Judge Paul Corupe knows that the best way to sell this DVD is with a phrase like "lots of hot robot-on-laser-gun action."
Robots in disguise.
The 1980s were notorious for clogging Saturday morning with a slew of cartoons that were little more than 22-minute animated toy commercials, and Transformers was no exception. Although the show has transcended its humble, poorly animated origins with over two decades of new series and adventures, it has also kept the torch of crass commercialism torch burning well beyond its welcome. Transformers Energon produced by (surprise!) toy manufacturer Hasbro and released on DVD by Paramount, is an anglicized version of the Japanese show Transformers: Superlink, the latest in the long-running series that continues to pit Autobots against Decepticons in a deadly battle for the contents of your dad's wallet.
Transformers Energon, which originally aired in 2004, takes place after Transformers Armada and sees the Autobots and Decepticons working together to rebuild their home planet of Cybertron with an energy substance known as "energon." An entity named Alpha Q, however, sends Decepticon Scorponok and the Terrorcons to steal enough energon to revitalize ousted Decepticon leader Megatron, who can in turn bring back Unicron, a gigantic and powerful robot able to transform into an entire planet. When Optimus Prime and his fellow Autobots learn of Alpha Q's plans, they must stop Megatron and save their home by linking together to create larger, hybrid robots. This DVD, Transformers Energon: Omega Supreme, features four episodes of the popular kid's show.
In "Crash Course," episode 34 of Transformers Energon, Shockblast and Megatron begin a battle over who should lead the Decepticons, while the Autobots rest up by holding a Grand Prix race. Meanwhile, Dr. Jones comes across the secret tomb of Omega Supreme, an ancient Autobot who just may be able to help them defeat Megatron. "Crash Course" is a relatively fun little episode, with an inconsequential road race taking over for the convoluted Transformers continuity that clouds the other episodes on this release.
Omega Supreme awakens in episode 35, appropriately titled "Omega Supreme." In this installment, Autobot Wing Saber finds Unicron's body, and in an effort to head off Megatron, Optimus Prime and the Autobots make plans to attack Unicron. Unfortunately, Megatron manages to power up Unicron before they arrive, leaving it up to Omega Supreme to save the day. This is a plot-heavy episode, but with multiple battles and lots of hot robot-on-laser-gun action, it's also thrilling enough to receive my approval, and from a fan's perspective, this is certainly one of the most important episodes from the season.
Episode 36, referred to as a "bonus episode" on the box, is "A Heroic Battle." On the fully operational Unicron, guns are a-blazing as the Autobots, Decepticons, and Terrorcons all battle it out. After Unicron breaks through an energon force field, the Decepticons finally attach Unicron's head to his body, but he can't move, giving the Autobots another chance to destroy him as Optimus Prime powerlinks with Omega Supreme to form Omega Prime. This is where the episodes started getting confusing, with Omega this and Optimus that, Sparks of Combination, headless robots, and more silliness.
"The Power," episode 37, is also a "bonus episode." This time, the Autobots find a vulnerable spot in Unicron's armor, but Shockblast powerlinks with Unicron and grows quite large in a bid to rule the Decepticons. Megatron won't stand for this, and works towards regaining control of Unicron and crushing the Autobots. This episode is pretty much incomprehensible for anyone not familiar with the show.
Although a fixture of my elementary school days, I haven't actually watched an episode of Transformers in well over a decade. I originally gave up on the series around the point where the flagging Transformers and G.I. Joe toy lines were re-invented in theatrical films. In addition to introducing a slew of new figures, these movies took the stories far beyond the half-hour TV show with intricately plotted mythologies that I couldn't care less about. Not surprisingly, I was also quite lost when dropped into the middle of this season-long story arc, only really able to enjoy it on a purely visceral level. At least this release, unlike the rest of the Transformers: Energon DVDs, presents its four episodes in their original broadcast order, which lends some continuity to the proceedings, but even still, I was left wondering if kids can really follow the show's needlessly complicated story.
That said, Transformers Energon does feature exciting battles and more robot-to-vehicle makeovers than you can shake a plasma blaster at. In this case, however, they all seem like they're trying really, really hard to sell me expensive plastic models. I wholly expect shows like Transformers Energon to highlight a wide variety of toys that I can purchase, but this series is pretty shameless in the whole concept of "superlinks" that require not one, but two separate $30 toys to be bought so they can be combined into one $60 monstrosity.
Mixing CGI and normal cel animation, the show is passably animated. Certainly it's better than earlier incarnations, relying on its Japanese origins and incorporating an anime style, but like most kid's cartoons, it constantly reuses footage and cuts corners to save on expenses. It all looks pretty good on this DVD however, maybe a touch soft in some spots, but nothing too distracting. Sound quality is good but unremarkable, as clean and dynamic as you would expect from a modern show. The only extra is a short 45-second clip of selected Transformers transforming in CGI, which is the same on every DVD release in the Transformers Energon line.
Just looking at the cover of this DVD takes me back to a more innocent age, a time when it used to take all my imagination to justify the curiously skewed scale of these toys that had jets and big rigs dwarfed by handguns and portable tape players. Unfortunately, on watching the show, I found that any sense of nostalgia has been replaced by an even bigger emphasis on showcasing the awesome toys to be had down at the local mall, a creepy bit of marketing prowess that outweighs some of the admittedly exciting action sequences in the show. Furthermore, the series features an intricate storyline that requires a viewing of every episode in order, making the decision to release Transformers Energon four episodes at a time, usually in the incorrect order, seem like a quick cash-in on the Transformers name. If you need something to tide you over until the inevitable big screen adaptation, then pick this DVD up as an impulse item, but this release is far less than meets the eye.
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