Proving that the Transformers weren't merely a fond memory of an 80s child and a series of successful but arguably awful, live-action disasters by Michael Bay, "Transformers Prime" has made the weekly installments of the battle between Autobots and Decipticons something very much worth watching and looking forward to. Prior to the release of the first season on DVD, Shout! released the first five episodes of the new series as one continuous animated film titled "Darkness Rising." While an entertaining concept in theory, "Darkness Rising" felt like a superfluous experiment that should have been an extra in the first season box set, not a standalone title. With season two well underway though, Shout! has done it again, this time taking the final four episodes of season one and first three episodes of season two and combining them for a truly epic in scale Transformers animated film, "One Shall Stand."
To longtime Transformers fans, "One Shall Stand" covers very familiar territory, initially. The long awaited showdown between Optimus Prime (still thankfully voiced by Peter Cullen) and Megatron (the irreplaceable Frank Welker) is unleashed. Before the fight can conclude though, Megatron, much to the dismay of the Autobots discovers away to reawaken the most destructive force in all Transformers lore, Unicron. Voiced by John Noble in a performance that frankly eclipses Orson Welles' famous voice work in the 80s animated film, Unicron's unique form of attack keeps the Autobots busy for the first half of this animated saga before serving as the catalyst for the tonally opposite second half.
While the writing in "One Shall Stand" never panders to younger audiences, despite the inclusion of a trio of pre-teens, it becomes abundantly clear that this experiment in making seven episodes of a TV series into one fluid narrative is no easy task and once Unicron is out of the way, the action dies down and we're left with, well, to be honest an amnesiac Optimus Prime serving Megatron as his pre-prime persona Orion Pax. This second half just blatantly drags along, finding away for Jack, the most prominent of the child allies to the Autobots to prove his own heroism as foretold by Optimus earlier in the film. Removed from this feature-length adaptation, the Orion Pax saga would be engaging in weekly installments, but immediately following the series' first dealings with Unicron it's frankly anticlimactic and knowing it was assembled form the opening of the second season, makes it's ultimate conclusion all the more obvious to spot coming a mile away.
The animation and voice work in "Transformers Prime" are still top notch and unlike "Darkness Rising," "One Shall Stand," does have more merit as a standalone offering, even if the overall quality of that offering isn't quite up to snuff. Viscerally it pleases when it indulges itself in often lengthy, well staged and technically breathtaking action sequences. It proves that Autobot vs. Decepticon action can be filmed at breakneck speeds with fancy camera movements and not be an incoherent mess, which is a trademark of the live-action series. The character designs are definitely inspired by the live-action counterparts but more streamlined and easy on the eyes. "One Shall Stand" ultimately is for the Transformer fan not fully wanting to make an investment into the entire series and just wanting a brief dose of epic albeit only above-average robot action and drama.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is flawless visual treat, it sports a virtually compression free image with strong color balance and smooth line reproduction. The CG origins of the animation are top notch and this transfer really shows off that a weekly television show is capable of approaching the levels of big budget animated features.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track sounds a tad better than I remember compared to "Darkness Rising." The rich audio track gives weight to the voices of the Autobots, Deceipticons, and of course Unicron. Surrounds are used especially well in the chaotic fights against Unicron's endless army as well as the finale of the program itself. There's no distortion at all and the balance amongst effects, dialogue and awe-inspiring score is greatly appreciated. An English 2.0 track is also included.
The only extras are a 15-odd minute discussion with show creators and an animatic for the second episode of the story arc used to create this "movie" version.
Hardcore fans of the series and casual Transformers fans will find "One Shall Stand" an interesting animated offering. For comprising the finale of a complete TV season, the viewer is never left in the cold as to who's who, provided they know the basic Transformers characters. On a technical front, this animated film is visually and aurally pleasing, which does ever so slightly detract from what is an interesting experiment that just doesn't fully come out on top. Recommended.