Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beast Wars: Transformers – The Complete Series Collector’s Edition DVD Review

Shout! Factory, along with Hasbro, Inc., has released the Transformers: Beast Wars – The Complete Series Collector’s Edition 8-DVD box set that is jam packed with hours of content, this Complete Series Collector’s Edition contains the entire CG animated series of BEAST WARS. In addition, there’s a bounty of extras, including retrospective featurettes, a 12-page book, art galleries, plus a special collectible 24-page comic book Transformers Timelines “Dawn of the Future’s Past.”  Originally published by Fun Publications for BotCon, the official Transformers convention, in 2006, the comic book is the official prequel story leading right up to the start of Beast Wars and offers valuable insight into all the events that led to Optimus Primal chasing after Megatron and his Predacons!

Film (3 out of 5 stars) 

When I was growing up I constantly watched both G.I. Joe and Transformers through 1984-85 and enjoyed them even though I knew that nothing major would ever happen on either show due to the shows’ seemingly pacifistic mandate. Sure, a million shots could be fired between massive armies but it was guaranteed that no one would die or be seriously hurt. When Transformers: The Movie came out, it shocked me and I’m sure a lot of other fans when Megatron actually killed someone in the first five minutes of the movie!  If those kind of stakes had been present during the regular show, it would have vastly improved the enjoyment of many people and it probably would have had an even greater audience.
After seeing that the show had incorporated new characters from the movie but not the darker storylines, I stopped watching the show which continued on to constantly morph into new versions.  The series limped on in one iteration or another until 1990 where it was no longer shown in the United States any longer.  It wasn’t until 1995 that a new Transformers show returned to the airwaves here with Beast Wars:  Transformers which ended up running five years.  I had never watched the show but when I was given the chance to review this I agreed to because of my nostalgia for the original show and hoped that this one would be even better.
Set 300 years after the events of the original show (Generation 1),  the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons is long over with the Autobots triumphing over their evil brethren.  In fact, at this point the two opposing forces aren’t even called Autobots or Decepticons but instead they are known as Maximals (the beginning of many cringe-worthy puns) and the Predacons (are you starting to see the theme here?) who take their fight through time and space and end up on Prehistoric Earth.  Optimus Primal leads the Maximals and Megatron (not the original one) leads the evil Predacons.
After crash landing, both sides quickly discover that the planet is rich with an abundance of Energon (which powers them) and it’s so potent that it will overload their systems unless they transform from being robots into something else.  So both sides scan the surrounding area for creatures that they can emulate and like usual, the Predacons have better taste.  Megatron becomes a Tyrannosaurus Rex and Optimus Primal becomes an ape.  That entire premise of having to be a animal doesn’t make any sense at all, since their alternate form is still them so it should still have the same effect on them.  They may be robots in disguise and can fool people, but energon should affect them no matter what mode they are in.  Their alternate forms are only superficially different as we see when Megatron bites Primal’s leg and we can see his damaged circuitry through the cut.
That incomprehensible oversight was bad enough, but that was only the beginning.  I’ve got to say that the first season of this show was so bad that I dreaded having to watch the remaining two seasons.  The show’s CGI which I’m sure was pretty special at the time (and even was awarded an Emmy for it) now looks completely outdated.  Current pre-visualized animatics now look better than this show.  The scripts and direction for the first season were also horrible.  I was already annoyed with the heavy handed naming conventions of the show but having to watch their transformations almost did me in.  Every time both sides fight, they each have to say their name and either Maximize! or Terrorize! depending on their faction.  This happens for every single one of them, every single time they do this which is a lot.   I don’t know if that was done as a cost saving move since by the time both sides go through this a couple of times an episode you’ve basically finished half of an episode, or if it was an effort to burn the combatant’s names into children’s brains, but it almost drove me insane.  What ever happened to “Autobots, roll out!” and one shot of all of them transforming?
At this point, I was ready to throw this set into the fireplace and giddily light a match to set fire to this travesty that tarnished my memories of the Transformers but I decided to look more into the show.  I discovered that the show’s creators wisely decided to jettison most of what I hated about the first season and then tied this show to the original one by acknowledging that they were on Prehistoric Earth and that the original Transformers were lying dormant in their ship the Ark, just awaiting something to awaken them.  The show’s entire premise now changed as the Maximals spend the next two seasons defending the Ark and it’s occupants while the Predacons make plans to destroy the inert Autobots which would change future history in favor of the Decepticons.
Once I learned about this new direction, I went back and lo and behold the show was a lot better! Sure, it took incorporating the classic characters into its storyline, but at least the show-runners had the guts to change direction and make some necessary changes.  Thankfully, the endless transformations/announcements ended too which also was a bid deal.  With all of those changes made, seasons two and three are a lot better and it let the show grow up.  Unlike the original series, characters do get killed on the show on both sides of the conflict. Heck, Waspinator dies just about every episode and definitely holds the record for the most deaths in the Transformer universe!  With the stakes higher, it makes the plots darker and more adult which is a complete 180 degrees from the first season.  The introduction of an alien race known as Vok that are so dangerous that the Maximals and the Predacons have to join forces to fight them gives the show some focus which narrows even further as the show comes to an end.  The reappearance of old favorites like Optimus Prime, the original Megatron, Starscream, Unicron, and more also add quite a bit to the show’s latter success.
This new direction also provided Hasbro to market even more variations of the toys thanks to a radiation wave of energy that turned the robots into a new form known as “Transmetals,” which also allowed the show to change some of the lame looks of the current lineup.  Instead of having a mechanical robot form and an alternate techno-organic animal form, “Transmetals” in contrast are the reverse, since they have a mechanical beast mode and a techno-organic robot form. The end result from those changes it that the characters looked cooler, were tougher, and the sold a lot more toys.  Another bonus was that this show spawned a subsequent show called Transformers – Beast Machines, which continued the storyline on their home planet of Cybertron.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

