BEAST WARS SUCKS but does #Transformers Prime suck too? (Read on!)

[SPOILER ALERT!] If you haven’t watched the five part Transformers: Prime story “Darkness Rising” and you happen to be into the whole robots in disguise thing, well, you may not want to read this yet.   Plot points will be discussed that can be considered all spoilery and stuff.  Consider yourself warned.

Here we go.

According to Google Analytics, my blog attracts a decent amount of traffic from people who read my posts about conventions, food, travelling and other nick nacks of personal knowledge. The one topic that seems to work as a lightning rod to attract a pretty hefty number of clicks, though, is the fictional(?) war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons.

That’s right: I’m a Transformers geek.

My friend Joey Snackpants (and occasional guest host Tentacle Chris) and I present the (in)famous event “DARE! The Transformers Panel Ultimate” at a number of popular fan conventions. Thus, I try to stay up to date on the new shows that get churned out every couple of years.

This time around, Hasbro hooked up with The Discovery Channel to create a new cable station called “The Hub“. In a move reminiscent of the UPN/Star Trek: Voyager days – Hasbro took their flagship property and created an exclusive new show for their new television station:

Here, in no particular order, are the elements I took note of while watching the show. In true Interwebz fashion, I’ve labelled each with a “WIN,” “FAIL,” or “HUH?”. (The last one being not a good or bad observation; just an observation of interest.)

[WIN] THE WRITING
In the “DARE!” panel, we often remind some of the more ravenous fanboys that they remember their beloved childhood cartoons through rose colored glasses. The Autobots were the good guys; the Decepticons were the bad guys; and much of the story was guilty pleasure flavored cheese. There’s nothing wrong with that. Good cheesy writing is still good writing – just don’t look too deep for any substance beyond what’s there. Regardless of what a bunch of thirty-something year olds would have you believe, Transformers is a designed to be a kid’s cartoon.

That’s okay, though, because I love watching it with my “kid glasses” on.

In the original series, Spike and his dad were befriended by Optimus and the Autobots during a Decepticon attack in the ocean where they swam to safety. That’s right: Optimus Prime could swim. And surf.

But I digress… In Transformers: Prime, the writers did a great job of justifying story elements instead of just making them happen. How do the Autobots get saddled with three kids? The Decepticon drones see anyone allied with the ‘Bots as a potential threat who must be exterminated; they’re not in the business of trying to distinguish between robot and human for the sake of saving the human race. They’re the bad guys. (Duh!) Thus Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee are assigned to protect the children who are now in harm’s way BECAUSE of the Autobots.

Kudos to the writing team.

[WIN] THE DIALOG
The best writing for children’s entertainment effectively balances storytelling that also caters to adults who are watching along. Just ask Pixar.

The dialog in the show is clever in two fronts. FIRST: There are lines that refer to adult topics and pop culture elements that kids might miss.

The first rule about robot fight club is that you don’t talk about robot fight club -Jack Darby

The series is peppered with a number of little nuggets thrown in there from time to time. Ten year olds aren’t going to necessarily giggle at the quote’s reference to a violent film about multiple personalities and soap – but parents and thirty-something year old fanboys will.

Writing bonus points go out, too, for the chuckle-worthy use of “scrap” as a Transformers swear word.

SECOND: There is a lot of fanboy placation going on in the show. Transformers Animated did this, too, but Transformers: Prime gets to do it with heavier guns in the form of the voice actors.

One shall stand. One shall fall. -Optimus Prime

Nope, I’m note quoting the awesometastic eighties cartoon movie; nor and I referencing Bayformers. That’s a quote from the fifth episode of Transformers: Prime.

[WIN, WIN and (did I mention?) WIN] THE VOICES
Peter Cullen is Optimus Prime.

Frank Welker is Megatron.

AND THEY BOTH SOUND AMAZING. Mr. Cullen could read a phone book with that intimidating bass in his voice and I am pretty sure he would keep a packed room captivated.

The other performances are all solid, too. Special kudos should go out to Steve Blum for creating an effective combination in the whiny/devious tone of Starscream’s performance.

Which leads me to:

[WIN] CLIFFJUMPER
Cliffjumper was only in the first couple of episodes, but he SOUNDED familiar. By the end of the five part mini-series though, I was still on a Cullen/Welker high so I never noticed who did the voice acting.

Once I looked it up, it all made sense: the grabbing of the horns comments; the bravado of a man ready for a fight; the sheer personality just oozing out of the larger than life attitude.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the voice of Cliffjumper. Old school wrestling fans who watch the episodes should enjoy remembering The Rock’s logo and the connection to the character.  Check out the tattoo on his arm:

[HUH?] BUMBLEBEE
When did Bumblebee become the astromech droid of the Transformers universe? I’m not to sure how I feel about the beeping voice thingy they are doing with him.

