This is a mostly spoiler-free review of the first chapter (6 episodes) for Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy, titled "Siege", currently available on Netflix.
Hasbro's iconic Transformers franchise has been around for over three decades,
and whilst the live-action movies may have people divided (although Bumblebee was actually pretty good!) Netflix's latest venture is quite the exciting ride.
The Rooster Teeth (RWBY, gen:LOCK) produced show brings the G1 Transformers of the 80's into full animated effect, with excellent designs for Optimus and his Autobots, as well as Megatron and the evil Decepticons, fighting on the homeworld of Cybertron, before the inevitable journey to Earth.
Through the 6 episode chapter, the main plot is somewhat familiar to most - the Autobots and Decepticons’ search for the AllSpark - but there are some excellent and genuinely interesting subplots that fans will get excited about, but I do wish these had been explored more than they were.
Something that is of benefit to the show, is the fact we get to spend the full 6 episodes on Cybertron, rather than being shown via flashbacks as is the case with most Transformers media, so this is a real treat. We get to see the Autobot resistance rise up, navigating through the war torn and and ruined Cybertron, giving the vibe of a dark dystopian world that once thrived with prosper.
The war that has torn apart their home planet of Cybertron is at a tipping point. Two leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron, both want to save their world and unify their people, but only on their own terms. In an attempt to end the conflict, Megatron is forced to consider using the Allspark, the source of all life and power on Cybertron, to “reformat” the Autobots, thus “unifying” Cybertron. Outnumbered, outgunned, and under SIEGE, the battle-weary Autobots orchestrate a desperate series of counterstrikes on a mission that, if everything somehow goes right, will end with an unthinkable choice: kill their planet in order to save it.
The action doesn't offer anything particularly new, but it's far from mundane, and the shows 3D visuals really pack a punch, and it's always satisfying to watch Autobots and Decepticons duke it out.
In terms of the characters themselves, I would paint this as the shows biggest weakness, as not all of the characters get enough time to stand out on their own - with the exception of Optimus Prime and Megatron.
Optimus Prime (voiced by Jake Foushee, who is an excellent replacement to OG Prime, Peter Cullen) takes a good portion of the 6 episodes, but Prime is fully embodied in being a hero, and it makes him predictable and mostly uninteresting. It would have been nice to have Optimus use this as a jumping point, and see him naturally evolve into the leader we all know.
Megatron on the other hand, shows a range of dynamics, having not fully succumbed to the evil in him, we get to see the Decepticon leader on the verge of falling, but still maintaining parts of himself - there is a particular episode where Megatron is presented with a plan that would wipe out the Autobots in a mass genocide, and he's not exactly squirting oil with excitement.
It's a refreshing take on the evil leader, and it provides enough characteristics to show he see's purpose in what he believes is the right thing to do, not matter the cost.
Whilst familiar fan favorites are littered through the show (Ultra Magnus, Wheeljack, Ironhide, Ratchet) outside of Optimus and Megatron, Bumblebee is the only other major character to get a full arc of his own. This version of Bumblebee is lone smuggler, who has yet to choose a side between the factions, and seemingly doesn't want to. Obviously, we all know where his journey takes him, but of all the characters in the show, he has an interesting arc, and it plays out well
Whilst I enjoyed the 6-episode series, it did feel rushed in order to get us to the inevitable battle on Earth, and the real reason for the war between the factions is never really delved into outside of some minor conversations. I can't help but feel as a prequel series, it would have been incredibly interesting to see the fall of the Transformers on Cybertron, and seeing the glorious planet descend into the battered wastelands we see in the show.
Transformers: War for Cybertron - Chapter 1 "Siege" is an excellent start to the Netflix trilogy, with nice, fluid animation and a great voice cast, I just hope they have time to fill out some much need characterizations, and delve into the lore of the Transformers universe.
Transformers: War for Cybertron - Chapter 1 "Siege" is streaming now on Netflix