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Author Topic: 80 More Days Of Transformers  (Read 11790 times)
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JonLeung
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« on: November 10, 2009, 05:28:22 PM »

You may remember that last year, I wrote about my "100 Days Of Transformers", where each day I watched an episode of the original G1 Transformers cartoon series (98 episodes), as well as the Scramble City OVA and Transformers: The Movie (1986).  This year, I decided to tackle the next parts of the Transformers saga, Beast Wars: Transformers (52 episodes) and Beast Machines: Transformers (26 episodes), as well as the two live-action movies, Transformers (2007) and Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (2009), for "80 More Days Of Transformers".

(In a neat coincidence, last year's marathon started on September 3, the usually-accepted date for my mom's birthday on our calendar.  My mom says her birthday on the lunar calendar is the equivalent of August 12 (don't ask me how that works), and August 12 (though on our calendar, not the lunar one) is also the first day of this year's marathon.  This was really meant to end on October 30, 2009, since I wanted to end on a Friday, and back in August I was estimating that the Blu-Ray/DVD release of Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (2009) would be sometime in October, which is how the August 12 start date came to be.)

Unlike last year, I didn't sometimes have to watch two episodes on any day in anticipation of not having time the next day to watch one.  For 79 days between and including August 12 to October 29, I managed to consistently make the time to watch an episode without fail.  The problem came on Day 80.  I hadn't received Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen on Blu-Ray in time after I ordered it via eBay.  The Walmart-exclusive "Big Screen Edition" is only exclusive to American Walmarts, so I had to take that route since I didn't want a lesser version, even though the Big Screen Edition really only adds mere minutes to the feature film.  Don't deny Canadians the right to see IMAX versions, Walmart.  IMAX is Canadian technology, for crying out loud!  I did receive it one week later, right on the day I had already planned a "Hasbro film double feature night" along with G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra (2009) on Blu-Ray.  (Though it made it just in time for that, I probably shouldn't've planned an event involving something I might not have in time.)

But, enough about the schedule; here are my thoughts on the actual content.

BEAST WARS

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Beast Wars: Transformers curiously relegates "Transformers" as the subtitle.  YTV had a hand in making this series but chose the name Beasties over apparent Canadian discomfort with the word "Wars" - also explaining another of Mainframe's toy-based CG shows, War Planets, being renamed Shadow Raiders.  Ironically, Mainframe's first series, ReBoot, continued on Canada's YTV but was discontinued on America's ABC after Season Two for being too dark and violent.  Clearly, the Canadian/American border has made things awkward for Mainframe.  Anyway, it's unfortunate that the Canadian version of the opening wasn't included on these DVDs.  "Beasties" may sound sillier, but it's obvious the Canadian opening was the original, with the American one sounding like they shouted "Wars" over the "-ies" and severely truncated.  Plus, the Canadian opening's music matches the end credits' music.

Beast Wars: Transformers debuted in 1996, produced by Mainframe Entertainment of Canada for YTV.  (The title Canadians know it by is "Beasties".)  It came as a shock to me that this started 13 years ago, back in the second year of high school.  By comparison to G1 being 25 years old, it has been longer since the start of Beast Wars than that was to the start of the original Transformers.  (Knowing that there is a generation of kids who grew up with Beast Wars, and might now be in their last year of high school now certainly makes me feel old.)

The Beast Wars toy line premiered in 1995, a year earlier (with very different forms for Optimus Primal and Megatron) and for me, personally, I had very little interest in it.  Besides just being about ten years older than when I was into the toys, I was still a G1 fan, so this new toy line involving animal forms instead of vehicular forms seemed ridiculous.  But I gave the series a shot (though I missed the first episode when it premiered) and was pleased when I learned that Mainframe was involved, who had created my other favourite YTV series, ReBoot.  Computer-generated imagery was still new and fresh at the time, and that was the hook before I realized that it would be a good series even if it wasn't wrapped in then-fancy CG.

Beast Wars: Transformers involves two factions of Transformers, the heroic Maximals and the evil Predacons - descendents of Autobots and Decepticons respectively - and after a chase through transwarp space, are stranded on a prehistoric planet.  The Transformers take on "beast modes", alternate forms based on local animals.  Megatron, leader of the Predacons, initially seeks out Energon to conquer Cybertron, while Optimus Primal and his Maximals fight to defend the planet, stop Megatron and hopefully find a way to return home.  Eventually the series gets considerably more convoluted due to the discovery of powerful alien devices, and there are some clues that this planet may actually be a familiar one.  But for now, let's just look at Season One.

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The aged CG menus seem awkward, and only the last disc of each season has special features, which are few and unimpressive.  You'd think they could've saved more material for the DVD release.  For instance, my brother once downloaded transformation animations off of Mainframe's own web site back in the day, so it's a shame one of the features shows just a handful of very crude, clearly prototype transformation animatics when they should have at least had the former.

SEASON ONE

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In the first episode, the Axalon and the Darksyde exit transwarp space and shoot each other down over prehistoric Earth.  Before crashing, the Axalon ejects Maximal stasis pods into orbit, which would become convenient plot devices when they each fall to Earth and a race would ensue to either rescue the Maximal or convert it to a Predacon.  When the writers first wrote this episode, they did not know that the Ark and the Nemesis similarly crashed into Earth in the first episode of the original Transformers series.  The writers also didn't initially plan for the planet to be prehistoric Earth, but later storylines would involve all of this to a great degree.  Like the Ark, the Darksyde was not explicitly named (other than in Terrorsaur's ambiguously spoken "Welcome to the dark side![/i]" in an early episode).  It would only be later, in the toys, video games, and this DVD release, that it would be officially named as such.  The stylized spelling with the "y" was to ensure that George Lucas wouldn't have a problem with it.

Beast Wars on DVD is, as far as I know, only released as separate seasons in North America as opposed to being in a complete set.  (Not that I would rebuy it now if I am wrong, though.)  They were also out of print by the time I wanted to obtain them.  Therefore, I turned to eBay for each of my Beast Wars and Beast Machines DVD purchases.  Each set is in different conditions from different sellers.  As for The Complete First Season of Beast Wars, though opened and viewed, the set was almost as good as new.  I find the cover itself a little odd...what is with the uninspired blue colour?  And the description on the back sounds like the description of a single episode ("Victory") instead of for the whole season.  Still, it's functional and the discs work so those other observations are but moot points.

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As they say, Transformers are "robots in disguise", so the Transformers immediately scan local life forms to create alternate forms for themselves.  It is hinted at in Dreamwave's "More Than Meets The Eye" series of G1 Transformer profiles that Pretender technology (seen towards the end of G1), which involves synthetic flesh, led to the evolution of Maximals and Predacons, which is why the scanners recognize flesh-and-blood creatures now, as opposed to Autobot/Decepticon scanners only recognizing machinery.

The first season consists of a whopping 26 episodes, which is one half of the Beast Wars saga (one third if you include Beast Machines) all on its own, and twice as long as any of the other seasons.  It sets up a variety of scenarios that allow us to get to know the limited number of characters, which starts off as ten characters and grows to fourteen by the end (by contrast if I recall correctly there were about that number of just the Autobots in the pilot of the original series, which would eventually have several dozen characters by the end).  A natural limitation due to CG is that it takes some time to make a character model, but then it becomes easy to use it again after it's been created.  For story purposes, this was not a really a limitation, because now there is emphasis on character development due to necessity, and it's not as easy as in the original to make one-shot episodes featuring new characters and then moving them out of the spotlight for the next episode - if they ever appear again at all - just to fit in more characters to sell more toys.

