I’m saaaaaad. First and foremost, I’m a Transformers fan. And the state of Transformers fans leave me disappointed. To be more specific, the state of Transformers fans as it pertains to the fiction. This is rather odd actually. The toy aspect of Transformers seems to be fairly mature. But the state of the fandom as it pertains to the fiction is sadly awkward.
Putting aside the comics side for now, I’m talking about the fandom’s views on the moving pictures aspect of Transformers. Which is… immature. In the sense that they have no fucking idea what the hell they’re talking about. Mind you, this is mostly due to a vocal minority, I reckon the majority are in silent agreement.
Here’s the thing, between the Beast Wars/Machines and Transformers Animated in 2007/2008 (or was that 2008/2009?), Transformers animation has been pretty crap. Even by crappy cartoon standards, it was pretty bad. You’d have to really really want to like the shows to be able to stand them. Then we got Animated, which was pretty darn good. Not only was it genuinely good, it introduced aspects of good story telling into the franchise.
And now we have Transformers Prime, which in all objectivity, is as good as Animated was. The tone of the show is almost the direct opposite, but the quality of the show is comparable. Unfortunately, the fandom has only just been exposed to good story telling from Animated. In Animated, the fandom was so pleasantly shocked by the good story telling that all it was able to do at the time was enjoy it. But now we have Prime, and the fandom is no longer coming off of a decade of crap. And as a result, the fandom is showing it’s lack of maturity in regards to good story telling.
When I say maturity and immaturity, what I mean is the ability to simply recognize good and bad story telling. The Transformers fandom are unable to do so, or so it seems. Again, I refer to the loud minority, not the silent majority who are probably quite capable of distinguishing between crap and not-crap.
But yeah, in terms of story telling, which includes character development, world building and wherever possible, the absence of plot holes; Transformers Prime is actually pretty darn competent. The show has it’s share of legitimate criticisms, for instance, Peter Cullen’s performance in the opening 5-episode pilot was “over dramatic” to say the least. It was as if he was being forced to act in a very particular way. Those who are familiar with his voice work over the years would note his performance in those opening eps seemed very “regulated”. Since then, it seems he was allowed a little more slack and his performance has become less detached.
But for all the legitimate criticisms, we have a slew of… well, special criticisms. And by “special” I mean “retarded”. I’ve seen people complain that the show has a lot of filler. This complaint simply demonstrates the lack of understanding from the critics as to the meaning of filler as it pertains to a children’s cartoon (that can still be enjoyed by adults). First off, as of this rant, there’s been only 3 eps pass the pilot. At this point, it’s almost impossible to even have “filler”, because anything that happens now automatically functions to build the world and develop the characters of Transformers Prime.
In “Masters and Students”, Starscream is trying to solidify his leadership amongst the Decepticons by reviving a buried Decepticon named Skyquake. Optimus Prime and Bumblebee show up on site and they have a fight against Skyquake. This ep gives us the first glimpse into the insecurities Starscream is facing as a result of his perceived weak hold over the Decepticon leadership. It also shows us more of Prime and Bee in action, which was something missing from the pilot eps. Prime’s less stiff in this ep, and we got a really cool fight out of the episode.
“Scrapheap” was a cute ep where the Autobots have to face off against the Transformers equivalent of Tribbles. And the Autobots are playing the role of Klingons here. The entertaining Scraplets aspect aside, it also showed some more character interaction/building between Prime and Arcee. Prime’s apparently a respected surrogate father figure here, as opposed to a supreme commander or even Papa Smurf.
“Con Job” was a bit lackluster for me, but had action, references to obscure TF lore and we got to see that Bulkhead isn’t the dunderhead he was in Animated.
The point is, none of these are actual fillers. A real filler would be the equivalent of a beach ep in anime. An ep that doesn’t do anything, not even character development by sheer virtue of character presence.
Another “immature” complaint I’ve seen is that the story telling and character building is weak. Which simply goes to show the absolute lack of understanding of what either of those even mean, especially in conjunction with the complaint that the episodes have been “filler”. As I’ve already showed in the synopsis for the episodes thus far, character development has been occurring. Just because a character is not the direct focus of an episode, doesn’t mean it’s not getting developed. The character’s interactions with the episode’s plot/story is in itself, an act of character development.
Blargh, getting nowhere but annoying myself with this rant. So here’s how I’ll put things in perspective. Take a look at a DC animated series. The new Young Justice for instance, or even the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. The episodes, especially the early episodes, are essentially identical to that of Transformers Prime. Naturally, not in terms of the plot or dialogue, but in terms of the story telling. Grab an old, early Justice League ep. Watch it, and compare it with Prime. But use the same standards for each. Meaning if you’re going to criticize Prime for using a villain only once before moving to another, then do the same for JL. If you’re going to complain that not every character in Prime is given focus in a given ep, again, do the same for JL. If you’re going to say that an ep of Prime is filler because what happened doesn’t directly and significantly influence what will happen in the finale, do so for JL.
Heck, not just Justice League, but almost any series you think are good, particularly ones with arcs and aren’t purely episodic. Shows like Dr. Who or almost any prime time drama with an ongoing story. Compare those shows with Prime, but strip away the superficial aspects, and you’ll find that they’re actually identical. Because they all follow the same formula of good story telling.