Rewatching Beast Wars for the first time in years...

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Cliffjumper
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Rewatching Beast Wars for the first time in years...

Post by Cliffjumper » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:05 am

I really don't remember Rattrap being quite this irritating, he's like something off Animated - just constant stupid jokes in a funny voice. Please tell me I forgot all about the bit where he gets slit from ear to ear? Is there some law where there's got to be dialogue every second?

I also forgot just how many early episodes revolved around the Maximals mistakenly believing one of their team-mates is dead. After about the eighth you'd think they'd wise up; I'm sure the kids watching did.

Those problems aside, it's actually pretty good, even slogging it through Season 1. Very watchable. God damn that's a terrible Starscream impression, though, isn't it? It's just Terrorsaur saying he's Starscream every other line.

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Post by Blaster » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:37 am

Cliffjumper wrote:
Those problems aside, it's actually pretty good, even slogging it through Season 1. Very watchable. God damn that's a terrible Starscream impression, though, isn't it? It's just Terrorsaur saying he's Starscream every other line.
You ever try to do that voice? The fact Latta could do it episodes at a time is god damned amazing. His vocal chords had to be a mess at the end. I don't think I've ever heard an effective immitation of Latta's Starscream or Cobra Commander.
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Post by Knightdramon » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:58 am

I also rewatched the entire thing a couple of months ago. I share most of your sentiments, but I always liked Rattrap. Not as much as Dinobot, but close enough.

There's many silly moments, much sillier than anything Animated or even ROTF attempted [the "Truce" episode is so goddamn stupid I want to smash my BW toys]. A kid's show at heart. The quality of...well, everything, picks up tremendously at S2 onwards [coming of the fuzors pt1 and pt2 are probably the most well-directed TF episodes].

What strikes me as impressive, after all these years, is how damn close the greek dub back in 1997 or so came to imitating the characters' voices. Besides a different language, their tones\pitches and all were almost identical.

I'm partial to BM. I like it far more than BW and I think most should get used to the designs by now [there have been crazier things in the bay films than those maximals and vehicons].
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Post by Cliffjumper » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:21 am

BM is sort of the reason I'm doing it - I'm not entirely sure I've ever seen BM properly other than as odd isolated episodes (which I liked very much), so I thought I'd drag the discs out and do it all properly.

I'm finding the characters are really carrying the weaker plots in Season 1 - the way they're all built up gradually is terrific stuff.

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Post by Blackjack » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:26 am

I like Rattrap. :(

It's Cheetor I find irritating with anal dialogue.

Yeah, some of the Season 1 episodes are dire, but they're just a few short pieces that you forget once you get to the better parts. Kind of like the movieverse, really... all the bad parts happen for short episodes but as a whole it's a smashing success.

I like how, in Season Two, they basically get rid of anyone without a personality (Scorponok, Tigatron, Airazor and Starscream-expy Terrorsaur). If it happened to the cast of G1 cartoon we'd be left with... uh... with...

I can imagine people getting irked by Beast Machines because so many of the characters evolve into a different archetype (Optimus Primal, Cheetor, Silverbolt, Rattrap, Rhinox) and due to the designs (though damn it, BM pwns G1. I can't see how Starscream looks better than Jetstorm).

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Post by inflatable dalek » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:37 pm

Yeah, I like Rattrap as well. Cheator I don't mind until the third season, but then I think overall the third year is the weakest of the three. Sure, season 1 is a little more throwaway and kidish, but as a fun children's cartoon it does the job.

I do remember how many people used to block out the many, many example of silly comedy in the show when criticising later shows as well. It was amazing to see people wishing that Armada could be more "Serious" like the show that did an episode about killer farts.
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Post by Blackjack » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:50 pm

But it's killer farts caused by eating rabid beans!

It's serious!

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Post by Auntie Slag » Tue Aug 23, 2011 6:29 am

I bought the second season of Beast Machines last year and sat through that. I like the storyline, Rat trap is more toned down and the Tron-like feel of it all. I like the fighting least, its dull and anime-lite and it just drags everything down to hear Jetstorm make yet another quip.

But I adore the Primal/Megatron story, and Megatron's little floating butler-bot thing, who has more character than any G1 robot.

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Post by Brave Maximus » Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:30 pm

Auntie Slag wrote:Megatron's little floating butler-bot thing, who has more character than any G1 robot.

