By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Had ReBoot: The Guardian Code been titled anything else, this television program would not have been so derided. This series is available to most fans to see on Netflix worldwide. In Canada, YTV has exclusive rights and no firewall can stop crackers to use a VPN service to see the series online. It will soon broadcast on June 4th for those living north of the 49th who do not as technically savvy.
By not making this new chapter part of a much-beloved part of animation history would give this product a better chance for love. Also, the fact this series borrowed a lot from Code Lyoko did not help. This series did not do justice to those who loved ReBoot, the original series, like myself. Nothing is followed up on. A few real-world details connecting the past to modern day are offered, but nothing is said to explain how computer programmers know about the Guardians. This backstory is the only reason I’m going to continue watching.
Some decades have obviously passed. The location of Mainframe is revealed to be located in the basement of a school, and this fact strikes me as odd. I do not expect such a computer system which is home to Bob, Dot and Enzo to exist there. Perhaps the system they discovered is a backup server; the real one is lurking in some forgotten hallway at Electronic Arts Burnaby.
Instead, this series deals with Youtubers, fledgeling programmers and sports jocks. The only good part of the series is with The Sourcerer (Bob Frazer). He sees the real world as withdrawn. Frazer’s cheeky, if not cheesy, performance may well be intentional, just to keep the light-hearted flavour at the forefront than the darkness which looms in the Arrowverse. He looks like he belongs in this series more. His technophobia is his alone, and he believes it can lead to the creation of SkyNet. To paraphrase, He said, “The internet is not safe, it’s vulnerable.”
The Sourcerer wants to bring down all technology and return the world to a state prior to Edison inventing the light bulb.
In another part of the world, teenagers Austin, Tamra, Parker, and Trey are quick to discover a secret room to transform them into Power Rangers (“Activation”). Instead of the heroes from yesteryears entering reality, real life is set to invade the digital realm ala TRON and be the next generation of Guardians. It’s like the original team are no longer needed since they are all version 1.0’s when the Internet was a plaything for government agencies, corporations and academia.
Austin aka Vector is hilarious in saying going into the digital realm is one heck of a crazy virtual reality experience, and I’m wondering who invented the technology to digitize people, consciousness and all, and allow them to fight? The idea has been theorized ever since William Gibson wrote his pioneering work, but to get there is a matter of neurology and wiring the brain to computers. In this series, the back story is far more intriguing. Austin’s father knew about this world, and he created the tech. The lab which burnt down may well harbour the secrets to turn the series around (“Discoveries.”).
This work is easy to over-analyze if we are to assume all programs contain the soul of the programmer who designed them (TRON, Walter Gibbs in conversation with Dillinger). Artificial Intelligence has come a long way since the last century, and V.E.R.A. should have reflected the state of robotics now, with natural sounding speech than stilted. The direction is all wrong. It does not respect the original fan base who has been dying for a continuation ever since that cliffhanger from long ago.
This series is tough to enjoy when the original program always had a jovial tone to it. ReBoot played with pop culture references and enjoyed inserting Easter eggs. It’s premise dealt with how a closed computer system handled foreign threats. BOB is like TRON such that he is a piece of self-regulating code who can deal with them.
This new show establishes that society is interconnected and never explains why we must disconnect from technology by episode ten. When the Wargames perspective abruptly shifts to Saved by the Bell, this work gets confusing. The moments of character study are short. By episode ten (“Mainframe Mayhem”), those characters from the original show are pale shadows of what they became over the years. What happened? Too many questions are raised. Megabyte is a puppet. Just how he became dormant is not explained (yet).
“Crouching Binome, Hidden Virus” saw this master villain transform into a Trojan Horse virus and become an even greater threat. He’s simply out for plain thirsty revenge and not even physically powering down a computer can stop him! Other little problems include noticing digital code should be expressed in hexadecimal if not binary code. Just how Sourcerer can recognize where he is stored should be a result of data mining than searching through code.
Just why Guardian Code was made begs the question of what were the studios thinking? Older fans will not find much to love and the tween market that this series is aiming to please might find some interest. The only redeeming value is that it teaches teamwork. Even though the number of people viewing the original work was in sharp decline to cause the animation’s cancellation, to give the product a proper send off is better than to give this product … a reboot.