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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Voltron: Legendary Defender is a remake of the 1980s series Voltron and follows the original story fairly closely, telling of a futuristic clash between good and evil over control of a five-part weapon called Voltron. It features exceptional action sequences, well-developed character stories, and the visual polish fans have come to expect from DreamWorks. Expect a lot of fighting, both in air battles (shooting, explosions, crashes) and in some hand-to-hand exchanges (punching, kicking). The show's villains might frighten young and/or sensitive viewers, but the heroes are the essence of regular people inspired to greatness by extraordinary circumstances. There's some bathroom humor (one character is chronically nauseated, and there's some flatulence) and loud disagreements but also many examples of compromise and teamwork.
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What's the story?
VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER is set in a future in which a malevolent force named Emperor Zarkan (voiced by Neil Kaplan) has spent 10,000 years extending his dominance over one planet after another and taking prisoners along the way. When three ne'er-do-well students at a pilot-training facility witness a mysterious event and uncover an even more mysterious lion-shaped spacecraft, they're suddenly drawn into an epic battle against evil. Lance (Jeremy Shada), Hunk (Tyler Labine), and Pidge (Bex Taylor-Klaus) are hardly hero material on their own, but alongside the newly liberated Shiro (Josh Keaton) and brooding Keith (Steven Yeun), they must find their inner strength, locate the four remaining lions, and reassemble Voltron, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Zarkan and save the galaxy.
Is it any good?
This exceptional series gives a DreamWorks makeover to an '80s fan favorite, and the result deserves to draw big crowds. The characters are endearingly imperfect, each arriving on the scene with his unique baggage and quirks but devoted to a common cause that unites them and makes you want to root for them. Pidge's self-consciousness, Hunk's body issues (the moment when he measures his girth against his new "hero" suit is especially quaint), Keith's troubled past -- they're all part of what makes them believable and appealing and what injects some levity into the exchanges between good and evil.
And those exchanges? They're pretty tense. As with most cartoons, you feel fairly confident throughout Voltron: Legendary Defender that the good guys will win the day, but you're never quite sure. The baddies are really bad, and they will stop at nothing to get what they want, whereas the good guys' vulnerability is that they're always concerned for each other. And with the violence that's involved, it's hard to say that this is a great pick for kids, but if yours can handle this kind of tense content, there's a lot to like in how these unlikely heroes conduct themselves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Voltron: Legendary Defender's characters. Are all the good guys likable? What traits do you find unappealing? Is this reflective of the real world? Are people a combination of good and less-good qualities? Does that make relationships and teamwork difficult?
Many of the heroes are inspired by their backgrounds to fight for peace. What experiences in your life continue to guide you today? Which people have played important roles in who you've become?
Is it OK that violence plays a role in these heroes' success? Are there times when physical violence is the only way to resolve conflict, or can we always expect that there's another option?
- Premiere date: June 10, 2016
- Cast: Jeremy Shada, Tyler Labine, Bex Taylor-Klaus
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Kids' Animation
- Topics: Superheroes, Great Boy Role Models, Robots, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Teamwork
- TV rating: NR
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Seal
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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