Of all the things from that show, I REALLY wanted him to be turned into a figure. One of the best characters they've ever done and he was a "throw away".
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Post by Skyquake87 » Wed Aug 24, 2011 9:36 pm

I like how Beast Wars develops. It's similar to a lot of other kids shows, with similar themes explored, but the writers have given it all these little extra touches that get explored in later episodes, the artifacts and so forth. Whilst a lot of the first Season is fairly throwaway, the approach was absolutely right to get kids interested and watching. Just like when Doctor Who relaunched.

If we'd have had all the strong, expansive story arcs from the get go, i'd have bet the show would have died on its arse as that would have been a real turn off. At the time Beast Wars was launching, Transformers had been off terrestrial TV screens (at least in the UK) since 1986 (or thereabouts - the G1 cartoon didn't have much of a sustained run on UK telly and was survived by potted VHS releases certainly after the movie aired), G2 had flopped and most folk had utterly forgotten about Transformers. So those goofy, cliched episodes leant an air of familiarity to children before offering them more meaty fare down the line. Listening to the commentaries on the Madman set, the show's future was never secure. It was a pilot, then a commission for a full first season and then wait and see (Imagine what a downer it would have been if the show had just ended with Primal blown up?).

I've watched Beast Machines a few times through now, and whilst I like it, I don't get the same enjoyment from it as I do Beast Wars. Largely that can be summed up by the shift in focus from character based storytelling to story arcs and themes and ideas dominating. It means that show is quite cold and stern. There's no warmth to it and repetative nature of a lot of the episodes with the attack and retreat with no ground being gained is hard to get past.
Mostly I think its the change in the characters themselves that are the most jarring. Whilst some of this can be put down to the situation the Maximals find themselves in and their reformatting, you never get that impression - or that they are utilising different aspects of their personalities - they could be any old robot and still get the job done of telling the story. There is precisely one episode that bothers to get under the skin of one of the characters and that's that epsidoe that deals with Silverbolt's reformatting from his Jetstorm form and how that leaves him. There's nothing else like that in series, which is to its great detriment, as those little character touches would, for me, made it a much more rewarding show. As it is, its bleak, stark, brutal, humourless and too serious for its own good - especially for what was supposed to be a childrens cartoon show. I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong in telling these kinds of stories to children, but there's never the feeling that there's much hope in series, which is quite a harsh thing to show.

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Post by Auntie Slag » Wed Aug 24, 2011 10:09 pm

I agree with you Skyquake, it's heavy going like a bowl of All-bran, with little enjoyment, also like All-bran.

That makes it similar to Watership Down in a way. The big difference for me is at least Watership Down was set against a pastoral background, with accents and mentalities fairly grounded. For my part I was fine with Primal being all spiritual and whatnot, it was just let down by the weak fighting and accompanying repartee. If it had more of a dark humour to it, that would've been great. War and crappy times brings out the best and/or sickest humour (I think), and there's not much here.

Where's the wacky comedian Freeway when you need him eh?

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Post by zigzagger » Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:13 pm

While I share some of Skyquake87 and Auntie Slag's complaints - and personally, I especially dislike how the role of designated asshole shifts from character to character each episode - I still enjoy Beast Machines. I find the premise of the series so compelling that I'm willing to overlook a lot of the issues I might have with it (the whole "I gotta find my boyfriend" plot line and Nightscream notwithstanding, of course).

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Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:33 pm

I'd pretty much forgotten about Nightscream until he turned up, the little tosser. Other than him, rather enjoying it a few eps in - the generals bring the fun, and it's a hell of a first episode too.

My opinion of BW is largely what I recall it being the last time around - very good, but ever so slightly over-rated simply because no kids' show that gathers that sort of acclaim is quite going to live up to its' reputation. Felt the characters hit a bit of a rut later on - there's never more to Quick Strike than "Hay, cowboi LOL!", the whole Depth Charge/Rampage thing never quite comes off and Tigerhawk is a massive anticlimax, God-like emissary to cannon fodder in about three episodes.

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Post by Skyquake87 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:28 am

Fair point, but there aren't many children's shows - and in particular cartoons - that have much depth to them. The only contemporary cartoon show I can think of that matches Beast Wars storytelling chops was Batman: The Animated Series. Most other kids cartoons of the period are flashy, cops and robbers nonsense. And tbh, BW was such a revelation coming after the awful G1 cartoon.

