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Transformers Prime: Season One(TV) (2011)
The TRANSFORMERS saga starts a new chapter as old foes return, legendary heroes rise, and new ones are found in unlikely places. The new EMMY Award winning series TRANSFORMERS PRIME, A Hasbro Studios production, currently airs on The HUB television network in the U.S. and Teletoons in Canada, deepens the epic mythology of both the AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS, while starting a new chapter for a new generation of fans.
For more about Transformers Prime: Season One and the Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray release, see Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 14, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Steve Blum, Jeffrey Combs, Sumalee Montano, Kevin Michael Richardson
» See full cast & crew
Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray Review
Shout! Factory rolls out a good four-disc set of this engaging TV show.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 14, 2012
Let us light our darkest hour.
There can never be too much of a good thing. It's been almost thirty years since Transformers first dazzled children of the 1980s, the cartoon a wondrous Saturday morning experience, the toys beckoning from store shelves, the two interlocked and in competition with the 1980's other dominant cartoon/toy line, G.I. Joe. The story of Autobots and Decepticons -- robots from a distant world capable of disguising themselves as Earthly planes, trains, and automobiles -- has taken on many shapes and sizes and forms in the years following, some of which might appear downright alien to purists, others still familiar but not exactly as they were back in the glorious heyday of the mid-1980s. Yet though the many different forms the toys have taken, the varied iterations the television shows have embraced, and the numerous stories they have told, it wasn't until Director Michael Bay truly reenergized the franchise with his groundbreaking 2007 live action/digital hybrid feature film that redesigned the robots but left them -- the Autobots in particular -- generally recognizable against the original toy line but built with more care to create realistically-appearing robots, taking into consideration real science rather than building them off of what would sell toys. But the very latest iteration of the Transformers universe comes in the form of Transformers Prime, a series that isn't a continuation of the Michael Bay movie universe but rather one heavily influenced by it, particularly in robot design. It leaves Bay's hyperkinetic action-first and highly-stylized visuals behind in favor of a more balanced, approachable, comfortable pace. Yet Prime's stories are nevertheless engaging, its action slick, and its characters strongly developed. In many ways it's arguably the best take on Transformers since the original, even if the animation sometimes leaves a little to be desired.
The Decepticons are patrolling the remote Western U.S. area of Jasper, Nevada for a stock of Energon, the "lifeblood" of the "autonomous robotic organisms" hailing from the distant world of Cybertron, a world ravaged by war. The Decepticons are an evil race of robots, bent on conquering Earth at all costs. All that's standing in their way is a ragtag group of Autobots, defenders of freedom and of man, led by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen). The power-hungry Decepticon Starscream (voiced by Steve Blum) has activated a "stellar bridge" through which both the Decepticon leader, Megatron (voiced by Frank Welker), and a powerful substance known as "dark energon" are brought to Earth, the latter a power capable of reviving long-deceased Transformers which Megatron hopes to use to create an undead robotic army to conquer earth and vanquish his Autobot foes. Meanwhile, the only surviving Autobots -- Prime, Arcee (voiced by Sumalee Montano), Bulkhead (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), Ratchet (voiced by Jeffrey Combs), and the "voiceless" Bumblebee -- remain vigil while keeping a low-profile on Earth and communicating only with a highly trained human liaison, William Fowler (voiced by Ernie Hudson). Protocol and operational security are both threatened when three humans become aware of the Autobots' existence. Rather than allow them to fend for themselves against the Decepticons, they are taken in and cared for by the kindly robots, robots with whom they quickly develop a bond. Teenager Jack Darby (voiced by Josh Keaton) finds himself oddly attracted to the sleek Arcee, who transforms into a world-class motorcycle. Japanese exchange student Miko Nakadai (voiced by Tania Gunadi) bonds with Bulkhead, whom she sees as her powerful protector. Young computer whiz Raf Esquivel (voiced by Andy Pessoa) finds comfort in the presence of Bumblebee. As the last remaining Autobots face unending challenges from their Decepticon enemies, they must grow to trust their new human friends and withstand countless attacks against themselves, humanity, and the universe itself.