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The Predacons and the Maximals in beast mode.  Here, they face off atop a mountain of Energon at the end of the two-part pilot.  The opening borrows heavily from this scene.  If you watch the opening closely, you'd see that the alternating shots of them charging at each other could have been very easily modified to not have to show two Predacons in a row to end it on Optimus Primal.  That's my overly-observant and nitpicky side showing.

With just shy of twice as many episodes as characters, there is plenty of room for characters to be in the spotlight as the focus of an entire episode, many even more than once.  I thought it was silly that the first two episodes after the pilot ("The Web" and "Equal Measures") both dealt with the young Cheetor's impulsiveness; they could've at least spread those out.  Some of the episodes are similar, just featuring different characters.  In "Equal Measures", Cheetor is accidentally teleported into the Predacon base, but Rattrap is also alone there too in "Double Jeopardy", Optimus in "Gorilla Warfare", and Rhinox in "Dark Designs[/i]".  Sure, their circumstances as to how/why are a little different, but even some of those are similar too.  Rattrap pretends to be a Predacon ("Double Jeopardy"), Rhinox is converted into a Predacon temporarily ("Dark Designs"), and if it wasn't enough that Dinobot was a Predacon initially, an evil clone of him is created ("Double Dinobot").  Three of the four episodes that introduce the new characters are primarily focused on the race to reach a downed stasis pod that contains a Maximal protoform, in a state where they need to be rescued by the other Maximals or be converted to a Predacon if the Predacons make it there first.  Though this was the case for Tigatron, Airazor and Inferno, the introduction of Blackarachnia ("Double Jeopardy") doesn't make the race to her pod the main focus of that episode.  This is seemingly ironic looking back on it when considering that Blackarachnia would become one of the major characters.

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Messing with alien constructs on prehistoric Earth is par for the course.

Like G1, there are some "Megatron's-stupid-plan-of-the-week"-type episodes, where the Maximals win, the Predacons retreat, and things return to status quo.  Essentially, they're filler, as these episodes can often be skipped without losing much if at all in the overall narrative.  Still, there are some interesting ones, like "Possession" which sees the return of G1 Starscream (though they really should have used him more than they had), and in "The Probe" the Maximals are the ones who fail instead, when the Predacons destroy a signal tower meant to contact a probe that could have relayed their location back to Cybertron to get them home.  But as mentioned, it's all about maintaining the status quo.

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The Maximals and the Predacons in robot mode.  A typical filler episode would end with the Maximals being triumphant and the Predacons would suffer defeat, sometimes quite humiliating.

Overall, the tone of the first season is light-hearted Saturday morning fare, especially in comparison to the more serialized (and serious) later seasons.  The writers said that when they started on the first season of Beast Wars, they didn't initially plan on the planet to be prehistoric Earth, but if that was the case, that must've been figured out by the time they reached production because you soon get the feeling that Megatron knows why they ended up here in the first place.  The season finale destroys one of the planet's two moons, since it was really an alien device in disguise, leaving just one moon as Earth should have.  Conveniently, most of the surface-level Energon is ignited in the process, returning to familiar geology as well.  Optimus dies in the process of destroying the device, but dying and coming back in season finales/premieres will hardly be unusual for him.

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Megatron is soon occupied with wanting more than just Energon (behind him you can see one of the Golden Discs), and Tarantulas and Blackarachnia always have plans of their own.

I have to comment on the CG, of course.  Since the series started out in 1996, the year the Nintendo 64 debuted, 3D video games were relatively new, and the only other fully CG-animated TV show was ReBoot, it was certainly a visual spectacle back then.  Now, it has aged somewhat.  Most of the characters still don't look too bad, but some elements, such as the landscape, seem to be made of a noticeably low number of polygons.  The lack of lighting effects made some scenes look awkward, like in outdoor scenes where Cheetor (or anyone, really) would run across very flat ground without leaving a shadow.  Explosions didn't look fiery at all, shrapnel often looked like little squares, and when rocks were blasted or broken apart, it was obvious when they were replaced by smaller three-dimensional shapes instead of actually breaking apart.  (I would find that they would work around the latter in later seasons, usually by simply putting things off-screen or blocked from view as they were being destroyed.)  In any case, in 1996, this CG was more acceptable, and the writing of the series makes up for any technical limitations.

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Optimus would face death (or nearly) at the end of every season of Beast Wars and Beast Machines, with the only exception being the Beast Wars finale.  At the end of Season One, Optimus Primal is unable to eject from the stasis pod used to destroy an alien construct.  This planet-killer was disguised as a second moon, and its destruction leads to the Transmetals and makes it clear that this is indeed the planet Earth now that there is only one moon.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2009, 05:40:31 PM by JonLeung » Logged
JonLeung
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2009, 05:28:32 PM »

SEASON TWO

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The quantum surge from the transwarp explosion of the false moon makes several Transformers into Transmetals.    It's only speculation as to why some do and some don't, but it seems Waspinator and Rhinox avoid the change since they were in CR chambers at the time, while characters like Inferno and Blackarachnia were unconscious during the surge.  Even Terrorsaur and Scorponok are shown to be in the process of "Transmetallizing" (they do have toy versions as Transmetals) but fall into lava and are destroyed before that can happen.  However, there's no definite reason why Tigatron and Airazor are unaffected, though those two would soon be captured by the Vok themselves anyway.  Also introduced are the Fuzors, like Silverbolt (pictured) and Quickstrike, which are Transformers whose beast modes are a fusion of two different animals.

Buying The Complete Second Season was not as pleasant as buying the others.  I'm pretty sure the eBay description said the condition of the set was at least "good".  I didn't necessarily expect it to be "like new" but the box was frayed on the corners, with the booklet missing.  Well, the important thing is that the discs worked - but only after I wiped off what seemed to be splatters of food or mucus or puke or something.  It didn't take much effort to wipe it off after the phase of initial disgust, but it's all the more reason why you'd wonder why the seller couldn't've done it before selling it on eBay.  Thankfully the discs weren't scratched and that I didn't scratch them while wiping them.

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The second season has some serious moments, but there is always time for a few silly moments.  The Maximals are severely outnumbered in the Fuzors storyline when Tigatron and Airazor are apparently busy elsewhere and Rhinox is busy trying to save Optimus's Spark.  But in a later episode there's a sight gag as Waspinator is crushed by a toppled tower which Megatron doesn't notice as he ends the conversation while relaxing in a hot tub.

