By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Transformers Prime – Season Two on Blogcritics.
Season two of Hasbro Studios’ Transformers Prime consists of 26 episodes which aired from February to November of 2012. The digitally-animated series has garnered considerable praise, earning several Daytime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation. The complete second season is available as a four-disc Blu-ray set from Shout! Factory. The series began in late 2010 with a five-part miniseries that reestablished the backstory of the epic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons, including the return of villainous Decepticon leader Megatron. Season one concluded with the saving of Earth from destruction at the hands of Unicron. As season two begins, Autobot leader Optimus Prime is experiencing a serious case of amnesia, believing that he is his previous self, data clerk Orion Pax.
The three-part season opener finds “Orion” falling under the command of the Decepticons, with Megatron preying upon Optimus’ memory problems. It’s a killer way to begin the season, with the identity crisis of Optimus serving a neat opening gambit. Later in the season, in the episode “Nemesis Prime,” another interesting hardship faces the Autobots when terrorist group M.E.C.H. unleashes a clone of Optimus Prime. Naturally, this puts the Autobots at odds with the U.S. military, which believes the real Optimus has instigated chaos on one of their bases.
Carrying through the season is the search for relics from the Vaults of Iacon. Among these relics of the Transformers’ home world, the extremely powerful Omega Keys factor in most prominently, with both the Autobots and Decepticons desperately seeking them in order to control Cybertron. Ultimately, the Decepticons are, of course, far more ruthless—leaving the very lives of the human Autobot allies, Jack, Miko, and Rafael (part of Prime since the mini-series) in the balance.
Special note must be made of the score by Brian Tyler, which adds a palpable sense of gravity to the dramatic scenes and amps up the excitement during action scenes. Tyler has contributed scores to many feature films, including recurring collaborations with Sylvester Stallone (Rambo, The Expendables, The Expendables 2). His music is sometimes the best thing about otherwise iffy movies, including Alien vs. Predator: Requiem and Final Destination 5. It’s nice that the producers of Transformers Prime chose to employ such an accomplished film composer to boost the quality of the series.
There’s a lot to like about the 1080p Blu-ray presentation of Transformers Prime – Season Two (which is framed at 1.78:1). The various Transformers themselves look excellent, with strong detail and convincing metallic textures. Colors are generally vivid throughout. The weaknesses of the transfer are more evident in the sometimes noisy backgrounds. Textured walls shift with digital noise on rare occasion. Smoky and dusty shots, such as those that occur after explosions, exhibit occasional minor banding. The good news is, if you’re not looking closely for problems, the image quite acceptable.
Audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround or 2.0 Stereo. For an animated TV show aimed primarily at younger audiences, Prime goes well beyond the basic requirements. This is a very strong presentation. The basics are well covered, with centered dialogue and music that only moves to the fore when it serves the story. Surrounds come into play mainly during heavy action sequences. When not much is happening on screen, the mix tends to get a little too dry. Those moments are relatively few. The stuff most viewers will care about the most—blasts of weaponry, booming explosions, and the metal-on-metal cacophony of collisions—are enveloping and full-bodied.
Supplemental features are confined to the fourth disc. The title of “A Look Back at Season Two” is self-explanatory, with various studio execs and creative team members discussing the season. It’s a bit on the self-congratulatory side, but given the relative lack of bonuses it’s a very welcome 22-minute featurette.
Better, however, is the 28-minute “Optimus Prime: Up Close and Personal.” Taped earlier this year at Comic-Con, Peter Cullen (longtime voice of Optimus Prime) is interviewed by Larry King (who seems a little out of his element, “This is a weird place,” he mentions at one point). Cullen fields audience questions, inadvertently slipping in a subtle dig at when he suggests Transformers is just for kids. It’s a very illuminating piece and quite funny at times.
Fans of all ages will love the complex storytelling and very cool animation of Transformers Prime – Season Two. The theatrical movies have raked in billions, but this series has more heart.