This full screen presentation looks surprisingly good for a series from the 90s but it looks this good most likely because it came from a digital source.  Colors are bright and there’s a decent amount of detail that only gets better with each season.  The animation looks extremely rough the first season but progressively gets better as well.  Black levels are decent but never inky enough for me but overall for an old show like this, I’m pretty happy with the quality.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

The stereo track for this release is also fairly good with little to no issues.  The dialogue is very clear and you will hear Maximize! and Terrorize! to your heart’s content.  The music is well balanced and the sound effects are blended well too.  Here’s a fun fact for you Transformer fans: Susan Blu who played Arcee on the original show was this show’s voice director!   She also went on to be the voice director for the next series – Transformers: Beast Machines.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars)

There’s not many special features unfortunately but what is here is interesting.  The featurettes feature old and new interviews with the people who made the show and also from Hasbro.  They talk about how the show came about and what their intentions were for it.
  • Remembering the Spark
  • Maximize! Creating A New Breed of Transformer
  • Vintage Making of Featurette
  • Original character models
  • Art galleries and character models
  • 12-pg Episode guide book
  • 22 page comic – Transformers: Timelines – This is a prequel to Beast Wars where we learn the reasons on why the Maximals and the Predacons ended up going back in time.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

While I wouldn’t recommend the first season to anyone but the super hardcore fans of the series, you may be wondering if I would recommend seasons two and three?  As this version of Megatron frequently says, “Yessssss.”  The first season is like watching a demented hybrid of Power Rangers and the Transformers and works about as well as you’d think.  The last two seasons actually feel like they are a part of the Transformer universe.

Order your copy today!


  1. For someone who actually was a child watching this series I would have to disagree with you. I think that Beast Wars is totally awesome!

    I must have been 10 by the time that I found the series, they were airing the reruns every day at 4:30. But to me Beast Wars was incredible.

    Having very vague memories of the series in 2010, my brother and I set out to find the series on dvd. When we did I would have to agree with you. The graphics weren't the best in the west. But humor in the series was to die for. Season one was very cool. Though there wasn't much of a storyline except for the two factions trying to destroy each other's bases (their crashed ships). Season two and three did change the direction of the series. There was less comedy but it still yielded pure awesomeness!

    A couple points. 1: When they changed into beast mode the bots had an organic skin overtop of their bodies that shielded them from the Energon. Hence the need to transform.

    Point 2: Sure the phrases, "Maximize!" and, "Terrorize!" were meant to pound the names of the characters into children's heads. But that is part of what makes the series cool. You get to see the gears come out of their bodies and other parts change while they transform. That is what makes "Transformers" cool.

    Hey thanks for writing the review. I had fun reading it. You should do a review on Transformer's Prime. A new CGI series featuring Optimus Prime and Megatron. I think it is okay. But not quite as cool as Beast Wars.

    P.S. Nice cover at the top. A very awesome picture.

    P.P.S. Comparing this series to Power Rangers was a low blow. :) Keep up the reviews. Have a good day.

  2. Hi!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my review! I'm glad you still love the series and if I had grown up with it like I did with the "G1" series, I probably would have fond thoughts of it too. I understand both of your points but I still can't get behind hearing Maximize and Terrorize non-stop. Your wish is my command as I have just posted my review of Transformers Prime Season 1 here. My review of season 2 will be posted shortly. Thanks again for reading the site and leaving me a comment!