Transformers Prime Premiere Review

"You know, Arcee, not only does being a female Autobot make you a bad driver, it also makes you bad at being a robot in disguise."

"I hope you die, Cliffjumper."

Despite being terrible, the Transformers movies have been huge, so it makes sense that eventually a cartoon would come out that took some of the crappy movie designs for inspiration. That's basically what many of Transformers in Transformers Prime are; toned down movie designs. The designs aren't overly busy like their movie counterparts, though, as you can tell what parts are what. I couldn't see these on television, but I was able to watch the first two episodes over on The Hub site. Overall Transformers Prime had some decent spots, but you're not missing a whole lot if you don't watch it.

Warning: There are spoilers.

In these first two episodes, it is thought that the Decepticons have been gone from Earth. Wait, the Autobots and Decepticons already fought on Earth? When was this? Does this series actually take place after the movies, or is it just some alternate continuity? It isn't explained, so we just have to go with it. The Decepticons were thought to be gone, but then Cliffjumper (voiced by The Rock) runs into some when he finds a big patch of Energon. He doesn't fight any real Decepticons though, just nameless drones. The drones are apparently pretty tough in this series because Cliffjumper is killed. Yep, Cliffjumper dies in the first five minutes of the show. Well, that's certainly some way to start a show, killing off a fan-favorite character. It's also surprising since Cliffjumper got a lot of ad time from the promotional material for the show.

Meanwhile, Arcee is the worst at staying a robot in disguise. She's also blue, not pink, which is weird for Arcee. She not only reveals herself to a teenage boy, but a Japanese girl also sees her in robot form. Another young kid gets involved when he sees the Autobots fighting the drones. The Autobots think that the Decepticons will try to hurt the kids because the drones saw the kids with the Autobots, so they take the kids to their mountain base to protect them, much to the annoyance of Ratchet.

While the Autobots entertain the kids with robot jokes, Starscream is in charge of the Decepticon drones who pretty much just harvest Energon. Megatron shows up, back from a space vacation or something, and explains to Starscream that he wants to build an army. It's not a normal army though, but a zombie army. The word zombie isn't explicitly used, but Megatron uses Dark Energon on the body of the recently murdered Cliffjumper who becomes a zombie robot. Yep, it wasn't enough to have zombies in IDW's upcoming one-time crossover, now there are actual zombies in Transformers canon. Great. Well, the Autobots detect Cliffjumper's life signs so they create a ground-bridge (Autobots don't have space-bridge tech) right to the Decepticon mining operation. Arcee finds zombie Cliffjumper, gets freaked out, and drops him into a pit of Energon. Starscream blows up the mine, the Autobots escape, and Cliffjumper is effectively killed a second time. Someone at Hasbro really hates Cliffjumper.

All of Starscream's plotting and scheming ruined by Megatron's ridiculous need for zombie robots. Stupid zombies.

There are currently six Autobots on Earth: Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Arcee, Bulkhead, Bumblebee, and Cliffjumper. Wait, make that five. I like that Bulkhead is in this series. I really liked him in Transformers Animated (I don't even remember him in Energon) so it's good to see him here. Then Bulkhead started talking and it threw me off. He's not same tough lovable big guy, he's now just a tough guy. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but the new voice was a bit jarring at first. Thanks to the movies, Bumblebee is inexplicably mute and only talks in beeps and boops. I guess it could be worse and he could talk using out-dated song lyrics, but it's annoying. Just let the damn 'bot speak! Also, does Soundwave not have his own voice? He had a couple scenes, but didn't say anything. Man, I hope Soundwave doesn't just talk from whatever spy recordings he gets because that will get old very fast.

Speaking of voices, the voice-work is great so far. Steve Blum gives a Starscream a brand new type of menacing voice and Jeffery Combs makes an excellent Ratchet. Peter Cullen and Frank Welker reprise their roles as Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively, so you know what you're getting there. Although, is it just me or is Welker doing Megatron's voice a little differently? It sounds like it to me, at least.

So far the only Decepticons are Starscream, Soundwave, and Megatron. Where are the other Decepticons? They have drones, but that's it. The nameless Decepticon drones appear to be more than a match for the Autobots, but I hope that the Autobots don't just fight drones every week. Bring out third-tier Decepticons for all I care, just get some names fighting.

The look of the show is very bland. Since this is another CG-animated Transformers cartoon there has been much comparison of this against the legendary Beast Wars and mediocre Beast Machines. the Transformers themselves look fine, but the look of the rest of the show doesn't seem to have progressed as far as it should have. Maybe I've just been spoiled by Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Unfortunately, my eyes got bored with the visuals at times. The animation seems fine overall, but some of the mouth movement, especially Optimus Prime's, just looks weird. Everyone has a defined mouth, except Optimus. All he has is a hole that moves oddly as he talks.

Kids are a part of almost every Transformers cartoon, so Transformers Prime has them in clichéd, stereotypical roles. There's the little kid who's great with computers and can somehow understand Bumblebee's beeps and boops, the teenager who feels out of place among his peers, and the Japanese teen girl who wears that hip Tokyo style and thinks everything is super cool. They'll be annoying at times, but deal with it. It's just the way it goes. The funniest moments of the show were Ratchet's annoyance of the kids hanging around. Hmm, I think Ratchet could characterize us old-school fans.

Overall the show was okay. The visuals were bland, Optimus' mouth was strange, Bumblebee's beeps were irritating, and it showed that Arcee is pretty much the worst Autobot ever. Since Transformers Prime is a Transformers show I'll continue to watch it. Even though it wasn't that good, the voice-acting was. I may be able to deal with the blandness if the voice work remains consistently good. There is one thing that actually makes me want to watch it, though: Unicron. At one point Megatron mentions that Dark Energon is the blood of Unicron, so even the possibility that Unicron might be in the show is too tempting. Hopefully the show won't bore me to death before I see Unicron.

-Shawn - 12/04/10