Transformers: Prime Episodes 1 and 2 Review

{mosimage}The Allspark has received the first two episodes of the Transformers: Prime cartoon! These episodes – entitled "Darkness Rising Part 1" and "Darkness Rising Part 2" throw us into a new war between Decepticons and Autobots hiding on Earth. On the Decepticon side, we're met by the power-hungry Starscream, the silent listener Soundwave, the not-quite-sane Megatron, and a horde of Decepticon drones there for the manual labor and occasional cannon fodder. The Autobots are comprise of the gung-ho Cliffjumper, the energetic Arcee, the youthful warrior Bumblebee, the surly medic Ratchet, the eager brute Bulkhead, and the noble Optimus Prime.

But the Cybertronians aren't the only characters we meet. There's also the burger-flipping Jack Darby, the young genius Raf, and the easily excited Miko that fill in as the human sidekicks for this cartoon. Also introduced are Agent Fowler, an employee of an ambiguous Government agency tasked with keeping the Autobots and Decepticons under-wraps, Sierra a girl from Jack's homeroom, and June Darby, Jack's mother.

Animation
The backgrounds, the textures on the robots, the special effects (Energon explosions are awesome!) all look amazing. Very much fit of the hype built during the Transformers: Prime panels at various conventions during the summer. There are scenes that are simply amazing as far as the rendering, lighting, and designs go. Yes, quite a few of them are sunsets – groan away about the Michael Bay influence – but that doesn't take away from the fantastic environment that gets constructed around our heroes (and villains).

You might notice that I left the humans out of that praise. They're…ok. Something about their models makes them come across a little flat compared to the fantastic CGI work around them. There are some great touches here and there; like the occasional light sheen on their nose, slightly glossier lips compared to the rest of the face, but there's just something not quite "perfect" about the models. Part of it may be the eyes, which look like they are part of the face itself, not recessed behind eyelids. Another part may be the animation behind the facial expressions. I kept wanting to see more. The scenes in which they were surprised or in awe showed off some great facial expressions. Why can't we have that when they're scared or yelling? In those scenes, they just looked mellow compared to the voice acting. We've had "Dull Surprise" before, so I guess now we have "Dull Fear".

Humans aside, the animation really is beautiful! There are some breath-taking action scenes ready to pump you into your own frenzy! Great cuts and timing all around. The "shaky camera" effect for the one battle in the second episode wasn't necessary, but it was hardly the gut-wrencher that we have during the live-action movies.

There were times, however, when the lighting and action just didn't give the right "weight" to the characters. In particular to Raf and Jack as they fled down a sewer drain. Despite their crawling, they looked almost like they were floating instead.

And, just like in Beast Machines, they need to work on the optics. The pupils seem to want to drift to the side. Making Megatron's introduction more goofy than dramatic!

Score
Most people probably don't even notice the background music for most shows, but the score for Transformers: Prime is very impressive for a cartoon. It sounds more like a score for a blockbuster movie than a kids' cartoon show. However, it's not overpowering in the least; you can enjoy the action and the dialog of the show without having to "listen through" the score, like has become problematic for some movies/TV. The score very much helps provide a grandiose feel to the two episodes, and lends itself perfectly for setting the mood.

Humor
There are definitely some spots that will have you chuckling. Arcee, Bulkhead, and Ratchet – Ratchet in particular – will have you laughing aloud at your television screen. Don't however, expect the show to be anything like Animated, where some of the episodes were driven by humor as much as they were by plot. Transformers: Prime is very much a plot driven series, just with the right sprinkling of humor so that it doesn't interrupt the story.

Voice Acting
For the most part, this is pretty good. It'll take some getting used to Kevin Michael Richardson instead of Bill Fagerbakke for Bulkhead, though! And Megatron, to me, sounds like an evil Fred Jones from Scooby Doo than an evil mastermind Decepticon bent on universal domination…Wait, that actually works doesn't it?

Perhaps the best voice acting comes from Jeffrey Combs (are we surprised?). His dry delivery for Ratchet's lines just fit the character perfectly!

Story
Without getting into spoilers, this is a really dark story! From the opening scenes in the first episode (you'll see), to how that progresses in the second…"Darkness Rising" is a fitting title indeed!

I very much like how we're just thrown into the story too. At the start, there's no needless exposition about who the Transformers are, and why they're on Earth. They're just on Earth. Deal with it.

We do get a glimpse of the war on Cybertron later on though. And for fans not wanting it to contradict War for Cybertron…Uh oh! The character models are very much different from what we see in the video game. Whoopsies!

Characters
Cliffjumper is everything you'd want a Dwayne Johnson-voiced Cliffjumper to be! Very gung-ho, in your face, and all around an incredibly fun character to watch!

Arcee is your pretty typical aggressive female character. Still, a great character though, and she lends herself well to the story around Cliffjumper and her involvement with the introduction of the humans is near perfect.

Starscream is a great take on Starscream. Still the same character at the most basic of levels, but this Starscream actually made of the sterner stuff that backs up his power hunger. This guy really is a threat!

Soundwave…Does he even have a character? He pretty much stands there, silent, playing back transmissions that he intercepts. Although, at least we know that he's still loyal to Megatron. It's through a simple nod of the head, but it works, I guess.

Bumblebee
He's very much the movie or Animated character. Eager to get into a fight, easily adapts to the human partners…only he doesn't have any of the vocalizations that we're used to. Instead it's through a series of…not beeps, but similar noises. Which makes it a bit odd that Raf somehow understands him…

Optimus Prime
Take the movie Prime…and well you've pretty much got him. The character model and animation, though, make him seem younger, and more importantly, more sympathetic.

Ratchet
Awesome. Awesome character. Surly and uninterested in the humans to the point of annoyance, but more subdued about it than Animated Ratchet. Just works amazingly well for Ratchet.

Bulkhead
I do miss the clumsy, but gentle giant from Animated. This Bulkhead is still clumsy, but not necessarily defined by it. He's always spoiling for a fight, and can certainly deliver that fight when the time calls for it!

Megatron
This guy is nuts. His obsession with the plot device for the show is just…wow. Especially how the second episode leaves us hanging. Just…nuts. Aside from the insanity, his size – and the TEETH! – there's something not quite as threatening about him. But, there's not all that much in the episodes that build his character, since he's treated almost more like a plot device than a character. Still, the seeds are there for him to develop into a potent threat.

Jack, Raf, Miko
If they had to be likened to previous human characters, they'd be Sam, Chip and Sari. Not quite the perfect analogy, but very close, each one. They manage to not be annoying, or get in the way as much as previous human characters. They're there as a way to introduce us to the Transformers, but when the Transformers do their thing, they do it alone, leaving the humans behind. As Ratchet says "They have no protective shell. If they get underfoot they will go…squish!"

Agent Fowler
Secret government agent. Yells at Autobots when they cause too much of s disturbance…that's pretty much all we get to see in these first two episodes. He trusts the Autobots…but he doesn't. He's no Captain Lennox, but he's no doubter either. Perhaps he's more like a much less eccentric Captain Fanzone in a way.

Where does this all leave us?
This looks to be one great Transformers cartoon! There are some things that may distract, but overall these first two episodes are amazing! Simply amazing! Two thumbs up, 4.5 stars, 9 out of 10…you get the idea!

On November 26th, there are going to be A LOT of excited Transformers fans!

You can see images from this preview here!

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