TRANSFORMERS: CYBERTRON - DVD review

Kids today might be pleased with Transformers: Cybertron, but I found the whole thing grating and uninteresting.

William D. Lee's picture
William
Lee

Just as the characters on "Transformers" change from one form to another, the entire Transformers universe has gone through several changes and incarnations. This includes numerous animated series and the recent live-action film directed by Michael Bay. Perhaps, the most familiar would be the Generation 1 version which was the animated series that ran during the 80's. The original "Transformers" show began life as a toy line in Japan that was purchased by Hasbro for distribution throughout the States. Following their successful collaboration on "G.I. Joe," Hasbro once again went to Sunbow to produce the cartoon and Marvel Comics to create a storyline to incorporate into the toy and tie-in series. The show went off the air in 1992, but four years later it was reincarnated as the all-CGI "Beast Wars" where the characters transformed into animals rather than vehicles.

The most recent versions of "Transformers" to hit the airwaves are a trio of series that fans have dubbed "The Unicron Trilogy." Produced in Japan, the trilogy began with "Transformers: Armada" and was followed by "Transformers: Energon" and, finally, "Transformers: Cybertron." The latter two used computer animation to create the Transformers. While "Armada" and "Energon" were direct sequels to one another, "Cybertron" is more of a reboot than a sequel. "Cybertron" does pick up where "Energon" left off, but wipes the slate clean and makes no reference to past continuity. New fans will have no problem with that though the ones who've followed each show might be a tad confused.

"Transformers: Cybertron" has been released in complete form through this seven disc Ultimate Collection.

The pilot episode of "Transformers: Cybertron" begins on the Transformers' home planet of Cybertron after the destruction of the planet-sized menace known as Unicron. His annihilation has left a black hole above Cybertron threatening to destroy it. With no other choice, Optimus Prime leads his fellow Autobots on an exodus to Earth. In order to save their home, the Autobots must collect four powerful items known as the Cyber Planet Keys which have been scattered across the universe. The Keys were formed from the spark (a Transformers' soul) of Primus, the first Transformer, and only that power will stop the back hole. The Cyber Planet Keys can also be utilized by a Transformer to give them additional powers and weapons. The Autobots' quest to save Cybertron takes them to other planets inhabited by Transformers they've never seen before.

As in the other cartoons, Optimus Prime is the leader of our heroes. The other main Autobots include familiar names like Hotshot, Red Alert, and Jetfire. When they arrive on Earth, the Autobots befriend three kids who become their guides to their new world. There's Coby, a mechanical whiz and his younger brother Bud, and Lori, the lone female. The kids do their best to hide the Autobots' existence from their parents and other humans. Eventually, they go on to meet two adult allies in Professor Lucy Suzuki, who has studied extraterrestrial life for years, and Col. Mitch Franklin whose life was saved by an Autobot years ago. Of course, you can't have heroes without villains and the Decepticons are ever present as always. That includes Megatron and Starscream.

Unlike the G1 series, "Cybertron" forgoes the done-in-one episodes for an overreaching story arc. The hunt for the Cyber Planet Keys stretches throughout the series and is broken into multi-episode chapters. "Cybertron" also makes numerous call backs to other versions of the show. The Mini-Cons, who were introduced in "Armada" are present here. A couple lines from "Transformers: The Movie" are reused such as when Megatron confronts Optimus and says, "I've waited an eternity for this." Megatron also gets upgraded to Galvatron once more in the latter half of the show. Metroplex, who hadn't been used since G1, is brought back in this series with an inexplicable Irish accent. Somebody is going to have to explain to me why robots from outer space have Australian, British, and Southern accents. Plus, one of the Decepticons talks like Squiggy from "Laverne & Shirley." Ugh.

I didn't care much for "Armada," but I thought the show took a huge step backwards when they started mixing in CGI with the traditional cel animation. The character designs for the Transformers are clunky and so are their movements. The characters may be fully rendered, but they're still one-dimensional and spout inane dialogue.

VIDEO:
The video is presented in fullscreen. The transfer is exceptionally clean and the colors stand out strong without any bleeding or blemishes.

AUDIO:
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The show is a loud one with the score and sound effects all coming in crisp and clear.

EXTRAS:
None.

FILM VALUE:
The main problem with "Transformers: Cybertron" is that the show lacks any subtlety. Everything is done extreme to the max. Most of the transformation sequences are flashy with those staples of anime known as speed lines. They're all right at first, but get annoying as they're rehashed again and again.

I am a child of the 80's and I grew up with "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe." They've both been remade since those halcyon days and any subsequent versions will be unfavorably compared to the originals. The animation and the writing aren't that great. However, I admit those same criticisms could have leveled on my beloved G1 series which is why I tried to keep an open mind. I liked the fact that they tried to give the show a more epic storyline.

My favorite Transformer character of all is Starscream and he takes a big role in "Cybertron." He's more than just the backstabbing flunky. He still schemes against Megatron, but this time around he actually succeeds for a time including leading a massive Decepticon invasion on Earth. However, any good will I was willing to impart went away as soon as they introduced Soundwave as a hip-hop DJ. Kids today might be pleased with "Transformers: Cybertron," but I found the whole thing grating and uninteresting.

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
7
Extras
1
Film Value
4