For as long as I have been a Transformers fan, my relationship with the franchise has been, without question, a gigantic mixed bag of emotions, ranging from fanboyish enjoyment, sadness, disappointment, bouts of nostalgia, and utter anger. Yeah, I Bambi-eyed my parents to buy as many of the toys that I could and I can quote the 1987 movie word for word. Everything from bed spreads to lamps and my first wallet was smeared in robots in disguise, yet I can say that there were moments where I wanted Transformers to go the hell away, yet I kept coming back to every reincarnation of the TV show that was thrown my way like a dog waiting for Thanksgiving scraps to fall off the table. I’ll start with a brief recap of my love/indifference/hate relationship with before analyzing why Transformers Prime is so awesome.
I’ll say it just to get it out of the way; I’m a hardcore Generation 1 fan, and probably just the right stooge the toy manufacturers liked to pander to. It’s premise is about as simple as one would expect. Create a cartoon for the sake of creating toys. I instantly fell in love with the concept of a car becoming a colossal machine and battling it out with another one, and a lot of my early memories are of the Transformers. And then the movie happened….Don’t get me wrong, I still do really enjoy watching this film (and I don’t know if I speak for a minority), but this was probably the first chink in the armor. The idea was, of course, to introduce some new toys. I didn’t know this when I was six, so when I’m watching all of my favorite Autobots thrown mercilessly into the grinder to make room for Blur (meh), Wheelie (sucks), Springer (The Vince Vaughn of Transformers), Arcee (bland), and that goddamned, fast-talking, fast-walking, no good, rotten-ass, catchphrase spewing, party animal Hot Rod (my hatred is hard to temper with this guy) who thought he could hold Optimus Prime’s lugnuts, I’m pretty pissed about it. The Deceptacons didn’t fare any better in the transition, with Megatron getting an Extreme Makeover into Galvatron and Starscream dead, their ranks replaced the fighter jets like Thrust, Thundercracker, and Durge, with bland as all hell Sweeps, generic minions with no distinct personalities. Worse off, they played second fiddle to the new villains, the Quintessons. Despite bordering on mad scientists with a God complex (something I usually like in my bad guys), the Quintessons did not impress me in the slightest, and the best scheme they came up with was bringing Optimus Prime back to life.
I was very displeased, and pissed off as Transformers Generation 1 whimpered out like a small, dying rat. I’d like to point out that I failed to read the Transformers comic books, so any vital information that might explain certain changes in continuity in paperback form is completely lost on me.
Beast Wars and Beast Machines was the next effort I remembered, and while they had some pretty decent episodes and ideas, I just could not get into it. The early CGI animation was pretty bad and character names aside, very little of it felt like a Transformers universe. It was around this time that I was close to giving up, but I was goaded into watching Transformers Armada. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this incarnation was and it breathed some much-needed life back into my dying husk of what used to be a unquinchable love. I liked a lot of the ideas, even if the minicons put me in the mind of Transformers: Yu Gi Oh, but the characterizations were sharper and deeper, Autobots and Deceptacons boasted strong factions, the human kids were enjoyable, especially the bullies, and the story with each subsequent series got bigger and better leading up to the awesome Unicron finale. Capped off with a really good Armada video game for the PS2, and I was quite happy overall. There was a weird-ass looking concoction called Transformers Animated, which when I tried to watch it, I felt certain that I was drugged and forced to watch what would happen if the cast of Fooly Cooly made Transformers.
I blacked out for 4 years due to a Hasbro-induced coma caused by a series of movies designed to lower the IQ of any human and furniture present during their showing, but the only silver lining in those dark clouds was the writing staff crafting Transformers Prime. Combining some of the old and the new, TP comes off as a respectable collaboration of many ideas utilized throughout the Transformers universe, and that goes beyond references and cameos. Almost everything I have seen in this show up until now has happened for a reason and not carted off to the side. The show’s second season has recently finished airing and I wanted to wait for an opportunity to look at the story’s structure so far without leaving out anything too crucial for the sake of writing.
The 5 part premiere Darkness Rising is a very introductory to the main cast, our villains, and the situation. It’s well done and doesn’t feel like it offers clumsy exposition or a long, drawn-out narrative that only bores audiences. People don’t really like being lulled to sleep by that overused device, mostly because the mood is extracted and nothing is set up. you just wait for the guy to stop talking and get the show going. Much like Generation 1, the Deceptacons have an advantage over the Autobots, what with a full armada at Megatron’s disposal, whereas Team Prime (that really puts me in the mind of American Gladiators for some reason) relys on their human proxy for a look into the outside world. Unlike the Michal Bay films, where the humans were deemed more important to the overall battle, TP puts the relationship back where it needs to belong; the civilians are to be the eyes and ears for the Autobots while they continue to adjust to their new surroundings, thus helping them blend in to their vehicular mode disguises easier. Every now and then, their assistance is heavily required, much like how Spike and Carly went to Cybertron to retrieve Cybertronium for the bots who were unable to function without it.
Throughout this battle, Megatron hatches a plan to increase his army by using the blood of Unicron to raise an undead horde of minions whom follow his bidding after fusing with it. Each episode ends with a crescendo and keeps you wanting to watch more until the finale, which includes an intense battle that also harbors plotlines in the future.
The first third of the official season kicks off with mostly some expository filler to get to better know our characters and gradually introduce more heroes, human characters, and opposition. I really appreciate how this series really takes it’s time instead of spearheading you with a bunch of information and characters at once. Remember some of those G1 episodes where some Autobots who weren’t present when Teletran 1 crashed on earth suddenly appear with no explanation? Oh, right!! Gotta sell toys!! Here’s a Warpath, Preceptor, and some Constructacons for ya, you dumb little kids! Stop asking questions!! Actually, to call some of this filler might be a bit unfair, since subtle build up serves as vital info later on. Soundwave at one point takes a picture of the kids and this isn’t mentioned again for a long while. Season 1 ends on another multi episode finale that will guarantee you tune in next season to see what will happen, and I was waiting throughout most of the summer for it to pick back up. the last cartoon I was this excited for was Ben 10’s season two premiere.
So, in a nutshell (a big ass nutshell), Transformers Prime’s story isn’t a backdrop just to sell toys, nor is it a clumsy rehash of a nostalgic title that’s come back to try to milk another pay check. It has a great deal of respect for its older audience educated in the franchise, it’s probably very easy for newcomers to hop right in and enjoy it, and there is plenty of action and intrigue without shoving it down your throat in a completely ham-fisted manner. When I return for part 2, I will talk in detail about the cast of characters, Autobots, Deceptacons, and the Civilian characters and some things that aren’t too perfect. Until then, good night, and good reading.
– Colonel Fancy