Thursday, April 15, 2021

Transformers the Anti-Bay

One of the few positive things about Facebook is reconnecting with people I knew tangentially in High School that I now share a twisted sense of humor and a passion for various odd franchises with.

It was through one of these folks that I learned about the Netflix series Transformers: War for Cybertron.  There have been two six episode runs already, with a third coming in June.

I had only known this title as a PlayStation game.  It was kind of fun, but the inability of my old eyes to tell the difference between generic brightly colored Cybertronian enemies and brightly colored Cybertronian environments caused me to give up quickly and uninstall it.

Before I get to listing complaints about the show, which lets face it, we all know is inevitable at this point, let me start here:

The CGI Artwork is gorgeous.  Fully rendered 3D Transformers and locations that match what we saw in the Generation 1 cartoon.  Their vehicle forms are a mix of the Cybertronian ones in the series pilot and approximations of the Earth forms that work, though they haven't reached Earth yet.

Since it takes place in parallel with the opening episodes of the cartoon, the first season gang is there, but also characters who don't show up until the second or third season. (in the far flung future of 2005)  The characters are set up so they can be "in place" for the later appearances, but with enough twists and turns to keep it interesting.

This lets the female Transformers show up from the start, such as Elita One from Season 2, and Arcee from the animated film.  Granted the over sexy hip wiggle they give these characters when they walk in the animation it a tad disturbing to say the least, but never mind that now.

The settings and surroundings are also beautifully rendered, whether on the Transformer's home world, or various other planets, ships or weird spaces.

Having said all that, there are issues.

The Michael Bay live action films were over the top and  mostly stupid with character personalities, designs and events ignoring the existing continuity. Overall they were full of senseless explosions and cheap jokes.  

But they sure were a hell of a lot of fun!

I believe, in an attempt to make these cartoons more "grown up" they've erred on the side of introspection and realistic motivations, therefore losing quite a bit of that fun.

There are a large number of scenes of giant robots standing around talking to each other about feelings and reasons, in between the scenes of giant robots beating the snot out of each other.  Lets face, its the latter that brings most of us to the franchise.

Its more nuanced and complex to have Megatron to be a former freedom fighter who is disheartened that he's morally compromised himself more and more over time.

It is also more nuanced and complex to have Optimus Prime doubt his motivations, and wonder if his single minded focus to stop the Decepticons has prolonged the war.  In fact, they make it very clear that his removing the All Spark from Cybertron to protect it from Megatron has doomed the planet.

Yes, deep, and leading to introspective and grown up, thoughtful discussions.

But much less fun and inspiring then having Megatron be clearly evil and bent on the domination of many worlds while Prime is "The Greatest Fictional Leader in History" (-Wendy Pini)  and the epitome of  honor, heroism and intelligent command.

This change leads to Optimus being in less emotional control which sounds wrong.  I know it's basically complaining that he's not voiced by Peter Cullen, but its a little more than that. When calm his voice is all right, but when agitated it veers into Christian Bale goofy Bat-voice territory.

At lease Soundwave is still always reserved, loyal and snarky, while Startscream is always scheming, devious and cowardly.

I will inevitably moan and whine about something in Transformers reboots, but I am still very much looking forward to the third installment.  Already working in CGI, the addition of the Beast Wars characters in an inspired move.

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