[FAIL... MOSTLY] ANIMATION
In a sure sign that age is catching up with me, I really miss old fashion animation. Transformers: Prime would have, in my opinion, been better if it were a cartoon. Instead, the powers that be opted to go with computer animation.

The problem with computer animation in today’s age is that George Lucas put his McMillions of dollars into making Star Wars: The Clones Wars on Cartoon Network. That series is REALLY REALLY PRETTY and, as a result, any CGI television show is immediately going to be compared to it.

The animation in Transformers: Prime really bothered me for the first two episodes. By the third, though, I no longer noticed it. I became used to it.

Being used to something and liking something, though, are two different things. To the show’s credit the animation is watchable and has some great looking moments (usually NOT involving the human characters) Also, it’s nowhere near the level of headache inducing visuals that Beast Wars was.

Beast Wars sucks -Tom Croom

Just a reminder.

With that all said, I understand why it’s computer animated.  It makes the robots looks cool; kids today, they love the computer animated stuff; and it links the series closer to the look of the Bayformers movie. There’s some solid work in the character design. This old man just misses his childhood cartoons that were “cartoons”.

[HUH?] THE AUTOBOT BASE
I like the moving of the Autobots away from Detroit (one of less than stellar decisions in Transformers: Animated) and into Arizona. That said, how the hell did they score Airwolf‘s old hiding spot?

I’ll be watching for a heavily armed black helicopter to appear in future episodes. Cool points shall be earned by the production staff if the damn thing turns into a robot.

[WIN] NO ORIGIN STORY
If you’ve ever talked to my pal Joey Snackpants about the LONG list of things that annoy him in storytelling then you know that one of the main elements of his frustration is the constant need for writers to feel like they are required to feed an audience an origin story. How many different ways do you need hear about how Batman became Batman? With comics, cartoons and movies the tale has been told a dozen times.

If you don’t it know by now, reference one of the numerous previous works to learn the story.

Transformers: Prime immediately passes go and collects the $200. How did the Autobots get stuck on Earth in Transformers: Prime? WHO CARES? We’re never told. We don’t need to know. We’re told only what is required to move the story forward:
-There are only a few Autobots on Earth.
-The Decepticons have been off the radar for a few years.
-The government knows about the Transformers.

No long, drawn out episodes retelling the story; just smart dialog and scenes to move the narrative along while educating the viewer about the mythology. Great move.

[WIN] MEGATRON’S GUN
For those of you that have been to a “DARE!” panel you know that my number one complaint that could have EASILY been fixed in the Michael Bay versions of Transformers was the lack of a B.F.G. on Megatron’s arm.

How hard would it have been to just slap a giant gun on top of Megatron’s space jet mode? I, mean, it’s an alien vehicle so it could look like anything -me bitching during DARE! The Transformers Panel Ultimate

I think someone from the Transformers: Prime production team must have sat in one of the panels.

MEGATRON HAS A BIG F***ING GUN ON THE TOP OF HIS JET MODE THAT RESTS ON HIS ARM IN ROBOT MODE IN TRANSFORMERS: PRIME.

Pay attention, Mr. Bay. You could learn from this show.

[HUH?] BATTLESTAR DECEPTICONS
So, if the Decepticon drones are Cylons – does this mean we get a hot blonde character and Al from Quantum Leap in later episodes?

In case you missed it, look at the the Decepticon drone’s faces and look at the modern Battlestar Galactica series. This is either a clever nod to a fellow science fiction franchise or just the lazy borrowing of another show’s character design. I’d prefer to think it’s the first one.

[HUH?] EVA UNIT 01
Since we’re on the topic of character design – is it me, or does Soundwave look like a mech from Neon Genesis Evangelion?

[HUH?] DECEPTICON ZOMBIES
“The Simpsons Already Did It.”

Okay – not the Simpsons, but the Decepticons have created a zombie army before. In Transformers: Masterforce (never aired in America) the ‘Cons reanimated a bunch of human corpses as a makeshift army in their unending need to wreak havoc on Earth. The zombies all wore Decepticon logo t-shirts. I’ve joked for YEARS about doing an obscure costume of this at a convention.  My friend Lyn beat me to it and recently wore the shirt for our “DARE!” panel at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2010.

So it seems that the Transformers are jumping on the zombie bandwagon, too. I’ll keep an eye out for the episode titled “The Walking Robotic Dead” to air on AMC.

