I picked up Shout Factory's 'Matrix box set' (NOT the Keanu Reaves movies) of the complete G1 Transformers series some time ago. Even though I already had the horrible Rhino DVD sets and pretty much every episode on videocassette (which I'd recorded from the TV in the 80's), I decided to rewatch everything again. When you get older, it's often hard to reacquaint yourself with old cartoons that you grew up with as you can find them to be pretty boring. But again, I decided to kick off my own personal marathon and after a couple weeks, I came to a conclusion: the G1 cartoon kind of sucked.
Now, before anyone cries TRUKK NOT MUNKY, hear me out. I love the G1 cartoon. Every ridiculous premise, every animation error, every voice acting flub, every continuity glitch; I love ALL of it. In retrospect, a lot of the funny errors and crappy writing is what gave the G1 cartoon its charm. For all the effort that the fandumb has put into fanwanking the cartoon to make it scientifically viable, I prefer to accept the G1 cartoon for what it is and laugh out loud when it royally fucks up, whether it errs on behalf of the writers, animators or voice actors. It is true that my one true love of Transformers is the Marvel G1 comic continuity, but I can't deny the impact that the G1 cartoon had upon me in my youth. I'll take it (mouthless Optimus Prime and all) to my grave.
Directly after re-watching all of the G1 cartoon, I decided to toss in my Beast Wars and Beast Machines DVDs. Another couple weeks later and I'd finished; my social life a depleted husk. Beast Wars was the series everyone cites as heralding the return of Transformers greatness, and while I don't necessarily disagree that that rings true for some people (I thoroughly enjoyed G2), it didn't take off with fans right away. In fact, I might go so far as to say that nobody liked it that much until they haphazardly tossed in some random G1 references that anyone started to really give a shit. But for whatever reason, the writing picked up and the animation (gradually) got better until it became a favourite amongst Transformers fans; so much that many people consider it the best era of the franchise for any number of reasons. However, what came after that is a completely different story.
Beast Machines picked up directly where Beast Wars left off and was almost immediately disliked by the fandumb. People (myself included) initially complained of terrible animation and 'pudding explosions'. Were the characters really supposed to be the same ones from Beast Wars? If so they weren't acting like it, and everyone seemed to hate what had been done to their favourite character. Most importantly, the idea that Cybertron had once been organic and the reintroduction of organic elements to the planet seemed to really fuel the pissed-offedness of just about everyone and to this day, the Beast Machines saga is openly reviled and referred to in a huff of digust. Message board retorts such as, "at least it's not Beast Machines" are still common to this day. Listen, I grew up on G1 and I gotta say that after sitting through my current marathon, I have to completely disagree with the hate that people dole out for this series.
I used to say that Beast Machines was a relatively good watch, so long as you pretend that it's not a part of Transformers. I no longer hold that viewpoint. In fact, I think it may have grown to be my favourite. I agree that there's a bleak outlook which permeates throughout the entire saga, one that pretty much begins at the kick-off, however it is this aspect that threads itself throughout the two seasons to present the most cohesive and serialized story that Transformers has had to date. Stand-alone stories are almost non-existent which means the end of each episode leaves you waiting for the next. And, while the writing for Beast Wars was leaps and bounds beyond the G1 cartoon, the writers for Beast Machines really had a handle on the characters and the scope of the grim situation that our Maximal friends had been mired in.
ANIMATION STYLE: Mainframe certainly went with a different visual aesthetic in Beast Machines than what was utilized in Beast Wars. Many fans had their pussies hurt about this, but the truth is that the streamlined, stylized visuals hold up VERY well by today's standards. Beast Wars may have been minimally groundbreaking for its time as a weekly syndicated television series, but it doesn't hold up to the test of time very well. Beast Wars today, while still a wonderful series, is beginning to look like a very dated video game, while Beast Machines still looks more striking and gripping than just about any show on children's television right now. I feel that the almost cartoonish depiction of the backgrounds in Beast Machines sets itself apart from Beast Wars; the end result really differentiating the visual aspect from its predecessor and establishing that this is Cybertron, not prehistoric earth (where the organic backgrounds are rather rudimentary, and that's being generous). Overall, I feel Beast Machines still sets the bar for a CG television series that many shows today still do not achieve.
