After the entertaining but horrendously executed "Ben 10: Race Against Time", Ben 10: Alien Swarm is a huge improvement. Not only does it boast higher production values and better directing, but it effectively captures both the look and the spirit of the original animated series in live action form. The movie also manages to up the ante on the action, making for a truly epic story but with a couple of flaws.
Set after the events of the "Ben 10: Alien Force" animated series, the movie starts with the main characters Ben, Gwen and Kevin about to bust some illegal dealers who are trying to sell alien nanotechnology. One of those dealers is revealed to be Elena Validus, a childhood friend of Ben and daughter of a disgraced ex-"PLUMBER" Victor Validus. (For those who have not watched the animated series, "PLUMBERS" are an anti-alien defense agency). Now her father has mysteriously gone missing and Elena needs Ben's help. Suddenly the alien technology springs to life and takes the form of a vast mechanical swarm. Following a brief scuffle with the swarm and a short malfunction of Ben's omnitrix, our heroes must uncover a secret alien plot to turn human beings into mindless drones. One lead lies in an old secret involving Victor Validus and Ben's own Grandpa Max.
The underlying mystery subplot blends nicely into the ongoing narrative as Ben, Gwen and Kevin race to stop this evil biomechanical swarm from turning the entire human population into mindless zombies. No doubt a little on the cheesy side, the story fits in well with the feel of the animated TV series while giving the illusion of a Hollywood summer blockbuster.
Although the film sacrifices emotional depth in favor of explosive action, Director Alex Winters spares no expense in those action scenes. The car and motorcycle chase scenes deserve special mention as they look really good, even better than some big budget popcorn flicks. Ben's trademark alien transformations are kept to only 3 scenes thanks to a malfunctioning omnitrix but the fact that those scenes take place at night or under low lighting make the otherwise cheap looking CGI seem a lot better than it actually is.
The character of Ben does undergo a good deal of development throughout the course of the movie while keeping the themes of responsibility and growing up established in the animated series. The cast play their parts very well with only the actress for Gwen looking a little uncomfortable with her role at times.
"Ben 10 Alien Swarm" is not free of a few nitpicks however. The entire first half of the film plays out like a "Goosebumps" movie. Essentially it is "Ben 10 and gang VS mindless mind-controlled zombies". Thankfully the second half picks up the pace. Also, new viewers looking to jump into the Ben 10 storyline and fandom would be left confused by the lack of character introductions and explanation of technical terms as the film zooms from one setting to the next that only a keen follower of the animated series canon would be able to recognize and appreciate fully. An inclusion of a booklet or featurette that introduces the characters and explains "the story so far" would have been a much appreciated addition to this DVD release.
Though a little inaccessible to newcomers, Ben 10 Alien Swarm is an enjoyable action adventure and a faithful adaptation that is sure to satisfy existing fans who were disappointed by the previous live action movie. It is not the best among live action adaptations of animated series, but definitely far from being among the worst.