[CONCLUSION]

This could very well be the best Transformers series to get churned out of the Hasbo universe since G1. It’s following all the elements of the formula that worked in the eighties:
-The Autobots are the good guys.
-The Decepticons are the bad guys.
-Optimus Prime is the leader (and not working on some scavenger ship or something.)
-Peter Cullen and Frank Welker are the voices.
-The robots turn into cars and planes and stuff and they’re IN DISGUISE.

I’ll be tuning back in to The Hub in February. Let’s hope the series stays as good as these first five episodes.

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17 Responses

  1. Mike and Ike says:

    Actually, it’s just Ike.

    Gotta agree with everythin’ ya said (Didn’t recognize The Rock at all. That’s pretty cool) However, also gotta give massive shout outs ta the producers for castin’ Jeffrey Coombs as Ratchet. Coombs, if ya don’t know, played Herbert West in the best horror comedy of the 80′s Re-Animator, as well as many characters in several of the Star Trek series.’

    Also didn’t know that Hasbro’s behind Hub (I give ‘em points for bringin’ back Batman (Adam West) and Fraggle Rock (Yay)

    Nice review, man

  2. I’d like to think of it as gentle blend of G1, Beast Wars, and the TF movies, except it’s actually good.

    It automatically scores big points for the including Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. The pluses come with Steve Blum and The Rock (which is WAS REALLY FREAKING DOPE).

    I didn’t think Beast Wars SUCKED, but the animation for “Prime” is significantly better than Beast Wars.

    You’re spot on about Soundwave, and to add on to that, does it seem like he’s even more empty as a character? If he wasn’t an “uncrazinatic bore” before, he definitely is now.

    Anyhoo, dig the review, and I hope that this show gets the ratings and the money to continue to produce this show.

  3. Wetodded says:

    Glad u liked the show, I did too. Your use of “huh” just to make a comment is a little confusing tho. Looking fwd to more of the show in Feb.

  4. Igasu says:

    Nice review, although I have a deep love for Beast Wars. Especially the last few seasons of Beast Wars. It really shined. I dont think the animation is bad but I think it is only as good as it can be. I also hated the fact that Bumblebee could not talk. It was obviously done because Michael Bay’s Transformers are more well known and thus wee get a mute Bumblebee….(sigh)

  5. Ittousagi says:

    I’d really have to watch it again to get a better feel for it, but Transformers Prime seemed to me to start out much better than it finished, diminishing in quality with each episode.

    The animation is passable, being the first real storytelling effort from a primarily video-game-making studio; lacking more on the human applications than the robots (which is naturally to be expected). The character designs were okay, being more the inexplicable unnecessarily jagged messes of the Bay films than the simplified bodyboxes of the 80s’ Sunbow production, but lacking the cool styling (though distorted by bending lines) of Transformers Animated. Say what you will about Beast Wars/Machines, but their animated designs probably came closest to the toys’ actual designs of all the Transformers’ incarnations.

    On a similar note, BW/M animation became more effectively cinematic than what Prime devolved to; Prime’s fifth episode just kept pushing forward, trying to spout out what was left of its story in as choppy and spastic a pace as possible.

    The dialog followed a similar pattern to that of the animation, starting out with fairly decent storytelling in the first episode, and then devolving into a real mess by the fifth. The fifth episode’s dialog pacing was even worse than its animation/cinematography, forcing in the “clever” fanboy-placating eye-winkers “One shall stand;one shall fall” and “light our darkest hour”, among others, in between Yu-gi-oh-grade posturing and unnecessary exposition; none of which adds the emotional and character depth it seems to intend.

    The voice acting is fine, but I worship neither the Cullen-Welker dichotomy, nor the sparkle of celebrity for TF voice work; it’s better if they lose themselves in the character, so that the voice becomes the character — not the actor. One voice I didn’t like in particular was Keyop/Copper Kid Bumblebee; there was no explicable reason for the voice other than to pander to film fans — it stole from the effectiveness of the character in the show.

    Speaking of characters, they really needed to take a touch more time to provide a true depth to the characters; to make us care about the characters should have been their aim.

    In all, Transformers Prime (along with GIJoe Renegades) is probably one of the biggest examples of Hasbro’s money-grabbing toy advertising, premiering appropriately on Hasbro’s own Hub network. Both shows suffer from lack of quality development in exchange for timeliness, but Transformers Prime suffered more from its 5-part premiere strategy, seemingly spending their best material in the earlier episodes, petering out in the fifth.

    The show could have potential once it gets into full series mode, and the production crew learns to balance their work out and start making a quality show. But, like I said, I probably should re-watch the show myself to be able to give it a better assessment.

