What is it with Netflix and forcing me to watch CG shows? Admittedly using the Transformers franchise at least makes sense as it, currently, lacks any human characters, and seeing giant robots in CG is a lot easier to take, but still! If I’m honest I had no intention of watching a new Transformers cartoon, but then I heard more about it, that it uses designs closer to the classic 80s cartoon I loved growing up and has references to, and features, death and “killing”, making it closer in tone to the Transformers animated movie than the squeaky clean TV show, I was interested, and it was only six 20-ish minute episodes, so… Why not? Was I disappointed or did it live up to these expectations? Let’s find out!
Cybertron has been ravaged by the civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons. In an attempt to end the conflict, Megatron considers using the Allspark as a last resort, but Optimus Prime wants to prevent that from happening, even if that means destroying Cybertron in order to save it.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
You can definitely tell the people behind this series are my age or slightly older, as the designs and voices of the lead characters are very close to the 80s originals (with the exception of Megatron transforming into a tank rather than a handgun someone else had to use, which makes SO much more sense…) and as I said in the opening paragraph it has a 12 rating giving that little bit more wiggle room to have characters being shot to death (bloodlessly due to being robots and all…) and phrases like “I’m going to kill you” being allowed, plus a few more interesting concepts that would otherwise not appear in a straight up children’s cartoon.
I think the thing that stood out the most was how the war is actually dealt, it’s not good vs. evil as much as Megatron, after years of being a slave before the revolution, ironically looks down on the Autobots as a lesser race that should be subservient to him and his fellow Decepticons, while Optimus Prime sees becoming slaves as a fate worse than death, a sentiment some of his cohorts don’t share. There are scenes where Megatron is visibly frustrated at having to kill more and more Autobots, baffled why they won’t just follow him and live in peace, eventually being driven more and more off the deep end by desperation (and a few nudges from his chief scientist Shockwave) Meanwhile Prime’s old friend Ultra Magnus leaves the Autobots and shows up at Megatron’s doorstep to negotiate peace. He’s captured, tortured and eventually flat-out killed after he refuses to divulge the location of the Autobot base, and when he tells his old allies that their enemies plan to use the “Allspark” to transform them all into Decepticons.
Yeah, okay SOME Decepticons are the kind of “impale our enemies and leave their bodies hanging” kind of straight up evil…
This is where Skyfire, a Decepticon who in the original cartoon ended up siding with the Autobots when he realised his side didn’t value life, decides he must be on the wrong side and screams at his leader that he didn’t sign up for genocide. He eventually joins the Autobots, which along with Impactor, a Decepticon that was left for dead only to be healed by a former Autobot Doctor deciding to help his enemies’ plans and eventually give his life for them, means the story isn’t as black and white as you’d think. In fact a lot of the story focuses on Bumblebee, who is an Autobot who isn’t aligned with the faction, instead taking mercenary jobs and staying out of the war. He constantly berates Prime for his willingness to prolong the battle, but eventually joins their side when he is chosen by the “spirit” (or old code, I guess) of Prime’s teacher Alpha Trion to keep the knowledge and history of the Autobots alive. Prime’s second in command, Elita-1, while always carrying out her leader’s orders, is also frequently questioning his motives. Having fallible heroes and making sure neither side just has unwavering loyalty to their leader goes a long way to making the war seem more “real”, even if it is between giant robots on an alien planet…
As things pick up both sides start resorting to more and more desperate measures. Megatron okays a plan to string up Ultra Magnus’ corpse and use it to transmit a virus that takes out all Autobot settlements, despite Soundwave warning him that these settlements contain key things that help the planet itself run. Meanwhile Optimus wants to use a Space Gate to leave Cybertron altogether on their massive Space Ark and take the planet’s Allspark with them, preventing Megatron from using it, but also removing the planet’s source of power and dooming it to possible destruction. During their final confrontation in Episode 6, Megatron is constantly calling out Prime for being more evil than he is, as even he wouldn’t remove the Planet’s Allspark and essentially bring the war to a deadly draw. Eventually Prime throws the Allspark through the gate and then manages to take a good number of Autobots on the Ark after it. Some are left behind, like Elita-1 and Skyfire, and are under the impression that Prime and co died, and are willing to carry on the fight. So it’s an alternate set up to the start of the original 80s show, so I’m looking forward to seeing “Part 2: Earthrise”.
You’ve failed me again, Starscream…’s voice actor.
While the animation is mostly fine, there are a times when some action is about to kick off that isn’t just firing guns at each other and you start to see the issues. Any punch up or scenes of Transformers falling is either a quick cut or looks awkward. The same goes for anything other than a Seeker transforming (with the classic sounds!), they seem to have transforming into a jet animation down, but most other people transform while the “camera” is panning up or down, showing the end result of the transformation, but not actually the transforming…
While I really like the 80s-voice-cast-a-likes, I’ll admit that the Starscream is a little off, though to be fair the man who voiced Starscream (and Cobra Commander!) is a one-of-a-kind voice I’ve never really heard anywhere else!
“I personally think you just go all-in on the evil deeds.” “Oh? Okay then.”
Transformers: War for Cybertron – SIEGE is a surprisingly fun two-ish hours, full of plenty of nostalgia and a more serious tone and approach to storytelling. I think if you’re my age or a kid/early teen then you’ll love it, if you’re in your 20s and Transformers to you is the Michael Bay movies then I’d probably skip it…