The second season, as are all the other seasons, is 13 episodes long.  In Japan, the second season is combined with the third season to form a 26-episode series called Beast Wars: Metals, which makes it a separate series of equal length to Beast Wars (which is just our Season One) and Beast Machines, which would be a neat division of three equal-sized parts.  Well, it would be neat, if not for the inclusion of the Japanese-only Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo series (but I won't get into all that).  Plus, it really makes the epic quality of the Season Two finale just become a mid-season storyline that's wrapped up quickly without the months of suspense us North Americans got to experience.  Anyway, the Beast wars: Metals title is derived from the fact that some characters were affected by a quantum surge that converted their bodies; they would be more metallic, and clearly so even in beast mode, with vehicular additions.  I thought it was silly to give Rattrap wheels and Cheetor jet engines, but Megatron had VTOL propellers and (essentially) roller skates added to his T-Rex body.  Quickstrike, one of the two Fuzors, being a scorpion with a snake for a tail, is one of the few Transformers to have three heads.  In any case, I can overlook these oddities since the stories get better.

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Blackarachnia is one of the few female Transformers, which alone makes her unique, but her character is further developed in Season Two leading to her eventual defection, so her constant treachery and connivingness isn't just another version of Tarantulas's.  After breaking the psychic link that Tarantulas had over her, she develops a bond with Silverbolt which is made more than evident in the episode "Bad Spark" when they are terrorized by the newly-introduced Rampage (also known as Protoform X, who has a seemingly indestructible Spark inspired by G1 Starscream's).

Season Two, much like in ReBoot, is where things begin to get serious.  The first three episodes deal with the aftermath of the destruction of the alien planet-killer and Optimus Primal's (first) death ("Aftermath" and the two-part "Coming Of The Fuzors", and the last three episodes "The Agenda" involve Megatron's plan to change history, so there isn't a lot of room for filler episodes when there are only thirteen to work with.  The season also introduces Rampage/Protoform X ("Bad Spark"), builds on Silverbolt's and Blackarachnia's romance ("Bad Spark" and others) and the value of the two Golden Discs, and in a midseason two-parter ("Other Visits"), Tigatron and Airazor are captured by the Vok and won't appear again until near the end of the series.

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Two discs are major plot devices in the Beast Wars saga.  The Alien Disc allows control of various Vok devices, and the Golden Disc is actually the Voyager Golden Record, though rarely seen without its cover as it is here.  The idea is that the Voyager Golden Record allowed this Megatron to find the coordinates of Earth, which were placed there by the original Megatron.  (Though the Voyager probes were launched in 1977 and the Autobots and Decepticons awoke in 1984, it is still plausible that the Decepticons could have come across it at some point later.  Though even if that was the case, you would think there could be an easier way to keep the coordinates of Earth.)

Of course this season can't be discussed without mentioning "Code Of Hero".  It is definitely one of the more serious single episodes which is a far cry from just about anything from the first season.  In this episode, by which being on prehistoric Earth has been confirmed, Megatron tries to kill the early humans to change history.  These humans are clearly defenseless, as seen in the opening scene where the humans are terrorized by a snake.  Dinobot, unable to wait for the Maximals, goes on a suicide mission to stop the Predacons, and dispatches each of them, but takes too much damage in battle.  His last act is destroying the Golden Disc (really the Voyager Golden Record).  Even Rattrap commends Dinobot's efforts as he breathes his last.  Few Transformers, save Optimus, have much focus on their death.  After a sending-off scene, we see an early human defend himself from a snake (possibly the same one as in the opening) with a makeshift stick-and-stone hammer, just like the one Dinobot improvised in his final attack on Megatron, implying that Dinobot's heroics taught man how to make tools.  I'm a sucker for the retelling of historical events as influenced by those misplaced in time.  Wikipedia claims that this episode is "widely considered to be one of the best episodes in Transformers history".

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Before becoming a Maximal, Dinobot was originally a Predacon, and one of the ones who helped Megatron steal the Golden Disc.  He is therefore the Maximal who is most aware of the Golden Disc's importance and he manages to obtain both discs at one point.  Upon recognizing that they actually did end up on prehistoric Earth, Megatron attempts to kill off some early humans.  In "Code Of Hero", one of the most epic Beast Wars stories, Dinobot goes on a suicide mission to save the humans, and uses the last of his strength to destroy the Golden Disc.  However, Megatron is still able to use a shard of it later...

I must go into some detail about the finale, "The Agenda", as well.  Ravage (yes, the same character as in G1), sent by the Tripredacus Council, arrives on prehistoric Earth in his own ship, and manages to arrest Megatron with the help of the Maximals.  But Megatron uses a shard of the Voyager Golden Record to play back part of a message encoded by G1 Megatron to convince Ravage to join his side.  The climax of the season finale sees Megatron entering the Ark, containing the bodies of all the original G1 Transformers at some point during their four-million year sleep (as seen eight and a half minutes into the original series' pilot).  G1 favourites Soundwave and Starscream are clearly seen in the background as Megatron makes his way to the unconscious Optimus Prime, who he shoots in the face, creating a time storm that threatens the very existence of all the Maximals.  A "To Be Continued?" screen ends the second season.

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Ravage, sent by the Tripredacus Council to eliminate everyone involved in the Beast Wars, plays a major part in the three-part second season finale "The Agenda".  This is the same Ravage from G1 (or as some like to say, "a" G1).  After joining sides with Megatron, he shows off his G1ness in one of the most goosebump-inducing moments in Beast Wars, when he shouts "Decepticons forever!" and transforms into a tiny cassette tape, complete with the transforming sound from the original Transformers series.  More trivia: Ravage is the only Transformer to be the same character in three series: G1, Beast Wars, and Binaltech (known outside of Japan as Alternators).

Truly epic is Season Two, perhaps because I'm a sucker for time travel adventures.  By now the time and place are confirmed, and their actions clearly have severe consequences in affecting history.  Tying it into the original G1 series may have "legitimized" this series for fans of the original.

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The shard of the Golden Disc was enough for Megatron to play back a message from the original Megatron, which was what convinced Ravage to join him.  Megatron's unconscious body is also present on the Ark, along with all the other original G1 Transformers, including Optimus Prime.  Season Two doesn't end with Optimus Primal directly dying, but Megatron's attempt to kill the original Optimus Prime creates a time storm that threatens to wipe out the Maximals, since presumably the Autobots would have lost the Great War.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2009, 05:56:50 PM by JonLeung » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2009, 05:28:41 PM »

SEASON THREE

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The Maximals manage to restore Optimus Prime to normal, but during the repair process, Optimus Primal takes Optimus Prime's Spark into his own body.  This converts Primal's robot body into a much larger one somewhat reminiscent of the original Prime, with two vehicle modes.  While he still has a beast mode, still an ape, this is hardly used and so he really seems more Autobot than Maximal.  It seems awkward considering this is called "Beast Wars" and the leader of the good guys doesn't seem like a beast at all...it also makes you think that Mainframe could probably do a pretty good take on a computer-generated Autobot/Decepticon Transformers series...  And though it actually happens late into Season Three, Megatron also takes the original Megatron's Spark into his body, and during the transformation Tarantulas and Quickstrike drop him into the lava, which somehow causes Megatron to take on a dragon form.

