"We Don't Want To Start A War (I Just Want A Hoverboard)"
Nickelodeon U.K. first aired this show across the pond before it was transplanted to its American cable network counterpart, Nick TV, a couple of years ago.
The story is one of three Martian soldiers, elite warriors, who are sent by the Martian leader, Emperor Bog, to conquer Earth. Their names are Do-Wah Diddy, B-Bop A-Luna, and 2-T Fru-T (I guess Martians are named after popular 50's song lyrics?). They have fantastic weapons, and the power to launch into "Butt-Kicking Mode"; a super-attack armored state called "BKM" for short (you'll see them do this at least once in every episode). When the invaders get to Earth, they discover that it's not so bad after all. In fact, it's a great place! Burgers & Fries, great tunes, cool "toys" (like the aforementioned hoverboards), and several good friends, all combine to make them decide not to conquer the planet after all. Yay! Hey, but what about Bog? They can't just tell him they've "quit" his army; he'll have them destroyed, and THEN conquer the Earth anyway. What to do?
The B.U.M.'s set up an elaborate hoax: they will PRETEND to be conquering Earth, and send reports to Bog, complete with simulated videos of the warriors in action: blasting cities to rubble. As long as Bog and his right-hand man, Doctor Damage (pronounced "dah-MAJ" in this show) are tricked into believing that all is under control and going well, there will be no need for reinforcement troops or any other interference. So our heroes are free to do what they want, as long as the keep the deception up. They do this with the aid of their robot dog, conveniently named Dog
In the meantime, a kooky Earthling makes trouble for our heroes: his name is Stoat Muldoon, and he has dubbed himself "Earth's Defender". In the show, he runs a web broadcast where he demonstrates to his fans that he's single-handedly stopping alien hordes from overrunning the planet. Of course, he doesn't really know anything, never actually catches any aliens, or stops anything off-world from happening on our world...he's really comic relief more than anything else. But sometimes he shows up at the wrong moment and the Martians have to deal with him, and then make sure he's none the wiser. Plus, he brings some neat gadgets, a flying van, and an "apprentice" along for the ride
This is a good time to mention something to caregivers reading this review: in the course of the show, Muldoon's website (StoatMuldoon.com) is mentioned often. On the real-world Internet, I would NOT send your kids there. It is NOT an official site of the show. It seems to be a search engine, promoting categories of websites on its main page. The first and foremost group of sites are all online gambling sites, if you can believe. I decided I would NOT share this site with my son, for obvious reasons. Keep the youngsters to the Nick TV site for the show; it's very kid-friendly.
"The Best of the Bad Guys"
Three DVDs are being released simultaneously for this show: "Best of the Bad Guys", "Boyz To Martians", and "Hoverboard Heroes". After thoroughly watching all three discs several times! with my more-than-enthusiastic son, I can say this with surety: For all practical purposes the video quality and audio quality is identical across-the-board, and so are the extras (more on that later).
So, if you are reading all three of my reviews, you will find that this is the only area that is different review-to-review. I won't waste words restating the video and audio and extras. Here, I will diverge only by going over each disc's contents:
Bog's Not So Dumb After All (Parts 1 and 2): This is actually two shows weaved into one (the lack of end credits from the first part and opening credits from the second part account for this disc being 4 minutes shorter than the other two). Aired separately, the second part is named "Bog In Charge". In the combined story, mechanic 2-T has disabled BKM mode in order to upgrade it. At the same time, Bog suspects that he's been deceived, and sends a horde of bad guys to Earth to conquer the planet. The heroes are captured on Bog's ship, the Bog Star, and must escape back to Earth to get the part needed to make BKM work again. Plus, they need to convince Bog that they're really still on his side...
Jax, The Conqueror: An alien despot whom the B.U.M.'s have conquered in their distant past and was exiled by Bog, returns to beg Bog for another chance. Bog gives it to him, and sends him to assist his old adversaries to help conquer the planet Earth. Now our heroes must figure out a way to get rid of him without making Bog suspect anything...
Unfortunately, Universal decided with this release to perform a disservice that happens with most children's show releases on home video: they did NOT release the shows in order. Instead, they grouped them around a common "theme" that someone decided would be more beneficial. I believe that this is so very wrong. Give the kids credit for following story arcs. Give them the benefit of learning about continuity and logic. On this, the "first disc" of the three releases, the first story shows the return of villains the good guys have defeated in the past. Why don't we credit the young viewers with the intelligence to be confused by this move? Why start things mid-stream?
Well, it's not entirely the fault of the producers of these discs, it seems. I haven't seen the entire series, so I am depending on Internet research for this conclusion...but it seems that there is no "pilot" episode that explains everything that came before. The "first" episode aired on Nick TV was "Playback/Payback", which appears in the middle of the "Hoverboard Heroes" disc...and also seems to jump into the middle of the story. If there's an episode that, storyline-wise, comes before that one, it's not on these discs.