  6. Wow… I don’t think I could be any more ambivalent about watching this show than I am now.

    Though I haven’t watched Masterforce or any of the Japanese Beast Wars junk either… so I should be able to survive not seeing this either.

    If we get the ‘Hub’, I’ll watch it, but I’m not going out of my way for this…

    I remember you liked that Transformers: ANIMATED crap too.

  7. Jason says:

    Before I begin, I should preface this a little.

    (When I wrote that sentence 2 hours ago, I intended this to be a quick introduction to my experiences of Transformers as I grew up. Now it’s an essay in and of itself. I feel like I’ve just seen a therapist.)

    I was, I guess, something of a spoiled kid growing up. If I wanted a toy, inevitably I’d probably get it. Whether it was a present, or a layby at a store, or I bought it myself (rare!), I was generally a good kid, so I eventually ended up with whatever I was after.

    I took a shine to the original Transformers line in 85. There’s an old bag in my old room at my parents’ house somewhere with a ton of old 80′s Transformers in it. I didn’t get a lot of the main figures as they were pretty pricey, but I ended up with the leaders of course and a few of the other main characters. The fact that the toys looked so different to the cartoon bothered me a little, but I didn’t think too hard about it.

    I’m not sure if I outgrew the 80s toy line or if it left me behind. After the movie I think I lost a bit of interest in the toyline as the vehicle modes became less realistic for life in disguise on earth. There were still a few characters I went for, but in the end I didn’t get many of the post-movie toyline.

    As far as I can tell, the Generation 2 toyline either never took off or was just never released in Australia. The last time I was really excited about Transformers as a kid was when there was wave after wave of Micromasters coming out. Looking back on that now, I see that they were just a response to the success of Micro Machines, but still … you got FOUR transformers at a time!

    After Micromasters, I lost interest in the larger toyline as it diverged into Pretenders, Action Masters and a bunch of other things that weren’t Transformers.

    And so, around 1990, the dark ages began for me.

    Beast Wars might well suck, Tom – I don’t know though, I didn’t watch it. Transformers were robots in disguise. You can’t disguise a robot as an animal, and Beast wars lacked the coolness of toy cars. It wasn’t the Transformers I was used to, and my interest waned.

    I was interested in Beast Machines because of the production side of things (Mainframe), but I only ever read about the plots and never actually watched an episode.

    In the first few years of the 00s, I was working at a production company which had some dealings with the Australian DVD distributor/production house, Madman. The G1 DVDs seemed to do pretty well at Australian retail. I think they reawakened the memory of Transformers in many fans’ minds from their childhood.

    I jokingly asked our guys who went for meetings at Madman to bring me back some Transformers DVDs. Suprisingly, and happily, they did.

    Suddenly everything started to snowball. I became aware of the huge online presence of Transformers fans that I hadn’t been privy to before. I joined in a little on the boards but generally kept to myself as I hadn’t kept up with the franchise for years, and still held onto fond memories of the G1 cartoon (even if I found the toys a bit clunky).

    Dreamwave’s comics were, for me, nothing short of mind-blowing. The quality of the artwork was an eye-opener and I felt like I was watching new episodes of my favourite cartoon from my childhood, only transplanted a few years forward in time so as to remain current. I eagerly collected all of the Transformers comics they put out. Until…

    … no, not until they folded. Until Micromasters, the comic featuring those little Transformers I’d snatched up so eagerly in the final years of my childhood obsession with the toys. I read the first issue of that comic, realised I had NO idea who any of the characters were, and didn’t care. I didn’t buy any of the other issues in that series, and I was a little more careful after that. I needn’t have bothered, as Dreamwave folded pretty soon after that anyway.

    While the Dreamwave comics were going on, I was also hitting up some Transformers auctions on Ebay, finding some awesome toys coming out of Japan – mainly the WST, Binaltech and Masterpiece series. I had a seller I’d usually go to who gave me a good price on the toys I wanted, and shipped them to me in Australia at pretty cheap rates.

    My desk filled up with Binaltechs as the series developed. I loved the extra detail and the fact that they were doing the fans a service by reusing the names and likenesses of some old characters.

    It was about that time I noticed Armada. I watched a couple of episodes of it, but decided it wasn’t for me – I didn’t think the animation was very good, and the plots seemed a bit too simple. So, I stayed with the Japanese imports. That worked pretty well for me, until Unicron came out. Finally, the planet killer from the movie was available (I’d heard rumours of a very exclusive, impossible-to-get Unicron toy in the 80s so was happy to finally own the destroyer). To this day, he’s the only Armada figure I own.

