We all know the theme song…
Transformers. Toys to sell to Kids.
Transformers. We really sell to Nerds!
Grab your wallet to help us pay for all our rent.
Transformers: War of Cybertron is a 2010 video game developed by High Moon Studios.
Wait a minute…
Transformers: Siege, is the first chapter of a planned trilogy set to be released on Netflix’s streaming platform, to coincide with Hasbro’s latest line of toys and merchandise related to everyone’s favorite transforming alien robots. The show is developed by Hasbro and Rooster Teeth, with animation by Polygon Pictures— the same studio responsible for the critically acclaimed Transformers: Prime TV show
Unlike most Transformers stories, Siege is set on a war torn Cybertron during the final days of the Cybertronian Civil War. The story is told in six 25-minute episodes and can be binge-watched within 2-3 hours.
If you are a big Transformers fan like I am, this show is a blast to watch as it takes elements from the Classic Generation One cartoon, the live-action films, and even from the IDW comics to blend them into a gritty, action packed world. The story seems to be Rooster Teeth’s take on the Aligned continuity. Hasbro has been implementing this continuity on every other subsequent Transformers storyline, since the first War for Cybertron game.
Remember that opening scene from the Bumblebee movie? This is that; but we get more of it here. Fans have waited for a transformers show/movie that didn’t rely on human characters to tell the story, but instead focused more on the robots in disguise. Fans really don’t want to see humans in movies anymore. They just want to watch two factions of badass transforming robots blow each other up, minus Michael Bay.
The animation for this show is pretty neat. The characters are heavily influenced by Generation One‘s classic designs, but modified with a gritty finish to fit the darker tone of the story. I love the cool, heavily “battle-damaged” look, present on all Transformers, as it gives them all personality, and a sense of history. Their paint jobs are faded and scratched; you get the sense that these bots have seen better days. In some cases, like Megatron, they’ll have scars or bullet holes on their thick Cybertronian armor that really sells the war torn look. It felt like the War has taken its toll on its people, and it adds a level of grittiness to the dark atmosphere Siege is trying to establish.
One of the cool things about this show’s character models is the fact that the Animation team used Hasbro’s original blueprints for the War for Cybertron Trilogy toyline (Transformers. Toys to sell to kids…). Which means the character models you see on the screen are SUPER toy accurate, down to the smallest peg that connects an Autobot’s crotch to his chest when in vehicle mode. It’s not a pleasant image, but it happens sometimes.
As cool as that sounds, it does affect the animation quality quite a bit, as it makes some of the characters’s movements feel stiff and unnatural. The character movements become “janky” when animated in prolonged hand-to-hand combat sequences. Sometimes, parts would distort in an unnatural way, breaking the illusion of sturdy war machines. For example, Optimus Prime’s hips would have this weird “rubbery” animation whenever he walked, and it becomes distracting when you notice it. There was also a number of asset reuse in the show that is hard to ignore. Meaning, you’ll see many characters share the same body model but painted with a different color. Though this was expected for the Seeker Armada, having multiple copies of Reflector as a generic Decepticon lackey proved to be distracting. Here’s to hoping that we’ll get more unique designs in later episodes.
The voice acting lacked impact and left much to be desired.
Peter Cullen and Frank Welker did not reprise their respective roles as Optimus Prime and Megatron. Instead, Jake Foushee and Jason Marnocha reprise the roles of the Autobot and Decepticon leaders respectively, having also providing voice work for them in Machinima’s Transformers: Prime Wars Trilogy. But we don’t talk about that…
Peter Cullen and Frank Welker are not always going to be around, so we need to find other voice actors to take up the torch. However, Jake Foushee’s Optimus Prime feels like a cheap imitation of the original, and brings nothing new to the character whatsoever. Optimus Prime was written to be younger and more impatient, but that character development is nothing if the voice acting fails to deliver.
I found it very distracting to listen to Optimus Prime trying to sound like Optimus Prime. Foushee’s performance as the Autobot leader feels shallow and delivery of certain lines felt forced. He’s trying to pull off an impression of Peter Cullen’s Prime, and you can only take the character so far in that way. I would have preferred if he went in a different direction, providing a new different take on the character rather than trying (and failing) to emulate Cullen’s iconic voice.
There’s this line in the first episode that broke the illusion for me. It was a scene where Elita One and Hound suggest killing Bumblebee (who is not an Autobot at this point of the story) to prevent him from revealing the Autobot base to the Decepticons. Optimus was furious with this suggestion and chastises them with the line: “We are not Decepticons!” The delivery honestly made me laugh. Foushee’s Optimus Prime lacks the same gravitas that Cullen brings to the table when portraying the character.
