We get a darker take on the classic series, even if it’s just a taste.
The planet Cybertron was once peacefully populated by robotic life (somehow, that term is accurate). Then, a new faction of synthetic organisms arose, the Decepticons, led by Megatron (Jason Marnocha). They began a war for control of the planet. Their only opposition ended up being the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime (Jake Foushee). The war has raged for years, and now, the Autobots stand on the edge of defeat. Hope comes in the form of the rogue Cybertronian Bumblebee (Joe Zieja) and the possible source of all life on the planet, the Allspark. The battle for the future of the planet is on.
If you have never watched a Transformers property before, this show is not for you. It is not interested in really giving you any introductions to the world or the characters, nor is it interested in fleshing out a ton of the backstories of any of them. Given the sheer number of Transformers featured as secondary characters, this may overwhelm a lot of viewers. However, in some ways, I appreciate this kind of setup, because it prevents a lot of the overdone exposition which is common in many Transformers series. Also, it’s not like Transformers needs to be complicated. There are good robots and bad robots and some of the bad ones turn good or vice versa. Good ones are usually the underdogs, bad ones usually end up losing.
Actually, this adaptation has way more moral ambiguity than most of the previous series. At the beginning of the show, we see Megatron, typically shown to be a mass-murdering conqueror, talking about honor and attempting to resolve the war without having to kill all of the Autobots. At the same time, we see Optimus Prime, typically the ultimate symbol of goodness, considering some darker and less honorable tactics than we usually wouldn’t associate with him. As the series progresses, they both end up moving more towards their traditional roles. The series seems to indicate that their actions throughout the entire war are as much about their personal feud as they were for their principles.
The war for Cybertron has long been a part of the mythology of the Transformers, but this show is the most explicit version that I can remember. While the Autobots are usually shown to be fighting a losing battle, this show makes that painfully clear by having most of the planet in shambles, all of the autobots injured or battle-damaged, and random robot remains strewn about the locations. While it is bloodless, since they don’t have blood, this would resemble the battlefields from the film 1917 otherwise. Moreover, a big part of the struggle is to find enough energon to survive, something that both sides are having trouble with. That means that the two armies are both starving to death throughout the series. It makes this whole series darker than any I’ve seen before.
The biggest problem with the show is that it really just doesn’t have a lot of time. At 6 episodes, the plot feels a bit rushed, even without the backstories. Since this was only the first chapter, though, there are plenty of opportunities to expand in the future. On the lighter side, I do enjoy the fact that the show makes some fun references, including a recurring Blade Runner joke, and that it does point out sometimes that many of the Transformers look like others, only with different colors. Since many of the toys were made by taking the same figures and giving them new patterns, this is kind of a fun shot at the nature of the show being to sell toys.
Overall, I enjoyed it. I admit that I’ve only dipped into the franchise a few times since Beast Wars, but this was a solid miniseries and I look forward to the next installment. Thank you to the readers who recommended this series.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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