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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Transformer Prime - Pilot Review

Review @ ComicBookMovie.com
Anil Rickly Reviews:
With 2 Michael Bay films’ already under the franchise belt on the big screen, and a 3rd one under production, a new Transformers series, ‘TRANSFORMERS: Prime’ will be shown on Hasbro/Discovery communications’ ‘The Hub’. IDW has already put out a collected edition comic to serve as a prequel to this series.

This original
computer animated series piloted under the arc ‘Darkness Rising’. This reviews the first 2 out of 5 parts that comprise the miniseries!
The plot is simple as Autobots and Decepticons now inhabit Earth after Cybertron’s wars deemed the robot haven now uninhabitable, leaving them on Earth. The Autobots are left with duties of protecting Earth and Mankind from the tyrannous Decepticons, whom have been without leader Megatron for the last 3 Earth years, simultaneously left with their tasks of mining Energon on Earth, the robot fuel source.

This is a new series completely separate from original comic, film and animated continuity; but with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman as executive producers, it does bear a lot of semblance to the Bay films that this duo worked on…in fact a lot of similarities arise. Jeff Kline, Duane Capizzi and David Hartman are among the producing/direction staff so it does have a sound unit behind the production scene.

The show kicks us off with a high octane chase and fight scene that again is all too similar to the Bay films, but still an aesthetic beauty nonetheless. What gives this series a slight edge is the simplicity of the overall plot, and tendency to stick to certain key foundations of old lore and source material of Transformers that the movies/past shows may have gotten wrong.
Arcee and Cliffjumper (both well voiced by Sumalee Montano and
the Rock Dwayne Johnson ) are witty in their interactions, and the ensuing battle does bode perilous and gives us an unsuspecting turn.

We are greeted by the Eradicons (Decepticon drones), and are further shown insights into the interim evil leader, Starscream (whom Steven Blum impresses as). While a full-out ‘WAR FOR CYBERTRON’ series focusing on robot wars alone may have been a better bet, it’s nice to see some touches of humanity added in the mix, although once it gets to the point of the movies’ dependence on an annoying human factor, I think I’ll quit this series. Glad to say, it doesn’t get bogged down with the human factor as much, as we are introduced to Jack Darby (voiced by the always impressive Josh Keaton), Raf Esquivel (by Andy Pessoa) and Miko (by Tania Gunadi); and they all bring the innocence and curiosity across to the viewers quite well and playfully.

The likes of Bumblebee also shows up and sad to say, he is given the same role and same M.O. as the film version, which can’t help but show a remonstrated lack of originality or creativity here. Bulkhead and Ratchet are also well translated to the viewers as is the Decepticon, Soundwave. It seems they want to stick to smaller squads so that character development is bettered, and I can’t argue there.

Optimus Prime is done by legendary Peter Cullen, with Frank Welker back as Megatron, and it’s a nice homage to see these guys back behind the wheels again. The musical theme still bodes too close to the Bay films, but again, plot-wise, this series remains simple and far from muddled.
The second half picks up pace as we see the Autobots make enquiries about a lost comrade while the Decepticons rummage through Megatron’s baggage, and fans of DC’s ‘Blackest Night’ will get a kick out of what transpires to be the main antagonist’s drive for the duration of the first arc. ROBOTS OF PLANET CYBERTRON…RISE! Well influenced Geoff Johns! Sad to say, while the explanations for teleportation drives on Earth were well done, why on hell are robots insistent on shooting amidst Energon minefields? They need to sort that out!
One great aspect that comes about is the lack of human knowledge of the existence of the robots on Earth, and it’s well played! I’m sure we’d love Spike Witwicky rearing his head in one of these shows, but that’s wishful thinking. Ernie Hudson does make an awesome cameo as Agent Fowler whose role again is akin to the movies, but it’s such a great tribute to have him on the show, one can’t argue with that!

The motive for Megatron’s hiatus and his ensuing actions all make for interesting future episodes certainly, but I am glad they stuck to a simple vibe with the basic antagonists we know…Megatron, Energon, Starscream, who surprisingly hasn’t given me that eerie Judas feeling yet…and finally, a lovely throwback to a certain planet eater!

The character designs could have been tweaked a bit here, as there was a way too familiar touch to the movies. This series has the makings to be decent as a stand-alone feature but the similarities to the movies are really things that could have been improved on…there are simply too much that’s similar to the films. What does bode lightheartedly is the ‘Robot Fight Club’, ‘Humans Multiply!’ and ‘BOTSwana’ lines that really proved the show blends humor with the right parts of action and thrill.

In summing this up, apart from a clear similarity in certain key aspects to the cash cow films, the straightforward plot, small cast, and dedicated storyline seem protracted to be dragged out to a series nicely fit for
TV. Not a bad way to spend an hour, this pilot! I do hope the inconsistencies and shortcomings improve soon as there is the making of something that would tick well to old school Transformer fans! They could do a tad better with the computer animation, especially the backgrounds and individual robot designs, but the fight scenes and direction seem to be spot on! Here’s hoping they don’t make the mistakes of series and movies past, if any!
Rating = 7/10

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