The Complete Third Season's set is in a little better condition than The Complete Second Season's set.  While still dinged up around the edges, at least the booklet was included and there wasn't any gunk on the discs this time.  The front cover continues to be underwhelming, this time in pink.  I don't get why they have a picture of the original Cheetor in the inside cover, when he got a Transmetal body in Season Two and gets yet another Transmetal body in Season Three.  The discs have images of Rhinox and Waspinator, the only non-Transmetal Transformers still around since the very beginning of the series; you'd think they could've used them for Season One's discs if they had to use those two at all.  If it were up to me I would have put someone who is introduced or gets a new body this season, like Depth Charge, Tigerhawk, Cheetor, Optimal Optimus, or Megatron...or anything else specific to this season like the faces of the Vok or the Decepticon ship, the Nemesis, but then again it's not the artwork side of the disc that counts, but the episodes encoded on the other side.

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Since the Axalon was destroyed at the beginning of Season Three, the Maximals move into the Ark and protect it from Megatron.  At one point Tarantulas gains entry with a suit he made for Quickstrike to control Optimus.  While the control suit seems like such a simple, one-shot, throwaway thing, it is actually used in a Transformers comic later where the Matrix is combined with it and creates another character, Primal Prime.  Transformers continuity is sometimes strange and convoluted.

Season Three is also epic, as it is the conclusion of the Beast Wars.  To quote the back of the case: "Season 3 features the first appearance of fan-favourite Depth Charge, the defection of Blackarachnia, the debut of the enigmatic Tigerhawk, and the resolution of the alien Vok saga!"  I'll touch upon each of these in a moment.

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The Vok are finally revealed close to the end of the series when they use the captured Tigatron and Airazor to form Tigerhawk.  Here, the two Vok are the last things that Tarantulas sees, and the last we see of Tarantulas.

I thought the resolution to the Season Two cliffhanger was a little too easy.  In the first episode of this season, "Optimal Situation", the Maximals simply manage to get inside the Ark and fix Optimus Prime's head.  Though I suppose it really couldn't have been resolved much differently, I just figured they could've stretched it out to be at least a two-parter.  While sharing his body with Optimus Prime's Spark, Optimus Primal gets a new body - dubbed "Optimal Optimus" by Megatron.  Optimal Optimus is much larger, sized more like an Autobot, with two vehicular forms.  With a rarely-used beast mode (seems like a variation of his robot form with an ape-like face) and no visible remaining synthetic flesh, his latest form seems odd for a show called Beast Wars - but I digress.  By the end of the episode, Rampage's destruction of the Axalon forces the Maximals to move into the volcano housing the Ark to protect it from any more of Megatron's schemes to change history.

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In the two part series finale "Nemesis", Optimus Primal reads from The Covenant of Primus, a Bible-like tome.  In describing Tigerhawk, he seems to be misquoting Revelation, specifically Revelation 10:1.  Other Revelation-like snippets are quoted by Megatron as well, including a reference to himself as "the great dragon".  Since he claims to have only read "the good parts", he seems to have missed the foretelling of his defeat.  As far as I know, the Beast Wars finale is the only time The Covenant of Primus is mentioned.

"Deep Metal" introduces Depth Charge, a Maximal who hunts Rampage/Protoform X seeking revenge (though he prefers to call it "justice"), and as a late entry here in the final quarter of Beast Wars, he is heavily featured.  But his badass attitude gets wearying when it seems like all he can do is be an angry tough guy, particularly ridiculous when he asks what a butterfly is looking at when it lands on him in "Go With The Flow".  At least his nemesis Rampage occasionally mixes his violent tendencies with Hannibal Lector-like eloquence.  Still, at the cost of his own life he determines the outcome of the Beast Wars, since destroying Rampage frees the mind of the Dinobot clone (since his Spark is part of Rampage's) who leads the Maximals to an Autobot shuttle...but more on that later.  (More Depth Charge trivia: he shouts "Maximize" to transform to beast mode and to vehicular mode at least once each time when the Maximals have only ever said that when changing from beast to robot.)  Other episodes of note: the two-part "Feral Scream" involves the Transmetal II driver, a device Megatron somehow obtained earlier and off-screen, which leads to the Transmetal clone of Dinobot and another body for Cheetor (making him the only non-leader character to have three bodies).  "Proving Grounds" has Blackarachnia (still not officially a Maximal, but clearly on their side) facing the evil Dinobot clone, interesting in that two seasons ago they would each have been on the other side.  "Crossing The Rubicon" features the Transmetal II driver again in the long-drawn out defection of Blackarachnia by giving her a new Maximal body.  "Master Blaster" has Megatron unite his body with the original Megatron's Spark (just like Optimus Primal did with Optimus Prime) and transforms into a dragon.  And "Other Victories" finally gives us a look at two of the Vok, the aliens whose mysterious devices were featured throughout the whole series, and they come to Earth in the body of their emissary, Tigerhawk, created from the bodies of Tigatron and Airazor.  The Vok are destroyed in the same episode, as is Tarantulas, which then leads into the series finale, the two-part "Nemesis".

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The original Autobot and Decepticon ships, the Ark and the Nemesis, play vital roles in the finales of Seasons Two and Three.  Note the opposite symmetry in these shots: in a flashback, the Ark falls to the Earth, down and to the left with flames shooting up, while in a cliffhanger, the Nemesis emerges from the sea, rising up and facing right with water dripping down.

The title "Nemesis" refers to the Decepticon warship, which served as the base for the Decepticons in most of the original series.  After the destruction of the Darksyde by Tigerhawk in the previous episode, the Predacons are without a base.  They find that Tarantulas had somehow found the Nemesis and even had an underwater rail leading to it.  Besides it being very odd that Tarantulas would have had time to find the ship and build a rail to it on top of his other schemes, with no one ever knowing of it before or it ever being hinted at, and the rather sudden discovery of this right when the Predacons needed it, it seemed rather forced.  Also, Optimus's and Megatron's quoting of The Covenant Of Primus, a book similar to the Bible, or at least the Book Of Revelation, which had never been seen or mentioned before the finale, is clearly an attempt to add some kind of "foretold apocalypse" feeling to all these events.  Despite the forced plot and forced mood, I still like "Nemesis" for the same reason as "The Agenda" from Season Two, since I am a sucker for G1 tie-ins.  Activating the Nemesis, Megatron tries to destroy the Ark and the Maximals, but after Rampage's destruction frees the Dinobot clone from their shared Spark, something of the old Dinobot emerges and he sends the Maximals information about an Autobot shuttle aboard the Ark.  As Blackarachnia notes that historical records never mentioned that the Ark ever had a shuttle, Rhinox remarks that history is still being written, implying that its absence was because the Maximals are supposed to take it.  After crashing through the bridge of the Nemesis and sending it crashing into the ocean again (in a shot just like at the end of G1's pilot three-parter), the shuttle is used to take the Maximals and Megatron back home to Cybertron.  The Predacons are destroyed in the course of "Nemesis", except for one other.  In the final scene, Waspinator, the comic relief who has complained that he never gets what he wants, finally does get it, as he is now treated like royalty by the early humans.  With the timeline restored, the conclusion of Beast Wars is satisfying, if maybe a bit forced, but then again how many happy endings aren't, to some extent?  (Seems like a happy ending for everyone except Megatron...but the next series, Beast Machines, will show there are three things wrong with that last statement: it's not happy (at least not for long), it's not the end, and Megatron will claim victory in the Beast Wars.)

