When I first saw Netflix’s new Transformers series, War for Cybertron Trilogy being advertised, I thought that this show looked really cool and that it would likely be a fun watch, but I wasn’t expecting a well-acted, well-written war drama with robots. Sure, this is a kid’s show, but there’s so much going on here that’s beyond simply “robots fighting each other”. This first entry in the trilogy, Siege, is more nuanced in its storytelling. Not all the heroes are obvious while the villains have their own struggles and qualms of their own.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: War for Cybertron looks absolutely amazing. The show uses CGI animation to bring the grey and rainy war-torn planet to life. The transformers themselves look like their original cartoon selves only with a high level of detail presented on their metallic bodies. Scratches, dents and blemishes are shown and it makes these characters feel even wearier than they already are. The animators added a black cell-shaded outline around all the characters, giving them a cartoony feel at the same time. It’s a great artistic choice and the overall visuals are amazing. I particularly loved a scene where Megatron is giving a speech in the rain from a platform in an amphitheater, what a great shot.
Speaking of Megatron, the show spends a lot of time with him and he’s not some mustache-twirling bad guy. He’s actually pretty resistant to the concept of war at first and is actively trying to find a peaceful scenario. The Deceptions aren’t some group of Transformers who were born evil; they were actually miners and slaves who, after generations of looking up at the Autobots in their ivory towers, decided to revolt.
Optimus Prime, the leader of the Autobots, recognizes the faults that the Autobots have made in the past and is also trying to end the war peacefully. But each side has its reasons for not trusting the other. What’s more, not everyone on each side is duty-bound to their side. There are those who straight up disagree with Megatron and his actions while Optimus Prime has many skeptical followers, as he seems more invested in the mythological AllSpark than bringing the fight to Megatron.
While I didn’t personally recognize any A-listers on the voice cast, like Netflix’s Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the cast still does an excellent job showing the humanity of these robotic beings. The voice modulation is fun and they all have different personalities. I personally like Bumblebee in this series, as he had yet to join the Autobots and was simply a scavenger not loyal to either side. This show really broadens my, admittedly, limited experience of the Transformers lore and shows us a world that’s surprisingly deep and nuanced for a children’s show. There are some grizzly images here, such as Transformers impaled on spikes that reminded me of the Stormtrooper helmets from The Mandalorian-you know what I’m talking about. It’s not too dark, but dark enough to show that this world is pretty messed up. Likewise, there is no cartoony humour or antics to be found, unlike the Michael Bay films, and the story is presented as an action-drama instead, which is great. The show respects its younger audience as well as those who have long since grown up.
The one downside I can think of is that it’s pretty short. With six thirty-minute episodes, this basically amounts to a three-hour movie give or take. It has no filler, the show also tosses you into the deep end of the narrative and I would have liked to see a bit more prior to the opening episode. Thankfully, this block is only part one of a trilogy and we have probably twelve more episodes of this to go through, making this a nine-hour experience once it’s done.
In the end, this was a fun, artistically amazing and surprisingly layered look at robots fighting each other on a faraway sci-fi planet. I’m used to the usual Deceptions bad, Autobots good spiel, but this wasn’t that. It had good acting and a great story and I personally can’t wait to see where this goes.