Slugterra Return of the Elementals is the first feature length movie based on the Disney XD TV series. It’s an epic sci-fi comedy adventure set deep underground, where the ammo’s alive and only the quick survive! Eli Shane is determined to be the greatest slugslinging hero of them all. To do it, he’ll need to collect and train an army of little critters called slugs. When these magical creatures are fired out of a high-powered blaster, they transform into powerful battle beasts! The adventure follows Eli and his team of friends as they challenge their greatest rival yet.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for the pitch meeting when Slugterra was proposed. “We’re going to do an animated feature about a subterranean world with super-powered slugs that kids fire out of Nerf guns!” On the surface, it should not work at all but I actually think it does. I found Slugterra Return of the Elementals to be an extremely entertaining movie and quickly recommended it to my friends with young children.
Slugterra is produced by Nerd Corps Entertainment and has been a part of the Disney XD programming lineup since 2012. Nerd Corps Entertainment is also responsible for the re-release of Max Steel, a few Monster High related movies and quite a few other very successful animated properties. The story and animation in Slugterra are both very well done and designed to keep children’s attention. This is the first feature-length release in the Slugterra series and it does a good job with the added time. The pacing is very smooth, the high and low points are spaced apart very well and, perhaps most importantly, there are plenty of battle sequences to showcase the slugs and the blasters.
Slugterra definitely follows the tradition of Transformers, GI Joe and He-Man and does a great job marketing the slugs, the blasters and the characters to move toys off of shelves. Note that I don’t say that as a criticism. I grew up on those shows and loved every minute of those 30 minute commercials. I also have to admit to immediately searching for Slugterra action figures to add to my personal collection as soon as the movie ended.
Slugterra: Return of the Elementals is a standard heroes versus villains battle. It isn’t really clear what Dr. Blakk and Goon would do if they succeed, but the same could be said for Megatron, Skeletor and Cobra Commander. The villains basically exist just to create an obstacle for the heroes to overcome. There is also a subplot devoted to teamwork and trust, which, as expected, leads to lessons for the Shane Gang that help them be victorious. It’s not a very layered narrative and the various twists are about as subtle as you’d expect in a movie about shooting super-powered slugs. However, I do think I spotted a subtle nod to Empire Strikes Back in there. So perhaps it’s more layered than I’m giving it credit for being. There’s also a ridiculously amusing battle montage that rivals most of the movies I remember from the 1980s. Overall, it’s a very fun 60 minutes of action, adventure, life lessons and a lot of comic relief (including the obligatory fart joke). Nerd Corps are aware of its target audience and it gives them exactly what they want.