Friday, August 22, 2014

"Transformers: Prime: Beast Hunters - Predacons Rising" (2013)

Starring Peter Cullen, Frank Welker and John Noble
Written by Duane Capizzi, Marsha Griffin and Steven Melching
Directed by Vinton Hueck, Scooter Tidwell and Steven Melching
Unrated - Cartoon sci-fi violence
Running Time: 65 Minutes
Trailer

After the battle to retake Cybertron, Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) realizes that to repopulate his planet, he must seek out an ancient relic known as the Allspark. He heads off to its last known location with Wheeljack (James Horan), leaving his small crew of Autobots to begin reconstruction of their homeworld.

While scouting the ruins in search of Megatron's minions, Ultra Magnus (Michael Ironside) and Smokescreen (Nolan North) are attacked by predacons - vicious, dragon-like Transformers created in a cloning lab by Shockwave (David Sobolov) and Starscream (Steven Blum). With Ultra Magnus severely injured, Bumblebee (Will Friedle) takes command and decides to track down the Predaking (Peter Mensah). Predaking is uninterested in allying himself with the Autobots, content only to watch over his ruined kingdom.

But things are about to get a lot worse: On Earth, Unicron (John Noble) resurrects Megatron (Frank Welker) and inhabits and upgrades his body. Now, using Megatron as his ultimate weapon, Unicron sets out to complete his life's mission: the complete and utter destruction of Cybertron.

The shortened third season of "Transformers: Prime" closed out the series in shaky but ultimately satisfying fashion. With Megatron defeated and the Autobots victorious in reclaiming their homeworld, there really wasn't much need to further continue the story here. But, that's exactly what happens and the results are... okay.

Its animation is perhaps just a minor step up from the TV series. There are some more detailed environments than the show, which often resorted to desolate canyons or forests. Here, the main setting is the ruins of Cybertron, though some sequences still end up in flat plains and familiar reused sets from the TV show. Aside from some alterations to Megatron and the new Predacons, all the characters retain their TV series designs and voice cast, so fans know exactly what to expect.

For a movie running only an hour, it's pretty jam-packed with things happening. It picks up several story threads from the series finale, and runs with them in what feels like a logical way. That is, there aren't too many developments that arise that feel totally out of left-field. Optimus Prime suddenly needing to find the Allspark, and conveniently knowing where it is, is probably the one concept here that feels a little too convenient. It mostly also means that the bulk of "Predacons Rising" is given over to the other characters, Bumblebee taking the spotlight.

That's not a bad thing; Bumblebee's character arc here is solid - he's learning to become a leader of the Autobots, earning the respect of his peers and even some of his enemies, for displaying wisdom under pressure. It helps that this is the first time in the series that Bumblebee has any dialog, now voiced by Will Friedle (of "Batman Beyond") instead of just vocalizing through beeps and buzzes.

For most of the movie's runtime, though, things feel somewhat disjointed. We move back and forth between a handful of subplots involving pretty much all of the surviving cast of the TV series. The good thing, though, is that all these plots do come together at the end for a rather epic finale. The ending of "Predacons Rising" feels not only emotionally satisfying, but also rather conclusive.

Sure, these characters could definitely have future adventures - it is a sci-fi action series about alien robots, after all - but the way it finishes out the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons gives cohesion and closure to the entire "Transformers: Prime" series. The movie's final moments, the look Megatron gives Prime, and Optimus' speech to his fellow Autobots, are the kind of emotionally satisfying moments I love to see in long-running storylines of this nature.

All that said, I'm not hugely sure why this is called "Predacons Rising" because the Predacons don't play a particularly pivotal role in the story. Nor do I understand why the DVD cover art is Optimus facing off against the Predaking, since that never happens, either. Rest assured, the real villain here is Unicron, voiced by the usually fantastic John Noble. This role is kind of flat for him, though; Welker outshines him completely as the resurrected Megatron.

Taken by itself, "Predacons Rising" isn't much to write home about, due to the fact that it really is building on three years' worth of previous stories and character development. It's not designed for new viewers in the slightest. But if you've been a fan of the series, it's a fine, if over-stuffed ending.

See Also
Transformers: Prime (Season 1)
Transformers: Prime (Season 2)
Transformers: Prime (Season 3)
Transformers: Age of Extinction