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DVD Review: ‘Transformers: Energon’

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Not-so-slowly and surely, the full Transformers Unicron Trilogy is hitting DVD.  About a month ago, the second portion, Transformers Energon, arrived in a seven disc set.

Energon picks up after the events of Armada, with Unicron and Megatron vanquished, but a new evil appearing.  And, not surprisingly as it is a part of the Unicron Trilogy, pretty soon it is clear that Unicron remains a threat.  Plus, as it’s Transformers, Megatron is back before too long as well.  So, in short, there are a lot of bad guys for the Autobots to have to deal with, which they do over the course of the series’ two seasons and 51 episodes.

If I sound a little down on the whole thing it’s because I find Energon to be a rather lackluster affair.  But wait, that’s not Transformers energonquite right – I think a lot of the things that happen are amusing and advance the tale in fun (if not obvious) ways.  I think the problems lie more in animation and other concepts.

For instance, there is disconcerting melding of animation techniques used in the series, and it doesn’t work well.  While there must have been a logic to putting the series together in this fashion, it leads to a jarring juxtaposition, it is a combination of 2D and3D looks and winds up feeling half-baked and in no way ready for primetime.

Another issue exists with the lackluster name of locations.  Watching the series you’ll see and hear about places with names like “Jungle City” and “Ocean City.”  Combined with the bargain basement feeling one gets from the animation itself, not bothering to create a decent name for a location only adds to the sense that lack of care was taken with the show (this remains true whether or not similar names have been used in past Transformers series/continuities).

It is all rather a shame as I think that the storyline here in Energon is far superior to the one in Armada.  The problem is just that the actual production isn’t as good, and as I noted in my review of Armada, the production quality there started off rather shakily as well.

Peter Cullen fans will again be disappointed here that Optimus Prime is voiced by Garry Chalk, but I do not believe that the difference in voices will matter much to most fans of the series.  I think that in both Armada and Energon, Chalk performs the role admirably, even if he isn’t given the best dialogue.

Not to head back to my litany of complaints, but as with Armada, I remain wholly unconvinced by the human companions that the animated series’ offer up.  Here, the main problem is the character of “Kicker.”  In what seems to be an attempt to make wholly irrelevant humans more relevant (and thereby give members of the audience a better proxy), Kicker (voiced by Brad Swaile) has the ability to sense energon—a power source desperately needed by everyone and everything.  He is also given a suit which adds to his strength and generally protect him.  One would think, looking at the suit, hearing of its abilities, and seeing Decepticons, that Kicker would still be an incredibly easy mark if the bad guys actually cared to be bad, but somehow Kicker repeatedly makes it through fights.  It is a less good series than because of that.

Okay, wow, lots of complaints, but the truth is that if you can ignore the disjointed animation and pretend like Kicker is just a petulant mini-Autobot who was raised by humans, you can have a lot of fun with Transformers: Energon.  It expands and deepens the mythology in interesting ways, making definite improvements on Armada, and really gets one excited for the expected release of Transformers: Cybtertron in August.

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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.