Review - Beast Wars Vol. 2 DVD

I am surprised by how many people tell me they've never seen the Transformers Beast Wars cartoon. I proudly say that I really enjoyed the Beast Wars. For me the Beast Wars volume 2 DVD released on August 13th, is 150 minutes of proof that I still do. The characters. The stories. The battle scenes. The incredible animation, not just because it was done with a computer. Because it's a cartoon that is artistically complex and engaging as well that makes it my favorite Transformers series. Even if you're a G1 die-hard. Get this disc and watch these shows. There is hardly another cartoon out there that you'll enjoy as much after G1.

Packaging

I feel like Houdini every time I buy a DVD. With all the specially made hard to peel, easy to break tapes. The security detection strips. All these measures to prevent shop-grifting are getting a little out of hand. Or is it just me that more and more is finding it a nightmare to open these things?

Anyhow, the DVD comes in the standard movie title book type PVC case. Unlike Volume 1 with the Maximals, this one features the Predacons on the front cover. There is a sharp looking collage of Megatron and his evil cohorts on the front cover. The image is rendered in a super high resolution that we don't see very often. Man I just love that Computer Graphic (GC) stuff!

On the back, is a shot of Tigatron and Rattrap standing above a slogan in big gold 3D text that reads "THE BATTLE RAGES ON!" Under that is a listing of the shows along with supporting info for each. Inside is a basic listing card with the show title and sequence index for each.

The Menu & Interface

After you pop it into the player and wade through Rhino's warnings and splash screens you arrive at what looks like it could be the inside of a space ship or a torture chamber. In front of you is a small control panel presenting you with two choices; "Play All Episodes" and "Special Features." The two are pretty much self-explanatory. Choosing play all will do just that. Plays every episode end to end. Selecting Special Features goes to another menu that I cover in another section below.

Above the control panel is a lighted button for each of the episodes doors. Move the selector over to the one you want to watch and hit play. A robot arm springs into action retrieving what turns out to be not a door, but a video screen with your selected episode playing on it. Far out man!

Episodes

Volume 2 include six episodes. One small complaint, is for some odd reason they are not on the disc in the exact sequence they were broadcast in. Nor are they in production sequence. The episodes on this disc include the following in this order with their original air date and summary from the box itself:

  • Fallen Commerads - 9/30/1996 - When a stasis pod carrying a Maximal Protoform crashes in the northern wastes, the Maximals and Predacons race to reach it first. Despite Dinobot’s objections, Optimus Primal sets off on his own to retrieve the Protoform and is caught in a Predacon ambush. As Optimus Primal recovers from the attack and the other Maximals race to the crash site, Dinobot is forced to protect the Maximal base alone from a Megatron-led assault.
  • Double Jeopardy - 10/7/1996 - When Optimus Primal and Dinobot are ambushed trying to retrieve a stasis pod, the Maximals suspect Rattrap is a traitor. To prove his loyalty, Optimus Primal sends Rattrap to retrieve energon in the dangerous lava pits of Sector 12. When he is captured by Terrorsaur, the Maximals have no choice but to attack the Predacon base and retrieve their comrade, unsure whether Rattrap is a traitor or not. As a Maximal attack ensues, Terrorsaur struggles to maintain leadership of the Predacons.
  • The Probe - 10/15/1996 - A space probe sent to find Optimus Primal and his crew promises rescue for the Maximals. However, unable to contact it, the Maximals are forced to build a homing array in Predacon territory. Seizing the opportunity, the Predacons launch a full-scale attack. Reeling from the onslaught and vulnerable in their beast forms, the Maximals struggle for one last opportunity to contact the space probe and return home.
  • Gorilla Warfare - 10/14/1996 - Optimus Primal and Dinobot are attacked by the Predacons during an exploration of their new planet. During the attack, a viral mine attaches itself to Optimus Primal and begins to take hold of his personality. Intended to take away his courage, instead it turns Optimus Primal into a Predacon-hungry warmonger. He sets out to attack the Predacon base by himself. Unable to rid himself of the viral mine, Optimus Primal must choose between his own life and allegiance to the Predacons.
  • A Better Mouse Trap - 10/8/1996 - A Better Mousetrap—Rhinox invents a defense grid impervious to Predacon attacks. However, before it can be activated, Rattrap sets it off prematurely. The Defense grid thinks the Maximals are intruders in their own base. As they flee their ship, Rattrap stays behind to deactivate the grid on his own. Meanwhile, Tigertron must thwart the Predacons before they tunnel into the Maximals’ base.
  • Victory - 11/1/1996 - When a fight breaks out between Terrorsaur and Megatron -- destroying the Predacon base -- it appears the Maximals have won the Beast Wars. The Maximals pillage the Predictor ship for parts in hope of salvaging their own ship and returning to Cybertron. What the Maximals don’t know is that the Predacon’s demise is an elaborate ruse. As his Maximal ship leaves the planet, Optimus Primal must choose between returning with his crew to Cybertron and saving his friend Dinobot from a Predacon ambush.