The is a dip in the third season of Beast Wars, it doesn't quite build on the successes of Season Two and we take a short step back into S1 territory. But then, the Maximals are pretty screwed - they've little in the way of equipment having to defend the ark from Megatron's continual assault. Part of the problem, like a lot of US shows, is that there's a slight loss of direction following on from a very strong set of 'big reveal' episodes. There's also the truncated ending to the show, which suggests (and is backed up by the commentaries ) that notice of cancellation came some way into Season 3's production, which is why poor old Tigerhawk gets short shrift.

Hmm. BlackArachnia was done a massive diservice in BM. It's not often in children's cartoons that you get a capable , smart , strong female charactrer. In BM she's diminshed and all the writers can do is have her moon over Silverbolt. Fair enough, she would have had those thoughts and that ultimate aim but it's all she's given to do. Likewise, Rattrap just becomes weak and effectual - strange given his espionage background. I didn't mind Nightscream. He's no worse than Cheetor's early days in BW. He's one of the few Maximals whose personality remains consistent throughout too. Its like the BM writers were just given a post it note with each characters bio on and it got lost so they just stuck to regular cartoon archetypes. primal as the wise old dude, cheetor as the capable jock with temper problems, rattrap as the whiny geek, blackarachnia as um,the girl who hangs around with the guys.

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Post by Cliffjumper » Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:08 am

I rather like the character changes in BM - there's a difference between characters changing unbelievably and characters changing in ways that people don't like.

Both Blackarachnia and Rattrap in BM are believable to me - Blackarachnia was slowly softening from the moment she first appeared (like every Transformer since forever); she puts all her eggs in one basket with Silverbolt and suddenly she's there stuck on a weird planet with a group of people she doesn't actually seem to get on with. Sure, it makes her less mould-breaking and more of a stereotypical flappy female, but it's not unbelievable development.

Rattrap always seemed all mouth and no trousers in BW (though how much of that is down to me thinking he's a bell-end I don't know), reliant on weaponry and big friends; he's then thrown into what's hands-down the most retarded-looking Transformer body ever, and is unable to do much with it. It's a fairly logical course that he'd become a coward without his gadgets.

Both fit in well with BM's recurring theme of obsessions and what they can do to people.

BW Season 3 is an odd thing - there's a feeling that it's treading water after Season 2, like after The Agenda the rest of it is considered small fry until the next BIG plot comes along - as if the writers had already shot their bolt.

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Post by Skyquake87 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:26 am

It's true that we didn't get to see much of Rattrap's abilities, save for 'A Better Mousetrap', but there are hints that he had a past of more of this kind of work.

I probably am a bit hard on Beast Machines, but then it wants to be taken so seriously and treated as a grown up show, but doesn't give you much of a reason to get you to like it. That's fine if you like the earnest humour free space politics of Star Trek TNG or Battlestar Galactica, not so much if you like a bit of variety in your SF. It's like the humour evident in Beast Wars was too much or seen as purelile, rather than somehting that arose naturally out of the situations they found themselves in - which it did, in the main.Even in the harshest conditions, life isn't all doom and gloom.

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Post by zigzagger » Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:35 am

Cliffjumper wrote:I rather like the character changes in BM - there's a difference between characters changing unbelievably and characters changing in ways that people don't like.

Both Blackarachnia and Rattrap in BM are believable to me - Blackarachnia was slowly softening from the moment she first appeared (like every Transformer since forever); she puts all her eggs in one basket with Silverbolt and suddenly she's there stuck on a weird planet with a group of people she doesn't actually seem to get on with. Sure, it makes her less mould-breaking and more of a stereotypical flappy female, but it's not unbelievable development.

Rattrap always seemed all mouth and no trousers in BW (though how much of that is down to me thinking he's a bell-end I don't know), reliant on weaponry and big friends; he's then thrown into what's hands-down the most retarded-looking Transformer body ever, and is unable to do much with it. It's a fairly logical course that he'd become a coward without his gadgets.

Both fit in well with BM's recurring theme of obsessions and what they can do to people.

Yep. Seemed like natural progressions to me.

Rattrap in particular made a lot of sense to me. I never felt that the writers were ignoring his previously established characterization - it's acknowledged on more than one occasion, shown through Rattrap's resentment towards his role in the grand scheme. He's forced to adapt. I never felt his change simply came out of the blue.

I have my own quibbles with Blackarachnia, but, yeah, I'll admit it, I'm one those silly Blackarachnia fans. Though honestly, this 'softening' occurred well before Beast Machines, and probably around the moment she got her fancy new Transmetal 2 duds. Her mooning over Silverbolt makes perfect sense considering their history in the original series (i.e. Silverbolt played a role in her rejecting the Predacons) - my complaint is that we didn't see her do much more beyond that, especially after they're reunited. Though, in all fairness, aside from time/budget constraints, I think it's just a matter of the writer's not having a clue what else to do with her. Her story just kind of ends prematurely.

