Created by Hasbro Studios
Starring Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Jeffrey Combs, Ernie Hudson, Steve Blum and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Is this latest outing for Optimus and company a start to a good series or a piece of slag in disguise?
Optimus Prime leads a small band of Autobots stranded on Earth, keeping an undercover lookout for any Decepticon activity after some supposedly-final confrontation three years ago. Needless to say, now is when Megatron, Starscream and the rest of the baddies choose to emerge. With a teammate missing and three Earth kids to look after, the Autobots may have more than they can handle as Megatron comes knocking with an undead Transformer army.
This five-part miniseries kicks off the series to a good start. Presented together as a full-length movie, it’s an easily digestible introduction into this new incarnation of the Transformers franchise. The show adapts the look of the Michael Bay films, albeit in a simplified and more cartoonish fashion. Also adapted are plot elements, such as Optimus and Megatron originally being brothers in arms before Megatron defected to the Decepticons. While the Bayformers films have their share of detractors (often myself included), we can all put our biases aside as this is a good cartoon.
The Transformers themselves share the spotlight with their human companions instead of being overshadowed by them. This series brings some great talent to the mic. Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprise their roles as the original Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively. Just as in the recent films, Cullen sounds noticeably older and somewhat tired, but it works well for this battle-hardened Prime.
Joining the cast includes the always great Jeffrey Combs as the cranky know-it-all medic Ratchet, giving the character far more personality than the films ever did. Ernie Hudson did a good job as the US Government contact Agent Fowler. Even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson pulled off a good Cliff jumper for his cameo appearance. The rest of the voice cast, while not as well known, is just as strong actors.
The three children characters – Jack, Raf and Miko – are actually entertaining and don’t detract from the Transformers. The only real drawback is Raf falling into the tired cliché of being a little kid who’s a super-genius hacker. If he were the same age as the older kids, it would work a bit better.
In fact, the only knocks I really have are the super smart kid cliché, the low count of actual named individual Transformers, and Soundwave not having an actual voice (especially if Frank Welker is already here doing Megatron).
This film is full of fun action and dialog between the Transformers and surprisingly humans alike. The Transformers get plenty of screen time, dedicated both to action and to actual character development (with no horrible racist stereotypes). The animation isn’t half bad. The action and transformations are clear and exciting. The devious Decepticon plot is a legitimate threat in the world of the show. And Optimus Prime is a badass as he should be. This is a good cartoon for any fan of Transformers, robots in general or anyone looking for a classic tale of good versus evil.
The Video and Audio
The video is presented in widescreen and the audio is clear. The CGI is fluid and decent, and while I prefer a more traditional design to the Transformers, this simplified version of the live-action films is a good middle ground. The soundtrack uses some of the same background from the movies, and it works to keep the show feeling serious and dramatic.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
As mentioned earlier, the miniseries is presented as one feature film. Everything is on one disc in a regular DVD case. The cardboard casing duplicates the DVD cover.
Bonuses include character and set concept art, as well as a storyboard animatic of the first episode accompanied with the voice work and some sound effects. No background music or noise makes for an often quiet view. The animatic is neat for one viewing, but these aren’t going to keep you revisiting the bonuses after one viewing.
I’m actually pleased with this series. It’s a good incarnation of the Transformers franchise that should please most die-hard and new fans alike. I would wager that this miniseries would come with a more featured season one box set, whenever that is released, but this is worth a good viewing to see if the series would quench your robot battlin’ thirst.
The Film 8/10
The Video and Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10