Sunday, November 11, 2012

Transformers Prime Review

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science-fiction, Drama
Format: CGI animation
Developed by: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Duane Capizzi, Jeff Kline
Executive producer(s): Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jeff Kline
Running time: approx. 21 minutes
Production company(s): Digitalscape, K/O Paper Products, Darby Pop Productions, Hasbro Studios, Polygon Pictures

Let’s get this out of the way right now. It is not blood but Energon that flows through my veins. I AM a Transformers fan! I grew up on the “Robots in Disguise” and have watched each series that followed the original after its original run ended in 1988 in North America. I admit I was unaware of a Japanese series at the time but if I did, you better believe I would’ve been on it. Like a lot of shows from the era of big hair, action films and when MTV used to play music, Transformers is a part of my childhood and I’ll watch the big bots battle it out no matter what series it is. When the original series ended, it was a disappointing time for fans including myself. But that changed when a new breed of Transformers was introduced in 1996 in the form of Beast Wars: Transformers. It was a really cool show though at first I wasn’t too keen on the animal forms and the Maximal and Predacon fractions. However, the show was well scripted enough to keep my interests as well as make tie-ins to the original series.

Transformers Prime is the latest series in the popular franchise. After the success of the video game Transformers: War for Cybertron, Hasbro placed the continuity of the series into that of War for Cybertron's. The dynamic between the kids and the robots is meant to be like “Iron Giant” whereas the movies were about a boy and his car. Digitalscape Company Limited, famous for their work on such titles as Soulcalibur III, Ninja Gaiden, and Dead or Alive Paradise, developed the CGI Animation of Transformers: Prime. Although Digitalscape ran a job fair looking for a talent to work on the production, Polygon Pictures ultimately won. Jose Lopez, character designer, described the animation of the series as "groundbreaking mix of 2D animation and CGI."

The series began with a five-part mini-series that centered on three young humans, Jack Darby, Miko Nakadai, and Rafael Esquivel, who are accidentally caught in the crossfire in a fight between enormous robots that transform into vehicles. They are taken to the Autobot base where Optimus Prime introduces them to his team—Arcee, Ratchet, Bumblebee and Bulkhead and explains to them about Cybetron and their ongoing war against Megatron and his followers the Decepticons. While this is going on, Megatron returns after a three-year long exile with Dark Energon, a substance with the power to bring dead Transformers back to life. His intentions are to raise an undead army to conquer the Autobots. In the final episode of the premiere, the Autobots find and destroy the Space Bridge. The explosion destroys Megatron’s approaching army and Megatron.

In the first season, Starscream takes over as leader of the Decepticons following Megatron’s apparent death. To his annoyance, Megatron is found amongst the debris of the destroyed Space Bridge. He remains in a comatose state throughout much of the season until his return later on where he issues Starscream severe punishment. During his reign, Starscream, as well as the Autobots, searched Earth for ancient relics sent from Cybertron hundreds of years ago. Through the season’s progression, we are introduced to several new characters including the Autobot Wheeljack, the Decepticons Airachnid, Knock Out, and Breakdown, and the human terrorist organization M.E.C.H., led by former US army colonel Leland 'Silas' Bishop. At the end of the season, the Autobots form an uneasy alliance with Megatron when Earth is threatened by the ancient and destructive being Unicron.

Following the events of season one, Optimus Prime reverts back to his pre-Prime state as Orion Pax. Jack and Arcee travel to Cybertron to find the ancient computer Vector Sigma to restore Optimus’s memories and the Matrix of Leadership. The tone for the remainder of the season is the recovery of ancient relics from the Vault of Iacon with the Autobots and Decepticons fighting over each new discovery. New characters introduced in season 2 include the Autobot Smokescreen, the Decepticons Shockwave and Dreadwing, and a swarm of Insecticons.

This series is awesome. I love the darker and more serious tone this show takes on. A lot of “realism” is put into Transformers Prime. Jack, Miko and Rafael have formed strong bonds with the Autobots and, in turn, the Autobots have formed a bond with their human friends. For instance, Bulkhead is severely injured in a fight with an Insecticon for another relic. Miko is deeply saddened by this and climbs onto her friend as he lay unconscious and sits on his chest, vowing to never leave his side. This short scene was really touching as Miko truly cares for Bulkhead and couldn’t stand to see him hurt. There are other emotional moments such as Bumblebee losing his temper after Rafael is injured by Megatron and Arcee crying out in horror as she watches Airachnid torture her partner to death which leaves behind emotional scars. Transformers Prime has a solid storyline. Gone are the “problem of today” episodes of the original, traded for a fluid and well-structured storyline. Beast Wars had this same type of script.