    The presence of Unicron in Armada was enough to pique my interest in the plot, although I never bothered to watch any of the episodes after the first few I’d tried. I mostly kept up with the plotlines through reading about it online, and ultimately felt that while I didn’t like the way Armada ended the Unicron story, I also wasn’t really the target audience. I’m sure plenty of kids out there liked it.

    Energon was a little different though. For the first time in years I was actually paying attention to the Transformers franchise as a new series was emerging. I was intrigued by the animation style of the show, as it seemed the models were pretty much based on the toys. This meant that the toys looked a lot like what you saw on screen on the show. Unfortunately it also meant the characters on screen moved like the toys, and on the balance I found the whole animation style pretty clunky and unfulfiling. I also found the plot got pretty confusing pretty quickly, with characters getting new bodies and the plot just generally becoming repetitive. I collected a few of the toys (Energon Starscren is awesome, and Rodimus is ok, Megatron’s Galvatron homage looks pretty good but is ultimately a bit disappointing), but generally still kept my distance.

    Cybertron (Galaxy Force) was a bit different. I dedided to try and keep up with this series through fansubs as it went to air in Japan. It was a fun show, but ultimately I found it confusing and I lost interest about halfway through. I don’t have any Cybertron toys, but I do have the Transformers Hybrid Style Galaxy Force Optimus Prime (thats a mouthful!). It’s in the box though, which I think might be the best way to appreciate that incarnation of Optimus.

    And there’s the Bayverse. It wasn’t until about halfway through the first movie that I could settle down and get to grips with it – I just found the robot designs too distracting. Ok, I’ll just come out and say it – I hate the movie bot designs. They’re too complicated, and I think the toys have too much kibble as a result (which I will admit is funny, coming from collecting Binaltech toys). It’s a design decision I’ve come to accept, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

    After the first Bay movie, I saw some pictures of the Animated character designs come out. This was long before the cartoon. They looked – and I can’t emphasise this enough – TERRIBLE. I was never a fan of the thick-black-outline design of a lot of Cartoon Network shows, and I didn’t see how this could be anything other than a disaster.

    How wrong I was.

    Despite my misgivings, I started watching Animated, and I fell in love. Maybe it was an extreme overreaction to the bot design of the Bay movies, but here was a Transformers cartoon that didn’t try to make the characters look alien, and seeing those thick-black-outline characters MOVE on screen was enough to convince me that the design and what’s come to be known as the “Animated style” was cool.

    When I saw the toyline and saw how much the toys looked like the characters in the show, my head nearly exploded. I started looking at the first wave of figures that came out, and noticed just how freaking awesome the Starscream figure looked. It didn’t matter that his hand fell off or that he had a barely visible Decepticon insignia – this was a legitmate mass-market Transformers toy that you could pose! And the sneer on his face only added to the possibilities.

    Animated Starscream took pride of place on my desk, and I started looking out for other figures.

    By the time most of the main wave of Animated finally came out, I was living in Singapore. You have to understand, it’s a different atmosphere there for toy collectors there. You have options, different shops that get different figures from different sources and charge you different prices for them all. There are even some department stores that get Takara’s rereleases, Binaltechs, Masterpieces and everything else inbetween. Before I knew it, I had a fair few Animated characters populating my desk. Before I would leave Singapore and move back to Australia, I’d give in to my love for the cartoon and chase down almost every character I could. I’m still hunting Arcee and Rodimus though, as they’re both rare in the first place AND they came out after I moved back to Australia.

    Revenge of the Fallen was terrible. Not just from a plot-and-plotholes perspective, not just from a character design perspective (I hate Bay bots, remember?), but mainly because I could see the writing on the wall – it meant the end of Animated.

    In retrospect, I can understand why Animated figures seemed not to sell very well. There were a few fairly dud characters in terms of being underdeveloped in the show, so obviously noone wants them. Oil Slick never even made it into the show when he was first released, so I thought he was a strange toy to put out at the time.
    There’s also the commercial reality that the character designs for Animated were so distinctive that it meant the moulds couldn’t really be reused for new characters (as all Transformers fans know, *sigh* repaints!). Having said that, I really appreciated the way they tried to justify some of the toys in the cartoon — purple Shockwave, anyone?)

    There’s ALSO the fact that kids probably didn’t take to the brightly coloured clean-line nature of the toy designs after stocking up on Bay movie bots. It was probably too much of a departure.

    Given that, I think we were lucky Animated got to season 3. By the end of the show I felt it showed a confidence in plot and character design that had been sorely lacking in the franchise for a long time. The G1 fan service was also much appreciated. I wish the show had gone on longer.

