Transformers: Prime "Beast Hunters" - Predacon Rising

I think it's pretty common knowledge that there's been a sibling rivalry between G.I. Joe and Transformers pretty much since the 80's. Hasbro's flagship G.I. Joe brands for 30 years apiece, the two brands have a distinct fanbase that in many cases crosses over. However, there are many devout G.I. Joe fans who see Transformers not as a kinship, but as a rival, and let's be honest, in recent years, Transformers has come out way on top.

I can think of no greater example than with Transformers: Prime. The landmark CGI animated series debuted at the same time as the well regarded G.I. Joe: Renegades, however here we are a few years later and Transformers: Prime has three spectacular seasons of animated greatness followed up by a very impressive animated film, while the G.I. Joe: Renegades era was summarily cast aside and forgotten almost before it could even really begin. But I'll try not to approach this review with sour grapes, but instead giving credit where credit is due... at the end of the day, the Transformers: Prime universe has been terrific, with surprisingly mature themes, increasingly impressive animation, and a very captivating story, almost from beginning to end.

In preparation for this review, I binge-watched Season 3 of Transformers Prime, which was a fantastic finale to the animated series, bringing in the nefarious Predaking (and hinting to more Predacons to come) which managed to blend the "Beast Hunter" concept very seamlessly with the animated series (something the toyline, unfortunately, has failed to do, in my opinion). The CGI animation has been top notch, the story was gripping, and the characters really well written and conceived. I'm happy to say this Blu-Ray/DVD release picks up right where the third season left off.

The seeds for Unicron were sewn in Season two, and this film picks right up, using Unicron has the backdrop for Megatron's resurrection and return to Cybertron to face off against the Autobots who stand triumphant after the events of the third season of the series. A three-way conflict emerges between Autobots, Decepticons, and Predacons, and I cannot get over how cool Predaking is in design and execution. His long almost leathery wings, his neck glowing and charging as he prepares to launch his flame...even his robot mode are all excellent. But even more than the basic designs of the characters, the most impressive thing to me throughout the life of the animated series has really been the cinematography. This is essentially a kids cartoon, but its driven by a sense of scale and impact that is generally reserved for major motion pictures. Cameras panning around Smokescreen as he phases through a wall, transforming, and then hitting the ground and speeding towards enemy Predacons was simply amazing. The use of slow motion during high-octane action sequences is used sparingly and used quite well, offering a great sense of force behind each mammoth robotic punch.

I was lucky enough to get this film on Blu-Ray and I have to say the video and audio quality is simply superb. I don't have the Hub in HD, so this is really the first time I saw Transformers Prime at this level of quality and it is amazingly crisp, clear, and well defined. You can tell the designers took the engineering into close consideration with building out these characters.

Speaking of the designers, the special "behind the scenes" feature on this Blu-Ray was terrific as well. Looking at the design of the film (and the series overall) from the perspective of the American team and the overseas animation crew from Polygon was exceptionally well done. It really shows the challenges with communication, language, and location when you're dealing with teams in the US and in Asia. What's really interesting is these challenges are parallel to what toy designers often have to deal with as well, so even as a toy fan I found this feature really intriguing. From a video quality perspective and a special feature perspective, I think Shout! Factory did some excellent work on the production side of this set as well.

Anyone who is a fan of Transformers: Prime should pick up this Blu-Ray. It's a surprisingly mature wrap up to the three-season series, and while the Predacons are certainly the "big thing" at the end of the Prime era, it felt like their inclusion made sense and it wasn't too ham-fisted. I also found some parallels between this film and current happenings in the IDW universe to be really fascinating as well, and kudos to a singularly focused Transformers team at Hasbro, Hasbro Studios, and in Hasbro Licensing with IDW Publishing, who has been able to narrow all of these themes into a pretty cohesive story, look, and feel. I didn't even mention War with Cybertron or Fall of Cybertron from Full Moon Studios, which also fits right into this same conceptual universe.

In short, this 66 minute feature is an awesome compliment to the three excellent seasons of Transformers: Prime and should absolutely join any Transformer fan's collection to cap the series. I can't help but get a bit emotional and yes, even a bit angry to think of what could have happened with the G.I. Joe: Renegades animated series if it had been given the same free reign and support from Hasbro proper, but I try to shut out those thoughts and just focus on how excellent Transformers: Prime ended up being, from beginning to end. Kudos to everyone involved, and this film is just another fine example.

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