BLU-RAY REVIEW: Transformers Prime Season One Limited Edition
Continuing Autobot vs. Decepticon action with a bonus graphic novel...
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One of the flagship shows on Hasbro’s HUB network, Transformers Prime continues to provide solid entertainment for longtime Transformers fans as well as new ones. With a legacy extending all the way back to the original cartoon’s debut in 1984, the Autobots and Decepticons (as well as some sub-factions) have been battling it out on television in a succession of different series that has taken the action Earth all the way across the galaxy and back again. After the highly successful Transformers Animated, the Hub began an all-new computer-animated series with Transformers Prime: Darkness Rising in late 2010. The mini-series took the world by storm (check out our review HERE), and fans couldn’t wait for the full series which began in February of 2011. This week, the first season of the show (including Darkness Rising) will be available on Blu-ray and DVD, with a special Tansformers PRime: Season One Limited Edition set packing a really cool extra.
The special Limited Edition Blu-ray comes packaged in an extra wide Blu-ray slipcase, immediately recognizable by the pale blue border on the top. The art on the box is identical to that on the Blu-ray case inside: the front features large images of Optimus Prime and Megatron, while the back shows off the entire Autobot team and their human friends alongside information about the series and a breakdown of the set’s special features. On the interior of the case you’ll find content listings by disc in front of a space scene background. Each of the four Blu-rays is dominated by a different character: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, and Soundwave. The reason for the extra wide slipcase is that packed in next to the Blu-ray case is the limited edition Transformers Prime prequel graphic novel (more on that in a bit).
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmrykI0_eyg"]Transformers Prime: Season One - Episode Clip: "Show Intro"[/ame]
From the very opening scenes of Darkness Rising, Prime establishes itself as an intelligent Transformers show with plenty of action and great characters. Of course, the basic premise of the series is one we’ve heard many times before; the great war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons has broken out on Earth with humanity caught in the middle. Prime takes some cues from the recent films and TV series, with Autobots established on this planet keeping watch for any Decepticon depredations. An ambush takes the spark of Cliffjumper, prompting an immediate escalation in the conflict between the two groups. Meanwhile, three human children befriend the Autobots, becoming their allies and a great source of information on the world around them. On the other hand, Megatron and the Decepticons encounter the deadly Dark Energon, leading them down a truly dark path.
The Season One Blu-ray covers the Darkness Rising 5-parter plus the 21 regular episodes. And while they may be full of action, Transformers Prime episodes aren’t all about fighting. There are stories about the never-ending hunt for resources, the discovery of new allies and enemies, the past returning in unexpected ways, the evolution of the humans’ take on giant robots living among them, and much more. The writers even manage to sneak in morality tales and lessons learned for the characters and the viewers at home. Some of my favorites include “Scrapheap” in which a plague of Scraplets infests the Autobot base, “Shadowzone” with its zombie Skyquake chasing humans in an out of phase dimension, and “Stronger, Faster” which sees Ratchet kicking *** and taking names when he creates a highly stimulating synthetic energon and tests it on himself. Of course, the fighting is really cool too with dynamic and fierce combat. This is especially true with Wheeljack’s martial arts in “Con Job,” the vicious depredations of Airachnid in “Predatory,” an added dose of physics in “Metal Attraction,” and the great battles against Unicron in the three-part finale “One Shall Rise.”
One of the best things about Transformers Prime is its voice cast. Full of old favorites as well as current voiceover stars, the show features the original Optimus Prime and Megatron, Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. Also on board are Arcee (Sumalee Montano), Ratchet (Jeffrey Combs), Bulkhead (Kevin Michael Richardson), Starscream (Steven Blum), Jack Darby (Josh Keaton), Miko Nakadai (Tania Gunadi), Raf Esquivel (Andy Pessoa), Special Agent Bill Fowler (Ernie Hudson), and June Darby (Markie Post). As in the films, this version of Bumblebee does not speak but rather emits noises (and Soundwave “speaks” through recorded information). There are even plenty of neat guest appearances like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Cliffjumper, Clancy Brown as Silas, Adam Baldwin as Breakdown, Gina Torres as Airachnid, and John Noble as Unicron!
As I mentioned in the Darkness Rising review, Transformers Prime has great characters and action that are only enhanced by the cool look of the show. The CG is flawlessly smooth and bright, with immediately recognizable and differentiated designs for the different Cybertronians. The Transformers designs are mostly reminiscent of earlier incarnations (whether it’s Prime’s semi, Bumblebee’s Chevy Camaro, Bulkhead’s big green truck, Ratchet’s ambulance, Arcee’s motorcycle, Starscream’s jet, or Megatron’s Cybertronian gunship), and feature tons of detail in both modes. The transformation sequences are smooth and detailed, and special attention was paid to the robots’ face designs to make them expressive and animated. Fight scenes feature great choreography and plenty of fast-paced blasting action. Of special note, the show looks absolutely amazing on Blu-ray and shockingly better than its standard def presentation on the Hub channel.
While there are lots of cool episodes packed into the Blu-ray, they even managed to squeeze in a few bonus features. The “Making Of” special gives you a sneak peek behind the scenes at how Transformers Prime came to be with tons of great information. Meanwhile, 15 of the episodes come with audio commentaries with the creative team and voice cast, taking you along for the ride with the creators and actors. Toy Featurettes show you how Hasbro has turned the cool designs of the show into fun toys, and the last disc wraps up with a Season Two trailer that was first premiered at New York Comic-Con 2011. All of that is great, but what really sets apart the Blu-ray Limited Edition is the graphic novel. Put together by IDW (publisher of modern Transformers comic books), this original story follows Cliffjumper and Arcee on their last big mission before the television series begins. Just like in the show there’s a nice balance of action, humor, and character growth... with some really interesting hints at what’s to come.
The Limited Edition Transformers Prime Season One Blu-ray couldn’t have come out at a more perfect time, with the second season only a few weeks old on the Hub Network. Get your copy now and catch up on all of the Prime stories including the initial Darkness Rising mini-series and the exclusive prequel graphic novel! This four disc set is available everywhere starting on March 6th with an MSRP of $49.99.
Review by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of Shout! Factory