(Note: This is not a spoiler-free review, but it is a spoiler-light review!)
(EDIT: Due to overwhelming negativity, I am no longer responding to comments on this post. I stand by my assertion that I am an unpaid reviewer. I watched this last week when I was dealing with anxiety, and it made me feel better. If that offends you, feel free to take your opinions elsewhere.)
They say 90s kids are the most nostalgic generation.
I’m inclined to agree. Whether it has to do with fast-growing technology, or the current state of the world, or both, revisiting an old, favorite show can feel like hanging out with an old friend, back from the time before you had grown up bills and not enough hours at your job to cover them, before it seemed like the people in charge of the world were hell-bent on destroying it. The machine of capitalism knows this about us, too – everywhere you go these days, it feels like cheap reboots (har, har) of beloved properties are popping up everywhere. That’s why when ReBoot: The Guardian Code reared it’s head, I was crazy skeptical. Reboot was sort of a product of it’s time, and I couldn’t see it translating very well – and I’d already been burned by terrible reports from the Power Rangers movie.
Despite my cynicism, I’ve been following news of a ReBoot reboot for a long time. I couldn’t help it – as much as the cynical adult in me wanted to scoff, I couldn’t help the burgeoning excitement every time I heard some new snippet of news that one of my favorite childhood cartoons was still alive and kicking. There was never much news – in fact, I feel like The Guardian Code dropped about as unexpectedly as a Five Nights at Freddy’s game – but Bob, Dot, and Enzo were kind of always on the periphery of the eye I kept on the entertainment industry’s attempt to get more of my dollars.
(My format: GUARDIAN. To mend and defend!)
Fortunately, The Guardian Code doesn’t cost anything more than a Netflix subscription. But why should you watch it?
The show starts out with a whole lot of Power Rangers flavor. Four teenagers get a mysterious summons to a high-tech hidden room in their high school from an AI, where they get the power to enter cyberspace to fight the machinations of a villain hilariously named the Sourcerer.
It’s definitely still a kid’s show, which I love. I don’t need a gritty…reboot. (STILL FUNNY.) There are some teen tropes happening with the guys – jock under pressure, nerd who can’t get the girl, leader who’s conflicted about leading. But each character is individual enough to make it interesting, imo. The girls are a little more developed, which is refreshing. There’s the vlogger, who is tough but not a mean girl, and the AI character, who wanders into trope territory occasionally but is too adorable for me to care. She’s sort of a cross between Alpha from Power Rangers and a teenage girl, with precious fashion sense, and the source of a lot of the team’s growth over the course of the short, ten-episode season.
The Return of Old Favorites
One of the things that hooked me immediately was the Sourcerer’s choice of cyberspace allies – old Reboot menace, Megabyte.
This is where the story could have gone off the rails. Reboot was made during a time when 3-D animation wasn’t nearly as common now, and updating the character too much could’ve been damaging. But not only does the character look updated-but-the-same, he sounds the same. I don’t think Timothy Brummund was the original voice of Megabyte, but obvious care was put into creating the same atmosphere. And I won’t spoil anything directly, but some old favorites definitely return with their original voice actors!
There are also a lot of visual references to the old show without making the new one look too dated, and lots of easter eggs for the dedicated fan. During the last episode of season 1 especially I was giddy – there were so many things that twelve year old Em loved that I had forgotten about!
It’s Still Reboot
My biggest concern about The Guardian Code was that it was going to fall in the the Power Rangers trap – i.e. trying too hard to update an IP and ending up losing the flavor of the original. TGC is updated, to be sure, but it has not stopped being Reboot.
The story of TGC is not a remake. It’s a direct sequel – which…sounds strange, for a live action version of an old cartoon that took place entirely inside a computer. There were some missing elements – sadly, my old flame grown-up Enzo was missing, as was AndrAIa, but my memory on how their story ended in the original cartoon is fuzzy – but almost everything else felt like I was wandering in after school to grab a snack and watch my favorite block on Cartoon Network.
It was very obviously crafted with a loving hand in a time when creators will slap an old IP on a lazy product just for a few nostalgia-fueled dollars. If you have time for ten 22-minute episodes, I highly suggest you giving Reboot: The Guardian Code a watch. It’s like getting an old friend back after two decades.