Birthed by the guys responsible for “Ben 10” (a quartet that goes by the mysterious pseudonym Man of Action), “Generator Rex” is a reasonably entertaining animated series pitched well above the heads of the youngest kids, but well-suited to Cartoon Network’s boy-oriented action niche. There’s an obvious wish-fulfillment element welded into the 15-year-old protagonist — who possesses Transformer-like powers — but also a darker, semi-serialized streak that ought to pop with slightly older tykes and even teens inhaling the net’s “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
The series begins five years after a “nanite event” that unleashed monstrous creatures known as E.V.O.’s onto the world. Fortunately, a shadowy group known as Providence has found its own secret weapon: Rex (voiced by Daryl Sabara), a 15-year-old also infused with nanites who can use those powers to bend his limbs into fantastic weapons, enabling him to fight off and even cure the monsters.
The whiz-bang action and towering beasts, however, are also accompanied by darker streaks. Rex has no memory of his past, and longs for a semblance of normalcy, whether it’s meeting girls or just a guy his own age with whom to pal around. And while his keepers at Providence — including the sword-wielding Agent Six, who resembles the lead heavy in “The Matrix” movies — seem intent on preventing E.V.O. destruction, there are hints not all their motives might be in their charge’s best interests.
Those parts are actually pretty fun, but not everything works equally well — the foremost being Rex’s main sidekick, a wisecracking, eyepatch-wearing chimpanzee, which is every bit as stupid as that sounds.
More than anything, this feels like a darker version of the old “Speed Racer” cartoons (which even contained its own comic-relief monkey), with the added benefit of creating a slight unease about the character’s origins and just how noble its other heroes are.
The real test will be whether this kind of traditional animation can interest older kids on a level with the computer-graphic imagery of “Clone Wars,” powering up Cartoon Network in what has become a pitched battle for boys. Given the channel’s questionable reliance on live-action fare, there’s reason to hope that “Rex” has the Rx for success.