Hasbro’s Transformers certainly has evolved throughout the years. Ever since Generation One, this franchise is no longer just an animation for kids. It’s grown from not just simply being a marketing ploy to sell toys. Rainmaker (formerly Mainframe) Entertainment’s Beast Wars was the first to shift this franchise’s direction into a sophisticated world that many fans, including myself, enjoyed. The character dynamics and brooding personalities featured helped keep interest in this franchise alive.
Not everyone took to Transformers: Animated right away, and to skip ahead to Transformers: Prime, I especially loved the darker tone the storytelling went. No matter how small of a success the Autobots made, something sinister would emerge. Optimus had hope, and he believed everything his team did could help light their darkest hour.
I was sad to learn that the creative minds from Hasbro have put an end to the Prime universe. It ended on a solemn note: Optimus Prime became one with the Matrix and Megatron declared that the Decepticons are no more. He flew away and Starscream thinks he can be the new leader. But when the Predacons show up, his fate is left up to the viewer’s imagination.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise picks up many years after the events in Transformers: Prime and Predacons Rising. A new Golden Age has arrived for Cybertron and the heroes, namely Smokescreen, Arcee, Bulkhead, Ultra Magnus, Knock Out and Ratchet have moved on. The planet repopulated. Bumblebee’s promotion to lieutenant feels irreverent in this new universe, and that’s sad. He could’ve been a high-ranking captain of the honour guard but instead, he’s simply a beat cop. Although he’s content being a general peacekeeper, there’s hardly any motivation for him to rise up to become something more. When he’s part of the team who brought about a reawakening of Cybertron, they should be part of a new council.
Although there’s no real criminal element to deal with anymore, is the role of a peacekeeping element even reverent? Sure, there will be a few rebellious types who just do not respect the rules, and as the first episode indicates, the group exists just to ensure order.
Instead of a story about what’s next for the Cybertronian race, the tale puts Bumblebee into the seminal role of being the next leader. When considering the Matrix has ‘greater plans’ for the last Prime, maybe Bumblebee will get more than a simple upgrade in his development cycle as a popular character. When he sees phantom images of Optimus, just what’s next for what he must become (he’s still the reluctant leader) as a role model requires him going back back to Earth.
He’s still doubtful of his new found skills, and with his new team of warriors — a rebellious Sideswipe (Darren Criss), a hyperactive Fixit (Mitchell Whitfield), a by-the-book Strongarm (Constance Zimmer) and a ‘Down Under’ Grimlock (Khary Payton) – sometimes challenging him, this yellow ‘bot better make sure he has the right stuff to become the next Prime.
His long-term popularity as a character may have some folks scratching their head, including myself, but apparently youths really like him. Out of all the Transformers ever created, this canary yellow giant robot never dramatically changed his colour scheme even though the his look (his vehicle form) has been upgraded from a Volkswagen Beetle to a Camaro. The animation style takes getting used to. The series looks like it’s using the same software that’s used to animate Iron Man: Armored Adventures and the character designs seem to take a few fashion cues from Transformers: Animated.
When the third episode teases at a potential to have more Decepticon ‘bots taking animal forms, I’m starting to wonder if this new series is heading down the direction of reintroducing the Beast Wars?
The premiere episodes (a two parter) set up a world where Earth yet again has become a point of interest. A Cybertronian ship, the Alchemor, crash landed there because either someone shot it down or something sideswiped it while it was en route to a prison planet. The words heard from Fix-It, the pilot, were simply, “Mayday, Mayday!” and a report that the stasis pods were not intact. Most of the prisoners are rogue Decepticons. They are still around, but leaderless. Perhaps someone wants to reform this faction. Maybe there’s a human element to make the inclusion of the human characters, Russell and Denny Clay, reverent. So far, they hardly feel like important secondary characters. They meet, get into trouble because of a renegade metal eating Decepticon named Steeljaw and require saving.
Rusty’s mother has gone off to work in Copenhagen, Denmark (it might be an important plot point) and his father is a junk yard dealer. There must be a reason why she did not want to take him to a new country to experience new things. By having the boy stay with his dad in a salvage yard located outside of Crown City with no visible means of financial support must mean something. When there’s a moderately sized metropolis that might be a mirror of Chicago, maybe some urban exploration is required to get a better idea of what kind of world Earth has become since the Cybertronians left. The repercussions from the Prime universe must be felt.
Even though there are gaps in the world building going on in the first few episodes, hopefully these holes will get filled. As for some of the new characters, not all of them are immediately likable, especially Grimlock. At least the personality conflicts being introduced between these new Autobots can be turned into worthwhile lessons in how to get along. Children watching this series should be able to learn from watching this new cartoon.
The hope here is that the series does not simply become a gotta catch these renegades every single episode. I am accepting of a series that logically continues from what another series has left off with even though that suggests that Optimus Prime and Megatron are no longer the main protagonist and antagonist. They are technically the meat of why following the Transformers saga is cool. Without them, not every long time fan will want to check this new series out.
Thankfully, I do find this series watchable. Even though I have become taken with Transformers Rescue Bots because of some wonderful quirky personalities (Blades is a riot), hopefully Robots in Disguise will grow on me too. Other than Bumblebee, none of the characters have really been developed. I need a few more episodes to see if I like the rest of the cast. Fix-It can prove to be as annoying as one of Michael Bay‘s minibot creations, and that can be a channel flipper.
At least, I can say the thirteenth episode will unveil who this new threat is. Will Megatron return? I’m not making any bets yet, but someone is obviously interested in freeing all these renegade Decepticons.
3 Stars out of 5