Adventure Time: Distant Lands- “BMO” Review

It’s hard to believe that Adventure Time premiered a decade ago. At that time, its home channel, Cartoon Network, was in the middle of an ill-advised foray into live action shows, and things were looking grim for cartoon-loving weirdos like me. Fortunately, Adventure Time turned out to be a massive (and influential) hit, which means I get to write a review of a revival miniseries for it instead of Incredible Crew or something.

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I started Adventure Time soon after it began, and it was like nothing I’d seen before. It was witty and imaginative like The Misadventures of Flapjack (which ended that same year and had featured the talents of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward), but was more cute and less grotesque. It had crossover appeal to adults like Spongebob Squarepants (still on the air, somehow), but with character development and deep world building. The show would finally end in 2018, after eight seasons of princesses, chaos gods, and beach-ball riding horses. Ending with a satisfying montage set to the ending theme “Come Along With Me” that showed the various characters continuing their own journeys, I felt like the series ended on a high note.

I was skeptical of Adventure Time coming back as a miniseries of four (apparently stand alone) episodes on the brand newfangled HBO Max service. However, having watched the first episode, I can say that it works.

“BMO” begins with the titular robot (voiced by Niki Yang) on his way to Mars to begin some sort of terraforming mission. Due to the intervention of a small, shape shifting, green robot (whom BMO dubs Olive), our hero crashes onto a space station called The Drift. The Drift is a lawless place, with denizens fighting over the scraps of the decaying station, and BMO decides to become the sheriff, with a skeptical rabbit-girl named Y5 (Glory Curda) as his deputy. The pair (and Olive) set off to save the station, while the mysterious benefactor Hugo (Randall Park) and his henchman Mr. M (Stephen Root) work towards their own goals.

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Y5, adorable new character and comedic foil.

As one of the most consistently funny characters on the series, BMO is a solid choice to star in the debut episode of Distant Lands. BMO’s appeal is due in large part to the voice acting done by Niki Yang, a storyboarder by way of South Korea who gives BMO an earnest inflection that contrasts hilariously with the robot’s flights of fancy. BMO had a few starring roles in the original series, most notably “BMO Alone” and “BMO Noire”, the latter of which also saw the robot taking on the role of a law man, only a hardboiled detective rather than an Old West sheriff.

Production-wise, the episode is solid, with direction by Steven Universe alum Miki Brewster and a script by a team including old Adventure Time hands Adam Muto, Jack Pendaris, and Hanna Nystrom. The voice acting is exceptional as well, with YouTuber Simone Giertz, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Shitty Robots” voicing a BMO knock off named “CGO” in a minor, but very funny, role. The team also uses the setting to its advantage, showcasing highly detailed backgrounds  and action set pieces.

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If you’re looking for the animated equivalent of comfort food (albeit with some relatively dark moments), this is it. There’s nothing really groundbreaking or completely unexpected in “BMO”, but it still works. The other recent animated epilogue miniseries, Steven Universe: Future, was a means to tie up loose plot threads and, more importantly, give the protagonist a chance process the events of the original series. That is not to say that “BMO” is without it’s character beats; Y5 undergoes a character arc, helped in part to the extra long 45-minute run time, and the episode has a rather resonant theme of how societies at large deal with a dying space station/climate change. In the end, with “BMO” you are watching an adventure story starring a silly robot, and quite frankly I (and probably a lot of people) could use something like that right now.