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Review: Netflix’s Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege Slowly Sparks A New Trilogy

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BY August 10, 2020
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Transformers is a popular franchise that has been around since the 80s. Based on a toy line from Hasbro, the Transformers have gone through many different iterations in different mediums. Starting as an animated show, the original Transformers was a story about robots that transformed into cars, with the main motivation of selling toys. Netflix’s brand new anime is a whole other beast altogether. My Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege review will showcase exactly how the new series adds to the franchise. 

How Transformers Was A Childhood Classic For An Entire Generation

Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege review Optimus. The always awesome Optimus Prime | Image via Netflix.

Transformers was one of those franchises with an engaging premise that really stood the test of time. Sentient robots escaping war on their home planet and protecting Earth as their new home, was pretty incredible as an idea. Along with their human counterparts, the massive robots with the ability to become other machines spoke to adolescent imaginations. Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege review is all about a retelling of the same origin story. Many of the Transformers TV series begins with the them already on Earth from the perspective of a human character. While others really go back and describe what the war on their home planet of Cybertron really looked like. Most recently we got a glimpse of that war in the live-action Bumblebee movie. Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege retells that same origin story as part of a planned anime trilogy on Netflix. 

Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege Review Is A New Spin On A Classic Story

Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege review Megatron. He thinks he’s a hero in this one. | Image via Netflix.

The clunkily titled War For Cybertron on Netflix is a brand new anime take on the Transformers story. The series begins on Cybertron with a war between the Transformers already in full effect. The new anime focuses on the rift between two factions of Transformers, the Autobots and Decepticons. The premise of Siege is a little different than the other Transformers shows, with the Autobots as the rebels. The Decepticons seemingly hold all the power, while the Autobots are on the run, rising up against their leader, Megatron. 

Siege has a lot of references thrown in about how the Decepticons were the downtrodden in the Cybetronian society, who rose up against their oppressors. Along with Megatron, even the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime was part of the original uprising. Megatron mentions toiling in some mines, but it’s never clear who they revolted against for the current status quo. But the Decepticons eventually took over and now want complete control of Cybertron. Megatron plans to achieve this by wiping out the Autobots completely. And that’s basically the main setting and premise of this story. Although it’s something that other Decepticons have a problem with, as loyalties shift during the 6-episode series. 

How War For Cybertron: Siege Reinvents Transformers

Drama Image via Netflix.

There are some major differences in the new Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege review from the other iterations of the franchise. Firstly, with the Autobots being the rebellion in this version, the dynamic between the heroes is a lot more frayed. The anime series has the war taking a huge toll on the good guys, and it begins to show. It still fails to properly convey the seriousness of the situation, with the first few episodes just being characters standing around talking. But through exposition and imagery of Transformers laying about with dire injuries, it’s established that the Autobots are losing. 

The strained chain of command culminates in Optimus Prime’s co-leader, Ultra Magnus, surrendering to Megatron in the first episode alone. Using Ultra Magnus’s knowledge of Cybertronian history, Megatron learns of the Allspark, which he wants to use to reformat and destroy all Autobots to win the war. This plan doesn’t sit well with others under Megatron, as the ethical considerations of war becomes a major sub plot in the show. Magnus warns Prime of Megatron’s plans, and so Prime makes the hard decision to take the Allspark off-world to save all Autobot life. The first part of the anime trilogy is all about how both groups of Transformers must race to find the Allspark first. It’s the usual plot device for most Transformers shows or movies. 

New Transformers Anime Has Great Character Development

Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege review fight Image via Netflix.

Siege’s depiction of the Autobots is refreshing and different. Many of the popular iterations of Transformers shows the Autobots being goody-two-shoes who are all about the team. Optimus is always the noble and courageous leader whose wisdom goes unquestioned. Making them the underdogs in this new series is a great way to develop the characters as flawed, deep, and with some inner struggle. Optimus is not the all-knowing leader, but one who is just figuring out how to lead and make the hard choices. While his subordinates have little faith in the situation, to the point of desperation. 

Then there’s also the introduction of Bumblebee, who is usually the loyal and eager young soldier of the group. Whereas in Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege, Bumblebee is a neutral Transformer who refuses to take sides in the war. But when the situation forces his hand, he makes the hard call and chooses to do the right thing. The ambiguity of good and evil is a common theme in Siege, as defined by character on both sides questioning their choices.

Well known Autobot Ratchet is someone who sits out the war, choosing instead to act as a doctor to the injured on both sides. This moral code of his influences a wounded Decepticon called Impactor, who eventually shifts his loyalty to the Autobots. Even the end of the series saw one of Megatron’s loyal commanders, Jetfire, defect to the Autobots when he realizes Megatron’s plans for genocide. This blurring of good and evil through these characters adds an additional layer of complexity to the new show. 

The World Building Raises More Questions Than Answers

Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege review Guardians. There are those pesky Guardians. | Image via Netflix.

Despite Siege being a pretty good start to a proposed trilogy, the world-building is very underdeveloped. As mentioned, the origin of the Decepticons’ uprising is not really clear. Who oppressed them before, and how did they overthrow them? There are also mentions of how the Autobots and Decepticons are different factions, but it’s not mentioned if there are others. It feels like an attempt to create a society of inequality and class warfare, but not well enough. Then there’s also the matter of Alpha Trion. Alpha Trion is the mentor to Prime, Magnus, and Megatron. But he’s also looked on a legendary Transformer who had all knowledge of Cybertron’s world and history. How they factor into the story is also unclear as a virus from the Decepticons wipes out those protocols almost immediately after they’re introduced. 

There are also Guardians on Cybertron who are building-sized Transformers who seem to be like Gods. However, they haven’t taken a side in the war, even though their incredible size would be a considerable advantage to stopping it altogether. Optimus even reaches out to them to ask for their help, only to for them to ignore his pleas. Why the Guardians aren’t involved is never fully explained either.  

Siege Is The First Part Of A Planned Anime Trilogy

Elita Image via Netflix.

Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege is a great addition to the franchise. It’s a retelling that humanizes the already classic characters and adds substance to some of the more basic elements of the franchise. Given that it’s a trilogy, I’m hoping that the world-building expands in the upcoming parts. The cliffhanger ending of Siege definitely takes the story in a more familiar setting and creates anticipation for the next part of the trilogy. 

The visuals and CG anime style, while lacking in other anime like Ghost In The Shell, looks gorgeous in a story about machines and robots. The complaints I had about the CG anime looking clunky actually lends itself better to Transformers, when it’s a show about large boxy machines. The actual style of the Transformers are distinct, unique and never confusing, even in large action sequences. Something that I couldn’t say about any of the Michael Bay Transformers movies. The darker and grimmer setting of Cybertron, along with changing loyalties in a war really adds to the overall tone of the new anime series. 

Transformers: War For Cybertron: Siege is now streaming on Netflix. 

What did you think of the new Transformers anime? Let us know in the comments below. 

Featured image via Netflix. 

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

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