So where to begin telling you about Transformers Prime? In less than two short days, many of you will get to experience what I've already watched about a half dozen times. Earlier this week on Monday morning, an unexpected package arrived from The Hub via UPS. I quickly opened up the package and was surprised to see that they had sent me an advance copy of the first two episodes of Transformers Prime.
I quickly got to work writing extremely lengthy and detailed summaries of the first two episodes. I wasn't sure who my review would be competing against so I decided to do summaries instead of a review first in case everyone and their robo-brother did reviews. I figured detailed summaries would be least likely by everyone. My instinct was correct. If you missed the spoilerific summaries I posted earlier this week, you can check them out by clicking on the following links.Summary of Transformers Prime Darkness Rising Part 1Summary of Transformers Prime Darkness Rising Part 2
Much to my surprise, I really liked the show. I'm not sure what I was expecting. To be honest, I've had Transformers Prime on my mind's back burner. I've been so busy with keeping up with galleries on Seibertron.com that I hadn't really given "Prime" much thought other than making sure news was getting posted about it when necessary. Prior to seeing the show, I would never have believed what my reaction would have been. To sum up my thoughts about Transformers Prime, let me put it like this in terms that Seibertronians will understand loud and clear -- "Prime is like the love child of Beast Wars and the Live Action Films". Basically everything I like about both of those series seems to be here, except without the senseless and cheesy humor.
On November 24th, weekly entertainment trade magazine Variety
posted a review of "Transformers Prime". I was hesitant to read what they wrote initially, but after getting through the first paragraph or two I realized that they liked it as well. Their review wasn't quite what I was expecting from a mainstream magazine. I thought for sure that my Transformers warped mind was making me watch the show through rose-colored glasses. Nope -- they liked it and even summed up several of my thoughts.
Variety wrote:As no-brainers go, a Transformers TV show on the Hub -- welding Hasbro's popular toy line into its cable co-venture with Discovery -- ranks down there with making a sequel to the first movie. Yet the product of that assembly line, "Transformers Prime," proves unexpectedly sharp -- better than the movies (admittedly damnation with faint praise), thanks to the arresting CGI animation, which proves especially well-suited to rendering shiny robots and their vehicular alter egos. There's nothing more than meets the eye here, but what does appear is a plenty entertaining addition to this well-oiled moneymaking machine.
Having read such a positive review from Variety
, I felt more encouraged to state how much I liked Transformers Prime. The voice acting is superb, the animation looks incredible and uniquely stylized (even if the human animation models are lacking something), the musical score was beautiful, and the aggressive story below me away.
The first two episodes were serious, sophisticated, rather dark and contained various mature themes -- something I was not expecting at all, especially after the somewhat misleading character trailers that The Hub recently rolled out. This show is definitely not geared toward the younger kids like Transformers Animated was. I don't even know what previous series Transformers Prime is most like. I think I'll need to view a few more episodes to decide. I'll tell you what it's not like ... it doesn't have the kiddie feel to it like Animated, it's extremely coherent and not dumbed-down or poorly dubbed like the Unicron Trilogy, it's not simplified or hyperactive like RID, it's not a whiny complaining misguided hippie like Beast Machines, it's not like Beast Wars despite being the closest thing I could compare Prime to, and it doesn't come across like a toy commercial like G1 does at times (sacrilegious, I know).
Transformers Prime doesn't waste any time. Something major happens in the first third of the first episode that I don't think anyone was expecting. I can't wait to see if the second episode truly ended what happened or if there's more than meets the eye awaiting us. I'm still shocked at what happened, especially in the second episode. Crazy!
Knowing that an army of you Seibertronians will be here on Friday evening posting your reviews in this topic, I'll keep the rest of this review to a minimum. Here are some of my final thoughts that I want to share with you to tide all of you over until Friday afternoon when Transformers Prime debuts.
- It's in widescreen, though (unfortunately) most of us won't get to watch it in widescreen because most of our Cable companies haven't started airing The Hub in HD yet. Here's hoping for a quick release of this show on DVD, or at least when the toys inevitably come out.
- This show has an actual musical score along the lines of the music from the live action Transformers films. It's complex, not repetitive, and it always seems completely appropriate for the scene. Beast Wars suffered greatly in this department whereas it seems to be one of Prime's greatest strengths.
- The voice acting is superb in my book. I was pretty geeked about Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprising their rightful roles as Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively. The rest of the voices seemed appropriately cast. None of the voices seem out-of-place. Everything seems natural. It definitely feels like the animation was done to the voice acting instead of the other way around, which was one of Beast Wars greatest strengths.
- The kids weren't as annoying as I had expected. I'm one of those fans that understands the purpose of having humans in the Transformers cartoons. Without humans, there'd be little point to Transformers being "robots in disguise". They're a necessary evil and, in this case, they're handled fairly well. The show is about the Transformers and not the kids -- there seems to be little confusion about that.
- "Prime" is dark at times -- some themes that might not be appropriate or suitable for young children. They might even be getting away with some of what happened in the first two episodes because what occurred happened to "robots" and not humans and because it's airing on a cable channel half-owned by the same people who own the Transformers (*ahem* that'd be Hasbro folks). If you question whether or not the show is dark, just ask yourself this ... has the word "cadaver" ever been used in an episode of Transformers before?
- The overall mood of the show, or at the very least the first two episodes, is far more serious than we've seen in a long time. I guess this is what makes me keep thinking of Beast Wars. But not all of Beast Wars. Think "The Trigger", "Dark Voyage", "Law of the Jungle", "Other Voices", "Other Visits", and "Code of Hero". Not on an epic scale like Other Voices or a heart-wrenching scale like Code of Hero, but in its own unique way.
