It’s been a long time since I have seen anything from Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung, and an even longer time since I enjoyed anything from him because I could not stomach Reign: The Conqueror. Fortunately, it seems like Chung may have found his niche in FireBreather, a new Cartoon Network original, and their first movie done completely in CGI. Finding a safe medium between child and adult friendly content, Chung directs his first work capable of airing outside the Adult Swim block and does a relatively good job of such.
Anyone who has seen any of Chung’s previous work would probably agree that he has not been the greatest at storytelling. In his most famous work being the Aeon Flux shorts on MTV’s Liquid Television, followed by the short-lived Aeon Flux series on the same network, one never truly knew what the hell was going on. It was popular because of the insane action and the fact that Aeon Flux probably died more than Kenny form South Park. I have nothing to say about the Reign series other than I am glad I never have to see it again. I guess it was a good thing that with FireBreather, Chung had a comic series to base the plot and character design off of. Duncan Rosenblatt (voiced by Jesse Head) is the child of Margaret Rosenblatt (Dana Delany) and Belloc (Kevin Michael Richardson), a 60-story, 30-ton dragon that is the king of the kaiju. Just to drive that point home, a humorous scene was added where Duncan’s mother tried to explain how he was conceived, much to the chagrin of our hero. The most unique thing here is not our hero being half-human, half-dragon and having to battle monsters dozens of times his size. Cartoon Network already has Ben 10: Ultimate Alien & Sym-Bionic Titan that share similar plot points with this movie. If you go by the surname, Duncan and his mom are Jewish. While I know they exist, I cannot recall the last non-stereotypical Jewish superhero, especially on Cartoon Network (see Minoriteam).
Rounding out the supporting cast we have Ken Rogers (Dante Basco), a geeky kid that becomes Duncan’s friend. Josh Keaton plays Troy Adams, who mainly dislikes Duncan because most everyone else likes him, including his ex-girlfriend Jenna. Jenna Shwartzendruber (Amy Davidson) is the class president / prettiest girl in the school who along with Isabel (Tia Texada) completes the Duncan love triangle. Duncan’s birth ended a war between humans and kaiju sixteen years ago so we have “Blitz” Barnes, a special agent assigned to infiltrate Duncan’s school as a staff member in order to watch over and protect him. In his previous school, Blitz was the principal but chose to be the gym teacher at the current school to take a more “hands on” approach to his job. I cannot help but point out how inappropriately humorous it is that a Jewish kid falls for a German girl considering he is basically a walking oven and gets set on fire more than once.
Visually, I think it would be unfair to compare FireBreather to Hollywood-grade CGI films even though it clearly does look better than some of what has been coming out lately. Story wise, it definitely could have been on the big screen, but do not take that as a big compliment because movies have been hit or miss lately, whether animated or live action. I wish the comic it had been based upon had more issues so that the story could be fleshed out more. Jim Krieg did as much as he could with limited material in writing the script. Also, a lot of the action of the comic was a bit too much for a movie premiering at 7PM on Cartoon Network: I doubt the school bully pulling a gun on Duncan or Belloc impaling another monster would have been allowed by the censors.We do however, get a parkour chase scene which serves no purpose other than establishing that Duncan can breathe fire.
FireBreather was cool, it will make some money off of DVD sales because kids will eat it up. It is short on story but heavy on action and that is all kids care about. The WWII overtones are so subtle that no kid is going to pick up on it and adults are probably going to overlook it, especially since Jenna’s last name is never spoken. I have definitely seen worse movies from Cartoon Network, whether they produced it or not. This was the kickoff for the Thanksgiving weekend block of programming and all things considered, I would call it a success. How it will age is left to be seen as I am sure Cartoon Network will play this movie out quickly. As of the posting of this article, they will be airing it for the third time in as many days. Meanwhile no repeats of Young Justice are scheduled for the entire weekend. Even when they succeed, CN manages to drop the ball.