Something I noticed watching these shows again is you can begin to see an progression in the writers and production staff experimenting with and expanding on the Beast Wars series. The characters, story and animation style all begin to evolve since the first shows. Where the first few shows we're all about getting us up to speed on the story and introducing the characters. These shows begin to explore the dilemma the Maximals are faced with in being marooned on a strange planet after disappearing from Cybertron without a trace. Only further complicated by the presence of the Predacons now free from Cybertron where they were sought as criminals. How do the Maximals return to Cybertron? How do the Predacons prevent them?

Production

Just seven episodes into Beast Wars and the animation is getting noticeably better. Each character has a little more texture and seems to move with more fluidity. There was a kind of evolution to the animation and production quality used on this show that pushed the envelope of CG animation techniques as well as create an awesome cartoon. For me, it was a marriage made in heaven. Transforming robots and computer modeled cartoons.

I became fascinated with this aspect of the Beast Wars cartoon series. Eagerly, I watched each week hoping to see CG animation even more spectacular and be-dazzling than the last episode. Having these shows on DVD lets you see it all in glorious detail. At times the quality of the shows is a little too good. Visible pixilated textures and crudely modeled elements can be a minor distraction. Not enough to make these editions inferior in any way to those that were broadcast on television. These transfers are crisp and clear through out and look exceptionally good played in a DVD player on a PC Monitor. Add the enhanced 5.1 Dolby Audio sound track to this DVD and you have the ultimate way to experience these cartoons.

For those of you that always wanted to stop the show and replay a character transforming in slow motion or see a still of them in mid-position. This is it. The many slow motion, pause and replay controls resident on disc players where made for this DVD. I loved being able to review the really fast paced battle scenes in the slow modes or as little as a frame at a time. Amazing stuff!

Special Features

Okay enough about the Beast Wars fans have all seen before. Yeah, it looks and sounds way better and all that, but the real gems on this release are the special features that have been added to the disc. For this section, Mainframe supplied a whole bunch of test character models and animations. While each one is pretty short. However, there are some really interesting clips that show Beast Wars in the developmental stages.

The first clip shows a profile with many of the season one characters next to each other in beast and robot modes. A front and profile shot is provided for each of the modes. Because they had to fit so many of the figures on the screen they are rather small and provide very little in the way of detail. The most interesting aspect of this clip is several of the models are incomplete and/or very different from the final models that appeared on the show. Optimus Primal specifically, is almost all white and looks more like the Michelin man than a robot ape.

A second clip shows a couple of space ships darting around the screen over a backdrop of stars and planets. Not very slick or anything like that really. Seems to be something they tossed in to fill out the disc.

The crown jewel on this disc is the character animations of the CG models. Each showing one or more 360 degree rotating views of a character. There are CG profiles for Optimus Primal, Cheetor, Rhinox, Rattrap, Black Arachnia, Dinobot, Air Razor, Tigertron, Tigerhawk, Megatron, Terrorsaur, Scorponok, Tarrantuals, Waspinator, Inferno and Rampage. Ranging from the most basic and rough initial designs to the ultra detailed show exact models. We get some insight into the process involved in developing the final animation episodes what we saw.

The most creative and dynamic work is visible in earliest figures. A few sections of note depict the modeling development of Optimus Primal, Dinobot and Rhinox. You can see their designs transition from ruggedized tubes and spheres into super slick looking cyber-organic robots. These profiles also suggest that some of the models were created based on the actual toys. Specifically, you can see the images of Megatron and Waspinator that are clearly modeled off the toy figure models.

Overall

Okay so I am biased. I love the Beast Wars. Even after 5 years it still goes the distance against most cartoons before it and since. Of course that is purely a matter taste. Beast Wars is still my favorite of all the Transformers series. Seeing the series released on DVD in any fashion gets it a top rating from me automatically. Throw in the special features and I can't call it anything but a rock solid 10. This and the entire Beast Wars series is a must have for any fan of the Beast Wars and Beast Machines shows. Even if its not your favorite Transformers series, but you've wanted something more intense than Robots in Disguise, check out these DVDs from Rhino. The Beast Wars are good and different enough on their own to be something that you will definitely find entertaining and enjoyable.

Click on the PREVious and NEXT links to see more images.

Complete Title Information

Title:
Beast Wars (Vol. 3 & 4)

Release Date:
August 13, 2002

Pre-Order Date:
July 16, 2002

Catalog #:
R2 976077

Price:
SRP $19.95 (DVD)

Run Time:
±150 min (DVD)

Description:
Catch the next six episodes of the action-packed, popular animated series coming to DVD and VHS for the first time. Originally aired in syndication, and later picked up by Fox Kids, BEAST WARS follows the adventures of two robotic groups, the Maximals and Predacons, which have crash-landed on an Earth-like planet. The DVD includes all six action-packed episodes, while each VHS includes three episodes.

Check out Rhino Video's web site for more Transformers titles HERE.






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