Directed by Manabu Ono
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 1144 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo English
MSRP: $ 61.99
Release Date: July 22, 2008
Review Date: July 19, 2008
Phase two of Paramount’s plan to keep the Transformers in everyone’s mind until the next live action film version can be produced is the release of the 2005 television edition of the animated Transformers Cybertron: The Ultimate Collection. The 52 episodes which make up this seven disc package cover a wide ranging story with dozens of characters both human and machine fighting for the preservation of the universe. Of course they triumph, but it’s a long, winding road to that ultimate victory.
The universe is imperiled by a monstrous black hole opening up and threatening to destroy everything in its path. At first the heroic Autobots think only their home planet of Cybertron is in danger, but they soon learn that Earth and many other planets are also doomed to extinction if the black hole isn’t contained. To do that, they must find the four lost Cyber Planet Keys and insert them into the Omega Lock. The power transmitted from the Lock will dissipate the size and strength of the black hole. Of course, the Autobots with Optimus Prime (Garry Chalk) as their leader must wage war on the evil Decepticons headed by Megatron (David Kaye) who naturally want the Omega Lock for the power it holds and are unconcerned about saving others. The episodes cover a wide territory of planets and involve quite a few story arcs for the various ‘bots: everything from a lengthy sojourn to the Speed Planet where Hot Shot (Kirby Morrow) vies for the title of the fastest Transformer to some behind-the-scenes betrayals in the ranks of the Decepticons when second-in-command Starscream (Michael Dobson) decides to branch out on his own. Along the way the Autobots make friends with three Earth children, Lori (Sarah Edmondon), Coby (Sam Vincent), and Bud (Ryan Hirakida), whose talents come in very handy and who become valuable members of the team. And during the course of their adventures, there are surprises in store for both sides including some dissentions in the ranks, some moments where resolve begins to break down, and climaxes where some heroes appear from unexpected sources.
Every episode contains the usual tauntings and physical confrontations between good and evil that are the hallmarks of the Transformer universe. Truth to tell, the battles become a bit too formulaic over the run of these four baker’s dozen episodes though part of the tedium with their sameness was due to my watching all of them in a very concentrated amount of time. The animation of the Transformers is quite colorful and very well conceived and executed on a TV budget (the animation of the children is much less imaginative), and the writers of the show have included as many life lessons (the importance of teamwork, an attention to the needs of others before yourself, the “stick-to-it” attitude that true heroes demonstrate) as they can comfortably squeeze into the twenty minutes of episode they have to work with. Additionally, the voice work is quite good especially on the Autobot side of the ledger. The actors give these drawings real personalities that will draw in younger viewers in droves.
The 52 episodes are spread over seven discs in this set. Here are the episode titles on each disc:
Disc one - Fallen, Haven, Hidden, Landmine, Space, Rush, Speed, Collapse
Disc two - Time, Search, Deep, Ship, Hero, Race, Detour, Savage
Disc three - Sand, Champion, Ice, Honor, Primal, Trust, Trap, Invasion
Disc four - Retreat, Revelation, Critical, Assault, Starscream, United, Cybertron, Balance
Disc five - Darkness, Memory, Escape, Family, Titans, Warp, Giant, Fury
Disc six - City, Ambush, Challenge, Scourge, Optimus, Showdown, Guardian, Homecoming
Disc seven - End, Unfinished, Beginning, Inferno (Though not stated as such, this last episode in the set is actually a first draft variation of an early series episode that was reworked into the opening two episodes of the series.)
The shows are broadcast on the Cartoon Network in 1.33:1, and these DVDs recreate that experience. The colors are bright, often fluorescent in nature and intensity, and the line structures are bold and usually solid. Without anamorphic enhancement, of course, there is aliasing, and I also noticed some color banding issues on occasion and some pixilation from time to time. Most episodes have been divided into 4 chapters though a couple of shorter episodes have only 3 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track does a better than average job with all of the explosions and combat punches contained in almost every episode (though the intensity and impact of the explosions vary from show to show). Yes, a true surround track would have accentuated the action to a more impressive extent, but as many children watching this will likely be listening to it through TV speakers, the sound as provided here will certainly serve its purpose.
There are no bonus features at all with this set.
Transformers Cybertron: The Ultimate Collection will provide hours of action entertainment for the preteens in your house. If that’s what you’re looking for, this set will deliver it in spades.