It's easy to see that Transformers Prime means business. Though a children's show at heart, the story arcs play with darker themes, including death, revolution, and broken loyalties, and create a palpable sense of danger as the Decepticons scheme to destroy their sworn enemies, no matter the consequences to the world -- and its inhabitants -- around them. Certainly the show isn't nearly as visceral or visually dynamic and gritty as the Michael Bay films, but Prime relies more on theme and feel to tell its story rather than special effects and visual extravagance. That darkness is offset, however, but much-needed and always-welcome humor that's balanced and flows naturally from each story and situation, not wrenched into a scene as was often the case with the Bay films, and the second in particular. But at its core, it's the universal struggle between good and evil that's always defined the Transformers universe, that same almost black-and-white contrast that certainly shaped the 80s version. However, Prime manages to dabble in shades of gray at the same time it plays with those stalwart Transformers concepts. It's all carefully woven together, whether those darker themes and lighter moments, character interaction, tough choices, impossible situations, unacceptable outcomes, surprising twists, shocking pasts, deadly presents, or uncertain futures. Certainly, the show isn't modern poetry, but it's at least a bit more meaty than many of its predecessors, working in more complex themes making it just as much for adults as for children.
Indeed, Prime works in some fantastic story lines and character development, both of which are allowed greater breathing room through the lengthy season and the option for slightly more relaxed pacing in spots, particularly in the seasons' middle stretch. The result is drama that's sometimes even superior to a quality motion picture, and character development that surpasses even some live action television programs. Season one of Prime is defined by the bookend multi-part stories, the first of which introduces the characters and conflicts that will play central to the rest of the season, the second of which is ambitiously dynamic and exciting, ending, even, on a strong cliffhanger that might not be all that original, but that's nothing short of shocking within the Transformers universe. In its stories, the series delves into some fascinating character histories, rewriting much of what audiences before knew about them, and it even boldly creates a new history of Earth, too, which gives significantly more weight, purpose, and immediacy to the action and drama of the last few episodes. Through all of the action, though, the series manages to create a softer, more tender underbelly defined by heightened character interaction and drama. With only five Autobots and three main human characters, the opportunity to forge relationships is constant, and the series doesn't miss. Raf's almost sixth-sense ability to communicate with Bumblebee, Mika's bond with what could be described as her "protector" Bulkhead, and Jack's more adult-oriented relationship with Arcee are all superbly developed and lend more weight to the plot lines. Ratchet's somewhat distant exterior but warming interior towards the humans may be the show's most interesting relational arc, and Prime's role as benevolent leader ties it all together. The dynamics are all very well done, and it's these story lines and relationships that prove the most critical element in making Prime a success, particularly considering it does come up just a bit short with regard to its animation.
Indeed, the animation making up Transformers Prime may be effective, but it's certainly not Pixar. It's a little flat and doesn't always pay attention to detail. While the Transformers themselves show some dings and scratches and general wear and tear on their metallic bodies, humans and many environments are made of simplistic shapes with only the most basic of characteristics developed, and even those only minimally: hair has no movement, clothes are rigid, skin textures are nonexistent. Of course each episode is not a multimillion dollar movie, so expectations need be lowered a bit. With that in mind, it's contextually effective, even if it isn't always pretty. The good news is that all of the aforementioned dramatic elements far outweigh the lower-grade animation. As for character design, these Transformers take after the Michael Bay-inspired characters rather than remaining absolutely true to the 1980s originals. They're fairly svelte and look somewhat more organic than robotic in terms of shape and line; even their mouths move with a more natural, rather than mechanical, motion. The transformations are seamless and the locations suitably developed, whether the sparse Autobot headquarters or the bright and shiny design of the "ground bridge." The voice acting is a real strength; fans will instantly recognize Cullen, but it's Jeffrey Combs' work with Ratchet that's easily the show's finest. Rarely has a voice so perfectly matched both an animated face and its accompanying character traits. For as good as the rest of the voice cast is, Combs absolutely dominates, albeit subtly, and gives both his character and the show a realistic tenor that helps it along immensely. The action scenes are complex and oftentimes dazzling; there's a fair amount of general run-and-gun, straightforward action, but the animators have also created some wonderfully cinematic moments -- notably some real knock-down, drag-out fights between Optimus Prime and Megatron -- that elevate the show several notches, too.
Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray, Video Quality
Transformers Prime: Season One's 1080p transfer isn't all that consistently pretty. Certainly, there are moments when the animation sparkles, but aside from its flatness, there are some technical bugaboos that drag it down considerably. First, the image is greatly hindered by what is oftentimes intense banding. Huge chunks of the image often suffer through terrible bouts, with entire backgrounds sometimes reduced to large masses of bands of poor color transitions. Unfortunately, many a line are jagged, and aliasing appears with some frequency, too. As noted, the animation is naturally flat and often looks to have a plastic-like texture to it. There's no real flow on anything but the Transformers themselves; human hair and clothes offer no real movement or textures. Such elements are very much flat and stiff, but that's inherent to the original elements, not a fault of the Blu-ray transfer. On the flip side, those Transformers can look quite good in close-ups; the digital artists have taken the time to create some fairly complex elements within eyes, faces, various exposed gears, and the like. Their metallic exteriors are scratched, dented, dirty, and generally well-abused, but that's mostly the extent of fine detailing. Colors, likewise, are very flat and lack much range outside of basic shades. The yellows, reds, greens, whites, and blues that make up the Autobots are bright but monochromatic. The Decepticons are a bit colder, favoring rather flat shades of purple and gray. It's all relatively simple, but it's that intense banding, frequent jaggies, and occasional aliasing that really hurt this one. The banding is nothing short of an eyesore, so audiences sensitive to that might want to rent before committing to a purchase.
Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Transformers Prime: Season One features a high quality DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. "Solid" is the name of the game here; rarely is the track top-tier spectacular, but never is it shoddy. There's a consistently good energy to it and a positive low end in battle scenes as metal hits metal, various objects explode, or Transformers walk with heavy footfalls. Laser blasts sometimes seem to lack a real authoritative punch, but in many instances they're suitably hard-hitting. The many action scenes also play with very natural spacing across what becomes a rather wide soundstage; the surrounds aid in creating an immersive environment, and action gets kicked around the various speakers with natural precision. Ambience is fair, sometimes a bit lacking and sometimes powerfully enveloping, such as a haunting motif that floats around the soundstage in a scene featuring a Transformer graveyard in episode three or the cold blasts of an arctic wind blowing about the listening area in episode seven. Music plays with great spacing and top-notch clarity. Brian Tyler's and Matthew Margeson's score sounds inspired by Star Trek, and the notes are effortlessly reproduced here and throughout the entire range. Dialogue is steady; the track captures all of the little vocalized nuances and it plays with an adequate sense of space in those scenes where it reverberates around more cavernous locales. This is a strong all-around performer that should please fans immensely.
Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Transformers Prime: Season One primarily features a large assortment of commentaries with an equally large number of participants and plenty of perspectives that cover nearly every aspect of the Transformers Prime universe. A few additional supplements may be found on disc four.
Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Transformers Prime: Season One is a borderline exceptional animated program. Few shows in this style and for its audience manage such complex themes, quality story lines, excellent character development, and pure fun as this. Certainly the animation isn't quite to the same level of excellence as even the average modern day digital film, but considering cost and audience, not to mention the wonderful voice work, it's fine at the end of the day. Otherwise, there's no real downside here. The episodes are fast-paced, the action intense, and the characters strong. It's comfortably familiar but at the same time its own entity and plays with its own identity. Chances are most Transformers fans -- casual and hardcore alike -- will love Prime. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release of Transformers Prime features video that leaves a bit to be desired, but the 5.1 lossless soundtrack is strong and the supplements are many. Recommended.
Transformers Prime: Other Seasons
Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Blu-ray Deal of the Week: History Channel, Transformers, a... - May 5, 2013
Amazon's Blu-ray Deal of the Week affects selected films from the History Channel, Shout Factory, and HBO Home Entertainment. The eleven sale titles include Vietnam in HD, Transformers Prime, and True Blood: The Complete Third Season. Through May 11th, Amazon is ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: Transformers Prime Season One - March 3, 2012
Blu-ray.com and Shout Factory are offering three Blu-ray.com members a chance to win a copy of Transformers Prime: Season One, the CG-animated series from executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. The latest animated incarnation of the popular Transformers ...
• Transformers Prime: Season One Blu-ray - December 10, 2011
Independent distributors Shout Factory have officially announced that they will release a on Blu-ray Transformers Prime: Season One. This Limited Edition 4-disc set will include all 26 action-packed episodes (including the 5-part miniseries Darkness Rising) and ...
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