Friday, July 5, 2013

Transformers Prime: Season Two Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
With Unicron defeated by Optimus Prime, what was thought to be the end of Autobots’ darkest hour is actually proving to be just the beginning. The dynamic second season of Hasbro Studios’ acclaimed animated hit series Transformers Prime digs deeper into Transformers mythology as both the Autobots and Decepticons uncover clues relating to secret artifacts of Iacon, Cybertron’s capital city. Their discoveries could not only change the balance of power in the war, but also potentially revive their dead home planet. Fans of all ages can relive the thrilling adventures of Transformers Prime now that the complete Season Two has debuted on home entertainment shelves nationwide in the U.S on DVD and on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, in collaboration with Hasbro Studios.

Show (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Transformers Prime is the best series to follow the original G1 series and this series is a blend of that original series and Michael Bay’s movies. We get the deeper characterization and plots from the series and Bay’s frenetic action which fuse together to make an excellent new series. Some of the previous complaints from earlier incarnations has been resolved, while others still remain notably the lack of any worthwhile humans counterparts. One of the best aspects to carryover to this new series is having the original voices of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and Megatron (Frank Welker) return to reprise their legendary roles. Their voices are so indelible in those roles, that I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing them justice (although Hugo Weaver did a nice job as Megatron in the movies).
The show began with Optimus Prime and his five remaining Autobots protecting the Earth since they have nowhere else to go since their homeworld of Cybertron is lifeless after centuries of war. The Decepticon leader Megatron gambled that the blood of Unicron known as Dark Energon, would give him the power to control other transformers but that backfired when his plan failed and he was left in a coma. Starscream took advantage of the situation and appointed himself as the new Decepticon leader, but towards the end of the season, Megatron returned to power and punished Starscream severely for his actions. In addition, several new characters were introduced during the first season such as Bulkhead’s old friend, Wheeljack, Silas, leader of a group of human villains known as MECH, and the rogue Decepticon known as Arachnid. At the end of the season, the Autobots were forced to form an uneasy alliance with Megatron and the Decepticons when Earth is threatened by their shared enemy Unicron the Chaos Bringer.
Continuing the story with season two, after the events of previous season, Optimus Prime has lost his memory and has reverted back to his previous personality of Orion Pax, his persona before he became a Prime. Back then, he was just data clerk and friends with Megatron, a fact that Megatron ruthlessly takes advantage of in the present day. He convinces Pax that the Autobots are the enemy and tricks him into joining the Decepticons. Not only does this help Megatron’s plans to destroy the Autobots, but it also helps with his efforts to have a code broken that will help him retrieve ancient relics from Cybertron. With no other option to rescue Prime, the Autobots make a desperate attempt to use the super-computer Vector Sigma to restore the Matrix of Leadership so they can restore Prime’s memories.
This season’s stories are much better than the first season’s for several reasons. The first one is that search for the relics is a race between not only the Autobots and the Decepticons, but also between the exiled Starscream who only wants to help himself. There’s also the reappearance of Silas and MECH, who prove to be a lot more formidable this season. Another highlight for me is the fact that the kids are mostly kicked to the curb this season which not only makes the show better, but it also allows the show to be more serious and have more consequences. I liked the first season, but the second season blew that away. The stakes have been raised quite a bit too and there’s a lot of wins and losses on both sides including some character deaths. This season also added some new characters to the show such as Autobot Smokescreen, the Decepticons Shockwave, Dreadwing, and the the vicious Insecticons and their leader named Hardshell. The end of the season was particularly surprising for longtime fans from the G1 days and I’m excited to see where season three will go from there.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks really good but it’s not without some minor flaws. While the colors are vivid and look amazing throughout the show, there’s also some mild aliasing and occasional banding here and there throughout the season. It’s not bad enough that it will greatly detract from the show, but it is noticeable and worth mentioning. Detail is very strong and the robots look much better than the humans who look far too cartoony for my tastes. They kind of look like Wii or Xbox 360 avatars and it’s just another reason why I hate seeing humans on the show. The black levels are incredibly dark and I was very happy to see how black and inky they are which makes for excellent shadow effects. This is an excellent transfer for the most part and fans will be happy.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Transformers Prime: Season Two offers a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix which sounds very good. The front channels offer clear and understandable dialogue for both the humans and the robots, while the rear channels deliver some excellent surround effects with accurate directionality. It seems that more effort was spent on the audio mix for this season over the previous one and it paid off. The music also is well presented along with the rest of the mix and it never overwhelms the dialogue. There’s no sound defects to mention as both of these are excellent sound mixes that won’t disappoint the show’s fans.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars)

There’s only two extras on this set but both of them are very good. I wish we had some time with Frank Welker (Megaton) and the others like we did on the first season set, but these two featurettes are excellent and in high definition.
  • Optimus Prime: Up Close And Personal Pane – From San Diego Comic-Con International 2012 – The incomparable Larry King, one of the most recognized broadcast interviewers in the world, goes one-on-one with voice actor Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime). “The King of Interviews” salutes the beloved Cullen and takes fans on a journey through the actor’s early days on the original 1984 animated TV series “Transformers Generation One,” the three box office smash Transformers movies, and his current work on The Hub TV network’s Daytime Emmy Award-winning animated series Transformers Prime from Hasbro Studios. Cullen is a class act who has remained humble and appreciative of his career and his most famous character – Optimus Prime. Watching him interact with the kids at Comic-Con as they ask him questions just shows you what a wonderful person he is. This is a fantastic extra that fans of the show have to see!
  • A Look Back At Season Two – A rotating panel that consists of Brian Ward; Executive Director, Hasbro Studios Vice President Brian Lenard, Hasbro Studios’ Michael Vogel, Executive Producer Jeff Kline, Co-Executive Producer Duane Capizi, Hasbro Studios President Stephen Davis, Supervising Director David Hartman, Production Designer Vince Toyama, Character & Prop Designer Jose Lopez, Visual Effects Art Director Christophe Vacher, Director Shaunt Nigoghossian, and Director Todd Waterman. This extra runs almost twenty-three minutes long and it delves into the second season in just about every aspect. We hear about the story arcs that continue the story for the characters, how they incorporate stuff from the G1 series, how the characters are designed and later made into toys, and a lot more. This is another interesting extra for fans who want a concise overview of the show from the guys who are making it.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars)

I liked this second season a lot more than I did the previous season. The writing is sharper, the action is better staged, and the stakes have been raised even more. In fact, I’m now willing to say that I now like this show even more than I liked the original G1 series which is saying a lot. This Blu-ray is the way to see this show as the video and audio quality are very good and even though there aren’t many extras, what’s here is also very good. This is a show that has appeal for all ages but it’s slowly getting more serious and entertaining for us old school Transformers fans.
Order your copy today!

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