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Rhinox does his impression of an A-Wing pilot from Star Wars - Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi, where the Nemesis stands in for the Super Star Destroyer.  The Nemesis falls back down to the sea, in a shot not dissimilar from one at the end of the original Transformers series' pilot.

The extras on all the DVDs were rather weak, in my opinion.  But Season Three had a full animatic for the finale, if you care about that sort of thing, and a very short, few-seconds scene which ties up a loose end by showing Optimus removing G1 Megatron's Spark from Megatron and putting it back into its rightful body.  Strange that it was said to have been removed for time, since it's so very short...it more likely was removed for timing or pacing reasons.  I'll comment more on all of Beast Wars again after looking at Beast Machines, but overall Beast Wars is a well-done series.

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One of the DVD's special features is a deleted scene from the finale (though literally only a few seconds long which was cut for time).  It's not the best quality, but it shows Optimus returning the original Megatron's Spark back into his body, so that history will unfold as it should.  The Beast Wars end with the Maximals seemingly triumphant, returning to the future Cybertron, taking back Megatron who is chained to the outside of the Autobot shuttle.  However, the trip through time is not without some turbulence, and leads into the next series, Beast Machines.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2009, 05:57:06 PM by JonLeung » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2009, 05:28:50 PM »

BEAST MACHINES

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Beast Machines: Transformers is a controversial series.  It's not the first series that comes to mind when anyone thinks of Transformers, however it is certainly a decently written story that stands well on its own.  Overall, it helps that it was heavily serialized, much more so than even Beast Wars.  Not included on the DVD is the alternate opening of the second season, which I recall had an extra subtitle, "Battle For The Sparks".

Beast Machines is the follow-up series to Beast Wars.  As mentioned in one of the audio commentaries in the second-last episode of the second season, when this series was to be made, Hasbro and Fox came to Mainframe and asked for a spiritual take on Transformers.  The writers were initially baffled by how they could make a series about "robots that bash each other" enlightening.  For better or worse, I would say they certainly pulled off a different vibe for Beast Machines than any other Transformers series.

It's not what you would expect from Transformers: a series that derides technological perfection, hints at environmental concerns, and features an Optimus who at times gets too steeped in his fanaticism.  Transformation requires some Zen-like knowing of oneself, and anything to do with Sparks (essentially Transformers' souls) is often the focus.  Mix in themes of betrayal, genocide, and the afterlife and you have the heaviest Transformers series ever.  Certainly controversial, and either loved or hated by Transformers fans.  My take is, though it's not the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Transformers, if you can take the series for what it is, it does pretty well on its own.  (Well, it can't be totally independent from other Transformers series, as the background of Beast Wars and G1 are necessary.)  As the writers said, it is essentially a 26-chapter story, so there won't be any filler here.  Apparently, Beast Machines is the only North American-produced Transformers series to have been entirely conceptualized in advance.  It's more serialized and serious than even the latter half of Beast Wars...but don't mistake "serious" to mean that it isn't any fun.

This series' unique choice to have armies of Vehicon Drones now means that several generic Transformers can be destroyed, and this makes way for more action.  The stylistic choices for the visuals mean that it hasn't aged anywhere near as noticeably as Beast Wars, even ten years later.  The techno/electronica/industrial soundtrack keeps things moving (if you like that type of music) including Leftfield's Phat Planet as the theme song.

Perhaps as a testament to Beast Machines being less popular, I was able to buy a copy of Beast Machines: Transformers - The Complete Series, new and unopened without having to look around much on eBay like I had to for Beast Wars.  Though possibly while in transit, one corner of the box set got slightly scrunched, but otherwise is in stupendous condition.  There are no scares of Beast Wars - The Complete Second Season's mucus splatters here!  Now let’s get to the review.

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The production values for this DVD set seem a bit higher than for Beast Wars.  Perhaps because of the advent of DVD, now firmly a viable consumer medium by the time Beast Machines debuted, Mainframe decided to keep enough work files with the expectation that they could be used for the DVD set.  The DVDs begin with Optimus Primal walking into Megatron's Citadel, before the menu options appear on screens that Megatron summons.

SEASON ONE

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The series takes an interesting turn, not just story-wise, but stylistically.  The Maximals themselves, after being reformatted by the Oracle, are a fusion of beast and machine, and seem proportioned almost caricature-like.

In "The Formatting", the series opens with a shot of a flower being trampled by a Tank Drone.  (Compare that to the final shot of the final episode.)  It's action-packed right from the starting gate as Optimus Primal, back in his first beast mode from Beast Wars (a slightly different model, but it's supposed to be the original), is back on Cybertron being chased by Tank Drones, alone, with no memory of how he got there, and unable to transform.  Something leads him to Rattrap, Cheetor, and Blackarachnia, all also with memory loss and stuck in beast mode.  They make their way underground to the Oracle, which reformats their bodies, but simply shouting "Maximize!" isn't enough to transform any more.  Optimus figures out transformation first, and in the second episode, "Master Of The House", he teaches the other Maximals how to find their focus before transforming, which Rattrap is unable to get grasp for another few episodes.  (One turn-off I've heard is the cheesiness of shouting "I am transformed!" while transforming, but to be fair, it is really just there for dramatic effect the first few times, and the phrase is pretty much absent after Rattrap finally figures out his transformation.)  By the end of the second episode, we learn that Megatron is in control of the entire planet, and he has the Sparks of (nearly) the entire Cybertronian population, though how this all came to be and other related mysteries are yet to be revealed.

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The four Maximals in a group shot shouting "Maximize!" just as they discover that their bodies don't transform with that access code any longer.  Megatron is revealed to be the villain by the end of the first episode, but the circumstances of how Cybertron is taken over remain unclear for a little while.

All the while there is a subplot of Megatron wanting to eliminate his own beast mode, which he calls "accursed".  In moments of emotion, when he loses control, he inadvertently pops out of his control suit and transforms into his dragon form, which looks like a roughed-up version of his final Beast Wars incarnation.  Megatron never seems to have had a problem with the whole concept of the Beast Wars while they were going on, but time has changed his mind.  It isn't until halfway through the season that we learn that after the conclusion of the Beast Wars as seen in the finale, Megatron broke free of the Autobot shuttle while it was still in transwarp space, so he made it back to Cybertron earlier, possibly years earlier, than the same Autobot shuttle, which to the Maximals inside, seemed like it has only been mere moments later.  Megatron managed to take control of Cybertron in all that extra time.

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Megatron has the run of the entire planet, but soon finds that he is unable to multitask when trying to round up the Maximals.  When he loses his cool, he reverts to his beast mode, and he spends a lot of time in the first season being frustrated over having a beast mode, since it keeps him from technological perfection.

Megatron, despite wanting to control the planet on his own, needs others with free will to help him hunt down the Maximals when he realizes his inability to multitask.  In "Fires Of The Past", he uses three Sparks to create the Vehicon Generals, each leading the Vehicon Drones of the same type as themselves.  Jetstorm, the General of the Aerodrones, easily becomes my favourite of these three.  Though when the series originally aired, it felt like an eternity before we found out whose Sparks were used to give the Generals life - watching an episode a day cleared this up a mere four-six days later, as opposed to the four-six weeks in the original airing.  I'm referring to the midseason three-parter, "Revelations", which reveals that the three Vehicon Generals are none other than the three other survivors of the Beast Wars - Thrust is Waspinator, Jetstorm is Silverbolt, and Tankor is Rhinox.  (I find it interesting to note that those three never had second bodies in all of Beast Wars, so one wonders if the "deevolving" gas that robbed everyone else of their Transmetal upgrades had other effects on these three.)

