TV Shows: "Titans Return" Episode 1 Review
Title: Aftermath and Rebirth
Air Date: November 14, 2017
"Titans Return" is the follow up to last year's "Combiner Wars" series. Posted on the Go90 platform. You can download the app via Google Play or iTunes. The episode was also made available to view online.
Summary (from Go90:
As the Transformers recover from the Combiner Wars, Rodimus Prime makes a life changing decision, while Windblade finds herself at odds yet again with Optimus Prime. Unbeknownst to all of them, a new threat awakens in the form of a mysterious and long dormant Titan.
Review (SPOILERS AHEAD):
There are many ways that a Transformers show can pay homage to Generation One. You can include Optimus Prime and Megatron, you can use some classic music cues and of course the classic transformation sound. "Titans Return" manages to accrue some homage points right off the bat by having Victor Caroli narrate the story up until now. For those not in the know, Caroli was the narrator during the "Generation One" cartoon. His distinctive voice was a key part of the show and segments of Transformers knowledge known as "The Secret Files of Teletraan II". In many respects, Caroli's narration was an iconic part of the "Generation One" cartoon. Hearing him narrate the beginning of this cartoon helped put me in the right frame of mind before the story launched. For those curious, I confirmed with one of the voice actors personally that the narrator was indeed Caroli and not a person mimicking his voice.
Because I watched "Combiner Wars", I realized early on that I had to set my expectations accordingly. For instance, one of my criticisms of "Combiner Wars" was the relative lack of character models (even recycled ones) and that has not changed. Yes, there are some new models rendered for characters like Perceptor and Trypticon. However there are no background "filler" characters to help make the world feel more "inhabited". This has not changed. The Machinima team did however do their best to make it feel like activity is going on by having Combiners and Constructicons working together in the beginning on moving rubble from the battle with Starscream. Later in the episode we actually see Stormclash separated from the other Rust Renegades. I appreciate the effort, but I do wish there were some more Cybertronians wandering around.
Story-wise this episode was mostly setting up the chess pieces on the board for future episodes. I found some of the choices interesting. For instance having "Rodimus" turn back into "Hot Rod" seemed to (in part) mirror what has happened to the character in toy form between "Combiner Wars" to "Titans Return". I also appreciated Rodimus' reasoning, which has echoes of how the character was portrayed in season three of the original series. It was great to see a character explain his motivations and not just do things with no reason.
I loved the idea of Starscream having an Immortal Spark being revisited. Having his Spark serve as the reason why Trypticon is ressurrected is interesting. I am glad that Trypticon was shown in pieces in a crater. It speaks to there being history there that we have not seen, and touches like that enhance a narrative.
In terms of animation there are still issues with the scenes sometimes being a bit choppy, especially with any scenes involving rotating around characters. There were also issues with sound editing. When Rodimus goes to the Basilica to have the Matrix removed, the sound of the music wound up overwhelming the dialogue. You could hear something being said, but the words were garbled.
- I find myself wondering just what Optimus plans to do if not be part of the movement to rebuild the city. At the very least you would think he would hang around to help out with the manual labor.
- The Matrix Basilica was a beautiful structure and it looks like something out of an 80's cartoon. While I liked the design, I do find myself wondering just how this structure would protect an artifact as powerful and important as The Matrix.
- The voice work in this episode was great. Each character had a very distinct personality and "voice" representing his or her personality.
I do not think it is unfair to say that "Combiner Wars" was met with a lukewarm welcome by fans. While early stills and articles promised a more mature take on Generation One, what wound up being delivered was not what some fans had wanted. Some of my own concerns involved elements that confused me or took me out of the story (which I addressed in my reviews last year). However, it feels like the writers and producers of "Titans Return" took some of the commentary to heart and it shows in the final product. "Aftermath and Rebirth" is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.