    When I started writing this, I intended to write the above essay as a couple of opening paragraphs. I do go on a bit.

    Ok, so… it’s 2010. Hasbro has finally seen fit to unleash Transformers Prime on a well-prepared Transformers fanbase.

    I watched it on the You Tube, so I didn’t always get a great sense of the animation quality, especially in the faster battle scenes.

    The first thing I noticed in the show was the music. It’s very dramatic, and evokes memories of the Bay movie scores (which I actually quite liked in terms of epic scifi soundtrack scores). Brian Tyler’s done a fairly good job in emulating that style, but I don’t think the score stands out that much. It felt to me like they were just using a generic backing track in some scenes instead of anything that had been scored specifically for it.

    Poor Cliffjumper. He finally gets to beat Bumblebee to getting screen time in a Transformers cartoon, only to get himself killed.

    I found the animation, especially in Cliffjumper’s opening scene, pretty lacking. I find it similar to the style seen last year in the Doctor Who animated adventure Dreamland – I can get used to it, but I find I don’t really appreciate it. I constantly have to adjust my expectations of the animation quality down rather than having it rise to and exceed my expectations. Some of the visual effects were pretty cool. The way the battle in the Decepticon ship was handled from the humans’ perspective was pretty damn good. Ultimately, I think that’s the problem – the animation is serviceable, with moments of brilliance in some of the setpieces and environments, but it’s generally average when dealing with the characters.

    Maybe we should talk about the bot designs here.

    What the hell?

    I can see a bit of Animated in the design, but it’s as if the designers looked at Animated, took all the wrong parts of it and fused it with the CGI Bay bots. I can see some Animated design in Ratchet, Prime (the lower half, not the upper half) and Starscream.

    I can’t imagine what the toys are going to look like. Does anyone think the toys are going to look any good for this series? Maybe there’s a reason it’s coming out around the same time as the Dark of the Moon toy line will hit.

    I also found (and this goes back to the animation style) that the bots generally looked like shiny plastic instead of shiny metal. And why are they so shiny anyway? Who put those lights directly above each character in the rendering software?

    Tom, while you said you appreciated the lack of origin story, I do have to say I’d have appreciated some setup. The fact that the bot design is so similar to the Bay bots makes me wonder if this is supposed to be the same universe or not. The fact that the dialog references the fact that the bots have gone into hiding tells me that SOMETHNG has happened in the past involving the Autobots and Decepticons warring on Earth in broad daylight, but it’s annoyingly vague and leaves me to wonder if it’s referring to the movies or not.

    From here I’m going to drop in some points I think are worth discussing.

    They’ve gone with war-ravaged, desolate uninhabitable Cybertron. Interesting. This cuts down the possibility for new characters but it also amps up the danger that the Autobots are in on Earth.

    I get the Space Bridge. It’s a plot device. The Ground Bridge I’m not so “up” on. The fact that they seem to be Stargates is something I’m sure wasn’t lost on the design team. I’m sure MGM’s lawyers are probably super happy about it. The Autobots’ stand on the Space Bridge in Earth’s orbit brought back memories of the Or “supergates” in SG1.

    Dark Energon. Zombies. I missed them the first time around in War For Cybertron. So, it seems zombies are cool again. Zombie robots are a bit interesting but it’s ultimately a plot device, and it seems to have entered the general lore of the franchise now – I’m sure it’ll turn up more in future. Dark Energon brings me to an interesting point about its’ origin, too.

    Unicron. They just threw the name out there in the first story of the series, despite the fact that he hasn’t really been heard from in any Transformers series for a few years now. And they added “the destroyer” to his title. Considering how they’ve gone out of their way to NOT put Unicron in the movies, its interesting to see the TV series produced by Kurtzman/Orci come right out and namedrop Unicron. I’m sure this will have plot implications later.

    Bumblebee. No voice, just like the movies. Sigh. Disapppointing, especially after his Animated persona. Again, a confusing connection to the Bayverse.

    Decepticon clones. To me this seems pretty lazy. It’s free pass for the animators to do a copy-paste in battle scenes. I understand the need for cannon fodder, for an enemy that can be killed, blown-up and summarily destroyed by Our Heroes(tm), but this seems for the sake of plot. Considering that the Autobots are supposed to be outnumbered by the Decepticons, it seems lazy to me that the Decepticons are the ones with the clone army. I’m amused by the Cylon comparison (didn’t pick that up while watching the show), but I also think the clones look more than a little bit like Impactor, erstwhile leader of The Wreckers.

