So today, I’m bringing a review and first impressions of the mini-series for Transformers Prime to the pages of HackTooth.com.
This mini-series is intended to be a prelude to the full launch of the series in February 2011, so now is as good a t ime as any to decide if it is for you.
I’d like to start by addressing the various aspects of the characters and their vocal talents, as these are make-or-break factors of the series.
Arcee and Cliffjumper:
With the start of the first episode, we’re introduced to two Autobots right off the hop, and I’m definitely not displeased with the choices, as they’re what I might class as Tier 2 and 3 Autobots for popularity (Tier 1 being characters like Optimus and Bumblebee). These first two are Arcee and Cliffjumper, whom are voiced by Sumalee Montano and Dwayne Johnson, respectively. Dwayne certainly knows what he’s cookin’ with a solid portrayal of Cliffjumper, and Sumalee Montano shows that her diverse and less-than-familiar previous work isn’t for lack of vocal talent, bringing a more tough approach to Arcee. Visually, the characters feel more traditional to me, although Arcee does bridge the gap between the original series and some more recent shows for design.
We get an introduction to Decepticon “drones” next , which are your typical cookie-cutter bad guys, except they periodically show they’re not entirely stupid or useless.
Starscream and Soundwave:
The drones bridge the gap to introduce Starscream, or ” ‘Scream’ ” as Cliffjumper refers to him, and a few moments later, Soundwave. Starscream’s character is a bit more like the characters from Energon, in that he’s more sharp edges and such. My only issue with this, is that he looks really scrawny, which is awkward to feel like you’re looking at Starscream. Starscream’s voice was the only one I actually felt uncomfortable listening to. He is voiced by Steve Blum, who is an extremely well versed voice actor. He’s voiced characters like Keisuke Takahashi in Initial D, Spike in Cowboy Bebop, Orochimaru in Naruto, and Vincent Valentine in FF: Advent Children. With titles like those under his belt , he’s definitely in the super-heavyweight category for voice acting, but he doesn’t sound right Starscream. Fortunately, Soundwave never made a peep during the show through his own voice, so my only real complaint about him is that he looks like an awkwardly designed Rumble, with something of a LCD screen for a face.
Optimus, Bumblebee, Bulkhead and Ratchet:
Our remaining Autobots effectively get introduced as a group. Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, is the only character that really feels solid in every aspect . He’s a transport truck (Peterbuilt-style like in the movies), looks like a combination of his classic cartoon self and the live action movie counterpart , and is thankfully voiced by the only man who can do it right: Peter Cullen. ’nuff said. Bumblebee, complete with digital “squawk box” and movie-esque muscle car look, gives kind of a mixed feel. I can’t fully accept this iteration of him yet , but he doesn’t feel like a bare-knuckled punch in the face of everything that is at least the live action version of Bumblebee that we enjoy. Bulkhead is voiced by a solidly experienced Kevin Michael Richardson, and is essentially the brute of the Autobots, without coming off as a completely brainless twat. Ratchet , the last of our Autobot line-up, was the surprising wildcard. He’s voiced by Jeffrey Combs, Weyoun from Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and Commander Shran from Star Trek: Enterprise. His talents come off as a respectable representation of the teams “medic” and pseudo-tech expert. His design is effectively akin to what you’d expect in a combat medic: Solidly armored.
Our last character to be introduced is the leader of the Decepticons: Megatron. Voiced by the one and only Frank Welker, he sports an appearance somewhat like a cross between his live action design and his Energon design. We never actually see him transform, so his vehicle form remains a mystery for now.
From what can be discerned by the mini-series, the 6 Autobots remaining on Earth are the last remaining soldier on their side. They base themselves out of a missle silo provided to them by the U.S. government, while the Decepticon’s have a mobile Cybertronian vessel. During the course of the first episode, we learn that Megatron is away from the planet, leaving Starscream in charge to mine energon. Starscream, in his typical egotistical fashion, enjoys the power far too much and fancies himself good enough to take out each Autobot individually, of which his only success turns out to be Cliffjumper.
Like any Transformers show taking place in some modern-day setting, the Autobots meet a few humans that they team up with and protect, which integrates in to the storyline with a moderate amount of precision, if done a little bit sloppy for robots “in disguise.”
Among a few other things to address is the music, which is actually enjoyable. It sounds like some slightly altered and somewhat simplified versions of a few of the live act ion movie scores. I usually don’t notice music in cartoons, but for Transformers you have to consider all of the aspects an integral part of the show.
Also worth mentioning, is some of the crew of the show. Notably Jeff Kline, exec producer/writer/developer for various other cartoon series including Men in Black, Extreme Ghostbusters, Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, and Big Guy and Rusty. Also, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who have tag teamed writing and producing on various projects such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Alias, Transformers (2007), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Fringe, Star Trek (2009) and Xena: Warrior Princess.
Although nothing can truly live up to the legend that is the original Transformers cartoons (and comics), I can comfortably say this is one of the better representations. Most of the voice act ing is solid, and character design is modern and kid-friendly, but with sufficient aspects to please most of the classic fans.
Storyline is a loose collaboration of previous ideas that, although different, does seem to work for the show. Combined with the finer details such as the CGI rendering, and musical scores, the show develops an introductory personality to call its own.
If the show had no predecessors to be judged against, it would definitely carry its weight sufficiently to at tract viewers of all ages.
As this is a two-part mini-series that will lead in to a full show come February of 2011, I am choosing not to provide an actual scorecard at this time.