The Beast Wars Rage On In Two Excellent DVDs
Ah, Beast Wars. Hailed as the second-greatest Transformers series after the original G1, Beast Wars has become a major fan-favorite series. While the first season was pretty decent and introduced and developed the characters we all love, that was really all it was, set-up. Season 2 was when things really got interesting and where many fans went from, “This is a fun series,” to “This series is friggin’ AWESOME!” And for good reason: this series represents some of the best American (or Canadian) companies have produced.
At the end of Season 1, the mysterious aliens found out about the Maximals and the Predacons being on this barren planet that was apparently an experiment. Supposedly, said experiment was now trash, thanks to the Transformers, and as a result, the planet will be destroyed. In order to stop this, Optimus Primal flew into the destroyer beam in order to disable it. Unfortunately, he was betrayed by Megatron and was seemingly killed in the resulting explosion. Season 2 starts up literally right after that. As the Maximals were shocked to see Optimus dead and were worried about what would happen, the Predacons were celebrating their biggest victory and the upcoming end of the war. All that changes when they detected a cosmic surge coming towards the planet. Unable to shield themselves, Cheetor, Rattrap, Megatron, and Tarantulus were changed into all new forms, the Transmetals.
This is one of the reasons why Season 2 rocked so much. Instead of basic Maximals and Predacons that didn’t look very robotic, we got mechanized animals that look REALLY cool, even today. Those who loved G1 came back to the series, and just in time. The Transmetals also gave the Predacons and Maximals new vehicle modes with which to travel faster and help please the G1 fans. Another plus was the lack of filler that pervaded Season 1. All thirteen of these episodes had some kind of impact on the plot, be it an introduction or death of a character, a new plot twist, or merely a change of locale. The bad thing about this was that the series was dominated by the two and three parters: “Coming of the Fuzors,” “Other Visits,” and “The Agenda.” However, all of those arcs were strong, so it’s forgiven. One of the big reasons the series rocked so much was because of all the references to the original G1, mainly during “The Agenda.” From the appearance of Ravage to the Ark, all the G1 references were a real treat and really showed off the connection to the two series.
Unfortunately, not all of Season 2 was a positive. Like I said, the season was dominated by two- and three-parters so much that it kind of gave the series a rushed feel. Newcomers Quickstrike, Ravage, and Silverbolt barely got any development at all, and the latter two got only one spotlight episode, “Transmutate.” Speaking of Silverbolt, his “noble knight” routine was cheesy to begin with, but whenever he was with Blackarachnia, it escalated into an annoying shtick that bordered on painful. Thankfully, BA stays her true self, especially in “The Agenda.” There are a few, more minor complaints, such as G1 Megs’ voice and some of the bland backgrounds, but otherwise the downsides were minor. All of the episodes were good, especially “Code of Hero” and “The Agenda.”
The video quality was amazingly sharp. It’s amazing how talented Mainframe is, as this was their second CGI series after Reboot. The CGI here, especially on the Transformers, was amazing, if not really robotic. The details in the series are amazing, and the texture work is simply awesome. The Transmetals are all very shiny and the colors are crisp. It’s like watching the original masters! The digital transfer cannot be any better. Thankfully, the effects and the backgrounds became more varied and better handled. Unfortunately, aside from the Transformers, backgrounds still had a dull look to them, especially rocks and mountains. Also, the actual animation for other animals and beings (specifically the pre-humans) are very clumsy and look like the product of hurried work. Still, for the time, it was very good and it still stands on its own, even today. Mainframe regained their mastery over the ability to show emotions, something that other CGI studios (except Pixar) are still struggling with. The Maximals and the Predacons all have very expressive faces that show off all kinds of emotions and help you feel for the characters, something that was really lacking in Transformers Energon. In fact, Beast Wars‘ CGI is arguably much better than Energon, despite the fact that BW is almost a decade older.
The sound quality is crystal clear and the 5.1 surround is pretty decently used. The music itself hasn’t changed much from Season 1, which was both good and bad. The old music was pretty decent, though it seemed that the theme music was overused, and it would have been nice to hear a bigger variety in music, such as maybe one or two new action music tracks. Sound effects are quite clear and sounded exactly as they should. Not really much else to say.
The extras are disappointing. While I wasn’t expecting this set to rival Lord of the Rings, Rhino could have at least put some effort into it. All we get are some animation tests that aren’t very interesting, save for some alternate robot forms for Season 1 Megatron, Dinobot, Rhinox, and Scorpinok. Why no interviews with the creative staff about how they came up with the Transmetals, how much the fan input influenced them, or if they wanted to do more but couldn’t due to budget problems? How about an interview with the fine people of Ocean Group, in what is one of their best performances? I would have gladly had a three-disc set and paid the extra ten dollars if it included some really juicy extras.
Overall, this two-disc set is highly recommended, especially if all you have seen of Transformers are Robots in Disguise, Armada, and Energon. It’s a blast from the past. I can’t wait until Season 3.