On the other hand, Jason Marnocha’s Megatron was actually pretty good. Though, I do feel that this version of Megatron is a dull comparison to Marnocha’s earlier portrayal of the Decepticon leader in the Prime Wars trilogy. In that series, Megatron had a more jovial personality, who takes pride in himself, and contrasted Optimus Prime’s stoic and reserved personality. He lacked that trait this time around, but he did offer a more reserved version of Megatron that is walking the line between an honorable leader with an iron fist, and power-hungry tyrant hellbent on revenge. This Megatron did remind me of Corey Burton’s portrayal of the character in Transformers: Animated, which is my favorite interpretation of Megatron aside from Frank Welker.
Sorry David Kaye. But Come on, Corey Burton knocked it out of the park. I still love you though.
Cullen and Welker aren’t immortals and we need someone to take up the mantle. I believe that Garry Chalk and David Kaye would have been better choices to reprise the roles of Optimus and Megatron respectively as they have become synonymous with those characters post-G1, from Beast Wars to the Unicron Trilogy. They were the voice actors for Optimus and Megatron that I grew up with. They brought a different take on those characters that made them instant fan favorites. Just watch this scene below…
I would rather have original and new takes on those characters than getting cheap imitations of Cullen and Welker’s versions. Just sayin’.
As for the other characters, I didn’t really have too much of a problem, since they didn’t have long enough screen times to truly stand out. But there were characters that were too difficult to ignore, namely Shockwave and Soundwave. Shockwave sounds like a generic villain devoid of personality, and Soundwave, quite plainly, just sounds bad. They did not do a good job emulating the iconic Soundwave voice. Most of his dialogue was inaudible and you really can’t tell what he was saying without subtitles. Their attempt to execute a proper distorted Soundwave voice fails miserably, making it the most inferior Soundwave incarnation to date. (And I love Soundwave…)
Shout out to Frank Todaro for being an entertaining Starscream. He had that Chris Latta Starscream feel to his delivery that I always enjoy in any new iteration of the treacherous Seeker Commander. I’m eager to see where the showrunners take the character in future episodes.
Now what about the story? Is it any good?
The story begins with Bumblebee and Wheeljack looking for Energon, just like in the first episode of the Generation One cartoon. However, this time around, Bumblebee is not an Autobot at the beginning. Instead, he identifies himself as a scavenger who doesn’t want any part of the War. Megatron criticizes him for being a coward in the first episode, comparing him to Wheeljack who weaars “his allegiance and fate with pride.” It’s a new cynical take on Bumblebee that breathes some new life to the character. Bumblebee is usually optimistic, and is often the “kid appeal” character, so it’s nice to see him depicted as a reluctant hero this time around.
The Autobots are scavenging for Energon in an attempt to leave Cybertron using the Ark, a massive Cybertronian Ship that acts as the Autobot’s Headquarters. Bumblebee leads Wheeljack to an abandoned warehouse, where they discover an old space bridge and ambushed by Decepticon Seekers and Megatron.
Siege is a very good start to the trilogy and sets up a classic Transformer storyline with a darker atmosphere. I love how we see the Autobots in their darkest hour here. They have always been the underdogs ever since the cartoons, and seeing them lose the War for Cybertron creates this dystopic 1984-eque setting, with ole Buckethead Megs as its Big Brother. It’s a great way of showing the audience that the stakes are high, and the Autobots are hanging on by a mere thread.
However, I feel that this series’ strength is in its characters rather than the actual plot. The Allspark is introduced in episode 2, turning the story into yet another “hunt for a McGuffin”, a trope that the Transformers franchise has become known for. Yes, the Allspark is a big part of TF lore. The events surrounding the Allspark and its ejection into space, has become the new standard for transitioning the Autobot-Decepticon War on Cybertron to Earth. But I hoped that they avoided this story element for the first season, and established a “guerilla warfare” story line in its stead, where the Autobots are truly on the brink of extinction. The Allspark made for a cartoonish plot device that made the story feel very predictable at certain times. Though it does have offer some twists and turns along the way.
I love how the characters interact in this story specifically with how certain Autobots and Decepticons interact with one another when occupying the same scene. You have a moment in which they are fighting with words rather than blasters. It’s philosophical warfare that you don’t really see that often in the series and I appreciate that the show runners included that aspect into the series. I do, however, feel that the Decepticons have a stronger argument than the Autobots. The Decepticons fought against a very corrupt caste system on Cybertron that determined one’s function in Cybertron society based on alternate forms. The concept of depicting Megatron as a gladiator that inspired and led a movement against Cybertron’s unjust class structure was borrowed from the IDW Transformers comic, and has become a standard in many origin stories in later iterations.
