"Transformers Prime: Predacons Rising" Movie Review

in 2013, Beast Hunters, Movie Review, Prime

Predacons Rising

General Information:
Actors: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker
Directors: David Hartman
Format: Animated, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Air Date: October 4, 2013
DVD & Blu-Ray Release Date: October 8, 2013
Run Time: 70 minutes

General information above from Amazon.com.

Synopsis
The world of Cybertron is dead no more. With the Autobots having returned to rebuild it, their hope is to renew their world even as their comrade Ratchet stays on Earth with the humans. Bumblebee is promoted to the status of a Warrior and all seems well but there is danger lurking elsewhere: on Earth!

On Earth, Megatron's fallen form rests at the bottom of the sea and he is slowly brought back to consciousness by Unicron. Because of the Dark Energon Megatron once used, he cannot join the Allspark, nor is he truly "alive". Although his physical form was contained inside Earth, Unicron's immaterial form was awakened by Primus' slow awakening - and now he intends to use Megatron's body as his own! After reshaping and taking over Megatron's body, Unicron blasts off towards Cybertron.

On Cybertron, Optimus tells the Autobots he needs to retrieve the Allspark so Cybertron can begin generating life once again. He had sent it into space thousands of years ago to keep it safe. Along with Wheeljack, he intends to bring it back home as the other Autobots rebuild and try to find the fugitive pair of Starscream and Shockwave.

As Bulkhead rebuilds, Ultra Magnus and Smokescreen make a discovery on one of their patrols: two Predacons! The Autobots manage to escape, but Ultra Magnus is seriously injured during the battle. Ratchet is brought to Cybertron to repair Ultra Magnus' wounds as the Autobots meet with Predaking to ask for his help in tracking down these new Predacons. During this confrontation they learn the shifting of Cybertron's surface has brought up the skeletons of thousands of ancient Predacon skeletons. Predaking is not interested in helping the Autobots and they leave.

Meanwhile in space, Optimus and Wheeljack have found the artifact, but it takes a lot of risk before they recover it safely. Their ship is slightly damaged, but they manage to get out of the area before the asteroid field is destroyed.

Instead, the Autobots go to Darkmount to see if there are any clues as to the location of Shockwave and Starscream. They find some intel, but before they can do so Unicron arrives! They try to battle him but he is too powerful. The Autobots manage to escape via Ground Bridge! Unicron is frustrated, and believes he needs to find another way to destroy Cybertron once and for all!

At the Autobot HQ, the Autobots warn Optimus and Wheeljack of Unicron's return. Unfortunately, due to the damage done to the ship, they cannot respond. Without this, the Autobots try to come up with a plan to take down Unicron before he destroys the planet!

Elsewhere, Predaking continues his search but encounters Unicron instead! The two battle but Predaking is taken down quickly. Scanning his mind, Unicron learns of the Predacon graveyard and determines it is the weapon he has been seeking! However, Starscream and Shockwave have already arrived there with Darksteel and Skylynx. Soon, Unicron arrives as well and reveals his true identity, sparking a battle between the Predacons and Unicron that goes quickly - in Unicron's favor! The Decepticons can only watch helplessly as Unicron uses his power to raise the legions of fallen Predacons as his army of Terrorcons! Their goal? Invade Cybertron's core and destroy Primus!

The Autobots have detected all this activity and decide to face the Terrorcon army directly, using everything they have including the Decepticon warship they took over. They leave Ratchet behind to monitor Ultra Magnus as they head into battle. Unbeknownst to them, Starscream has infiltrated the ship and releases the Decepticon prisoners including Knock Out to take over the ship. They don't succeed however, partly thanks to the efforts of Knock Out who has decided to switch sides.

At the (former) Predacon graveyard, Predaking returns to find it abandoned, the skeletons all gone. Darksteel and Skylynx remain however, and a battle erupts. Predaking defeats them both, establishing his status as King. Before it can continue, the wounded Shockwave returns and suggests a way to help save Cybertron.

Soon, all the Transformers converge at the entrance to Cybertron's core. Between the Autobots and the Predacons, a lot of Terrorcons are destroyed, but many more remain. Despite the efforts of the Predacons, many of them manage to enter the Well leading to the core!

Soon, Optimus and Wheeljack arrive! Unicron detects their arrival. Optimus battles Unicron and tries to appeal to Megatron within the body, but Megatron is being tortured by Unicron and is helpless to fight. Bumblebee uses the Polarity Gauntlet to hold Unicron off while Optimus gets the artifact in an effort to save Cybertron. Unicron manages to get the artifact, but does not realize Optimus has emptied it already! The artifact absorbs Unicron's energies and the Terrorcons all crumble! Megatron has control of his body once again but he leaves, no longer wanting to lead the Decepticons. Starscream on the other hand wants to start up the Decepticons again - but Predaking, Darksteel and Skylynx may have other ideas!

The day is won, but one last task needs to be done. Optimus reveals that by taking the Allspark energy within himself - he is now one with the Allspark! To restore Cybertron's ability to give life, he must rejoin the core of Cybertron with the Matrix. The lineage of the Primes has come to a close. Soon, Optimus rejoins Primus and new Sparks begin to fire out of Cybertron's core, bringing new life to a once dead world.

The End...?

