This review is based on the 4-disc Blu-ray set
Season two of the epic Hub TV show focuses on the battle between rival factions of an alien race of robots known as Transformers. Optimus Prime and the heroic Autobots take on Megatron and the evil Decepticons. Includes all 26 episodes of the second season.
There have been so many incarnations of Transformers over the years, but Generation One, the original series, still holds a special place in the hearts of hard core fans. Transformers Prime, however, may eventually become the definitive version of the brand. Combining the best aspects of the original 1980s animated series (including the voices of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and Frank Welker as Megatron) with the look and music cues of the modern films, Transformers Prime is a riveting television show with a smart, epic scope.
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who wrote the feature films, serve as executive producers for the show. That may not sound great, considering how some view the movies, but here, with the pairing of executive producer Jeff Kline and supervising producer Duane Capizzi, we get an intelligent, slightly dark take on the Transformers mythos. Whether it is character development, riveting storylines, or over-the-top robot battles, there is something in Transformers Prime for every fan.
Season 2 picks up the story arc that ended Season 1, and the first few episodes are fantastic. I won’t give the storyline away, but like most of Season 2, Transformers Prime provides storylines with some gravitas. The season ends on another big plot twist affecting all the Transformers, with a season finale that most network dramas cannot match. It makes season 2 of the Emmy-winning series a pleasure to watch and a perfect fix for any Transformer junkie.
In addition to Cullen and Welker providing the voices, a strong supporting cast includes Josh Keaton, Jeffrey Combs, Ernie Hudson, Markie Post, Kevin Michael Richardson, and Steve Plum. The CGI animation is among the best on TV; the robots look great, without choppy movement or bad rendering. The production design is superb; while other CGI cartoons for television look like they’ve taken budget shortcuts, it appears Transformers Prime puts every dollar of its budget on the screen. Not even Star Wars: The Clone Wars looks this good.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
CGI animation always has a very sharp, clean look, but the high definition picture shows an amazing level of clarity that rivals the Pixar CGI animation. It’s THAT good. In addition, I’ve always found the movie Transformers design far too complicated and confusing to follow (especially when they transform), and thankfully, Prime does not fall into that trap. Where the CGI of the movie versions of the Transformers are so intricate that the robots are difficult to appreciate, the sleeker, stylized versions in Transformers Prime are superior, in my view, even as they resemble the Michael Bay versions. Audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, and is top-notch, with a full, rich sound. Sounds effects and music are nicely separated. The extras are Dolby Digital 2.0.
Disc 4 contains the set’s extras, led off with a roundtable discussion with the show’s creative minds about the approach to season two. Brian Ward hosts the discussion, which features nearly every major member of the crew behind the show. Executive Producer Jeff Kline is joined by Hasbro Studios President Stephen Davis, Hasbro Studios executive director for current series Brian Lenard, co-executive producer Duane Capizzi, Hasbro Studios vice president of development Michael Vogel, supervising director David Hartman, production designer Vince Toyama, character and prop designer Jose Lopez, visual effects art director Christophe Vacher, director Shaunt Nigoghossian, director Todd Waterman, director Vinton Heuck, story editor Steven Melching, and director Scooter Tidwell. Yeah, it’s a long list, but everyone has some great observations in a featurette that lasts at least 20 minutes. The season’s major storylines are discussed, as well as how certain characters were treated. It is an interesting watch, especially when each of the individuals talk about how they are all Transformer fanboys at heart. It is rare to see so many members of an animated series discuss their show in such detail.
The “Optimus Prime: Up Close and Personal” featurette features the 2012 San Diego Comic Con panel where Larry King interviewed Peter Cullen. The voice of Optimus discusses his early career and his approach to the iconic character. It is fascinating to watch, especially when Cullen drifts into character. The most interesting tidbit from the panel: Cullen reveals that he modeled the voice and demeanor of Optimus after his brother Larry. If you’ve never seen Cullen speak in person, this extra is a real treat.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall Grade: 8
Transformers Prime is the show that fans have been waiting for every since the Generation One cartoons went off the air. It hits the mark on every level. The Blu-ray gives us an exceptional image, and even though the audio is not the 7.1 HD audio mix we might hope for, it is still strong enough to make it all enjoyable. For any Transformers fan, the Season 2 Blu-ray set is an absolute must-buy.
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Running time: 10 hours (approx.)
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, 2.0 Dolby Digital
Special Features: Behind the Scenes interviews with the creative team, “Optimus Prime: Up Close and Personal” panel from the 2012 San Diego Comic Con