When I first heard about the impending arrival of Transformers: Prime I was incredibly skeptical. I had no problem with an all-CGI show. After all, Beast Wars was – and still is my favourite of all of the Transformers shows to-date. The promised return of Peter Cullen and Frank Welker to voice Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively added even more weight to the huge potential that the show had. But then everything went south when we heard that the series was being created by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci – two of the men responsible for the script to the first live action movie (and the first of the recent Star Trek movies).
With the look of the characters leaning more towards that of the movies than what we had seen in the past, continuing the voiceless Bumblebee storyline that we had seen for a few years and the now-standard trope of pairing up the Autobots with human children, I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My gut reaction was that heading online to play instant win games was going to be more fun than watching this series.
Unusually for a Transformers show, Hasbro decided to do something a little different this time around and released the first season in two parts, initially as a five-part introductory story and then the remainder of the season some months later. That story, Darkness Rising, originally aired before the main first season started so the the initial exposure we had to Transformers Prime was through just five episodes. The story take place on Earth where a small band of Autobots are patrolling the planet alone, searching for a source of Energon while trying to maintain a low profile. The Decepticons have been in hiding, until a small group is discovered by Cliffjumper on a routine patrol. The lone Autobot is soon overpowered and taken prisoner…
Meanwhile, we are gradually introduced to the rest of the Autobots and the obligatory human characters who become drawn into the impending renewed conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons by accident, just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While, as adult fans, we may loathe the inclusion of children in the shows as part of the cast they are there for a number of reasons. From a commercial point of view, Transformers Prime is aimed at a young audience and these characters give most of the audience one or more characters that they can easily identify with and relate to.
Despite the episode’s brief 22 minute running time we eventually see the introduction of all of the Autobots on Earth including Optimus Prime, hear about the civil war on Cybertron, see that Starscream is currently in command of the Decepticons and that Megatron is lost in space… Yet despite all of this going on, nothing feels rushed in the episode and and everyone has plenty of time on screen to be introduced properly.
There are plenty of great touches throughout the first episode. While all of the voice acting is remarkable and I don’t want to single anyone out in particular, special mention has to go to the cameo appearance from Dwayne Johnson as Cliffjumper. While he didn’t make it to the end of the episode, there was a fun nod to his Rock “persona” in Cliffjumper’s design.
Even though this was just the first part of a larger story, it had me gripped right from the beginning. The animation was flawless, the direction was superb for both action sequences and character focused scenes, there was some superb dramatic moments in the script, but equally well placed moments of humour to lighten moments when the story allowed for it.
Despite my early reservations, I hadn’t been this impressed since the first episode of Beast Wars. Now could the rest of the series continue as strongly…?