However, the big plus for me is the reunion of the original voice actors for Megatron and Optimus Prime. Hearing Peter Cullen breathe life into the famed Autobot Leader on the small screen again brings back fond memories. The same goes for Frank Welker and his portrayal as the vicious Leader of the Decepticons. It is truly a joy to hear them voice their respective characters 26 years later. In Transformers Prime, Optimus and Megatron are more hardened than they were in the original series. Megatron’s true ruthlessness is brought out in this series as he will destroy any who oppose him including his own warriors. This is apparent in the second season finale when he maliciously shoots his then lieutenant Dreadwing after he refused to follow a direct order. Plus, he has plans that actually work and he does win a few battles. Optimus is still noble and upholds peace wherever possible; however, there are times when he has become frustrated. In the episode “Unicron Rises”, Optimus finally realizes that Decepticons and Autobots will never coexist and comes to the conclusion that the only way to end the war is with Megatron’s destruction. He then begins to mow down Decepticon troops without mercy in his search for their ruler. Another emotional moment is when the Autobots lose the Omega Keys to Starscream. Optimus chases the rogue Decepticon down but he manages to escape through a Ground Bridge. Optimus yells in rage, angry that their only chance to restore Cybertron has been lost.

The first season ended on an impressive note by introducing Unicron. The second season finale played out in epic fashion with a shocking end. Megatron has all four Omega Keys and leads his troops through the Space Bridge to Cybertron to open the Omega Lock after learning its location. With help from Dreadwing who brings them the Forge of Solas Prime, the Autobots set off to stop the Decepticons and acquire the Omega Keys once again. An epic battle ensues with the Autobots utilizing various relics they found in the series first season. After regaining the Omega Keys and decimating Megatron’s army, Optimus leads the Autobots to the Omega Lock. However, their victory is short lived when Soundwave, Starscream and Knockout transport to Cybertron with three captives—Jack, Miko and Rafael. They are forced to relinquish the keys in exchange for their lives. Megatron then forces his enemies to watch as he opens to Omega Lock and target the Earth, threatening to turn the planet into a new Cybertron. Now here’s a throwback to the classic episode “The Ultimate Doom” where Optimus must make a difficult choice. Sacrifice Earth for the sake of Cybertron or doom their home world to save their adopted planet. Not wanting to see the same fate befall the Earth, Optimus destroys the Omega Lock and escapes with his Autobots and the children.

At the Autobot Base, Ratchet is distraught and upset over the destruction of the one thing that can save their planet. During his rant, an emergency call from Agent Fowler alerts the Autobots to the surface. There, they discover the Megatron did succeed in constructing his fortress right next door to the Autobot base. An epic battle erupts. Unfortunately, the Autobots are outnumbered and are forced back inside their base. With a full-scale Decepticon assault outside, there is only one course of action—they must abandon their base. While Agent Fowler and Wheeljack, who heroically shows up to take part in the blazing air battle, deal with the Decepticons, the Autobots make their escape to destinations unknown. Optimus Prime stays behind to ensure his followers are safe. Outside, Wheeljack is shot down by Starscream. Then, the base is destroyed with Optimus still inside. Both of their fates are unknown. The last image of Prime is his hand sticking out from under the rubble of the destroyed base.

I am more than ready to see what is in store for the third season of Transformers Prime. Hopefully there will be more introductions to new characters and, who knows, maybe Sue Blu, who voiced Arcee in the animated movie and the original series, will lend her docile tones to a new character. Maybe another cast member from the original series will join Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. I would like it to be Jazz. What is confirmed for the third season is the return of another familiar character—Predaking. And rumor has it that Soundwave may actually speak. That would be awesome, especially if Frank is behind him. Whatever happens, I will definitely be watching and enjoying Transformers Prime just as I have with the original Transformers series.

Peter Cullen and Frank Welker together again!

Optimus Prime vs Megatron from "Transformers: The Movie"

Transformers Prime Season Finale

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