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Megatron chooses three Sparks to create sentient Vehicon Generals to lead their respective Vehicon drone armies.  From left to right: Tankor, Jetstorm, and Thrust.

The Tankor/Rhinox connection is the most interesting - you know how when minds and bodies are swapped around in cartoon shows, the character's voice always goes wherever the mind goes?  That may have been a clue as to Tankor's former identity, as their voices are the same, but what threw that guess off initially was that Tankor sounds like a moron while Rhinox was a genius.  It becomes shocking to learn that Rhinox is on Megatron's side by choice, considering that Rhinox has been mentioned as being one of Optimus Primal's closest friends among the Maximals and that Rhinox himself has gone to great lengths to save Optimus.  Rhinox was the one at the beginning of Beast Wars' second season who sent his own Spark far from his body to leave a trail for Optimus's Spark to find a way back.  And yet now, they are opposing sides.  Rattrap's tampering of Tankor's brain brings Rhinox's intelligence back to the surface, and soon he reprograms the diagnostic drone to obey him instead of Megatron, locates the Oracle, and discovers the Key To Vector Sigma ("The Key").

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The first new Maximal is Nightscream.  In his flashback, a Transformer that looks too much like G1 Soundwave makes a brief appearance as he is shot down.  According to writer Robert Skir, Nightscream, as well as others, would have been female if it were up to him.

The Key To Vector Sigma, featured in the G1 two-parter of the same name, besides being exactly what its name implies, has a secondary function of turning organic life into "technomatter".  Optimus, trusting what the Oracle is telling him, becomes increasingly fanatical about restoring organic life to Cybertron, and after Tankor's tampering of the Oracle, Optimus is led to another G1 device, the Plasma Energy Chamber, which was featured in G1's (non-Japanese) finale, "The Rebirth".  Plasma Energy overloads technomatter, so Optimus threatens to use it to stop Megatron.  The season ends with beams from several Keys To Vector Sigma and the release of Plasma Energy creating a huge energy storm that seems capable of destroying Cybertron.

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In a three-part story, "Revelations", the original identities of the Vehicon Generals are revealed.  While digging into Tankor/Rhinox's memories, he sees that while in transwarp space, Megatron broke free and therefore ended up on Cybertron long before the Maximals did.  Thrust has the Spark of Waspinator, who was treated like royalty by the early humans as seen at the very end of Beast Wars.  He ended up being rejected by his subjects and headed back to Cybertron all on his own.

As mentioned, Beast Machines is quite different.  The pacing and linearity of the storyline certainly made me want to keep watching it.  While some choices were still questionable (the Maximals' transformations are not mechanically coherent, and usually look cheap with entire limbs shrinking in with others popping out), and some took some getting used to (the look of the characters, specifically the Maximals), I certainly can't say it wasn't worth watching.  Season Two would continue to defy expectations...

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Two devices from the original G1 Transformers series play a part in the first season's finale.  The Key To Vector Sigma first appeared in G1 from the two-parter "The Key To Vector Sigma", and the Plasma Energy Chamber first appeared in the last G1 saga, "The Rebirth".
« Last Edit: November 10, 2009, 05:57:27 PM by JonLeung » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2009, 05:29:00 PM »

SEASON TWO

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Season Two begins with Optimus seemingly disintegrating.  After another spiritual experience, Optimus finds that he is very much alive with the storm of energy still in progress.  He uses his absorbing abilities to take in the energy from the Key To Vector Sigma (which turns organic life into technomatter) and the Plasma Energy (which overloads all technomatter) and fires this blend at the planet's core.  After yet another death and rebirth in the same episode (though he doesn't get a new body this time), Optimus realizes his past eco-fanaticism and now seeks a balance between the technological and the organic, or "technorganic".  Megatron gains a new body, or more accurately, a new head, but this head starts off unresponsive.

The final season of Beast Machines, also the final season of the whole Beast saga, raises the bar for epicness.  Megatron, now more evil than he ever was, gets even more serious.  There are a few new faces that join in the intensifying battle for the Sparks.  And the conclusion is unlike the climax of any other Transformers series.

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Savage/Noble is one of the oddest additions to the Transformers universe; he seems to be a Transformer with two beast modes.  As Savage he is a mindless fire-breathing dragon, and as Noble he is a wolf who becomes Nightscream's friend.  That is, until his true nature is revealed.

In "Fallout", picking up from the previous season's cliffhanger, Optimus manages to hit the core of the planet with the combined energy of The Key To Vector Sigma and the Plasma Energy, creating "technorganic" matter, which would become his focus now that he's done with his tree-hugging fanaticism.  Though he dies, seemingly twice (!) in the first episode alone, he manages to come back, but unlike other times he does not gain a new body.  Megatron will undergo a number of different bodies this season, from having his Spark trapped in Savage/Noble (more on that later), then released into a giant floating head (which also has an internal face made of holographic "Matrixesque" Cybertronian letters), then becoming a giant Spark that seems to cannibalize other Sparks and is capable of possessing other bodies, until being locked into the body of a diagnostic drone, before finally taking on a familiar form by the end for a touch of villainous irony.  Everything about Megatron is so seriously evil (or as evil as cartoon characters can get), that it's funny to think that he was a roller-skating Tyrannosaurus Rex not that long ago.

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There are two more additions to the Maximals this season.  First is Silverbolt, freed from his Jetstorm persona, and the second is Botanica, a particularly controversial character who transforms into a plant.

Season Two gives us a handful of new and also controversial characters; Savage/Noble, Botanica, Obsidian and Strika, as well as the return of Silverbolt.  Savage/Noble is a Transformer with two organic beast modes, which is somewhat ridiculous, even after the explanation as to his true origins ("Prometheus Unbound") a mere one episode after his introduction ("Savage Noble").  It seemed obvious to me that the dragon part of him came from Megatron, though his wolf side is never explained, which you would think had something to do with Silverbolt, who was a wolf/eagle Fuzor in Beast Wars but is now just an eagle.  Silverbolt's return might initially be more welcome - at least in my opinion - if it didn't also mean the end of Jetstorm, but Silverbolt also doesn't seem too happy after coming back.  He seems a bit like Depth Charge by being angry all the time, and far from the knight-in-shining-armor he was in Beast Wars.  The writers said Silverbolt is like another flying mammal hero - Batman.  They thought that in Beast Wars Silverbolt was a lot like Adam West (from the 1960s live-action Batman), probably in terms of being a campy sort of hero, so their new take on Silverbolt is like the dark, brooding vigilante that Batman is more often portrayed as.  I don't think the choice to change Silverbolt was necessarily so wrong by itself, but even going through these episodes once a day, it still felt like Silverbolt was taking way too long getting over his shame of his former Jetstorm persona.  Not to mention that it was frequently pointed out to him that Blackarachnia went through a lot to save him and he was taking so long to understand that.  Botanica is an oddity, as well.  She returned to Cybertron after being on a planet with chlorophyll-based life forms, so she is a plant Transformer.  Her annoyance with and then sudden attraction to Rattrap seemed a little rushed, but then again it didn't hurt to have some relational emotion in this while Silverbolt was still having his own issues keeping him from Blackarachnia.  At least Obsidian and Strika aren't quite as strange - they are the two new Vehicon Generals this season (introduced in the midseason three-part "Sparkwar"), apparently two of the greatest Cybertronian generals in history, but that begs two questions: why we haven't heard of them before, and why they weren't among Megatron's first choices for Vehicon Generals when he first needed them (instead opting for the Sparks of two former Maximals and the most incompetent Predacon).  It was interesting for them to make Strika a female, if only because there are too few female Transformers and fewer still that aren't overly feminine.  And of all the Vehicons, Obsidian is the only one that doesn't have a blatantly obvious head in vehicle mode, which makes him the closest, design-wise, to being like a classic Transformer.

