One of the coolest things we saw at New York Comic Con this year was a big-screen presentation of the new Cartoon Network original movie Firebreather, based on the comic book series by of Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn.
Like the comics, the movie finds teenage Duncan Rosenblatt arriving at a new school and struggling to find his place in the social pecking order. And like many comic book teens, Duncan's struggle is complicated by the fact that he ain't exactly normal. In fact, And, his gym teacher is a government operative tasked with keeping tabs on him.
Duncan quickly falls in with the other outsiders - the Kaiju-obsessed Isabel and the Isabel-obsessed Kenny – and against the school's lead bully Troy. And, of course, he's smitten with Jenna who Troy used to date.
If all that wasn't enough, things really go wrong for Duncan when his father shows up to crash a Friday night party – his father being Belloc, a big bad Kaiju monster that could go toe-to-toe with Godzilla himself. Did we mention that Duncan's life is complicated by being half-Kaiju? Unlike Duncan's mother Margaret, who just wants a normal human life for her son, Belloc is out to wake the sleeping dragon in the boy so he can rule the Kaiju underworld.
Cartoon Network's resulting movie is a pretty sweet blend of "Can't Hardly Wait" (with the good guy struggling to get the popular girl to notice him) and "Destroy All Monsters" (with the kick-ass Kaiju battles).
Not surprisingly, the movie works best during the massive set pieces. The numerous Kaiju battle scenes are impressively rendered. Especially cool is Belloc, who constantly morphs from a bipedal character out of a Toho film, to a slithering serpent. His face occasionally takes on a human-like appearance that evokes his "Fin Fang Foom" roots.
The government operative/gym coach Barnes commands a high-tech monster containment squad that brings some heavy, sci-fi artillery to bear in the fight against Belloc and the other monsters.
And, of course, with his back to the wall Duncan discovers there's more to his Kaiju heritage than orange skin. His newly emerging powers manifest themselves spectacularly on the small screen.
The visuals on the smaller moments of the movie are somewhat distracting as the characters sometimes have a puppet-like appearance, but the heart brought forth by Jim Kreig's script and the film's excellent voice cast is in full effect.
Directed by Peter Chung in CG animation the movie should have no trouble conquering the Ben 10 crowd while older teens will respond to the emotional components of the film, which deal with unrequited love in a John Hughes-esque rectangle between Ducan and his peers. We definitely hope the network makes more of these things because, as a TV franchise, Firebreather gets off to a fireball start!
Watch Firebreather on November 24 at 7pm (6pm CT) on Cartoon Network. Visit the official website for more info.