Binge 'n' Purge - Transformers War for Cybertron: Earthrise
Turns out you can ruin an entire miniseries with one scene. Thankfully, or perhaps not so much, they saved it for the last episode.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As you can see from the dates on the reviews, yes, I apparently forgot to write up a review for the middle act in the Transformers: War For Cybertron trilogy so today, we’re taking a look at Earthrise.
When it comes to trilogies, there’s usually a pattern: either the first and third acts rock and the middle act is the weaker one, or the first and third acts pale before the superior second act. Look to the Indiana Jones trilogy for an example of the first type, the original Star Wars trilogy for the second. For the most part, Earthrise does indeed end up being better than its surrounding chapters: it isn’t forced into worldbuilding (and, to its detriment, apparently neither was the first act…ooo, burn!) and it doesn’t have to introduce new elements while tying up all the loose ends. It can focus on it’s on story, which is…
The Allspark is gone. Cybertron is dying. Optimus Prime has taken most of his Autobots in pursuit but the Ark may not have the energon to complete its mission. With Megatron soon to lift off in his own vessel as well as other parties interested in the Allspark’s location, it’s a race against time as Optimus Prime looks to undo his mistake and save the planet he has doomed to a slow, agonizing death.
As drama would dictate, yes, this middle act is indeed dark. We have Decepticons almost openly engaging in cannibalism. We’re given a much darker depiction of the five-faced Quintessons, one where each face has a mind of its own…and we get to see what happens when they don’t disagree. And while there have been mentions in fiction of the recent past about different third factions, like, say, the pirate-like Star Seekers, here we get to see the first official third faction in animation since the Mini-cons in Transformers: Armada…the Mercenaries. [Okay, so these were actually first shown in Siege, as Soundblaster was one, but I’ve drank long and hard to forget about Siege, so cut me some slack. – Ed.]
To DeSanto’s credit, he gets to tell the story he wants to here and he does a decent job of it. We follow Prime and the Autobots as they get captured by the Mercenaries only to be turned over to the Quintessons. We see Elita-1’s continuing resistance on Cybertron as she unearths the cruel lengths Megatron will go to in order to pursue Prime and make the Allspark his prize, cementing his rule on Cybertron as the planet’s savior. We see how Autobots and Decepticons clash over the planet Nebulon over the last functioning Space Bridge as well as the final climax over the skies of Earth that will lead us into the already reviewed sequel series, Kingdom. And for the first five episodes of the six episode run, everything here is engaging. Even the fifth episode in the Dead Universe with Sky Lynx, which could understandably be seen as a little self-indulgent, ends up being worthwhile and resulted in my tweeting that I wanted Sky Lynx to be my spirit animal. [He may have been drunk. Not a moment we’re particularly proud of here. – Ed.]
But here’s the rub…the thing about the fifth episode is that Prime has to look within himself and find the leader that he wants to be in order to lead himself, the Ark and his Autobots out of the madness of the Dead Universe…and he succeeds. Only to completely flush that progress down the toilet in the next episode. The final episode of the series deals with that age old question “Do you kill Hitler when he was a baby (or at any point before his rise to power)?” and it handles it in such a ham-handed overwrought way so as to not only be pathetically comedic, but nearly permanently tarnish or damage the persona of Optimus Prime that has been crafted over the entire 37-year run of this franchise. Optimus comes to the decision that he must kill Megatron, but he wants Megatron’s forgiveness for it first.
Are you fucking kidding me?
Look. This isn’t the first time Optimus has decided that it’s time for Megatron to pay the final price for his crimes. Transformers Prime was the last time Optimus came to this conclusion. Then, as now, Prime was forced to pay for this lapse in moral character…but the earlier series was able to build up to this over an entire season of episodes. This series literally had Optimus come to a leadership epiphany that would preclude this kind of behavior…IN THE PREVIOUS FUCKING EPISODE! So, is this version of Optimus just dense? Or is he more moody than a teenage goth girl? Sure, I could use this as a springboard for this series’ (and the franchise’s for that matter) continued glorification of all things Bumblebee, but instead I’ll simply say this, when BUMBLEBEE is more level-headed than Optimus-FUCKING-Prime? You need to stop and re-evaluate what you’re writing, because you’ve COMPLETELY fucked up.
What’s left to talk about? The animation continues to look good and the music also maintains the high level that we’ve heard from the other chapters. The voice acting remains mediocre to downright awful, whether due to talent or voice direction…I blame both. Scorponok’s appearance serves a purpose and given that it’s over Nebulon, it’s not unexpected…but it also feels a little squeezed in there. That’s fair though, given that he was this season’s ‘big toy’…so of course he has to be there.
Here’s the thing about entertainment: you’re only as good as the last taste you give the audience. Your show or movie might be crap for 3/4s of it, but if you stick the landing and stick it hard, people are going to overlook all of that and give you a good review. Conversely, if you get everything right and then fuck up the landing? We’re only going to remember your mistake. If I fell to that same mistake, Earthrise would be getting our ‘Dead Cat’ rating, because, seriously, fuck that one scene. And that’s just it, it was only ONE SCENE in the final episode that ruins the whole damn thing! Still, as I went through this series a second time, waiting for the suck to come, just as it had in Siege before and Kingdom after…I was surprised at how long I had to wait. All the way to the last episode. But when it hit, boy did it ever. Still, I’m going to try and be good here. They got it 5/6ths right. Five out of six of these episodes were enjoyable. No, not the best Transformers stuff out there, not by a long shot…but good. Solid. But Tim Sheridan? You are the Ernest Byner of this writing team (ask a Cleveland Browns fan, they’ll know what I’m talking about): they gave you the ball to take this thing home and you fumbled…epically. Yes, there will be a Transformers after you…and the character of Optimus Prime will endure…but god damn did you try your best to run it right into the ground didn’t you?
Okay, I’m being mean now, and I don’t mean to be. Transformers: Earthrise benefits from having a lighter storytelling load than either of its surrounding chapters, it simply has to get the Autobots and Decepticons from point A to point B and it does so reasonably well…until the end. Since this isn’t like getting into the Super Bowl or anything, if we divorce ourselves from that one horrible moment, the series, in spite of the faults it inherited from the previous series, proves to be enjoyable.
Just maybe read a summary of that last episode instead of watching it.
Episodes 1-5 are good enough to merit our Happy Cat rating!
But holy crap is Episode 6 a stinker, earning its own separate Angry Cat rating.