Admirable (but not perfect) effort at continuing the legacy
The original "The Mysterious Cities Of Gold" was such a core element of my childhood. Well before I'd ever heard the name "Indiana Jones" it was that series alone that sparked my lifelong love affair with both the treasure hunt genre, as well as ancient mythology. With that in mind, I do not take the task of appraising this sequel to that amazing story lightly.
This long-coming sequel series did a great many things right. First and foremost among them was simply getting made. The first time I ever saw this show, as a boy of maybe 5 or 6, I wanted more. Buried deep within me throughout my teenage years and then adulthood was a forgotten yearning for more of that enthralling story. Now that it has finally arrived, the sense of satisfaction is undeniable. Even with all it's flaws and subtle stylistic incongruities that make it feel like it's skewed just a bit from the story I remember, this new chapter was clearly made with the purest of intentions, by people who respect the original stories and wanted to do it, and it's fans, justice. These diligent efforts have certainly paid off and given us a compelling new story.
But, I feel I would not be doing justice if I didn't also note some of it's more distracting flaws.
First of all, the voice acting was, for the most part very good. The 2 main exceptions being Mendoza and Tao. Tao, in particular, now sounds like a whiny Kath Soucie character. In the original, he always sounded the most mature of the children and this was reflected a lot in his character. He'd grown up alone for many years on an island and this self-sufficience hardened him a lot I think and made him a little wiser in the realities of the world then a typical boy his age. In this series he just seems more like a whiny brat and is a little too trusting for me to mentally associate with the mistrustful hermit boy from the original. This new Tao feels like he was played by an adult actress, whereas in the original, I'd guess he was played by a teenage boy. A similar casting choice in this series would've worked much better.
Mendoza, on the other hand it's not that he was portrayed poorly. It's just that in the original, Mendoza was all man. His voice had hutzpah. He was a strong "don't screw with me"-type leader, the kind of character you'd expect to be played by Brad Pitt or Russel Crowe in a live-action film. This was perfectly encapsulated in the original voice acting. The new voice actor makes a noble attempt, but he's just too vanilla. I have a sense that his voice may actually be deeper then the original Mendoza, but it lacks the fire that the original did; the sense of command and perhaps also the sense of his remarkably quick intelligence. As the principal adult character in the story, the series really needs a strong Mendoza.
Otherwise, the voice casting was marvelous. I especially thought that the recreations of Sancho and Pedro were marvelously loyal to the original characters. And I love Cocoapettal's new cutesy-poo voice! It mightn't sound very parroty, but it is much better then the old-lady-with-hemorrhoids voice he had in the original series.
Another mis-step with this series was that the sci-fi side was a bit overdone in this series. First of all, the Mu bases now have things like holographic control screens & projectors? That is way beyond what we saw of their technology in the original show! I'm not saying it's implausible that they could've been so advanced, but the technology we see in this series is out of step with what was established in the original series. Worst of all, it feels more like these stylistic choices were made with an agenda to impress modern day kids with technology that is way more advanced then what they are used to, rather then having an organic progression of the story.
Also, the sci-fi aspects of this story were far more grandiose, and came far more quickly and easily then they did in the original. How many comparatively primitive machines the kids encounter on their way to the first city of gold? With rare exceptions like the Solaris and the condor, their highlights of their quest comprised of mostly of stone booby-traps and secret doors. It was about halfway through the series before they encountered the "Jade Mask" booby-trap, which was really just an arrangement of many simple stone piston devices. By contrast, only a few episodes in to this series we encounter a gigantic gold room that spins cyclonically and somehow manages to spell out a message in a manner that defies our modern grasp of science.
It's just too much too soon. This series was overloaded with super sci-fi, whereas the original had a wonderfully suspenseful subtlety to it's sci-fi side. Only once we met the Olmecs did that show really show us the true lengths it was going to take us to. The new series burns that suspense out in just a couple hours.
Finally, the "big twist" (if one could call it that) of this show was ridiculously drawn out. From the beginning I had my suspicions. By about halfway through Peking I was in no further doubt. And the series gives you sooo many glaringly obvious hints that there is absolutely zero shock when it is finally revealed. I cannot believe that their carrying this "mystery" over in to the next series. One can only hope that they don't try to keep up the pretense for more then a couple of episodes. It's an appallingly poor "mystery". Admittedly, though, there's a secondary twist that is quite clever and well-managed.
But once again, I really liked this series and I can't wait until they release series 3!
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