Ricky Church reviews Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege…
After a few lighter TV series over the past several years, the Transformers franchise returns to a darker and more serious vision in Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege. While the latest animated series from Netflix and Red vs Blue creator Rooster Teeth doesn’t stray too far from the path of previous Transformers stories set at the height of their war on Cybertron, there is enough fresh material for longtime fans to enjoy while introducing newcomers to the vast mythology in some very interesting ways. The characters, action and animation make Siege a very entertaining inaugural season.
After a long, drawn out war the Autobots are on the verge of defeat. Optimus Prime struggles to keep morale among his troops up and the fight going while Megatron does anything he can to end the war swiftly and decisively. When Megatron plans to use the mythical Allspark to reformat all Autobots into Decepticons, the war becomes a race against time as the two factions search Cybertron for it.
Siege doesn’t waste time getting right into it. With six episodes, each running around 23 – 25 minutes, it feels more like a movie broken up into individual chapters. This cinematic feeling helps the tone and story stay consistent as each episode builds directly off and enhances the previous entry very well. The stakes only get higher throughout the series and most of the character development is well done as nearly all of the main cast are forced to examine who they are and make some significant changes to their beliefs.
Of the characters, Bumblebee, Jetfire and Elita-1 stand out the most. In Bumblebee’s case, it’s pretty interesting that Siege makes a rather big departure from how the little bot is normally presented. Instead of the chipper and loyal Autobot he usually is, Bumblebee is a cynical lone wolf who hasn’t taken a side in the war, preferring to be out for himself while blaming both the Autobots and Decepticons for Cybertron’s current state. The change in his character may be startling for some, but it offers a good chance to examine how other bots perceive the war and build him up into the Autobot fans know and love.
Jetfire is also changed where he’s actually one of Megatron’s most loyal Decepticons, though he’s not as bloodthirsty or ruthless as many of Megatron’s followers. It again offers a different perspective on the Decepticon side from a soldier blinded by honour, charisma and centuries old justification for continuing the fight. Elita-1 proves to be a nice counterpoint to Optimus as his right-hand lieutenant and one of his closest confidants. Where Optimus is, ahem, optimistic about certain bots and plans, Elita is rather more pragmatic and on the verge of losing faith. Her back and forth conversations with Optimus provide nice insight into the Autobot struggle between holding out for hope and accepting defeat. The only downside is it feels that same conversation happens on more than a couple occasions with small variations made.
As for the two biggest bots, Optimus and Megatron get some pretty good material throughout the series. As with several other Transformers stories in the past decade plus, the two were former friends and allies before Megatron began his war for conquest, or as he puts it liberation. Though Megatron is still ruthless, Siege makes it a point that he is not the outright evil Decepticon leader as in most other iterations. Much of his development is how he takes slow steps toward that moral event horizon. It’s surprising at one point when presented an opportunity to completely wipe out all Autobots, his first response is “I must consider this.” Witnessing his slide into true villainy is one of the most compelling aspects to the series. Conversely, as heroic as Optimus Prime is he questions his leadership and the role he might have played in Cybertron’s downfall while trying to ensure he and the Autobots don’t become like the Decepticons. It’s another departure from the typical portrayals of Optimus, but one that opens new doors into his character and works for the tone of the series.
The voice cast is a fairly impressive bunch. The performances of Jake Foushee as Optimus, Jason Marnocha as Megatron, Joe Zieja as Bumblebee, Linsay Rousseau as Elita-1 and Keith Silverstein as Jetfire help make those characters the standouts they are. Foushee does a good job sounding like Peter Cullen’s classic Optimus voice while putting his own spin on the character and Marnocha makes Megatron quite an intimidating figure. Other notable actors include Frank Todaro, whose Starscream is very much inspired by Chris Latta’s G1 Starscream, and Rafael Goldstein as Ratchet, a war-weary medic and inventor who helps heal both Autobots and Decepticons.
The animation is crisp and very fluid with the characters’ movements, even if they’re not as fast as, say, Transformers Prime. The character designs retain much of the original Transformers look while updating it to a modern and more serious setting. The action is well animated, choreographed and quite often brutal. From bots getting quartered, slashed apart or blown wide open, the series doesn’t hold back from the violence. It differentiates itself from other Transformers series in this way, yet isn’t violent for the sake of violence, adding to the theme of perpetual war and the loss of humanity (so to speak) many Autobots and Decepticons are facing. The music is pretty cool too with its sci-fi techno soundtrack, seemingly inspired by the likes of Blade Runner and Tron. It all adds up to a very vibrant and entertaining series.
Transformers: War for Cybertron – Siege is a great new iteration of the Transformers franchise. Longtime fans will be sure to check this out while newcomers entertained with this introduction. The story, characters and animation all stand out nicely alongside the series’ exploration of how war changes individuals and society.Transformers is in good hands with Rooster Teeth and leaves viewers wanting more with a ton of potential on how the next chapter will continue.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.