MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER reviews TRANSFORMERS: PRIME!!!! The new series on the Hub!!!!

TELEVISION REVIEW

TRANSFORMERS: PRIME (First two episodes)

AIR TIME: 5-Part Mini-Series Event runs through Friday at 6:30 PM, EST on the HUB Channel.

REVIEW: Master Filmmaker Mark Mackner

Salutations, Cybertronian sympathizers! ‘Tis I, Poptards’ resident Spider-Man scholar and local indie horror icon MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER with a peek at the latest entry in the Transformers animated canon, TRANSFORMERS: PRIME.

The series kicks off this week on the HUB Channel, with a 5-part pilot running Monday through Friday at 6:30, EST. After that, regular episodes will air starting in February. I caught the 1st two chapters of the pilot, and here’s what I think so far…

This show comes to us from executive producers ALEX KURTZMAN and ROBERTO ORCI, screenwriters of the Transformers live action films. But, while it incorporates elements of those films (Bumblebee doesn’t talk, Megatron’s appearance), it’s not a continuation of them.

It’s been a while since the Decepticons last attacked Earth, and the 6 last remaining Autobots… OPTIMUS PRIME, BUMBLEBEE, RATCHET, BULKHEAD, ARCEE, and CLIFFJUMPER await their return, and vow to protect the Earth and its inhabitants. Very few humans are aware of their existence/presence, and they seem to want to keep it that way.

The actual robot cast is pretty small so far. You have those 6 heroes, and one of them, Cliffjumper, has been killed already. THREE times!!!!! But, more on that in a minute.

Supplying the villainy, of course, is MEGATRON, STARSCREAM, SOUNDWAVE, and for the first time, we have a bunch of nameless goons called ERADICONS, who are basically the Decepticon Storm Troopers who transform into muscle cars.

PETER CULLEN and FRANK WELKER thankfully reprise their roles as Optimus and Megatron, as NO ONE (Not even the great HUGO WEAVING) can replace them in the hearts of Transformers fans worldwide. These venerable voice actors OWN these roles, end of discussion. The controversial flames on Optimus are not present, but, much like the films and the previous ‘toon, Optimus has a mouth. But it does have a defense plate that gives him the more classic G1 look. Megatron, again like the films, transforms into a Cybertronian jet, as he feels that all Earth crafts are beneath him.

As a big fan of TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED, I was kinda bummed to see that the new series was going to be computer animated, as it brought to mind those dismal CG Transformer ‘toons of the past, but I’m happy to report that the animation here is very well done. The action scenes are well staged, and the fights are exciting and nicely executed.

One notable departure from the films is that the human characters actually aren’t annoying and they don’t dominate the screen time. There’s a quiet little bookworm kid, a punky Asian teen girl, and 16 year old Jack, the main human protagonist. I think most fans would prefer to spend time with him than Sam Witwicky any day of the week. He’s just an average dude. Not obnoxious in any way, not an endless font of rubbish buzz words, ghettospeak, or would-be catchphrases. They definitely score big with the humans this time around.

Megatron has got his hands on some Dark Energon Crystals, which have the power to revive dead Cybertronians. Problem is, they come back as murderous zombies, which is what we learn when they’re tested on hapless guinea pig Cliffjumper, who is killed in the beginning of the 1st episode. His body is brought back to the Decepticon mother ship, where they bring him back, only to kill him again. Then the Autobots attempt a rescue mission, where he’s killed AGAIN. I guess if you’re a big Cliffjumper fan, you’re not going to be very happy about any of this.

Other random LIKES and DISLIKES…

LIKE…

JEFFREY COMBS as RATCHET!!!!! Dr. Herbert West (REANIMATOR) and Dr. Jonathan Crane (BTAS) as the team’s medic? Inspired!

SOUNDWAVE!!!! He hasn’t done much of anything yet, but I just LOVE this character. I love him so much that I managed to hang on to my G1 Soundwave toy from my childhood. Ditto my Optimus and Megatron toys.

FIGHT CLUB REFERENCE!!!! Clearly they know that more than just kids are watching, so that may bode well for the series if they are catering to older viewers as well. Though, I must say that my kids enjoyed the Fight Club line and repeated it while playing with their toys, so knowledge of the Fight Club movie was apparently not required to appreciate that moment.

DARK ENERGON CRYSTALS!!!!! Well, this is something different for Transformers, the whole “resurrecting the dead” thing. Makes for some interesting possibilities.

DISLIKE…

NON-TALKING BUMBLEBEE. I don’t know. I just prefer a Bumblebee who talks. When all the others talk, and he doesn’t, it makes him come off as kind of… “special”. Since he was smaller than the other G1 Autobots, he was the closest in height to the humans, and therefore, seemed to forge the closest bond with them. Here, like in the films, he’s kind of a badass, and he doesn’t talk. And while he still has a soft spot for us humans, he’s just not quite Bumblebee to me.

NO WHEELJACK. It’s still REALLY early on, so who knows which characters will pop up before all is said and done, but Wheeljack, after Optimus, is my favorite non-Dino-Autobot. I hope we get some Wheeljack (And Dinobots!) sometime soon.

Wow, I guess that’s it. Not much to dislike here, really. If giant alien robots turning into vehicles and fighting each other over the fate of our planet is the kind of thing that tickles your fancy, then there’s lots to appreciate here. I’ll definitely be tuning in to catch the rest of the pilot, and I’m sure I’ll be back in February to follow the rest of the series.

And THAT is THE WORD, so sayeth THE MASTER!!!!

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(MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER is the resident Poptards Spider-Man nut, and the author of SPIDEY’S WEEKLY WEB-UP right here on this site! Also, true to his name, he is the writer/director of the locally made films DAISY DERKINS, DOGSITTER OF THE DAMNED!, EVIL BREW, and THE HALF-LIFE HORROR FROM HELL or: IRRADIATED SATAN ROCKS THE WORLD!)

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