Transformers have been a mainstay in popular culture since the 80’s. As someone who grew up with the original cartoon, the series has taken on many shapes and sizes over the years. From the Michael Bay movies and subsequent Bumblebee follow-up on the big screen to the variety of kid-orientated reboots (many of which available on Netflix) there seems to be no stopping this speeding Autobot train.
For fans of the franchise, the War For Cybertron trilogy is nothing new. Before the Autobots made their way to Earth, a War breaks out across Cybertron that sees allegiances split between the Autobots and Decepticons.
This simple good VS evil story is something we’ve seen a number of times before but the Netflix series cleverly adds some tweaks to help it stand out. Much like the visually appealing CG animation, War For Cybertron is not interested in retreading well-worn ground.
Instead, the story here plays out with shades of metallic grey, beginning with Bumblebee’s refusal to join Optimus Prime. Of course, that’s only one side of the story and as the 6 episodes progress, the story sees this conflict grow. The battle lines are drawn and both sides begin their hunt for the mythical Allspark.
Given there’s three chapters of this, it’ll come as little surprise that the final episode ends on a cliffhanger. Along the way the story plays out with the usual narrative beats you’d expect but there’s some nice character work here and an extended period of time on Cybertron that helps bring this ruinous world to life.
Visually, Transformers: War For Cybertron looks great. If there was ever a case for CGI animation, this is it. The backdrops are moody, grim and full of world-building detail. The Autobots and Decepticons both have distinct designs too and the lighting work is exemplary.
Having said that though, the fight sequences still look a little lethargic at times and some of the running scenes feel clumsy and slow. For the most part though, these are nitpicks in what’s otherwise a visually impressive animated offering.
While the darker tone is a welcome change of pace from the bright kid-centric delights of old, this moodier feel spills over to the voice acting too. Many of the actors onboard here fail to really elevate their characters and bring some much-needed charisma to their roles. Most of them sound quite similar and some of Optimus Prime’s booming commands sound closer to what you’d expect from Megatron.
Starscream is probably the best of the bunch though, followed closely by Megatron who commands a decent amount of power through his vocals. It helps too that the underlying atmospheric score complements the visuals nicely.
Transformers: War For Cybertron gets off to a pretty good start with its first Chapter. The story will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s followed Transformers over the years but the character work helps to push this above mediocrity.
Visually, the show looks great but it still suffers from the same issues other CGI offerings have too. The fight animations and expressive facial work (this last point not really an issue for Transformers but CG animation as a whole) continues to hold this medium back but there’s definitely a lot of potential here moving into Chapter 2.
It’s not the best animated offering of the year, but it is miles better than Bay’s Transformer films which is reason enough to check this out.