Review:
It is unusual for a "Transformers" cartoon series to get a "bookend" of sorts. Usually there is a last episode which comes to some sort of conclusion and that's that, the slate gets wiped clean and a new series begins a year or so later. "Predacons Rising" allows closure to items that were left hanging rather awkwardly at the end of the "Transformers Prime" series. The show had a good ending for sure, full of emotion, storylines were wrapped up, bad guys were defeated and so on - however a lot was left open. If there was another season coming this would have been find and even expected. However, "Beast Hunters" has been long touted as the end of the "Transformers Prime" series as we know it so "Predacons Rising" gives us our last chance as an audience to see what happens to these characters we have watched for three seasons.

There is a lot of action and daring do in this 66 minute movie. I really think the team at Polygon and The Hub have outdone themselves. This isn't your typical "running across the battlefield firing at each other" action. Characters vault over others, firing dramatically upside down. Beasts fight beasts, Autobots fight beasts emphasizing a combination of ballistic and melee combat. There's something for everyone in the action department. I was especially impressed with the rather unique methods Unicron employed in fighting. It would've been an easy cheat for the designers to just reuse the Megatron CG model and have him blasting away with his cannon. Instead his ever-changing "gauntlet" weapons looked much more fierce had had the "rocky" appearance with sharply contrasts with the sharp, metallic appearance of the Transformers and Cybertron itself - emphasizing the Yin Yang relationship between Primus (and his creations) with Unicron and his more "Earth" like properties. I think my favorite "Unicron weapon" was the pair of scythes, which really brought to life his status as the Chaos Bringer representing death and destruction.

As a fan who thoroughly enjoys any "Beast" based "Transformers" show, it was a joy to see two more Predacons brought into the fold. It is also very unusual for two beasts who are exclusives to one store chain (as Darksteel and Skylynx are) used in a cartoon. This of course ties nicely into the "Predacons Rising" promotion at Target stores that preceded this movie's release. It was great to see two other Predacons fighting. I found it very interesting how their dominance was determined in battle. Once Predaking put his proverbial foot down, they followed him without question and I found myself very much wishing there had been more Predacons running around for him to lead. I'd happily watch a mini-series involving Predaking and the Predacons as main characters.

This movie isn't just about introducing new toys/characters and action however. There is a continuous theme of growth. Many characters show growth and change, coming at a critical time to save their homeworld. Bumblebee has long been touted as a central figure in "Transformers" lore, but he has never taken a leadership position quite like he had in this movie. I really enjoyed how humble he was about it while obviously having matured a great deal. One of the best scenes was his conversation with Predaking, appealing to Predaking's priorities instead of battling him into submission. The scene had tension but also showed Predaking was capable of much more than just being a beast. I enjoyed watching Predaking step up to be more than just a guy moping around Cybertron - but rather a leader. The idea of several "races" of Transformers living together on Cybertron appeals to me a lot. There are echoes of the "Cybertron" animated series, where Transformers colonized different worlds and each developed its own culture. Predaking reminds me a lot of Scourge, who ran the "Jungle/Beast Planet" with a very similar code to Predaking. The two are definitely spiritually related characters.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Megatron. Once free of Unicron's influence, he walked away from the Decepticons heading to parts unknown. Some may consider this completely wrong and out of character - but I personally believe Megatron was simply reminded of why he started the Decepticons in the first place. While the "modern" Megatron seems concerned with nothing but conquest, in fact most current "Transformers" lore paints him as a character who was fighting oppression and inequality - but then lost his way over time, becoming the despot feared across the galaxy. It makes sense that it would take a character as powerful as Unicron to bring him to his proverbial knees and remind him of why he started the Decepticons to begin with. With Cybertron restored, so few Transformers around and Unicron defeated, it makes sense that Megatron would not want want to oppress anyone else and more to the point: the work is done. No one is oppressing anyone anymore, there is no inequality since the Transformers are starting all over again. It would almost be a betrayal of the character at this point to just have him come back yelling "Muhahaha!" and starting up the Decepticons again.

Other honorable mentions include Knock Out, who I suspect isn't really the nicest guy around still, but has his personal limits when it comes to how much he'll put up with, especially with regards to the destruction of his own homeworld. He is still looking out for number one, but understands that also involves sometimes thinking beyond yourself. I also enjoyed seeing Shockwave be truly logical and pragmatic, ensuring the survival of Cybertron above all else.

Overall, the conclusion to the "Transformers Prime" story is very satisfying. The last episode of the television show left a bit too much hanging for my tastes. This helps wrap up the story, bringing it full circle. There's certainly still room for evil to rise again either via Shockwave's machinations or Unicron's influence, after all, he may be contained, but he's not dead. Also, as the current "Robots in Disguise" comic book proves, you can have plenty of drama with a Cybertron where refugees are returning from space. It's nice to bring the story to a good conclusion while leaving room open for more in the future.

Extras:
The home video release of this movie includes a short look at the television show production featuring members of The Hub (including producer Jeff Kline) and the animation studio behind the show Polygon. It was very cool to see how closely the two studios worked together on the show. You can see clips from that extra in the embed below. It's a great and rare behind the scenes look at the program. In particular I found it interesting how two studios separated by an entire ocean can work together so smoothly, and how they worked hard to be collaborative.

Conclusion:
If you enjoyed "Transformers Prime" as a television show, this movie is a must watch. It's full of action, has high stakes, new characters and a nice wrap up for established characters. Those who are more critical might say the story is very "by the numbers", and I'll grant that, but between the pacing and the amazing visuals I still consider this a solid piece of entertainment. From a long time fan perspective, having this movie directly tie into a store exclusive toy promotion makes it more interesting. At the very least, I think the DVD is worth picking up and adding to your Transformers movie collection!