Transformers Prime may have gotten off to a rocky start when it began airing last year, but as with Star Wars: Clone Wars, it’s one that gets better as it progresses deeper into the Transformers mythos. It certainly didn’t start out that way, especially with strange character design choices, questionable (teenage) humans, and quirky animation making it a difficult show to love, especially coming the incredible popularity of the live-action blockbusters. Transformers Prime: Darkness Rising is the somewhat rocky, but exciting five-part opening storyline that helps set up the characters and their background for those who might not follow Hasbro’s incredibly popular transforming cybernetic life forms as religiously as some. There’s not much in the way of extra features or content here, but those looking to give the show a chance will find it one of the best Transformers series to come out since Beast Wars roared mightily in the 90s.
Coming off as a cross between the classic 80’s TV series and the recent movie franchise, Transformers Prime follows the continuing battle between the Decepticons and Autobots. After Cliffjumper (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) discovers the Decepticons are planning something big, it isn’t long before he’s taken out by Starscream before he can report back to Optimus. The remaining Autobots, which include Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Arcee, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee head out to Cliffjumper’s last known location to find out what happened, only to discover that Megatron plans to use a substance known as Dark Energon to reanimate and control any dead Transformer bodies from their past battles to take over earth.
But it’s not just the Transformers here, as three young teens also get caught up in the mix of things, and try to help the Autobots in saving the world from destruction. I’ll be honest in saying that I didn’t really care for the teens at first, especially the token girl Niko who would always get in trouble. I also didn’t care for the wonky animation on Optimus Prime’s mouth, which comes off looking like someone trying to make their bellybutton talk. Thankfully, these issues got (mostly) worked out as the show progressed, and the awesome battles, especially the final one between Optimus and Megatron, more than make it an enjoyable series that anyone can get into.
The video looks really great for a DVD, as the picture comes in as sharp and clean as 480p will allow. The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is just as impressive, as the dialogue and action sounds come through without a hitch. It would’ve been nice for this to have been on a Blu-ray, but I just recently learned that Shout Factory is going to release a limited-edition Blu-ray set of the entire first season sometime early next year. So that’s something to look forward to.
There’s not many extras here, sadly. There’s two five-minute featurettes in which one shows off the set design for the show while the other highlights character designs. The last of the extras is complete animatic of the show’s first episode, which gives an interesting look at how an episode looks before it’s completed. It would’ve been nice to have interviews with the writers, producers, and voice cast. I can only cross my fingers that those features will come with the first season set.
Transformers Prime: Darkness Rising collects the initial five episodes of the animated series in one slim DVD release, and while these aren’t the best representatives of just how good the show has gotten, it’s still a great place for newcomers and fans alike to start with. Issues with the questionable human characters and strange animation – including Optimus’ weird bellybutton lips – aside, it’s a series worth investing time in, as its definitely the best Transformers show since Beast Wars. Collectors should know this is a barebones release, designed more to familiarize newcomers rather than find a place in your growing Transformers video libraries. Hopefully Shout! Factory follows through with expanded sets in the future, as something tells me this series may be around for a few generations.
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