Monday, September 21, 2009

DVD Review: Transformers Season 2 Volume 1 by Adam P.

Autobots and Decepticons Continue Their Hundred Years War

Never underestimate the power of movies. Riding the wave of Transformers mania that the two feature films have spawned, Hasbro has released a 4-DVD Season 2 Part 1 box set as part of their 25th Anniversary collection. In doing so, some missing animation has been restored that was lacking in previous releases of these episodes.

The G1 Transformers are unbelievably iconic. The character designs are engraved into the memories of their fans. Optimus Prime and Megatron are such memorable and pure characterizations of most everything we conceive of as good and evil. Rarely has visual media and toys been so intertwined, encouraging the consumption of one other.

However, that's a main part of the problem with these Transformers cartoons. The G1 toys themselves are absolute classics, embodying everything great about toys and their wonder. An example is the G1 Optimus Prime, a toy masterpiece which was itself re-released as a replica for the 25th anniversary. His trailer was a mobile operations base, complete with a mini-car and a crane with guns. Just genius. But in the cartoon, his trailer literally floats onto him from off-screen when he transforms and then magically disappears again when he reaches his destination.

Similarly, many episodes here seem like convoluted attempts at providing a logical reason for such beings to exist in the first place. In a sense, alien robots in the shape of cars and airplanes is terribly unlikely, but the entire idea behind the show is that, yes these toys exist, so let's surround them with some stories.

Taken as a whole, the Autobots and Decepticons mimic the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, except on a planetary and sometimes cosmic scale. The Decepticons come up with some sort of crazy plan, attempt to execute it, and the Autobots manage to undo them. Sometimes you just wanna tell Megatron: “Ddude, save up three or four of your crazy plans and then put them into motion all at once”.

Despite Dinobots, Constructicons, and Insecticons thrown into the mix there is an underlying monotony to the endless Autobot/Decepticon conflict. Each episode is a different iteration of the same story. Therefore it takes a heavy emotional investment in the Transformers universe to be able to watch episode after episode of the same sort of thing. It's not like a superhero who has an entire rogues gallery; here we have essentially the same folks battling it out time after time.

The other major flaw is that these shows are truly children's programming with large logical flaws throughout. For instance, in “Enter the Nightbird” the Autobots do an unbelievably poor job of guarding a human robot and subsequently allow said robot to waltz into their very headquarters unnoticed. As well, in “Changing Gears” Starscream decides to behave terribly erratically as if he forgot to take his medication. In the same episode, Optimus Prime declares that the Autobots have to get to “the geographic centre of Africa” in less than two hours but they then proceed to drive through plains and forests to get there. The viewer is repeatedly frustrated with the Autobots' poor aiming skills and love of hand-to-hand combat. Shouldn't Optimus Prime use more military strategy instead of full-frontal daylight assaults? It's a far cry from Pixar movies which are both logically consistent and entertaining, thus having great appeal with children and adults.

In his defence, Optimus Prime is able to deliver the craziest lines with total pathos and conviction. What other cartoon character could get away with saying things like "Nevertheless, I vow to return the female ninja robot to you" or "We've got to get thru the Decpticon force field before the sun explodes" and sound like Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address?

But as Megatron says on the first disc, "Spare me your critique!" Typically anyone purchasing this set will already have checked any reservations at the door. Those folks won't be disappointed as the DVD's themselves are well-produced, allowing you to play multi-part episodes seamlessly (a nice touch) and have crisp visuals and sound. We get the nostalgic “The Transformers Will Return After These Messages” which appeared before and after commercial breaks. And the theme song! Oh, what a theme song it was... presented here as a souped up version of the Season 1 version.

This set is for anyone who's simply hungry for as much Transformers as they can get their hands on. That is, anyone in Transformers nostalgia mode or kids who have gone ga-ga over the toys and thus don't care that the good guys have thick American accents and the bad guys have creepy metallic voices. It's amazing that the 11 hours included here were aired in a mere 44 days in Fall of 1985. In other words, lots of bang for your buck... if this is the sort of bang you're looking for.


Adam P.
Review Editor

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