News flash: The Autobots lost the Beast Wars. Megatron is the supreme ruler of Cybertron.
And that’s the premise of the 1999-2000 CG animated cartoon series, Transformers: Beast Machines. Thanks to our friends at Shout! Factory, you can watch the entire series on a 4-disc box set.
Let me open by saying this is the best Transformers DVD box set we’ve received from Shout! Factory. Despite the show airing back in 1999, all of the episodes are presented in 1.33:1 format! None of that 4:3 nonsense from the Unicron Trilogy box sets. And – get this – there are actual SPECIAL FEATURES included! Here’s a list of what to expect:
- Audio commentaries for 3 episodes
- Interviews with series developer Marv Wolfman
- Interviews with story editor Robert N. Skip
- Interviews with voice director Susan Blu
- Interviews with David Kaye (voice of Megatron)
Beast Machines is the darkest Transformers series I’ve watched. Having lost their memories, Optimus Primal and a small team of Maximals awaken to discover the inhabitants of Cybertron, Autobot and Predacon alike, have been wiped out by Megatron. Megatron has populated the planet with Vehicons: Transformers without sparks (aka souls) that act as Megatron’s death squads. When Megatron discovers Primal and his fellow survivors, he resolves to destroy them once and for all. Enjoy, kids!
While the obvious themes of genocide, apocalypse, and free will run through the series, there are much deeper themes that the series explores, mainly having to do with the conflict between organic beings and machines. Early on in the series, the Maximals are infected with a virus that will kill them in their organic forms unless they learn to adapt to the new machine culture of Cybertron. Optimus’ struggle to “evolve” from his basic organic Maximal form to his more powerful techno-organic beast mode becomes almost spiritual. And it’s WEIRD, because normally all Optimus has to worry about is beating back that idiot Starscream and making sure Hot Shot doesn’t trip over himself and blow a head gasket.
The result is a bleak but fascinating alternative to the typical Autobots vs Decepticons storyline of battle after tedious battle. Optimus’ battle against Megatron reaches a level of hopelessness that Michael Bay WISHED he had achieved in Transformers: Age of Extinction. And maybe it was just the limits of New-Millennium computer technology, but the overall art style of this series was just dripping in the themes of darkness and isolation. If you’re a fan of Reboot, Batman Beyond and other apocalyptic cartoons, then you must watch Transformers: Beast Machines. I give it 4 Energon stars!
Transformers: Beast Machines: Amazon