We all did man, we all did
An accurate assessment. In my humble opinion. Ben 10 is one of the greatest cartoons I've ever watched, up there with the likes of Avatar: the Last Airbender, Teen Titans, and Gravity Falls. It's a gloriously original property that's bursting at the seams with creative ideas (Man of Action is fantastic with this stuff, the same can be said for Generator Rex, another show they helped create, and while I've never watched the Secret Saturdays, what I've seen indicates that it's in much the same boat), to the point where it never really feels stale. There are definitely some bizarre episodes, but there are very few episodes that fail to make an impact one way or the other.
The tone is also the most solid in the whole franchise, in my opinion. It isn't afraid to be silly, but it's mature exactly when it needs to be, it pushes the boundaries a little. Not to mention the moral lessons woven into many of the episodes. There are some genuinely terrifying moments too: freaky clowns is whatever, but the Limax? Yeesh
Ben grows so much throughout the show. He can be selfish, he can be childish, but it's never malicious, and you can tell that he's a hero at heart. Seeing him become that hero is honestly inspiring, and it wouldn't be the same without those bumps in the road.
Not only do you have aliens, but also magic, monsters and metahumans alike - what's not to love? That air of mystery it gave off is honestly amazing.
Not to mention, it also was responsible for one of the best movies that the franchise got: the secret of the omnitrix. It just felt like an extended episode of the show, with the scope broadened, the stakes heightened, and the mythos deepened. Absolutely incredible.
this era also gave us race against time but we don't talk about that
Alien Force... I have mixed feelings on Alien Force. The premise is fantastic. You have an older cast no longer on summer vacation. You have the redemption of Kevin, who's really quite a tragic character, and an alien invasion which is up to these kids to stop. You've got a new look, a new roster, everything. The concept is fun, and fresh.
The execution however, was... lacking.
Most of the aliens in the lineup are pretty awful, either ripping elements wholesale from their predecessors or just not feeling anywhere near as inspired, especially in regards to their designs. Also Alien X is stupidly OP and I hate it. The writing is pretty weak, barring a few standout episodes like Paradox and Alone Together. Season 3 just gives up the status quo completely and awkwardly meanders from story to story before finally wrapping up with a half-baked conclusion.
But that's not the worst of it. No, let's look at our main cast.
Ben, barring a few wobbles and some really cheesy lines early on "tHe OmNiTRiX mAdE mE fEeL sPeCiAL", is pretty great. Yuri Lowenthal works perfectly as a teen Ben voice.
The other two are the problem.
Gwen was utterly butchered as a character. Gone is the firey, smartmouthed redhead who was always the brains to Ben's brawn, because they wanted to make the cast a power trio and Kevin would obviously be the lancer. Gwen does not work as the heart, it's a complete 180 of her character which wasn't given time to play out. Obviously they wouldn't fight as much anymore, but this character just isn't Gwen. Her magic being retconned as alien ancestry is also total bull and undermines one of her greater achievements in the previous show.
But if we're talking about retcons, I haven't even started on Kevin.
Kevin, hoooo boy, where do I even start? I mean, obviously his powers come from alien ancestry, because of course they do, but that's not my main problem. No longer is he a kid who was essentially made unwelcome in his home and maybe even abused for something he had no control over, made angry and bitter at the world, and driven to use his powers for personal gain - a twisted mirror of what Ben might've become if he didn't have strong role models in his life like Grandpa Max. No, now he's just a half-alien who absorbed too much electricity, went mad, accidentally destroyed his house, and ran away because he thought his parents hated him. And this is the more mature show, yeah? Give me a break.
Kevin's redemption arc is so rushed it isn't even funny - they pretty much just let him join the crew at first for mutual benefit and then just because, and he's kind of a jerk but Gwen also suddenly has a crush on him for some reason. Yeah, isn't this the same guy that has attacked you over and over again out of spite? No bad blood at all? Okay, cool.
Also, nitpicky sidenote: one of the half aliens is a pyronite. Y'know, those guys that are constantly on fire? How does that even- how did they- wouldn't the human in that situation just get irreparably burned?
Ignoring that nonsense, the show is harmless. Well, excluding Season 3, that was a disaster no matter how you look at it.
