Streaming on HBO Max and broadcasting on Cartoon Network
Fortunately, Gremlins can’t be contained to one network. Following its streaming debut, these critters are making their way to others, and the Secrets of the Mogwai will soon be everywhere! I’m surprised there’s no merchandise tie-in to accompany this release.
This prequel to the films has an intriguing origin story. Although it retcons a few details, the changes are unnecessary. The lore revealed in the second film says it all, and I’d prefer the cuddly raccoon to have a different name than go by what’s presented prior. It seems these creatures live in a Fern Gully type of fantasy world, and if it was possible to bring together various franchises into one metaverse, I’d like to see Fantastic Beasts merge with this IP. That’s because the 1920s were ripe with lots of pulp influences, and to carry that to the fore would be terrific, too.
In this world, Sam Wing (Izaac Wang) is an ambitious kid who helps run the medicine shop with his parents. Although they want Grandpa (James Hong) to slow down, he’s doing the opposite! I like how he’s educating the young grandson about the world, and as for what he does later, that’s up to him. When they spot a cat-monkey and help him flee from the clutches of a circus manager, what happens next is more of the stuff of mystery. Riley Greene (Matthew Rhys) is a threat who can easily challenge Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China, and the magic he weaves is evil.
Should he achieve immortality, the world is in trouble, more so than unleashing a horde of reptilian gremlins on the masses! So far, what’s revealed in the four episodes reveal how this bad guy wants to consume this species in his quest to become immortal. Since this series expands the lore that’s largely made up, I have to wonder how the idea to morph a cute and cuddly furry animal to a trickster entity came about.
Given what’s suggested prior, I’m led to believe this critter is from Tibetan folklore, and it’s not connected to the version folklorists recognize from aviation history. Irish author Roald Dahl coined the name we know of today after his experiences with the Royal Air Force. And as for how often they’ve been reinterpreted over the years in this film and others, to nail their true origins requires a lot of research.
Also, in what I heard from the fuzzball, I’m fairly sure he said Ich-ma at first which nobody got, and later switched to identifying himself as Gizmo. Vocal talent A. J. Locascio gives fans the same personality as from the films, and while most of it sounds like gibberish for most ears, Sam understands him!
With name reveals and history in place, what this series brilliantly plays up is the chaos that ensues when that hell-bent goblins manifests. It gleefully recalls what made the first film a dark watch. At the same time, Gizmo manages to keep his cool even when his progeny represent the anthesis. It still leaves me wondering how this is possible unless somewhere in the biological makeup is Jekyll and Hyde science. While I don’t expect this detail to be explained anytime soon, I am left wondering.
Instead, what this series focuses on is the magic. The overall plot pursue what Chinese alchemists seek. They want immortality, and to suggest Green is one of them is a good start. As for how nasty he is, what’s revealed so far barely scratches the surface. It’s a detail not yet rendered and for now, just how evil he can get is not played up in favour for keeping it cute.
What’s presented is more of a coming of age tale with Sam and Gizmo bonding. It’s sweet to see just how close they become. And by the time Joe Dante’s movie takes place, they’re inseparable. That much is known, and as for what gets further revealed in Secrets of the Mogwai isn’t too eye-opening so far. Hopefully, by the next set of episodes, we’ll get more Chinese mystique so that the story can at least differentiate itself from the films.
3½ Stars out of 5