Review: Transformers Prime: "Darkness Rising"
Our old friends returned to the Hub this week with the debut of Transformers Prime! The two part episode "Darkness Rising" saw Optimus Prime and Megatron, voiced by Peter Cullen and Frank Welker the original voice actors from the 80s, return to their respective roles as leaders of the Autobots and Decepticons. Similar to the themes of past the past, the Decepticons are bent on taking the Earth's resources for their own with the Autobots there to stop them. Transformers Prime, while not a direct spin-off to the Michael Bay Transformer movies, does share similar characteristics. Bumblebee does speak, but only in sounds; the Autobots and Decepticons robot forms are designed more like those appearing in the movie and less like in appearances past; the Autobots have a relationship with a government liaison and form relationships with teenage humans with Jack Darby taking the place of Sam Witwicky. If not for a couple differences, namely Megatron, this would be considered a direct spin-off. Speaking of the mighty Megatron, Frank Welker does give the Lord of the Decepticons the familiar sound from the 80s, but with a more deeper and raspy voice. If you listen close, you can still hear a likeness to the original. This was something the movies lacked and I am glad to see they returned to with this new series. Of course Peter Cullen does an exemplary job of voicing Optimus Prime with his trademark one-liners leaving you with those all too familiar goosebumps. No one else can be Optimus. Perhaps one of the most popular and iconic Transformers of all time, Soundwave, did not meet up to my expectations - just as in the movies. Here, while they did use that robotic filter, instead of the more deep voice of Frank Welker form the 80s, they used a much higher voice with Jonathan Adams. I'm a stickler for Soundwave (the Transformer I first bought), so I do get picky. Overall, this version of Transformers is darker than the past versions, again more akin to the movies and less the animated versions of the shows. In the inaugural episode, one of the autobots dies - and its just as emotional as watching Optimus' demise in the original Transformers: The Movie. Here, however, it is a bit more graphic as Star Scream makes the final blow. The music score adds to the overall feel of the show and compliments Cullen's voice well. The same can be said when see see the Autobot base in the moutain, the flashback scene of Cybertron and more! Goosebumps, folks! As seen in Transformers: The Movie, and in shows past, Unicron makes his presence known - indirectly in the form of his "blood" which has anti-spark properties. This is brought to our world when Megatron returns (different than the movie as he is at the bottom of the sea) and uses it on the poor Autobot that Starscream killed off. What the anti-spark does is re-animate the deceased Transformer into some kind of zombie robot - which sort of fits in with the comic book from IDW's soon to be released crossover Infestation. Of course, Megatron desires to use and control the power for himself - which we will see more of in subsequent episodes. The three human teenagers that we are introduced to, I am glad to say, do not come off as overly too "kiddish." Young Jack Darby works in a burger joint, gets made fun of and has girl problems when he meets up with Arcee - who kicks major arse! From there the other two, Mike and "Raf," are enveloped into the plot as supporting characters like Jack with each getting an Autobot of their own (Bumblebee and Bulkhead). The six Autobots consist of Prime, Bumblebee, Arcee, Ratchet, fan-favorite from the Transfomers Animated show, Bulkhead and Cliffjumper - voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson! While we are very familiar with the Autobots, barring the big three of Megatron, Starscream and Soundwave, I had no idea who was who regarding the Decepticons as they resembled more Cy-lons from Battle Star Galactica than any previous versions. Apparently, Breakdown and Knockout are "Cons" as they are often called as well. While I am not a huge fan of CGI or computer animation as done with Transformers Prime, it definitely works. This does not come across near as bad as Transformers: Beast Wars - which I couldn't even watch. Perhaps, with the advance in technology the animation improved -- I can live with it. I thoroughly enjoyed Transformers Prime as did my six year old son. If you enjoyed the original 80's cartoon and the first Transformers movie - you'll love this. Next week, sees the full debut of the five part Transformers Prime television event on the Hub. I'll be there to watch for sure! Autobots! Roll out!