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DVD Review: ‘Transformers: Armada – The Complete Series’

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91XdVMD+zTL._SL1500_While Transformers has never really gone away since it first launched, in 2003, with Transformers: Armada, the franchise was reborn, offering a new storyline and continuity for the long-running endeavor .  Individuals with a huge investment in the
franchise and either this or some other version of the continuity will, assuredly, be able to tell you exactly what is “wrong” or “right” about Armada in terms of its story, but the vast majority of people out there will simply enjoy this new tale from the Transformers universe… mostly.

The big change here is the presence of “Mini-Cons” which are, essentially, small Transformers that can pair with Autobots or Decepticons in order to make said Autobot or Decepticon far more powerful.  The series opens with the tale of how the Mini-Cons were sent away from Cybertron so that the Autobots and Decepticons would no longer fight over them and then quickly moves onto some foolish middle school students accidentally activating the Mini-Cons which, in turn, causes the Autobots and Decepticons to battle on Earth.

Now, at this point in the review it could be worth entering into a discussion of the ludicrous portrayal of the seventh grade students, noting that Optimus and company look towards the kids for information in ways that they shouldn’t.  In fact, the robots in disguise ask questions about climate and terrain and other things that they could easily google and the kids provide answers which make them wise beyond their years.  Watching the series unfold one quickly forgets that these aren’t college or high school students.  The choice feels made in order for the series to further ingratiate itself amongst its target audience, but seems like an unnecessary one.

And, now that I’ve said all that, it sounds vaguely ridiculous.  It isn’t that the sentiment is wrong, it’s just that it doesn’t matter.  The paragraph, essentially, presupposes that that the notion of a planet of robots which transform into Earth-like vehicles and all speak English (or whatever other language versions exist of the show) isn’t utterly ludicrous.

That leaves me with the question of what does matter.  Surely it matters that there are some weird cuts in the show and at least one “previously on” opening an episode shows things which didn’t happen in said previous episode.  Some of the animation feels quite crude as well, and there is dialogue that feels poorly translated (the series was originally produced for Japanese television).   The animation and dialogue both get substantially better the further you get into the series however, and the plotlines at those moment improve as well.

But, wait a second, does that stuff really matter to most viewers?  I still maintain Armada isn’t as good as the original TV show, but do I look do I see it that way because it isn’t as good or because I’m looking back on the original with rose-colored glasses?  My kids are pretty mesmerized by Armada and don’t give a hoot whether or not the plots are repetitive or the story about the Mini-Cons and their relationship to the Autobots and Decepticons seems to change over time.

Actually, that last one bothers me.  The series opens with an implication that maybe the Autobots acted inappropriately initially where the Mini-Cons were concerned, but that feeling is lessened over time and the traditional Autobot = good and Decepticon = bad characterizations are heightened.  I would love to have seen a further examining of this notion that maybe be the Autobots aren’t all that they should be; some episodes make implications, but none really explore it.

This Transformers: Armada release contains all 52 episodes of the series which is considered the first part of the “Unicron Trilogy” (the two series which follow it making up the second and third portions of the tale). The episodes are divided onto eight discs.  As for the initial TV airing, the 52 episodes are further broken down into four seasons.  The first two of these run 13 episodes, the third for 14 episodes, and the last for 12.  All told, you’re getting about 19 hours of show here.  I encourage you to stick with it through the early, jittery, beginnings, it gets better (even if it never gets as good as the first series).

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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