And as far as believable transitions go, Megatron, in my opinion, was handled the best. Yes, I absolutely ADORE the charming bastard from Beast Wars, but Beast Machine's Megs is (further) telling of why this is one of the most successful Megatrons in the history of the franchise. After successfully (albeit briefly) killing his arch-nemesis and mucking up the time stream, the next logical course was world domination, which he also succeeds in doing*. Perfectly feasible, even if we lost the rubber ducky in the process.

(* Seriously? Aside from doing it for shits and giggles, the Maximals thought strapping the dangerous war criminal on top of their ship was a good idea?)

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Post by Cliffjumper » Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:54 pm

Totally agree re: Rattrap. Whichever episode it is he ends up guarding Megatron in a Gundam, the character is still there - the situation is different, and his reaction is due to being in an unfamiliar situation. I think what really smarts for Rattrap fans is that at the end of the first couple of episodes he's stuck in that body, there's no fix - Megatron's deal doesn't include some sort of crazy weaponised body that brings the character's bravado and confidence back. And it's a case of "Guess what? Sometimes life's like that." It's character development rather than character stagnation, and the negative reaction is probably among the reasons we don't get much of the former in Transformers in general.

Not got as far as the Silverbolt episodes yet, though I have seen some (all?) of them a while back and know the rough gist of the situation. I think the thing with Blackarachnia is that she didn't so much join the Maximals as leave the Predacons and join Silverbolt - she really doesn't seem to like Cheetor and Rattrap at all, and is fairly indifferent to Primal. Losing Silverbolt is a big, big blow to her, and (thus far) the early realisation that there's someone's spark inside Thrust means her belief that it's Silverbolt is justified in taking over most of what she does.

It's a shame that it takes out the only strong female character and it might have been interesting to have Silverbolt on the outside and Blackarachnia in a Vehicon instead (Megatron would have loved the irony I'm sure), but then I suppose we'd have people complaining that she was stuck in a Vehicon for half the series then.

It's King Grimlock Syndrome. Grimlock's behaviour in the US Marvel comics when he gets to be leader is consistent with his character in the comics to that point (stupid, only really gives a toss about the Dinobots; with power and focus various other negative facets come out). I'd rather it never happened, but it's not out of character (but largely exacerbated by the sharp contrast with the Furman Grimlock; in his early Budiansky appearances, Grimlock's a bit of a thicko to start with).

Rhinox I remember being a little bit more "whaaaat?", but I have really scant memories of that plot-line, so I'll reserve judgement.

Thus far, though, if nothing else BM is incredibly interesting. It's more thought-provoking than any other series even if it's just debating stuff like this.

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Post by Auntie Slag » Thu Aug 25, 2011 4:00 pm

I really enjoyed Rhinox's situation in Beast Machines. I was gutted because he was probably my favourite character in Beast Wars, but the fact that he justified all his actions to Primal in BM was excellent. That someone good and pure should make his own mind up and choose a path separate from both Primal and Megatron.

I've forgotten what happens to him ultimately, but it was good stuff, and a welcome element to the ranks of dudes who follow a Prime in these situations simply because he's the big boss monkey/big truck/big bat/big convoy etc.

I always like the desolation BM as well. So stark and cold, which made Primal seem all the more 'earth mothery'. When he was contemplative he had such a thoughtful, chilled out voice, which I thought was really nice for a leader.

Almost as striking as 'Kill them all' in its way.

Ok that's a bit of a stretch :)

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Post by inflatable dalek » Thu Aug 25, 2011 7:32 pm

It's been ages since I've watched BM (though as I've resumed my rewatch of the cartoons I'll get there eventually. Just got to survive the Japanese stuff first), but my main memory is that however logical evolution of the characters was (though Hippy Primal never rung true to me) it didn't stop most of the Maximals being either deeply irritating or unlikeable for most of the run. There being a good reason for it didn't make them less annoying to watch. Megatron and the Drone were by far the best and most engaging characters, and when there's no one to root for on the good guys side there's something wrong.

From my memory the show as a whole is a bit Angel season 4, when you can sit down and watch it all in rapidfire on DVD with a rough idea of where it's going it works much, much better than it did on original broadcast one episode a week over two years.

That all sounds a bit harsh though, there's still a lot to admire in the show, and it gives a great final to the original cartoon Universe.
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