- The animation has grown on me. There are some things that I don't like. This might be the show's weakest link and one of its greatest strengths. The backgrounds, the complexity of each scene, the transformations, the alternate modes, and the Transformers robots themselves all look incredible. Yet at the same time, I get this feeling like I'm watching the cut scenes in a video game. Something's not quite right and I can't pinpoint it. For the most part though, the show looks incredible. I really like the overall style of the animation even though I have a few issues with it. It is definitely unique, as unique as the style of Transformers Animated is and the style of the live action Transformers films.
- Speaking of transformations, they're very fluid -- more along the lines of the live action films. To be honest, I really had to think about this because none of the transformations really stood out to me -- but that's actually a good thing because it means they didn't waste a lot of time forcing the transformations upon you. It just happened and the show went on.
- As I've said before, War For Cybertron/Exodus and Transformers Prime are a "forced" continuity meaning that they weren't originally intended to be the same continuity despite what Hasbro tells us. There are a few things that contradict what's already been established in the WFC universe, not to mention a flash back scene in Transformers Prime that uses the Prime animation models and not anything that looks like the WFC designs. I'll consider them the same continuity to humor everyone but they're as forced together as Transformers Cybertron was forced into the Unicron Trilogy.
And now for my thoughts on the characters ...
- Optimus Prime - he's basically the same as his movie counterpart. As much as I love Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, I sometimes feel that he takes the role a little too serious. Everything always seems so epic and heavy with him voicing Optimus. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm just looking for something to complain about like a typical fan boy. Or maybe he does need to loosen up a little bit.
- Megatron - I'm not usually on the Frank Welker-voicing-Megatron bandwagon like many fans are. Every time I've heard him do his "Megatron" voice in recent years, I kind of cringe. His recent Megatron voice is definitely not his G1 Megatron voice, whether it's him or how it's vocoded I don't know. So I was a little reluctant about him reprising the role of Megatron. His voice at the end of the first episode is like his recent Megatron voice that I don't particularly like. However, his voice in the 2nd episode is unlike any other Welker/Megatron voice I've heard before. It's unique to this character and very appropriate. This Megatron is EVIL, a true villain, something that has been missing from Megatron for a very long time. Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between Megatron and Optimus because we rarely get to see Megatron be evil. You do in Transformers Prime and that's why this Megatron has got me wondering if this could be my favorite Megatron since the Beast Wars Megatron.
- Arcee - She's a pretty major character in the first two episodes that gets a lot of screen time. She's the bridge that basically brings the humans into the Transformers storyline. She's a very serious Arcee. This isn't your Headmasters "secretary" Arcee or Susan Blu's Animated Arcee. This is an Arcee with an attitude. Not IDW's Furmanized Arcee, but definitely more of a serious warrior Arcee
- Starscream - not a wuss. Voice is different than previous incarnations. More like the first live action film than the second. It's unique and not the "screaming" high pitched voice either. I wasn't quite sure what to think of it at first. I liked it, but I just kept thinking that it's not a voice for Starscream. I was sold pretty quickly on it when I saw Starscream being a complete badass in the first episode when he does something we haven't seen in a Transformers cartoon in a really long time (if ever). Give this Starscream a chance. He might just give previous Starscream incarnations a run for their money.
- Ratchet - Jeffrey Combs does an incredible job with this really fun character. This might be the best rendition of Ratchet to date. Picture a cross between G1 cartoon, comic, and Transformers Animated Ratchets -- and the best of each to boot. He's not fond of the human kids, has a sense of humor, grumbles, complains, and still gets the job done. I'm rooting for a Starscream versus Ratchet battle, they both might be worthy of revisiting Simon Furman's Marvel Comics battle between these two characters.
- Soundwave - Megatron's here because of him basically, no thanks to Starscream, but we really don't find out too much about him. We don't even really hear him speak, he just plays back a recording of something Arcee said. Hopefully he's more than just a drone.
- Bumblebee - more-or-less like his movie counterpart with some added bits from his Animated self. He can't talk, which is one of my few complaints about the show, especially with no explanation about why he can't speak other than via beeps and boops, which Raf can oddly understand. He surprisingly didn't get as much screen time as Arcee did, which I thought was a little odd. I'm sure he'll get his moment in the spotlight in the near future though.
- Bulkhead - basically like his Animated character, but without the goofy clumsiness. All muscle it seems. Voice is similar but different. Lots of fun potential with him. Minimal screen time but enough to get a taste of him.
- Cliffjumper - seems like a cool character. Not sure that they needed to bring in a Hollywood name to do his voice. His design is one of my favorites in this show. Definitely a risk taker. He was portrayed very well in IDW's Transformers Prime comic and his characterization carried over to the cartoon show.
"Transformers Prime" Production Credits:
Produced By Hasbro Studios
Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jeff Kline are executive producers. Kurtzman and Orci served as co-writers of the feature films "Transformers," "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Star Trek." Kline was also executive producer of the animated series "Jackie Chan Adventures."
Optimus Prime - Peter Cullen
Arcee - Sumalee Montano
Ratchet - Jeffrey Combs
Bulkhead - Kevin Michael Richardson
Megatron - Frank Welker
Jack - Josh Keaton
Miko - Tania Gunadi
Raf - Andy Pessoa
Starscream - Steve Blum
Agent Fowler - Ernie Hudson
June Darby - Markie Post
Well, that's it for me for tonight. Please make sure you stop by to share your thoughts after you watch Transformers Prime. I look forward to hearing what other Seibertronians think of this show.