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Once his sentience is restored, Megatron seems even more ruthless than he ever was.  No more half-comedic roller-skating T-Rexes here.  Two new Vehicon Generals are introduced who are also quite competent; Obsidian and Strika.

And so we come to the end.  The conclusion of Beast Wars seemed to evoke biblical epicness, enforced with readings from The Covenant Of Primus.  But the conclusion of Beast Machines (a three-parter appropriately titled "Endgame") really does feel like some kind of apocalypse.  The fate of the entire planet, and of the Sparks of every Transformer, are all dependent on this epic battle between good and evil.  Once Megatron's Spark is no longer occupying his giant head/fortress, the Maximals take back the Sparks.  But the Vehicons manage to bring them down, and the final battle ensues.  The Vehicon Generals would get launched into space, while Waspinator/Thrust and the Maximals have their Sparks extracted, leaving Optimus and Megatron as the only two alive by the final episode, which mostly consists of them just fighting.  Megatron's final body is based on Optimal Optimus's body, and Megatron becomes stronger still by absorbing all the Sparks.  It's not enough to ensure victory, though, and both Optimus and Megatron will perish (for real this time) and technorganic life is restored to Cybertron, and billions of Transformers come back to life.  I don't want to overuse the word "epic", but you can't deny that's what it is.

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Because G1 references are apparently worth bringing up, a virus similar to the Hate Plague (from G1's "The Return Of Optimus Prime") and a holographic representation of Optimus Prime in the lost Cybertron city of Iacon make appearances.

Note a few instances of symmetry and mirroring.  The first episode of the season began with Optimus and Megatron seemingly dead and everyone else alive, and the last episode of the season has Optimus and Megatron as the only ones alive.  The series opened with a shot of a budding flower about to be crushed, and the series ends with a shot of a just-blossomed flower.  Also, the end of Beast Wars sees Waspinator "getting what he wants", and the end of Beast Machines sees Waspinator "never getting what he wants".  Seeing all these episodes at a rate of one a day makes these more noticeable than at the original rate of one a week, with months in between seasons.  And this second time around, I appreciated the linearity of the story more, maybe because I felt I knew what the writers intended to accomplish with a serialized, "spiritual" take on things, even though there were fewer surprises.  Like I've heard about food, "if you don't like it, try it again in ten years, you might like it", and that's not to say I didn't like Beast Machines when it aired back in 1999-2000, it's just that I've taken another look at it and now better appreciate the things I may not have noticed before.

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The finale is seriously heavy stuff.  Megatron's head (his Spark had been implanted into a diagnostic drone at this point) was taken back by the Maximals but crashes to the ground below, and is soon swarmed by Obsidian's drones.  Megatron's final body is a copy of Optimal Optimus's (from the third season of Beast Wars) and as he increases in size and power by absorbing everybody's Sparks and activates the Key To Vector Sigma over Cybertron's exposed core, you know that the end is near.

In comparing Beast Wars to Beast Machines, they both have their certain charms.  Beast Wars, taking place sometime on prehistoric Earth while the Autobots and Decepticons were unconscious, meant the events that unfolded would change or preserve history as expected to turn out in G1 Transformers history.  Working within that framework allowed Beast Wars to fit in and be relevant.  Beast Machines, unrestrained by existing continuity, allowed for radically different stories to be told.  While Beast Wars was more fun and light-hearted, Beast Machines was more action-packed and gripping.  It's a pretty close call as to which one is "better", so if I were to say Beast Wars is, don't take that to mean that Beast Machines was way worse.  And story-wise (talking strictly about plot), both are better than G1.  Sorry, that's my opinion.  G1's characters are certainly way better, of course.  They will forever be the definitive Transformers.  But as you saw in my "100 Days Of Transformers", there were many straight-up bad episodes in the original cartoon series like "Child's Play" and "Carnage In C-Minor".  The better-written G1 sagas like the pilot "More Than Meets The Eye" and the finale "The Rebirth" probably top everything, but if you were to take any random episode of G1 and compare it to a random episode of Beast Wars or Beast Machines, G1 would probably be the worse episode more often than not.  If only Mainframe (or Rainmaker Entertainment as they are now) had a chance to make a classic Autobots/Decepticons Transformers series with their CG talent and writing skills...  But now the torch of rendering Transformers in CG has been passed on to DreamWorks, so here is the perfect place to segue into the last part of my review: the live-action films.

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The happy end sees Cybertron restored to technorganic glory.  Optimus and Megatron are dead, for real this time (and not coming back, since the TransTech series never took off) and a whole bunch of Transformers come back to life to experience this utopia.
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2009, 05:29:08 PM »

TRANSFORMERS (2007)

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Michael Bay's 2007 film may have brought Transformers back into the mainstream, but the film itself could have used more of the Transformers themselves.

I'd seen the first live-action movie in the theatre on its opening weekend back in 2007, of course, and bought the HD-DVD when it first came out (back when it was exclusive to HD-DVD).  I probably saw it twice, so in keeping with my daily Transformers-watching schedule, I made time to watch it a third time after I was done with Beast Machines.  I contemplated buying Transformers again on Blu-Ray, but since I have a HD-DVD/Blu-Ray combo player, I didn't think it was necessary at this time.

I won't get too much into it; I'm sure everybody's seen this film.  I had to see it again, not just because I wanted to make this marathon a round number of days, but because of my assertion that the sequel was better was sometimes met with disagreement.  I figured this would be a good chance to revisit the first movie and see whether I was deluded into thinking the sequel was better simply because it was newer and more fresh in my mind, or if my initial opinion would be maintained.  And I think it is.  Compared to Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, there really wasn't as much action as there could have been, and since I had just finished watching the action-packed Beast Machines, I almost felt bored for the first half of the movie.

The first part of the film is about Sam discovering that his car is the Autobot Bumblebee.  The other Autobots don't show up until one hour into the film (really close to one hour, actually).  Considering that the film is called "Transformers", you'd think more of the titular Transformers could've shown up earlier, and half of the Decepticons don't show up until towards the end.  The film simply has at least one too many human storylines.  Some of the Sector 7 stuff seemed a bit ridiculous and the hacker storyline was especially pointless.  Captain Lennox and the other army guys probably could've had a smaller presence too.  I remember coming back to a scene featuring Sam after a bunch of other scenes, and thinking, "oh yeah, haven't seen the main guy in a while".  And we certainly should've seen more of the Transformers themselves!  I also think it's silly that the Autobots don't seem that capable of defeating the Decepticons on their own without the help of the U.S. Army, but Michael Bay has always been all about the military stuff and this film is no exception.

