Transformers is one of my favorite things that I have never actually found my version of it. People have their Gen 1 or Beast Machines, or Movies (if they hate themselves), or Prime (probably the best of all the series). The closest I could really call as mine is the Unicron trilogy. The problem with that is how badly the three series have aged. They all look cheap, I’ll-plotted, and less-than-stellar voice work. The only other closest is the beginning of Bumblebee.
The beginning of Bumblebee takes us to the newest Transformers TV series. The start of Bumblebee is the end of the Cybertronian War, this series wants to flesh that out, like Kyrpton (hey, remember SyFy did a whole Krypton show? No? Well I’ll forget after I write this joke).
This season (chapter in the case of branding for the show) has the Autobots on their last legs. They are running out of energon, running low on men, and must restort to ineffectual hit and run tactics against Megatron and his Decepticon army. Megatron, meanwhile, is getting tired of dealing with the Autobot menace and create a plan to find the Allspark, life generator of Cybertron, and use it to forcibly reprogram every transformer into a Decepticon. When the Autobots find out about the plan it becomes a race to find the Allspark with plenty of misdirection, double crosses, and action along the way.
This is probably the best looking Transformer series ever. It took the defined look of the Bumblebee intro and mixed it with the CG animated style of Prime. The detail on every individual transformer is impressive alone. Minor knicks, cuts, denting, and more cover both teams and gives them a well-worn, battletested feel. The same detail can be seen in the landscapes, rain effects, and battle wounds. It makes the world feel alive even in death. However it does have the same issue Prime had when it comes to mostly wide open, deserted areas that have very little personality to them. This is most noticeable in shots of the city itself. It is in ruin, yet they seem to live just fine somewhere. It’s an annoying detail, but doesn’t ruin the show.
The characters are also better than normal (given they only had six episodes to work with over the 3 seasons of Prime, Animated, and 50+ episodes of the Unicron Trilogy). The standouts are the two Decepticon-turned-Autobot Transformers who grow disillusioned with what Megatron wants and how he’s drifted from his goals (whatever they were… we’ll get to it). Starscream remains as sniveling as ever, though not quite so devious yet, and the team really played up Shockwave’s mad scientist angle well. On the Autobot side Bumblebee has the best arc, along with Ratchet. The real problem is that most of them are fairly one note or not well thought out. The worst being Optimus himself. That might seem odd since he’s the austensible main character, but like Superman, he’s just generally a good guy who wants the best for his people. This tries to play up his inexperience in the role as leader, and gives him a foil in Elita-1 to bicker about what his plan is, but he just doesn’t explain enough why he believes what he does and why his side is the better option other than the obvious.
That vaugery leads to the biggest problem the season had, the political beliefs and history of Cybertron. Optimus and Megatron are posed as two sides of the same revolution to overturn whatever government Cybertron had before the war. The most of that we get is how many Transformers were programmed to be slaves while others got to be free and live good lives, with Megatron leading a populist uprising and overthrow that system of slavery. That paints him as the good guy almost… but we don’t know enough about all the details. There are throw away lines about historic battles and events, but no context. Basically, the only reason Megatron is the villain is that he’s an oppressive, power obsessed dictator with no reasoning as to how he got that way. Meanwhile Optimus just feels like he is there to oppose him but not show how his beliefs are different. The main example is the phase: “Till all are one.” A very unifying idea that Megatron, based on his plan to rewrite Autobot programming, sees that as being homogenous. They are all one and serve in his ideas. That should make Optimus’s reading of that line feel like he means they are one diverse people. A group that has the same want, a return of Cybertron, but have the diversity that comes with that. Only that’s not made explicit other than Optimus saying he doesn’t want to be made a slave. Optimus and Megatron dont pontificate on what they really want making it hard to understand the conflict.
Also, there was apparently a stink over the voice acting for the show since they replaced most of the cast with new actors. I think they all do a great job bringing their own takes while channeling the original actor portrayals of the characters.
It’s so hard to judge a planned trilogy like this. The problems of the Transformer beliefs and plotting will always plague this season, but could get better and make way more sense later. It feels like judging just a small part of a bigger whole. I think it will be interesting to see where the team takes the series now that the literal War for Cybertron bit is kind of wrapped up. From now on it seems like that title will be metaphorical. It will be a war for what Cybertron will be. I mean that makes sense to me, but it’s all about what Chapter 2 will bring.
I’m cleaning house and selling some media. If you would like to buy comics, manga, or cards I owned and used follow this link: https://ebay.com/usr/connorfahy1013 say you’re a reader and I’ll be happy to discount any item for you!
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