    The kids. Jack, meh but ok. Miko, no thanks (what a brat!), Raf … yeah, ok. Maybe its the computer nerd in me. The Autobots using human computers was an amusing touch.

    Agent Fowler seems a bit out of shape considering he’s the government liaison to the super-dangerous alien robots hiding out in a local mountain.

    Voice talent. Cullen, Welker – yes! Though Welker seemed to do Megatron more as Doctor Claw in the first couple of episodes, by episode 5 I could hear G1 Optimus and Megatron firing off lines at each other. Combs and Hudson, yes. The Rock was a fun cameo but you know he’s too big a star to hang around that long. I’m not too familiar with the rest, with the exception of Josh Keaton. I’m glad he’s found a gig since Spectacular Spiderman won’t be coming back, but I wish Jack was a little less Peter Parker.

    So, the ultimate question with Prime is … did I like it?

    I guess the answer is “sort of”. I can’t see myself owning any toys, but I’ve watched worse so I’ll probably continue watching it, simply to stay current with whats happening in the franchise.

    I’ll watch it, but I won’t love it. That spot’s still reserved for Animated.

  8. Tom says:

    @Ike: Thanks for the feedback. I’m familiar with Jeffrey Coombs having seen him at the occasional fan convention here in Florida. Great to see him doing voice work, too!

    @Obisdian Blue: I share your concern for Soundwave’s character development. The mimic voice thing seems as much an oversimplified character development tool as Bumblebee’s beeps. Hopefully they shift it into something more interesting.

    @Wetodded: Huh?

    @Igasu: Actually, I would have preferred the idea of Bumblebee using transmissions for his “voice” (like in Bayformers) instead of the R2-D2 beeps. We can agree, though, that the best option would have been to just give him an actual voice. :)

  9. Tom says:

    @Ittousagi: Good post! My only comment is regardng this:

    In all, Transformers Prime (along with GIJoe Renegades) is probably one of the biggest examples of Hasbro’s money-grabbing toy advertising, premiering appropriately on Hasbro’s own Hub network.

    And the 1980s Transformers & GI Joe cartoons WEREN’T money-grabbing toy advertising? Hasbro’s not doing anything new here. LOL

  10. Tom says:

    Transformers were robots in disguise. You can’t disguise a robot as an animal, and Beast wars lacked the coolness of toy cars. It wasn’t the Transformers I was used to, and my interest waned.

    That’s right, folks. “Jason” gets it.

    @Jason: Nice, if not long, reply! LOL

  11. Sideswipe says:

    Interesting review, I have to say I think the writing is superb, fantastic for a Transformers series for the reasons you mentioned. Sadly that’s about all i give it props for.

    Herbie is more annoying than ever, maybe I shouldn’t call Bumblebee that as I like Herbie as he tends to do stuff and win races, in Prime, Bumblebee just runs around in the background making naff sound effects. R2D2 and the afore mentioned VW Beetle get more character across (without a face also).
    Prime using swords still sucks, give him his axe back and cover that face! I can’t say much about the cons as they are the most hideous mech designs I’ve seen in a animated or cg series and I try not to look.

    To be fair, it’s not just the Decepticons, all the robot designs are terrible. it’s like they took their time to make Ratchet who is still chunky robot and even has a good face design relative to the others and then for whatever reasons they gave up on everyone else except Bulkhead whose Animated design was deemed good enough which begs the question so why aren’t G1 good enough then?

    I know I’m old but the G1 Transformers are the blocky style of robot I like and closer to the Super robot anime shows I love. I could accept the style in Animated as everything was styled that way and importantly their heads and faces were still cool traditional Transformer faces. In Prime, well Ratchet and Bulkhead aside they look well, not cool. I wouldn’t want a toy of them and that’s always a bad thing.

    Humans, well mopey human guy bores me, smartass kid annoys me, it annoyed me in the Lupin film Goodbye Lady Liberty back in the 90s when a kid hacked Governmental systems in minutes and it annoys me even more now when Raph (who is forever a Turtle in my mind – that is a reserved name btw) does the near impossible in ridiculous time. Seriously I haven’t seen a laptop that can log into Windows in the time it takes him to do stuff… I quite like the girl though, I like to think I’d go do some crazy stuff if I had my own Transformer.

    While Prime, CliffJumper and Megatron sound great, I have to call it the worst dub of any show just for the abominations of Soundwave and Starscream.

    Despite all the negativity the story wasn’t bad and I enjoyed it. If that was done G1 or Animated style I would have enjoyed it a lot more though. It’s funny as in G1 the stories and writing were always the weakest part, now we have good writing and terrible robot designs.

