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Transformers Prime: Season One (Blu-ray Review)

3 Mar, 2012 By: John Latchem

Street 3/6/12
Shout! Factory
Four-disc set, $29.93 DVD, $64.99 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Voices of Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Jeffrey Combs, Kevin Michael Richardson, Steve Blum, Adam Baldwin, Markie Post, Ernie Hudson, Gina Torres.

For a franchise spawned from a toy line of robots that convert into vehicles, “The Transformers” has demonstrated remarkable longevity.

From comic books to movies and umpteen animated series, the core mythology, while open to re-interpretation, has remained largely consistent. Good guy Autobots make their way to Earth to defend it from the evil Decepticons, continuing an intergalactic civil war for control of their home planet of Cybertron.

The latest to carry on the torch is “Transformers Prime,” which began airing on Hasbro-owned cable network The Hub in 2010. This may be the best “Transformers” series since the 1980s original (with no disrespect intended toward those who prefer the “Beast Wars” offshoot in the 1990s).

“Prime” uses slick CG animation, with bot designs heavily inspired by the look of the Michael Bay movies, which is no surprise since its executive producers are Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who wrote the first and second films. To its credit, it’s also much more grounded in basic storytelling than the films.

This is aided, we learn from the bonus material, by the fact that, unlike many animated series that rely a lot on freelancers, “Prime” actually has a writing staff. This results in coherent storylines that play out through the season.

The benefits to this are obvious just from a simple comparison to the 1980s show (also known as “Generation One”). Both began with a miniseries, but where “Prime” uses that as a jumping off point, the “G1” miniseries ends with the Autobots preparing to return to Cybertron, only to still be on Earth with no explanation in the next episode. (The “Prime” miniseries was previously presented on DVD as a single movie, but is presented episodically on the season set).

And where the first season of “Prime” ends with a decent cliffhanger, the first season of “G1” ended with the Decepticons disappearing into lava, only to have returned by season two with no explanation. Such is the evolution of cartoons, I suppose.

The DVD and Blu-ray include commentaries on almost every episode, mostly involving the creative team with a cast member joining them here and there.

The fourth disc includes an older featurette made to preview the series before it aired, but also a more recently produced featurette about the production of the first season and the parallel development of the toy line. The latter is very spoiler-heavy, so it’s best to avoid it until viewing all the episodes, but it does include some juicy details, such has how Ironhide was supposed to be a part of the show until his fate in the Dark of the Moon movie led producers to take him out over fear of confusing kids (even though “Prime” is a separate continuity from the films).

The disc also includes a preview of season two, which will have already aired three episodes by the time the season one disc hits shelves..

The best benefit of the Blu-ray is that it includes a 96-page graphic novel published by IDW that serves as a prequel to the show.

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