Binge 'n' Purge - Transformers War For Cybertron: Kingdom
You know, it’s only now, after having watched the final act of Netflix’s War for Cybertron Trilogy that I realize that I never posted a review for the middle act, Earthrise.
Oh well, I’ll have to circle back and get that one up at a later date.
Still, a little catch up is in order: The Autobots and Decepticons have tracked the Allspark to a distant planet, Earth. However, the crash landing by both factions will make it a difficult race to reach the prize first and now, with the Matrix of Leadership in his possession, Megatron has the upper hand. But this planet is rich with secrets and those might be just enough to turn the tide and decide if it will be Autobots, Decepticons or something else that determines the fate of Cybertron.
The thing about reviewing the last act of a three-act play is that it’s kind of a cheat. All you really have to critique is whether or not it ties everything up well. Sure, there’s a little more nuance to it than that, but that’s the basic gist of it, because, to be frank, all the problems from acts 1 and 2 aren’t going to magically disappear or suddenly be fixed by act 3. And that’s the case with Kingdom: the voice acting and direction still remains lackluster at best, the animation mostly works…however there is a singular nit pick this time, the music remains probably the best part of the show and yes, DeSanto and company are still turning in rushed scripts with some good ideas that any good writer would expand upon or investigate in some way.
I want to break out on that last point first here. Yes, each act of the War for Cybertron Trilogy has relied on some shorthand, heavily leaning on what fans of the franchise already know…and Kingdom is no different. This time, you’ve gotta know your Beast Wars in order for some things to make sense. I mean, sure, I can point to Dinobot and his arc as being one of my favorites in this show…but that’s just it, it’s because I know the character from Beast Wars and have interpreted the shorthand from there. For someone who this might be their first experience with tortured Predacon soldier Dinobot, well, as with Jetfire in Siege, things happen in an accelerated way that might not make sense to a newbie.
But that’s the rub on this final series, even though it requires you to rely on that shorthand from past knowledge, it also punishes you for it. Take Beast Megatron [Don’t you dare abbreviate that BM! – Ed.]. In the original Beast Wars series, he was a brilliant tactician and neither bowed head nor bent knee to any beast nor bot. Here, however, he’s played as little more than an awestruck sycophant and goon for his illustrious namesake and ancestor. I kept waiting for some sinister turn, some flip of fortune that might reveal this scheming side of Beast Megs, but no…it never came. And I’m kind of glad it didn’t, because I’m not confident that the Beast Megs voice actor could’ve matched what David Kaye might have brought to the role…because this new schmuck sounded exactly like what this new Beast Megs should sound like: a thug and a goon. How far we have fallen…yeeeeessss.
I think the last thing I have in my negative column is how Unicron was handled. One the one hand, I’m kind of glad he was kept mostly as a background character, more a looming threat than an immediate one, because I just don’t trust this writing team to be able to handle the build up to a threat like Unicron now the execution needed during the fight against him. This writers’ room has had more bungled executions throughout this entire Trilogy than a hangman with stock in a frayed rope company. But at the same time, when you bring in Unicron, you need to see some sort of resolution, which we really don’t get. While it would be nice if a follow up movie or series would tackle this (as Kingdom does end on a bit of a cliffhanger in this regard), we just don’t know if that’s in the cards yet. Oh, and before I forget, having Unicron and Galvatron…but no Cyclonus or Scourge? Sigh. Yet another wasted opportunity.
Some positives. Making Starscream a pariah and custodian of the knowledge of future doom was extremely entertaining. The Ark reveal was a bit of a ‘Checkov’s Gun’, but did have an awesome payoff. Seeing the Autobots and Maximals teaming up has been something I’d been hoping to see since ‘The Agenda’ back in the original Beast Wars and it was mostly all I had hoped for. And while a bit of a reuse from the old Power of the Primes animated series, the origins of Nemesis Prime proved to be an interesting idea (that was yet again squandered and unexplored, as is DeSanto’s way). And since they came out so close together, it’s worth mentioning that there is a lesson here for the Masters of the Universe Revelation writers, Blackarachnia’s lesbian/bi reveal was handled WAAAAAAAAAAY better than Teela’s. Just saying.
Transformers Kingdom doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of surprises, especially if you’ve been around for the first two chapters. While there are some twists and turns, ultimately everything plays out about the way you’d expect. What’s more difficult to determine is really whether or not to recommend this series as a whole. If you’re a longtime fan like me, you’re probably going to find this Trilogy to be at least a little half-baked and at times disrespectful to characters that longtime fans love. But as I mentioned above, the writing takes so many shortcuts relying on fans’ knowledge of the past incarnations that anyone new to the franchise may find this to be either dense and impenetrable or just…well…poorly written. And either of those sentiments would be correct.
But, it is a new Transformers series…and, well, my fellow fans and I are nearly contractually obligated to watch it at least once…if for no other reason than to encourage Hasbro to make another one.
And hold our breath that maybe the next one will be better…