Bottom line: it's an okay action flick once it gets going, but you could probably skip most of it if it's not the first time you're seeing it.

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009)

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The 2009 sequel to the live-action Transformers movie has more action and more Transformers.

Of course there would be a sequel, and of course a Transformers fan like me is going to see it, so I saw it in an IMAX theatre on opening weekend.  Not wanting a lesser version for the home release, as mentioned at the top of this review, I spent more than I really should have for the American Walmart-exclusive "Big Screen Edition" via eBay.  It showed up a week later than I had planned for it in my schedule, but it was fun to be able to see it with some close friends alongside G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra (2009).  You may remember that when I did the original "100 Days Of Transformers" I watched the animated G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987) for the first time on the same day as the rewatching of The Transformers: The Movie (1986), so this time around I repeated the same "Hasbro double feature" but this time with the two 2009 live-action movies on Blu-Ray.

In preparation for this movie, I lent many of my friends the graphic novels of Transformers: War Within, which in its second volume featured The Fallen in his original comic book incarnation.  I won't get too much into that, but the unfortunate thing is that not much of The Fallen is fully explained in that volume itself, and you would have to refer to one of the later guidebooks or Wikipedia to see what he was all about.  That said, I thought it was an odd choice to reimagine an obscure character (even among Transformers fans) into a villain for the big screen, but I guess he turned out okay in the end, even if Jetfire's exposition seemed lengthy (in both instances, Jetfire helps defeat The Fallen).

In terms of robot battling action, which is really the whole point, this film is superior to the first.  There were more robots and more opportunities for battle.  The ridiculous thing is that now there are way too many Transformers.  I guess you could say that not every Transformer has to be a major character, so you'd soon forget, if you even knew, that Sideswipe was the one who sliced Sideways in two near the beginning of the film, or that the motorcycles are collectively known as the Arcee Twins even though they're triplets (and they went to the trouble of casting the holographic riders why?) but if it were up to me, I doubt I would have written the controversial characters Skids and Mudflap, and I certainly wouldn't've given them tons more screen time than Ironhide and Ratchet.  Did you know Ironhide and Ratchet, among the very few Autobots returning from the first film, hardly did anything at all in this one?  There are other Transformers that you could have easily missed if you were distracted for even a few seconds.  I remember reading about how it seemed to be a big deal that Jolt, a Chevrolet Volt, was in the film, but I would wager his screen time is no more than twenty seconds, with his only real purpose being to transfer Jetfire's parts to Optimus to create "Jetpower Optimus".  I also heard Jolt was a last-minute addition, but many other Transformers might just as easily have been too, judging by their low screen time.  The generic protoform Decepticons that joined in the final battle that didn't bother to obtain new forms bulked up the robot count, but didn't give us any new Transformers characters.  And you would think Constructicons were unique Transformers too, but many of them appear in the final battle alongside their combined form, Devastator.  I don't know if that's a nod to the toys, which I heard came in at least two different forms - individual ones that transformed but didn't combine, and also as a set that combined but didn't individually transform.  I could be wrong about that too, as I don't really follow the toys (outside of the occasional glance of TFW2005.com news stories), just the fiction.  In any case there were a lot of Transformers, but no time to get to know many of them.

Well, we did see a lot of certain ones.  Optimus Prime in particular did do a lot of butt-kicking on his own this time around.  Near the beginning of the film, he totally wastes Demolishor, a Decepticon multiple times his size, and later takes on many Decepticons all at once in the forest.  You'd wonder where the other Autobots were during the whole forest battle scene, and they weren't that effective in the desert either.  But once Optimus comes back to life, he takes Jetfire's parts and becomes Jetpower Optimus, and immediately tosses Megatron and Starscream around and makes a mess of The Fallen.  Who really needs the Autobots, eh?  Jetfire also has a big part, explaining most of the necessary back-story.  Wheelie is, for whatever reason, a foul-mouthed Decepticon instead of a rhyming Autobot, who also has quite some screen time.  Megatron and Starscream have more antagonistic time together.  Bumblebee, along with Skids and Mudflap, are mostly just there.  Devastator shows up as a big deal, but is dispatched with just one hit from a rail gun (lame).  Sure, it seems like an okay amount of Transformers with screen time when you count them out.  I guess I just wanted more of the Autobots - other than obviously Optimus, and the defectors Jetfire and Wheelie.  And I mean more of the classic Transformers; Skids and Mudflap don't count.  Soundwave was cool, but it would've been nice if he did more.

I feel I have to mention Alice.  The Pretenders were a late addition to the original Transformers toy line, which featured humanoid shells for Transformers to disguise themselves further.  Personally, I've always thought that it was a weird gimmick.  I don't know if the toy line got gimmicky because it was ending, or if it ended because it got too gimmicky.  In any case, for those of you who think Alice is a rip-off of a Terminator, she still has G1 roots.  However, my justification of it is not to be confused with support of it, since I think it is just silly.  They probably could've had close to the same storyline by making her human and just having Scalpel take control of her brain or something.

The bottom line for this one is that it's a good action flick, and I maintain that it's better than the first one.  There are more explosions, more robots, and less downtime.  If you're an oldschool Transformers fan, maybe you'll enjoy who/what are included, but don't get too hung up on who/what are not.

---

So there you have it.  "80 More Days Of Transformers".  The earth could have been flooded twice by the time it took me to get through all this.  It was a lengthy marathon, and certainly took long enough to write.  I hope you enjoyed it, if you even read all this.  Though there is still a lot more Transformers fiction for me to potentially take on, I'm not sure I can bring myself to watch every episode of the later series.  Perhaps someone might be able to convince me that Transformers Animated is worth the time (I only really saw the pilot, "Transform and Roll Out!"), if only because I hear several G1 classic characters appear later and are reimagined yet still recognizable.  I don't know if that will really happen, but at least for now, I feel that 180 days is probably sufficient for a Transformers fan like me.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2009, 05:57:57 PM by JonLeung » Logged
Revned
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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2009, 07:47:10 PM »

*cough* You should direct all this energy to making maps of your own *cough*

What? I don't always make sarcastic comments on your Transformers posts...  Wink
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Peardian
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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2009, 05:44:39 PM »

I remember watching that. Cheesy I think... "Beasties"? XD



Read the whole thing. Or at least, up until the movies. Tongue
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« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2009, 11:11:13 AM »

I could recommend Transformers Animated for a ton of reasons, from great characters who grow and evolve, to the best Megatron and Starscream in a long while (if ever), to stories that don't insult our intelligence. But I'll simply say that despite how much I loved Beast Wars and Beast Machines, I never felt like buying them on DVD, but I'll be doing just that with Animated. Hopefully they'll release Season 3 soon...
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StarFighters76
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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2009, 09:27:01 PM »

TF:A Is definitely worth watching, even though there will be plenty of plotholes left unanswered. Lots of great action, comedy, drama and tons of awesome references to past Transformers, especially G1.
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