Spoilers, roll out!
Assembling a new reboot of G1 was always going to be a hit. You could literally have done little, deliver a mediocre product and still win the day. Fortunately for us fans, there’s teeth in this reinvention of the original saga and I am going to spoil just a bit on what I liked and disliked without giving away the story. Since everyone is familiar with the original premise we can dispense of explanations and go right into fashioning a surprisingly decent story. You will recognize your favorite characters for the most part.
Transformers: War for Cybertron (2020) was created by James Barbatano and Drew Hopper. It stars the voices of Jason Marnocha as Megatron, Jake Foushee as Optimus Prime and Linsay Rousseau as Elita-1. Yes, the Decepticons have already rose to power and thrown down the original governing body of Cybertron and are hunting the Autobots. Surprisingly, the show does not play as cleanly with the usual benevolence of the Autobots and the assumed evil of the Decepticons. We have some shades of grey in both sides.
It’s no longer as simplified as a cartoon. Optimus is still the heroic leader of the Autobots. He’s not infallible, he doubts himself and his plans depend on things working out by a hair. He’s still the leader willing to sacrifice himself before putting anybody else in danger. Megatron is the leader of a faction long time put down and oppressed, now dangerously hostile. But he’s not quite the megalomaniac villain of the cartoon. He does seem to have a quiet respect and admiration from his enemies, until he slowly seems to find himself without options but the brutal ones.
Surprisingly the show has time to develop other characters rather than have everyone else in the background. Bumblebee’s personality as a mercenary for hire doesn’t quite sat well with me, but it wasn’t completely over the top. Elita-1 is more developed here, she’s a leader and a warrior that challenges Optimus for being too trustful and running into danger. Jetfire is the rather troubled leader of the Seekers, with ambitious Starscream always determined to take over. And yes, Starscream’s voice (Frank Todaro) is still as grating as the original cartoon.
The main conflict is still between Megatron and Optimus. Actually, one the more interesting things is how you can see hints and shadows of other incarnations of each character influencing these new interpretations. Shockwave is cold and ruthless, willing to break any codes of honor to get results. Megatron has reservations and still some semblance of ideals initially. Soundwave is mostly in the background here, but he’s still as effective with his minions and capacity to listen into transmissions and signals.
Perhaps the best surprise was Ratchet and Impactor. Ratchet is willing to forgo any ideal and just save lives regardless of faction. He’s the opposite of a fanatic, actually willing to work for Cybertron regardless of who’s in power. Impactor is a Decepticon that is saved by Ratchet and willing to leave his allegiance to Megatron for his own individual ideals. We also get a little character development on Mirage. Interesting note, he’s still an outlier in this version, but his power of invisibility has been changed for that of creating illusions (which is funny because Hound is right there).
It’s not flawless. I think we still needed Bumblebee as the more naive character, rather than a jaded mercenary which honestly doesn’t fit the mold. I’d like a little more explanation on Megatron as he becomes unhinged and willing to sacrifice any ideal due to his own ambition. He’s not as blinded by it as his earlier depictions, though. He’s still capable at least to discern what Optimus is up to, but in classic fashion a lot of his plans go awry because the good guys have better luck or the bad guys have bad aim. It’s also darker than the cartoon – we have characters that get tortured and die and sometimes not even in that order.
Strongly recommended for Transformers fans as a very decent reboot of the franchise, but let’s make sure I am not overselling it – it’s still a toy marketing ploy but with a superior production than usual. The show is definitely less child-oriented and aimed more at the more sophisticated generation with a high nostalgia factor for the older generations of fans out there. It also has a sprinkle of easter eggs here and there. I am hoping that the next season installment, Earthrise, will bring even more familiar yet renewed storylines and more character development.
That will do for now.