Monday, 2 June 2014

The Transformers Marathon. The start of the war: Transformers Generation 1, the first wave

With the release of Transformers 4: Age of Extinction coming soon, I thought it would be fitting to countdown its release (and most likely finish past its release) in cinemas with a marathon of Transformers. What is there to say about Transformers? It’s a series to which its plot has never developed past your basic Good vs. Evil. So why is it still popular to this day? Why do the toys keep selling? I want to say I was around 7-9 (I’m not exactly sure but I do remember the first Transformer I ever got) years old when I got into the series and while I haven’t seen every season of Transformers (such as the Japan exclusives) or played every game, what I’ll be reviewing is still a decent portion of the franchise. With that said, time to start things off with the first ever generation, The Transformers (more commonly referred to as Transformers G1). This review will just be covering the first two seasons (what I will be calling “first wave”) with the last two seasons reviewed latter on in this marathon.

The plot of the first half of generation 1? Well for the first season at least: the Decepticons want to steal Earth’s energy to take over the universe (insert stereo typical “OF COURSE!” scene here) and the Autobots have to stop them... Doesn’t seem like a compelling story does it? The writers do however provide interesting stories that fall under this basic, overarching concept, such as multi planet stories, shifting from Earth to Cybertron and back again. The main reason why the story kept people watching was when they introduced new Transformers. Over the course of the seasons, new transformers would join either the Autobots or the Decepticons including Skyfire, the Dinobots, Constructicons, Astrotrain and more. The other aspect of the plot is this, while the overarching plot is bland, the individual episodes were quite interesting. There are times however where the story felt rushed, with one of the worst examples being the pilot episodes. There was a argument between Optimus Prime and Spike and Sparkplug about their help fighting the Decepticons. Spike and Sparkplug say that they know more about the planet then they do and Optimus just agrees then and there, it was poorly written and could have been better.

The animation on the other hand is... dated. The animation is quite nice considering other shows at the time, but doesn’t look good compared to newer animations. The fight scenes are slow and clunky. On top of that, there are several times where the animation and the sound don’t match up and scenes that just don’t make sense to what’s happening. It might be because of the versions I watched but these could be actual issues with the show. There are times where there were animation errors, mainly lack of colour in small portions of the shot, but these are forgivable as they don’t really matter in the long term... most of the time. There are rare cases of obvious miss colours of transformers, including multiple Starscream’s in the same shot. My big complaints with the animation are some of the transformations, with Megatron, Soundwave and Reflector being some of the worst when it comes to this. The sizes of some of the transformations don’t make sense. Megatron shouldn’t be able to transform into a gun that size, Soundwave shouldn’t be able to turn into a tape recorder (did I mention that it was a 80’s cartoon) and the three transformers that make Reflector shouldn’t be able to turn into a camera. A lot of the smaller Autobots also fall into this category but not to the same scale, I’m more likely to believe that Bumblebee, who’s only slightly bigger then a human, can transform into a normal size Volkswagen bug, then I am to believe that three transformers can turn into a standard camera (for the time).

The characters themselves do have distinct personalities, even if they are rushed some times (most of the time...). Optimus and Megatron’s personalities conflict in several ways, giving a subtle reason for the war, the human characters are distinct enough however they don’t really develop during the story (or if they do, it’s so slowly that you don’t notice). I would go into more detail regarding personalities, but because of the sheer number of characters that are in the story, it would be a review in itself. I will say however, the personalities of the characters don’t change from this generation if they appeared in this generation (for the most part).

It’s understandable for something like Transformers’ first season to have these issues; it was a 16 episode season with obviously low budgets, but what about the second season? The animation quality for the second season is better, as there are fewer animation errors (and the ones that are there are far between). The budget also shows a improvement as the backdrops are much bigger in comparison to the first season and the season itself is much longer. The plot still feels a bit rushed but its better then season 1. As for the soundtrack of the two seasons, most of the tracks are really forgettable and repetitive. There wasn’t any standout background track and after a while, they become ear grading as they just become annoying (though that might be because I watched the seasons in a week, with little distractions in terms of other entertainment). I will admit though that the theme song, like a lot of 80’s cartoons, is great with my personal favourite version so far (for generation 1) being the version for season 2. There is a reason why fans wanted the theme to be in the Bay films.

The first two seasons of Transformers did their job’s well. It introduced kids to the concept and it set the stage, standards, and lore of the entire franchise. If you intend to watch it, you have to switch your mind off and acknowledge that the shows are 30-40 years old now. If you’re a fan of the Transformers series, I would recommend watching them, just to see how far the franchise has come. For people new to the franchise, Generation 1 (at least seasons 1 and 2) isn’t the best generation to start in comparison to the latter generations. It’s flawed but the concept itself is still great to this day. But there are aspects to the first generation that I haven’t covered yet so up next: Transformers the Movie.

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