Yeah, Transformers have politics.
Optimus throws the word “freedom” around and doesn’t really justify it properly in the story. We know that Megatron cares about his cause and sees it noble, despite wanting to destroy the Autobot bourgeoisie. Megatron is essentially a Cybertronian version of Lenin and Stalin in this story.
We have a lot of characters that don’t really get enough time to shine, but we enjoy every second they appear on screen. I feel that they wanted to include every Transformer ever, even if they couldn’t, and I appreciated that. Bumblebee disappears for half of the series only to return when he becomes a McGuffin; Ratchet becomes this independent Cybertronian medic who’s grown weary of the war and helps out any Cybertronian in need regardless of faction; and Jetfire’s transition from Decepticon to Autobot calls back to the character’s arc in the original G1 cartoon. This version of Jetfire is not like the docile scientist in G1, instead he is Starscream’s predecessor as Decepticon Seeker Commander who values honor above anything else. But the one character who gets her time in the limelight is Elita One, and by Primus, it’s about time.
Elita One is my favorite character in this entire series thus far. She is the most fleshed out Autobot aside from Optimus, and serves as a very good foil to Optimus. For those who are uncultured in Transformers deep lore, sit down cause I’m about to educate you. Elita One is essentially Optimus Prime’s female counterpart. That means two things: 1) she is a capable leader and just as noble as Optimus; and 2) she is Optimus Prime’s significant other. She is the first female Transformer introduced to canon in the original Generation One cartoon. She debuted in the episode “War Dawn,” where the Aerial Bots time traveled to Cybertron before the War and where the viewers learned the origin of Optimus Prime. I can ramble on about deep lore, but I’m not going to do that. BUT, if you want the basics on Elita One’s origins, check out Chris McFeely’s video on YouTube.
Yeah, these two together on screen brings me joy.
[Spoilers from here on out. You’ve been warned. If you don’t want spoilers, skip down until you see the Autobot/Decepticon transition video]
I’ve always considered Elita One to be Optimus’s true second in command. Siege brings that concept back but fleshes out her character a bit more than they did in the original G1 cartoon. Linsay Rousseau does a phenomenal job of bringing Optimus Prime’s most trusted ally to life. Elita offers Optimus emotional support while giving him military counsel, often questioning Optimus Prime’s decisions motivated mostly by desperation. The writers could’ve done a better job with how Optimus handled Elita’s military counsel. Optimus seemed to ignore most of her advise rather than actually taking them into account.
Elita One was, in a sense, Optimus Prime’s moral compass. She is not a perfect character by any means. I feel that she ends nagging Optimus when she becomes the new military commander of the Autobots. I feel that because the show runners decided to kill Ultra Magnus, in order to promote Elita to the position of second-in-command, the character struggled with juggling her duties as military commander and moral compass for the Autobot leader. Since Elita One became a military commander, a role that often requires compromising one’s morals to achieve victory in warfare, she couldn’t fulfill the role of moral compass to its full extent. Despite this, it gave her character some depth that I didn’t expect, and I welcomed that.
I don’t understand why they killed Magnus this early on. If Magnus stayed around longer, we would have had an interesting dynamic between the three leaders of the Autobots. Magnus and Elita would offer two different solutions to a problem, and Optimus would have to choose or come up with a compromise. Ultra Magnus could have been a cynical advisor, while Elita served as an optimistic counter. Optimus would then be the mediator for both sides. It would’ve been interesting to watch that dynamic unfold, and could’ve served as a reasonable factor for Magnus’ surrender to the Decepticons.
There were many twists in the series to keep classic fans on their toes, but nothing too radical. It’s Transformers, just the way we like it.
[SPOILERS END HERE]
Overall, this was a great first chapter to get fans excited for the next two installments. It has just enough G1 nostalgia to satisfy old fans, and enough new elements to attract newcomers to the series. I feel that hardcore fans of the franchise will appreciate this series more, but casuals can still find this show to be an entertaining watch.
Though the story becomes a pretty basic McGuffin story, the characters are interesting enough to keep you watching. Elita One is definitely the breakout character of this series, with Bumblebee taking the back seat this time around. The animation evokes nostalgia for the classic cartoons and provides a neat image of watching your action figures come to life. It is not completely perfect and the voice work lacks enough of an impact to be all that memorable. Hopefully, whatever this first chapter lacked will be remedied in later seasons.
Transformers: War for Cybertron – Seige is now available for streaming only on Netflix.