The graphics of this CG-based series are good. Bright colors, slick graphics, good lip-synch and other movement. Since the early days of computer-generated kids' fare like "ReBoot", quality has gone up on these types of shows. Series like Beast Wars, Max Steel, Action Man, Heavy Gear, Shadow Raiders, and Voltron: The Third Dimension have utilized this type of animation in the past 7-8 years (coincidentally, since Toy Story was a hit). As time has gone by, what used to be above-average quality has now become the norm.
Similarly, the expectations of DVDs like these are also higher nowadays. A couple of years ago, this release would have been hailed as a super-excellent video presentation. These days, it's more like, "oh, that's nice enough". The graphics are sufficiently eye-catching, and at times (during some action scenes, usually) the effects jump off the screen rather nicely. For that reason I'm rating the video with an Above-Average score. Overall, though, I think that most people who see this will lump it in with similar DVD features, and it won't really stand out from the crowd too much.
Overall, the audio here is suited just fine to the task, but won't knock your socks off. It's pretty simple stereo, without too many tricks, and no real dynamic range. For a modern CGI-based series, I think we could have had much more, even across broadcast channels. This is the sort of show that would benefit from more directional-based use of the channels, even just in 2.0 sound. However, that is no fault of the DVD. It faithfully represents the soundtrack of the series, straightforward though it may be.
This is a good place to mention some of the voices on this show. The same pair that were featured on "Animaniacs" as Yakko and Wakko Warner voices two of the Martians: Jess "Wakko/Do-Wah Diddy" Harnell and Rob "Yakko/2-T Fru-T" Paulsen are reunited here on Butt-Ugly Martians. I must say that their comic timing is as good as ever, standing out even on this action-based show. They are an outstanding pair of voice actors, complimented by the rest of the cast.
Then there's the even more recognizable voice on the show the one that will have you asking, "just who IS that, anyway? I know him!" That is the voice of Stoat Muldoon: it is none other than Robert Stack, known to most adults as Eliot Ness on the original version of the TV Series "The Untouchables", and also famous for parts on films like Airplane! His work stands out here, and is perfectly suited to the character's idiosyncrasies. Congrats to the show's producers for securing such great voice talent on the series.
There are Character profiles of the three main Martian characters: Do-Wah, B-Bop, and 2-T. Unfortunately, it is very general (think "back of a trading card" general), and covers none of the other characters. All others, friend and foe alike, are ignored here. I'm not sure if these are good for anything besides memorizing which Martian is which. Ah, well...there is more character information at the official Nick TV website for the show.
There are two DVD-ROM games on these discs. One is a scrolling shoot-'em-up, in which you travel as one of the Martians (your choice; none seem to have an advantage over the other) on a MAB (a Martian air bike) across a nice background of stars and planets. As you travel left-to-right, asteroids come at you. Contact with them lowers your shield power until you are destroyed. Shooting them and grabbing power-ups will earn your points. From what I see there is only one life and one level; a simple one for the youngsters. The other game resembles a slot machine more than anything else: there are three windows with spinning pictures. A cursor automatically highlights each window in turn, and you press the key to choose when to stop the spinning. The goal is to stop all three with a like picture to earn points. Certain matches are worth more points. The catch is, there's a timer ticking down, and your goal is to make as many points as possible before time runs out. Simple fun, but almost worth more trouble than it takes to load the Interactual player (included on the disc) required for it.
There is a trailer for the DVD "The Mummy: Quest for the Lost Scrolls", a full-length animated feature that is a sort-of sequel to the Brendan Fraser films. Unfortunately, if you use the "Play" (a.k.a., Play All) feature on the disc's main menu, this plays first. At least it's skippable, since you will tire of it on repeat viewings
The biggest disappointment of the extras is that they are identical on all three Butt-Ugly Martians releases done in this wave: "Best of the Bad Guys", "Boyz To Martians", and "Hoverboard Heroes" all feature the same supplements.
The biggest test of any kids' DVD is: "how do the kids like it?" Quite simply, my four-year-old son loves this disc, and the other two releases as well. Since first enjoying these with me, he's asked for them constantly...even at one point requesting to view them instead of a Disney title that was just released!
My view of the show is that it is too routine, using too much formula in its stories. You can always predict certain events will happen. I started to list examples here, but thought better of it: why should I spoil what little suspense the show might contain? But the thing I have to remember is that most successful children's action shows are formulated. Certainly this is true of "classic" kid series like He-Man and Voltron...and don't get me started on the Power Rangers. But I enjoyed all three of those series immensely, both as a younger man and then again these days with my son. Butt-Ugly Martians is no different, and has a lot of cool things going for it.
No, these DVDs won't be for everyone. But, if you have a young boy running around with a love of adventure, this is solidly recommended, especially at a street price around $15. Now, I gotta go load one of these up. My son saw the box on the desk as I write this review, and is asking to watch them again...really!