite college professor. After leaving college, 16 years later, Mitch gets a new job as a journalist for the Detroit newspaper. It is a well- paid job but empty and he begins to feel depressed. After meeting with his mentor to catch up, Mitch decides to have Morrie mentor him once again. They met up every Tuesday(hence the name).

Through their time together you grow to love old Morrie and take in his lessons too. I didn’t understand all of them because some were directed towards adults but I definitely learned a good deal of them. One is “Life is a series of pulls back and forth… A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match…Which side win? Love wins. Love always wins”  There are so many more meaningful quotes and lessons sprinkled throughout this book.

I really hope you check this book out because it is one of my favorites!

-Erika T.

Tuesdays with Morrie is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library and Overdrive.

Antigone by Sophocles

oedipus_sophocles“Antigone” is one play in the book of The Oedipus Plays of Sophocles. Antigone starts after Oedipus passed away in Colonus. It is a famous tragedy set in the disastrous city of Thebes. Some popular themes featured in the play are male vs. female, family ties vs. civic duty, and morality vs. law.

Antigone and her sister, Ismene, decide to return to Thebes to help their brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. When they arrive at Thebes, the sisters come to know that both brothers have been killed. Eteocles has been given a proper burial, however, Creon refuses to do so for Polynices because he thinks he betrayed the city.  Antigone disobeys the law and buries Polynices anyway, in order to honor her brother and the life he lived. Creon finds out about the illegal burial soon enough, and when he locks Antigone up in a jail cell, she kills herself. The blind prophet Teiresias, Haemon, which is Creon’s son and Antigone’s fiance, and the Chorus beg to release her from prison, without the knowledge that she is already dead. Creon eventually surrenders, only to realize that she has killed herself. At the end of the play, Creon is left sorrowful and lonely, since nobody believed that his actions were justified.

-Nirmeet B.

Antigone is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Who’s heard of Of Mice and Men? I don’t mean the band; I’m talking about the famous John Steinbeck book set in the life of the farmers who worked in California in the 1930s.

If you do of who I’m talking about, and also like Of Mice and Men, then you’re in luck. John Steinbeck wrote multiple books about people living in California including one of my personal favorites, Cannery Row.
This book is about the life of the people who lived along the streets of Cannery Row in Monterrey: drunks, a famous doctor, the Chinese man who owns a successful grocery store, even the gopher looking for a mate.
Most of the book talks about how each person goes about their life, but the main story is about a humorous group of men who travel from job to job, their plans to throw the famous doctor a party, and what goes wrong.
Along with a simple, no evil guys, slice of life story, there is comedy and a real life example of how people lived in the 1940s after the war. There are also themes of loners, but there is the lesson that someone is always there to support you.
It’s a little hard to read, but I found this book amazing and encourage you to read it.
-Megan V., 9th grade
Cannery Row is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

bookthief_markuszusakThe Book Thief is a truly amazing story by Markus Zusak about a German girl named Liesel Meminger who lived in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Liesel travels to Himmel Street in Molching to meet her new family, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and her will-be best and reliable friend, Rudy Steiner. Liesel also came with a book, A Grave Digger’s Handbook, and Hans decides to teach her how to read and write. After her first book stealing, she feels encouraged to steal more books.

One thing I like about this book is that it is narrated not by person, but by Death. It shows how Death thinks and his thoughts of collecting souls after a person dies. Death talks about his job and all of the colors he sees while picking up souls. He also mentions that he is interested by Liesel. I think that Death also begins to feel remorseful about collecting so many souls during World War II.

What I also like about this book is that the author tells this story in a straight-forward style. I believe it offers true thoughts of the Führer, aka Hitler, from those who didn’t really support him. This also shows the life of a Jew trying to stay alive and hide from the soldiers. There are some sad parts but there are heart-warming moments as well. I recommend this book for 12 years and older. If you choose to read this terrific book, I hope you will greatly enjoy it.

-Samantha S.

The Book Thief is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360.