Okay, now we're in for the long haul bois.
Take everything I already said about the previous one. Now make it 10 times worse lol geddit - that's Ultimate Alien.
I cannot describe to you how much I despise this show. I don't hate the reboot, the reboot makes me mildly depressed. THIS makes me angry. This show is what made me realise the franchise had hit rock bottom.
Let me sell it to you this way, I'm going to describe an alien to you:
He's blue and black in coloration, with the omnitrix located on his chest. He isn't particularly strong, but he is very fast, so fast that he's a blur, with fantastic reflexes and agility to boot.
No, I'm not talking about XLR8.
I don't like Fasttrack, in fact, Fasttrack is probably the worst alien in the entire franchise and believe me, Omniverse has some good contenders too. He signifies the beginning of what I like to call "the ripoff era". Sure, Swampfire is basically Wildvine and Heatblast together, and Echo Echo ironically copied Ditto's ability to clone but more OP because one clone dying doesn't kill them all, allowing an endless clone army equipped with sonic screams, good job guys, but this was a time of such creative bankruptcy that it utterly dwarfed these petty attempts.
The aliens produced in this era have nothing of merit, they add nothing to roster other than the simple fact that the roster now has more horribly designed aliens.
Who seriously asked for any of these? Eatle?
Oh wow, he eats stuff, and then he can shoot lasers! I wonder where they got that crazy idea from.
(I'm also convinced that they ripped the idea for the design from one of the NRG concepts, all of which were better than the design we got by the way, but that may just be a coincidence)
The only exception to this was Clockwork, who only exists because their crappy Ben 10,000 needed an alien with time powers to fight Eon and believe me I'll get to Ultimate Ben in a minute
The worst part is that the first half of ultimate alien was a step in the right direction: the andromeda five were all pretty solid. A fairly unique set of powers (excluding AmpFibian because of course we need another electric alien - cool design though), with fairly decent designs across the board? We were getting somewhere. And then just... sigh.
I also have nothing to say in regards to the Ultimate Forms, they're largely lazy OC repaints excluding like 3 of the grand total 8 designs over the entire show (Echo Echo is literally the only one I can stand). They have next to no bearing on the overarching plot (making the distinction between it and Alien Force essentially arbitrary) and aside from selling more toys I start to wonder why they bothered in the first place.
Speaking of, that overarching plot is hardly much to ride home about either. The setup is decent, each episode revolving around a member of the andromeda five was pretty good, and their utter terror in the face of Aggregor leads them to various different extremes, but... when we actually meet him, he's... bland. Bland as wet cardboard. He's about as cookie cutter a villain as you can get. Mustache-twirling, has no real discernible motivation or engaging personality beyond ALL ACCORDING TO KEIKAKU (translator's note: keikaku means plan), and just... sucks. He really isn't that intimidating before or after his super megazord powerup - he was only really scary in any way because of the Jaws effect.
Anyway after he powers up by absorbing and killing the andromeda five (which doesn't last of course because this is the dark and mature show and we can't have permanent character death in our dark and mature show what're you talking about) it just devolves into a massive fetch quest for an alien x baby because they are literal gods and what the hell is this show anymore. So anyway he doesn't succeed obviously because Kevin sacrifices himself kinda by going kevin e monster again like the old show except he might as well have sacrificed himself for real because this looks absolutely awful:
Ben for some reason thinks the only solution is to kill him, his best friend at this point, despite the fact that he has fricken alien x and all he needs to do is get the other key for the ultimatrix from kevin by knocking him out, turn alien x and make those stupid floating heads fix his friend - this is why you don't introduce somebody like alien x into your plot, once it gets past a certain point the annoying hangups become irrelevant because the literal universe is at stake, or one of your best friends, or whatever. It's fricken stupid.
Gwen obviously doesn't agree, and when she stands in his way and says "no, don't kill my boyfriend", he curbstomps her with way big and proceeds to go after him anyway
Which rolls quite nicely into my next point: Ben is a jerk now. Well, he seesaws back and forth, but on this occasion and many others he is. You could empathise with his situation here a bit if you forget alien x exists, but I've got another one for you. It's one of the earliest episodes in the show, like two or three or something.