    In all honesty, I’d rather have nice designs as they make nice toys and nice posters. I’ll continue watching but Hasbro have failed in making me want toys with the possible exception of CliffJumper. This is the first time I’ve ever liked the character as in G1 I wanted the Scrappy Doo wannabe dead but other than him, no sale and isn’t that the point of this?

  12. Billy says:

    This show seems interesting, but there is something sort of bleak about it! Mostly due to cheap CGI/rendering I’m sure. Either way, the animation is too little kiddish for me, and I agree that bumblebee is terrifying. He was always the somewhat useless but loveable character. Now he’s TOO useless and obnoxious as hell.

    On the topic if Beast Wars, I must disagree. In my opinion, it’s the best thing in the Transformers universe. It has the most character development, the best story and the most unique character designs in the later seasons (Season one is a bit of a drag, sure). It’s just a fantastic show though. The animation are bad because it’s 15 years old, obviously. And they turn into animals, not cars, because it was trying to set itself apart from G1, and rightfully so.

    Regardless- Transformers: Prime = meh at the moment in my book. Maybe they will go somewhere with it.

  13. Tom says:

    @Billy: We can agree to disagree on Beast Wars… but regarding Prime:

    I wrote this review when it first premiered, and I am still waiting for the series to “take off” into something better than it currently is. It’s still a good show and it’s following the correct formula (in my opinion) but we need more EPIC scale storyline elements to start kicking in (i.e. major character appearances, changes, etc.)

    I’ll keep watching… and hoping.

  14. Sean says:

    This is an excellent review. I talked to a comic book illustrator friend of mine Damon Batt and he thought that the Zombiecons was quote on quote “Zombiecons are the Special Olympics of storytelling”. I also liked the fact that they borrowed elements from other Transformers series such as Megatron’s look in TF Prime which is based off of his look in the first two Bayformer films(I heard TF 3 The Dark of the Moon is the #1 best Bayformer film in the trilogy. Totally makes up for the pile of cinematic trash known as Revenge of the Fallen. Though ROTF wouldn’t of suffered from horrible story telling if the writer’s strike wasne’t going on back in 2009.)

    Also borrowing elements from TF Animated by adding human villains into TF Prime just like TF Animated. I also think that Miko’s hairstyle and some of her personality may of have been borrowed from the Bots’s female mexican friend in TF Animated. Lastly borrowing the idea of the Energon Harvester from TF ROTF which in ROTF the pyramid had a energon harvester hidden inside the top of it which harvested energon from the sun.

    The other great part about this series which you mentioned in your review is the amazing acting and dialogue. Jeffery Combs(one of my most favorite voice actors and who portrayed one of my most underappreciated horror movie villains “Dr. Herbert West” from The Re-Animator Trilogy.) is amazing as Ratchet and he’s one of the Autobots who’s given the best dialogue in the series.

    Kevin Michael Richardson(another one of my most favorite voice actors who voices The Joker in The Batman,Roadblock in G.I. Joe Renegades,Carl Dusquene in Batman Mystery of the Batwoman,Maurice in The Penguins of Madagascar,The Giant Lion Turtle in Avatar The Last Airbender Book 3 Episode #19:The Old Masters,and Man Ape in The Avengers:Earth’s Mightiest Heroes) does an excellent job of portraying Bulkhead who is still is his strong yet not so bright Autobot self though he’s smarter then he was in any of the other Transformers animated series. He shows that he cares deeply about Miko and that he wants the best for her. That he constructed things before destroyed things. He learned a lot about construction when he was building homes for the inhabitants of Cybertron.

    This is an excellent series and I even heard from Josh Keaton(voice of Spider-Man from The Spectacular Spide-Man,voice of Spider-Man from Marvel vs. Capcom 3,and the voice of Ultimate Spider-Man from Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions) that there will be a Season 3 of Transformers Prime. Also can’t wait for the last 8 episodes of Season 1.

  1. December 5, 2010

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wasabi Anime and Wasabi Anime, Wasabi Anime. Wasabi Anime said: @brannonhutchins Hi! @TomCroom just posted his #TransformersPrime review and we'd love to hear your feedback: http://bit.ly/gK4Sni [...]

  2. December 12, 2010

    [...] I have been waaaaay behind on.  G.I. Joe: Renegades, Young Justice and Transformers: Prime.  Tom has already talked Prime, and has called me about it multiple times.   So as an [...]

  3. October 25, 2011

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    [...]Tom Croom » BEAST WARS SUCKS but does #Transformers Prime suck too? (Read on!)[...]…

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