Sunday, October 6, 2013

Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising

I have already made evident on this blog that I am a big fan of the Transformers franchise, as well as mentioned multiple times that the Transformers: Prime cartoon on The Hub network is good. However, after 3 seasons and a total of 65 episodes, the inevitable time has come for the show to end. Not only did the show have some very solid writing, it had a very interesting take on the Transformers mythos and became an excellent centerpiece to the Aligned continuity. While the finale episode, “Deadlock”, did provide a good conclusion to the series, it didn’t have enough closure as certain plot points had not yet been resolved, including ones from the concurrently-running Beast Hunters comic from IDW (at issue #5 at the time of this writing). Thus, the creative team behind Prime came up with the idea of a TV movie, Predacons Rising, that would not only wrap things up, but also provide a good conclusion to the cartoon as a whole (if the San Diego Comic-Con 2013 panel I went to is to be believed, the team came up with it out of a need for an extra 66th episode that ties up all the loose ends). With this feature’s recent premier on The Hub, I decided it would be a good idea to watch the episode “Deadlock” again, which re-aired before Predacons Rising, to remind myself of what happened due to the amount of time between the finale episode and movie. Having recently seen the TV movie, it seemed to be a worthy sendoff of the Prime cartoon.

Spoiler Note: This movie takes place after the Transformers: Prime Season 3 (subtitled Beast Hunters) finale “Deadlock”, so there will be unmarked spoilers regarding the movie’s placement in the continuity. If you do not wish to be spoiled of any events in Prime, turn back now. You have been warned.

After Cybertron’s reformatting at the end of Beast Hunters, as Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) congratulates his fellow Autobots on a job well done, Megatron (Frank Welker), having been offline and at the bottom of one of Earth’s oceans, is given a new lease on life thanks to Unicron (John Noble), who uses Megatron’s body as a vessel to get back to Cybertron and fulfill a desire he had not yet been able to carry out. Back on Cybertron, after Optimus promotes Bumblebee (Will Friedle) from an Autobot scout to an Autobot warrior, Prime gives the team orders on what to do regarding the rebuilding of Cybertron before leaving with Wheeljack (James Horan) to retrieve the AllSpark, which he had shot into space to keep it away from Decepticon hands (sound familiar?), which would help to ensure Cybertron’s future. As the Autobots make efforts to rebuild, Smokescreen (Nolan North) and Ultra Magnus (Michael Ironside) explore the now-inaccurately-named Sea of Rust, where they encounter two bots that are not what they expected: Predacons.

The story of Predacons Rising is actually very compelling, with a multitude of plots going on that come together one way or another. These plots wrap up rather nicely at the end, with a hint of more to come by the end of it all. The characterization is very consistent with that of the Prime cartoon, with some additional bits of character development seen amongst the characters as the events unfold. Though there are a couple of new characters introduced (mainly to sell toys), they are introduced in such a way that they don’t seem out of place in the grand scheme of things and actually manage to contribute to the overall plot without feeling out of place. Overall, the story has great execution and is enough to keep you watching until the emotional climax.

However, it doesn’t wrap up everything in the overall Prime continuity, though it mainly comes down to a couple of tidbits. In the events of Season 3 of Prime, the Decepticon Airachnid ends up becoming, for lack of a better term, a robotic vampire in space, residing on the moon with an army of loyal subjects last time she was seen. This does not get any resolution in the movie, though admittedly the plot was already fairly packed to begin with, so whether this is a good thing might depend on the viewer. As for the other thing, I had some expectations that the Dinobots, last seen on Cybertron in the Beast Hunters comic, would somehow show up in the movie, though I had my doubts that they would even show up in the first place. Hopefully, the Beast Hunters comic will resolve their side of the story and provide some sort of closure for them. These details might be nitpicking, but they were things I had in mind before going in.

The ongoing Beast Hunters comic is at issue 5 at
the time of this review.

The animation is very spectacular, showing the pinnacle of quality in the Prime cartoon. I’ve commented on how good the animation was in the Darkness Rising feature, but the motions of the characters are much more fluid here, displaying three seasons worth of experience on behalf of the animation team to great effect. As with the show itself, I sometimes almost got lost in the detail of some the character designs, including minor things such as reflections and tiny scratches on metal, most especially during close-up shots where these were much more visible. There were also times where, due to the complexity of some of the character designs, I began to wonder how difficult things must have been to animate.

The voice acting is as great as always, with special note going to John Noble returning as Unicron from Season 2 of the Prime cartoon. Everyone delivers a solid performance, including (relative) newcomer Will Friedle as Bumblebee (with him and Nolan North making two Deadpool voice actors appearing at the same time), which help sell the characters they voice well as it shows the actors really gave it their all for one last hurrah. And as usual, Brian Tyler’s music is very good for the movie, though like with his other works, the music totally works when it’s happening, but it isn’t very memorable afterwards, the main exception being the main theme for the series that plays at least once or twice for 65 episodes and the movie (a good handful of times with a special remix), which really sticks with you for a good while.

Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising is a great example of Transformers animation and is a well-produced movie in its own right. However, this is a movie that should not be viewed on its own, as it contains several callbacks to episodes of the show and in general is part of a show that is heavily driven by continuity. If you want to see this movie, I would suggest, if you haven’t already, watching all 3 seasons of the Prime cartoon before watching this so that you have a better understanding of what’s going on. However, this is still something that any Transformers fan, especially one of Prime, should definitely see. To put it simply, it does not disappoint.

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