Julie is playing at this big tennis match and she wants Ben to be there for her because he's her boyfriend and he wants to support her, right? Well, there's some forever knight stuff with a museum kevin's dealing with which is important. But also, a new sumo slammers movie is coming out that Ben really wants to see. What is Ben to do? Go help with the most important thing and apologise to Julie in advance? Love drama naturally spews from that?
No, don't be ridiculous, that would imply Ben is a good person anymore. No, instead he abuses his powers. He turns into Echo Echo, splits into three, and then switches those clones back to Ben again. For some reason they have different aspects of his personality because tropes: the jerky one, the kind/pacifist one, and the... just sorta normal one, okay. As you can imagine, the jerky one goes to Julie's game and ruins it for her, the pacifist goes to help kevin and is no help at all, and the normal one gets to enjoy the sumo slammers movie with no idea that his selfish antics have just screwed up everything.
In the aftermath, Julie is obviously furious with him, and I'm kind of surprised she didn't just break up with him on the spot. No matter how horrid Ben behaved in the original show at times, it was under the assumption that he was a young child saddled with abilities and responsibilities far beyond what most children his age should be expected to cope with. This is not the behaviour of a 16 year old who's supposed to have his act the tiniest bit together. It's downright repulsive.
It genuinely boggles my mind how a character's development can regress to such a degree. People attribute it to Omniverse, but it was already pretty bad before. At least Ben was the tiniest bit likeable in that show, Ultimate Alien just made me want to bash his head in.
I barely remember most of the show beyond the first season, I was basically sleeping through it at that point. There's a few moments I remember like Ben almost committing a not-so-good when the prototype to the Omnitrix, the Unitrix, scanned Gwen's DNA on arrival and switched its appearance to match going by Eunice. That... we don't talk about that.
Most of it was really filler though, including one episode that was literally about garbage. I'm not joking.
Anyway, Ultimate Ben. This was just... Ben being a jerk, the horribly uninspired designs, Fasttrack, the dull plot - the Ultimate Ben episode was the straw that broke the camel's back. It reintroduced Eon, the villain from the direct to dvd flop Race Against Time. It's an objectively terrible movie: the CGI is horrendous, the acting is poor, the script is pretty weak and the villain is generic - but it's nostalgic. I used to watch this stupid thing all the time, and even now it's kind of fun to just watch it ironically and laugh at how stupid it is at times. Certainly was more entertaining than Alien Swarm, which sucked all the charm out of a show that already had less charm than its predecessor.
They retconned Race Against Time out of the canon, and instead had it take place in a similar but different alternate timeline, despite it causing basically no harm to canon. The only things I can really think of are maybe the Plumbers background stuff (which is the fault of Alien Force for retconning it, by the way (you sensing a pattern here?), the original series explicitly established it as an earth-based organisation, probably set up by the government, that also forayed into space at times), the eccentricity of Ben's parents, and Eon being in the watch. Ghostfreak in his true form was also in the watch again as of the end of his story arc and it was never brought up again either, so that last one hardly matters. And then I guess Alien Swarm gets to stay because nanomech carried over (though because whoever wrote that movie didn't know what he was doing nanomech is actually half human and half nanochip). But oh well I guess.
Then Ben 10,000 is there and fighting him and stuff, amazing, except he has the actual worst form I have ever had explained to me: Ultimate Ben.
He can stay as Ben, and look pretty much normal aside from some potential changes to size and inconsistently his shape depending on the form, and switch between and access the powers of any alien at will. He can be any alien he wants, by becoming none of them.
I can't even begin to imagine how one so drastically fails to understand the entire appeal of the show they're writing for, but they did, and it was terrible. So, so terrible. Slow clap.
Anything else... oh yeah, the final storyline. This one was just... so they tried to do PG lovecraft. It didn't work. It was contrived and stupid and the writers obviously didn't understand the sheer potential they were wasting when they started throwing around terms like "reality warping" - just please stop. Please.
And then the show ended and Ben got the new watch.
I can't be bothered to write the Omniverse one yet after spending literally two hours writing this, so I'll get back to you later on that front, but this should be enough to chew on for now