DVD Review - Transformers: Prime - Darkness Rising

Transformers have been reinvented countless times since their inception in 1984. It all started with the classic series, best known as Generation 1, back when Bumblebee was a bug and Soundwave a cassette player (ask your parents, kids). Since then we've seen the futuristic Gen 2, Beast Wars and Michael Bay's much maligned movie trilogy and aside from this we've seen numerous animated spin offs and a tonne of comic books. 

The Autobots and Decepticons have now returned in an all new animated series of unquestionable pedigree both in terms of production and voice work. One thing is for certain Transformers: Prime - Darkness Rising has this little Transformers fan is excited. 
"It has been three years since the Decepticons last attacked Earth and the Autobots await their return. After the death of Cliffjumper, the Autobots fight to protect the Earth from the Decepticons and befriend three young humans, and the returned Megatron who has been missing for three Earth years. Using Dark Energon, Megatron plans to raise an undead army of Cybertronians and defeat the Autobots. The Autobots destroy his space bridge and Megatron is believed killed in the process. Starscream becomes the new Decepticon leader." 

I have the Autobots symbol tattooed on my back, I just want to get it out there. I had it done when I was 18, back in 2000, well before Michael Bay's films both excited and disappointed all at once (Michael Bay is the new George Lucas - thanks for destroying my childhood). Ever since I was a kid, I've loved the franchise and have so many fond memories of playing with my Transformers toys, back when they were die cast. That said, I'm never the kind of fan that poo-poo's recreations of my childhood just because it is new. Instead, I look at things from a different perspective and hope that these new series', in this instance Transformers: Prime, will give a new generation as many happy memories as the original did for me. Luckily, from what I've seen it won't fail to please. 

Transformers: Prime Darkness Rising collects the first 5 episodes of the series into a film length feature. Without knowing this fact, you would never guess. The editing is all but seamless and could easily pass as a feature film. The art style and character design is a kind of hybrid between the original series and the more recent film versions. Although Optimus is a conventional style truck instead of a cabover and Bumblebee is a mute sports car, the setting of the series is a lot more similar to the original series, Jasper Nevada. Although the location of the original series is unknown, it has been widely speculated that the original Autobot ship and Teletraan 1 were based somewhere in the American southwest. This hybrid style is no doubt a result of the creators, cast and crew involved in its creation. 

Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, co-writers of Michael Bay's Transformers franchise, had a hand in developing this series along with Jeff Kline. Rounding off the list of developers is Jeff Kline who previously worked with Jeff Kline on Men in Black: The Animated Series and is well known for his work on DC Comics properties, including one of the greatest animated series of all time, Batman: The Animated Series. Signed on as voice director is Susan Blu, a prolific voice over director and artist who featured as the voice of Arcee in the original Transformer movie (You've Got the Touch!). Blu pulled together an all star cast including Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Cliffjumper and Steven Blum as Starscream while Frank Welker reprises his role as Megatron and Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime. Although it is only a small detail, hearing the original Optimus and Megatron will give even the most snarky fan goosebumps. 

Seeming to take its cue from the recent success of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Transformers: Prime is a predominantly CGI animated series. While watching some of the kick butt action sequences, I couldn't help but think how far we have come since Beast Wars, with regard to animation quality. The action sequences are fantastic but are surprisingly not the most interesting aspect of the series. Transformers: Prime manages to shine in the most unlikely of areas, in the relationships that begin to form between the human characters and the Autobots. This series left me feeling like a kid again, it is as close to the original series that I've seen and probably as close as we will get. Although it may share a similar aesthetic to Michael Bay's films, it has so much more heart and a much, much better sense of story. My own feelings aside, I truly hope that there's a kid out there, somewhere, that gets the same kind of enjoyment from Transformers: Prime that I got out of the original series. 

Transformers: Prime - Darkness Rising will be released on DVD on the 20th of June 2012 from Madman. Also on the 20th of June Madman will be releasing Transformers: Generation 1 REMASTERED on DVD! It's official, June will be a great month to be a Transformers fan. 


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