Sunday, October 7, 2012

I Suppose You Can't Go Home Again To Teenage Cartoons

The Good: Decent voicework, Moments of ideas
The Bad: Surprisingly simplistic, Fairly standard plots, short season
The Basics: With plots that are unsurprising and unsophisticated, Gargoyles seems more like children's fare than even worthwhile for a young adult.

I recall when Gargoyles first began; I was a teenager and I was psyched because it featured the vocal talents of several actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the time, that was enough for me. Now, with Gargoyles - The Complete First Season out on DVD, I've had the opportunity to review the series and see it more objectively.

In ancient times, Gargoyles were fierce warriors who are stone by day and alive at night. In order to protect themselves, the gargoyles have allied themselves with the Scottish King. Thus, they protect the Scots at night and during the day, the Scots make sure nothing happens to them as they hibernate. They are led by Goliath, who is kind and good and has a name. When the Vikings attack, the Scots turn to Goliath and his posse for help.

While the gargoyles experience racism, despite their aid against the vikings, they continue to help the Scots, until one of their own betrays them to the vikings and a spell is put on them, keeping them frozen in stone in the castle they live in. A thousand years later, a billionaire buys the castle to (of course) put it on top of a skyscraper in New York City. Xanatos sees the gargoyles as a way to keep his enemies - corporate and personal - at bay and he works to insure their loyalty. It does not take long before Goliath realizes Xanatos is bad and he finds a new ally to see him through this strange new world he finds himself in.

Gargoyles is fairly violent for an American animated program. The truth is, watching it again it felt more like a cartoon than an animated experience. The show was not terribly violent, despite the number of guns shot and explosions going off. It would easily fit into the appropriate age range of anyone who could stand Power Rangers.

What suffered for me the most as an adult watching this series were the characters. I remember as a younger person Goliath seemed very cool, here he seems just an archetype. Goliath is the heroic leader-type and he does not truly vary from the mold one expects of that type character.

Similarly, Demona and Xanatos are pretty generic villains. Xanatos is simply a collection of all the worst stereotypes of the megalomaniacal billionaire (ironic in a series produced by Disney). He has no traits that make him any more distinctive or unique than others of the same type. Similarly, Demona is just the villainous vixen, the betraying woman who is out to further her own plays while using her femininity to get what she wants.

And on that note, it's germane to note that Gargoyles has the ability to be troubling. Because it seemed so much younger than I remember it being, it's worthwhile to look at the message it sends. Demona is an evil woman, the woman scorned who is jealous, petty and vindictive. There's a great set of stereotypes to pass along to the next generation! And even the stronger female character, Detective Elisa Maza, who forms an alliance with Goliath, is simply the other end of the spectrum. Maza is full of integrity, but pretty much dependent on Goliath for protection throughout this season. Goliath's aid makes her successful. Without him, she has almost nothing.

Perhaps that's not a fair assessment, but it's an accurate one. The characters in Gargoyles are not as vibrant or interesting as one might hope. They certainly are not unique. The cast of characters is rounded out by the brute, the young explorer who gets into mischief and the old, wise man who builds things. In some ways, even their names are not important (they get their names by the end of this Awakenings series).

And it's not like the plot in this first season is terribly compelling; the Gargoyles are cursed, they wake up, they make allies and enemies. It's pretty much a big set-up.

I will say, though, it's fun to hear the voices of actors one respects and with Marina Sirtis voicing Demona and Jonathan Frakes voicing Xanatos, it was enough when I was younger to get me into this. Unfortunately, it's not nearly enough to keep me as an adult.

For other works with Ed Asner, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip


For other television reviews, be sure to visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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