Transformers Prime - The Road so Far: A Fan's Perspective
It’s hard being under someone’s shadow. This is the problem facing any new Transformers series— a franchise notorious for fans getting up on edge on which incarnation is the defining representation, whether they are old-school and prefer the original G1 or newer generations that may cater to the movies. Transformers Prime isn’t any different. Already past its halfway point, it’s time to look back and see how one fan views the show as a whole. Does it shine above its previous offering or collapse under its own weight?
Immediately, Transformers Prime catches your attention and spares no expense pulling you into their world. Within five minutes of the first episode, it opens up with the brutal death of a main character—played up as a major protagonist in the promos—tricking the audience and simultaneously preparing you for the worst. If that wasn’t heart-pounding enough, everything about the show screams “Epic!” The musical score seems to be lifted straight from the movie, with blaring orchestra sounds that pump when our heroes get into battle or mellow dramatically during an intense scenario. The battle scenes are some of the best choreography I’ve seen in a Transformers franchise. There’s no hand-holding here: fists are traded, missiles callously launched, bodies ripped apart, and dangerous acrobatics stunts pulled off—combat is a no-holds barred brawl.
It’s also remarkably dark while keeping it within the contents of an all-age show and even than, it barely squeaks by. Some of the abuse are downright brutal: spilled blood, eaten alive, dissected, limbs torn, corpses strewn about in an abandoned ship, and no less than three deaths—one of whom comes back as a terrifying zombie. This wouldn’t be so frightening if not for the fact that alien robots or not, they are still sentient creatures with minds and hearts (sorry, processors and sparks) of their own. The added causalities and gritty encounters greatly illustrate that both ends are clearly at war. With high stakes constantly lingering in their minds, neither factions refuse to back down.
The second Transformers series to fully utilize 3D, and the improvement in technology since the Beast Wars years is simply breathtaking. Although the humans have this awkward rubbery look, it fits their fleshy appearance and makes for a greater contrast to the harder, angular robots. Taking the best of the movie and the uniquely designed Transformers Animated lineup, the Autobots and Decepticons are beautifully rendered and exclusively fit in their own universe: Arcee is swift and sleek, Bulkhead round and powerful, Starscream slithery to fit with his snake-like personality, Megatron large and armored for his brutish characteristics, and the like.
As always, with the good comes the bad and much of Transformers Prime’s current problems are the characters and story. It’s hard to establish if there’s any defined arc; certain portions are carried over to later episodes, but everything seems to plod on in an unpredictable fashion with no clear path. A series with standalone episodes can still endeavor to be an entertaining show, mainly because we’re watching it for the fascinating cast. Unfortunately, much of them are underwhelming, coming off one-dimensional and flat. Granted, at only one season they are
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appropriately at their most basic, but there hasn’t been much of a spotlight devoted to enhancing each individual’s idiosyncrasies and instead, more on their reactions to the general plot-of-the-day. It may be too early for character development, but never enough that they couldn’t have elaborated their key traits. The human kids are also mixed. They haven’t achieved much and just seem to just stand around waiting for their target audience to relate to them. The trio try to help their metallic guardians, but usually, it ends with their rescue from Decepticon (and human) hands.
All hope is not lost. Episodes such as “Predatory” explore Arcee’s fear of losing the one she loves like she did with Cliffjumper. One of the kid characters, Rafael is a child prodigy who has used his computer expertise to help the teams in more ways than one, and Ratchet subtly learns to respect his human partners. Not to mention everybody’s favorite Decepticon Starscream once again hogs the spotlight. Simply put, he is amazing in Transformers Prime. Taking over as temporary leader of Decepticons (for more than one episode—a first), Starscream’s presence magnificently shines as he whines, demands, lies, and cheats his way to the top. His antics end up just as hilarious as they are scary.
The series opened up marvelously, but I felt it dwindled as time went by. However, I do believe there is plenty of room for improvement. First seasons take time for their characters to grow as the writers experiment and test the waters. If they can fine-tune the characters and perhaps its mangled storyline, Transformers Prime could be right up there with the likes of Beast Wars and Animated. Everything else—the animation, the piercing atmosphere, the strategically drawn battles—is top-notch. There is great potential resting underneath its wings. Whether you agree with my opinion or not, it’s safe to say the future of Transformers Prime is secure; it has already signed on for a second season, it has been nominated for six-Emmys, and there’s an upcoming online game set to be released next year based on its universe. Like the song goes—albeit paraphrased—they’re never going to stop the Transformers.
Be sure to catch The Hub’s “Trans 4th of July” marathon on July 4, 2011, from 1-8 PM (10AM – 5PM Pacific). Thanks to our friends at the Hub PR Department for stills and the video clip above.