THE ZETA PROJECT: SEASON 1
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Julie Nathanson as ROSALIE “RO” ROWAN
Diedrich Bader as ZETA/ZEE
Michael Rosenbaum as AGENT WEST
Kurtwood Smith as AGENT JAMES BENNETT
Studio: Warner Bros.
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Spun off from “Batman Beyond,” the popular futuristic version of the Dark Knight on Kids WB, “The Zeta Project” tells the story of an assassination robot from the NSA that rejects his programming and decides to no longer kill. He teams up with a spunky teenager named Ro to prove he can live non-violently and to search for his creator.
WHAT I LIKED
Sometimes, Saturday morning cartoons are nothing more than a junk heap of failed concepts thrown on little kids. Other times, the shows can be really quite good. After the Batman movies became box-office successes in the late-80s and early-90s, the Dark Knight saw a rejuvenation in animation. Over the course of the decade, while the movies started to sink, the animated shows (along with many other superhero cartoons) took on a high quality of their own.
While “Batman Beyond” seeded “The Zeta Project,” this new cartoon offered a more mature, higher quality faire than many Saturday morning cartoons of the past. This is actually quite impressive considering that it wasn’t really based on any original source material. Instead, it just used “Batman Beyond” as a launching pad. Although the show only lasted two seasons, it offered a really innovative storyline with a strong action and sci-fi bent.
The grounding plotline of the show is something we’ve seen before in everything from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Star Trek: The Next Generation”: a robot that wants to become more human and to master human emotion. While there’s a bit of cheesiness in the delivery, the character of Zee is relatively well constructed, which is very impressive considering it was for a Saturday morning cartoon.
Most kids may not be familiar with “The Zeta Project” – definitely not as much as they are familiar with the Batman characters, but it’s a great sci-fi show for kids to watch and learn the background of speculative fiction as they grow into adults.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Although “The Zeta Project” was part of what I consider the children’s animation Renaissance that started in the late 1990s, it was still at the early end of this period. Today with the development of hard core comic adaptation and PG-13 superhero DVD flicks, animators are given more chance to stretch into darker territory. Were “The Zeta Project” developed today, it would have had an even richer tapestry due to its underlying dark tones of assassination and human nature.
Don’t get me wrong… I thoroughly enjoyed “The Zeta Project” as a cartoon series. However, I wish it would have had legs that carried it forward into the modern world of cartoons that aren’t always for kids.
The two-disc set contains the first twelve cartoons of the series, comprising its first broadcast season. There are also two bonus “Batman Beyond” episodes, including “Zeta,” which features the character’s first appearance before the spin-off. Also included on the first disc is “The Making of Zeta,” which features the filmmakers discussing how the show was developed, its connection to the Batman characters and how it was geared for a female audience as well as a male one.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
“Batman Beyond” fans and people who like early 2000s animated superhero shows.