CHARACTERIZATION: This is where a lot of people had gripes. Rhinox is Tankor? Rattrap is a coward? Primal is buddha monkey? Terrible, terrible terrible, right? After recently re-watching Beast Machines with a refreshed mind, I'm sorry; I gotta call bullshit on this gripe. It's with the infallible heroism of characters like Optimus Prime where I begin to get bored with characters. Beast Machines took established characters from Beast Wars and took us for a ride. It's very easy to dislike what the writers did with Rhinox's character, but at the end of the day, it does make for very good drama. It's perfectly likely in the universe of Transformers that Rhinox's personality could have been corrupted. It's even more understandable that (given the fact that these are ROBOTS, after all) Rhinox was somehow reprogrammed or tainted. The writers make no secret about this; and given the fact that Tankor/Rhinox 'makes his choice' in the series, there's no reason to bitch that "Rhinox would never have done that!" as so many people do. He's been corrupted on some level. To me, that is so much more dramatic, sad and poignant; a perfect tragedy. The other main complaint is what was done with Rattrap's character. To this, I also think Beast Machines followed through wonderfully. In Beast Wars, Rattrap was depicted as an 'older' character and even left in charge in Primal's absence. He was obnoxiously self-assured and his team-mates relied upon him, regardless of whether or not he was particularly likable. Many fans decry the way that he was depicted in Beast Machines (specifically, the episode 'The Weak Link'), citing how out of character it was for Rattrap to have corroborated with Megatron. To this, I also call bullshit. Upon arriving on Cybertron, Rattrap was suddenly the only character unable to transform and in many cases this caused him to be a hindrance to his peers. For a character with so much confidence to be continually berated for an ineptitude that was not wholly his fault for so long, I don't know that if some of the choices he made were necessarily out of character. In fact, I'm glad that the boon of non-transformation was given to him; again, it made his character more dramatic for this series. I think if most people put themselves in the same frustrated position, I don't think it be would that far out of the question that other options would be explored, even if a significant risk were imposed. Nah, I like what they did with Rattrap just FINE in Beast Machines. In fact, his coming back from that situation only served to reinforce the character that I did remember from Beast Wars. People are just pissed that their favourite characters are not cookie-cutter; I'd rather they weren't! Beast Machines did just fine with the characterizations; get over it already. On top of that, you may hate a character like Nightscream and find him annoying, but he still had far more character development than Prowl did in the G1 cartoon, no matter how much you may like those old characters.
ORGANIC CYBERTRON: I really don't know how people are so upset about this one anymore. Even G1 cartoons and comics hint (and in some cases downright prove) that there are organic elements to Cybertron. While I understand that some fans may want just a bare-bolts robotic planet as the origin for their favourite robots' homeworld, there's far too many dorks in the fandumb arguing in favour of gender-specific robots and why Transformers should be allowed to fuck and have kids in their fanfics. I'm not so disenchanted with the franchise that I can't rule out the organic elements of Cybertron in the overall arc of G1/BW/BM, so I don't see why anyone else shits their pants when someone mentions organic core on a message board. It's certainly not the most terrible thing to introduce to the series; there are KISS PLAYERS for that kind of shit and you can blame Takara for that, not Bob Skir.
Overall, Beast Machines is a great series and one that I love very dearly. There's more drama, characterization and tragedy in one episode of BM than in the entire three seasons of the G1 cartoon combined. There have been plenty of shitty entries in the Transformers franchise over the years that are far more horrible. I've always been told that Armada and Animated get better if you watch past the first season, but that's a lot of investment for a series just to get to the good stuff if you ask me. On top of that, people are still reading the IDW comics, which do far more terrible things to established characters that we know and love than Bob Skir has ever done. Beast Machines gets a bad rap, but Armada and Animated are OK? I don't really get it. The writing, animation and voice acting on Beast Machines has been the best thing we've gotten in the last 11 years. It deserves better respect than it gets and I will option shitsender.com for anyone who thinks otherwise.