Monday, November 29, 2010

Transformers Prime Impressions

First of all, I want to apologize for the severe lack of updates lately. I've decided to take on a side project, helping my wife with her own blog, and haven't gotten around to working on my own. But now Thanksgiving is over and done and it's time to get back into the swing of things before I zone out for Christmas.

Over the above mentioned Thanksgiving break I managed to check out the first two episodes of the new Transformers Prime animated series, produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the writers for the first two Transformers flick.

The show starts off with a quick introduction to Cliffjumper, voiced by Dwayne Johnson. Quite a change from Casey Kasem from the original show. Ol' Cliff doesn't last long, as he is quickly killed off (keep count, it's not the first time he dies in two episodes). His death scene and following funeral really brought back memories of Beast Wars, and Dinobot's death and funeral. That was probably enough to draw me into the show as I am a huge Beast Wars fan.

Peter Cullen is back as Optimus, and at this point, it is going to be a really sad day when he can no longer voice Prime as he has become the voice for Optimus as much as Chuck Jones was the voice of Bugs Bunny. The real surprise to me was Frank Welker back as the voice of Megatron. He sounds fantastic, and it is a real shame he isn't the voice of Megs in the movie. Transformers Prime proves he still has it, and will always be Megatron in the hearts of millions over "Agent Smith".

The other Autobots are all pretty interesting. Bulkhead hasn't done much yet, but had a few good jokes. Personally I would have preferred Ironhide over Bulkhead but we can't have it all. Ratchet was always one of my favorites, so I'm glad he is in there and his personality seems to be a mix of the movie and his G1 version. Bumblebee is a waste of screen time as usual. All they did was hire Bumblebee from the films, as this Bumblebee doesn't speak for some unexplained reason (but the nerdy kid can understand his beeps for yet another unexplained reason).

The real standout character in Transformers Prime thus far is Arcee. I've never been a huge Arcee fan. She was one of the few female Autobots, but she never really commanded much of a presence. She started off great in the 1985 movie, but really fell to the background after that. Plus I was always a huge Rodimus Prime fan, and they clearly had some sparks fly for most of the movie and then she just dumped him for Springer without a word. Trampbot.

In Transformers Prime she is tough and a bit of a loose canon. Since she is so divergent from the Arcee from G1 (in looks and personality), I would have liked if they changed her name to Elita-One, and give Optimus a love interest for once. She cares much more for her Autobots than she does humans, and to go along with that, the only bit of the "humans" I like so far is her interaction with the main boy. Which brings me to my main point of contention.

Humans are the main thing any Transformer fan dreads.

Humans pretty much ruin every Transformers cartoon and/or movie. I don't really understand why it is so hard to make human characters work with robots. Beast Wars is the best Transformer series, and I think the reason is the complete lack of human characters (well there are the cavemen, but they don't count). It seems like every human in Transformers must be based on a stereotype. Here we have the normal looking everyday kid, who seems like a nice witty guy but for some reason is a loser that nobody likes, we have the nerdy little kid who is a computer hacker and genius and the spunky Japanese girl whose parents live in Tokyo. Real deep.

Or maybe this is always a creative decision by the writing staff to make the humans seem bland and lifeless compared to the excellent cast of robots.

Regardless, the first two episodes are really enjoyable and hearkened back to the glorious days of Beast Wars more than G1, which I am perfectly fine with. Though I will say this also feels slightly like the Transformers movies without a Michael Bay influence, which is defiantly a good thing. I have a feeling, Kurtzman and Orci are trying to make their version of Transformers how they originally planned, before Bay blew it up with explosives. However, like the Bay films the humans are the weakest part thus far and hopefully they will grow on me in time.

The designs of the robots don't bother me too much. They are a combo of my two least favorite Transformer series: Animated and the Bay movies, but they come together to make something better then the sum of their parts. One thing about the series I hope they continue is the use of beautiful hand drawn pictures for the establishing shots. The first time Cybertron was shown I was sent into a nostalgia dream state.