Transformers: Kingdom Review

100 pounds of Transformers in a 6 pound sack.

Howdy! I’m going to spoil a lot of stuff, so here’s your warning. I’m not going to break it down by episode because the episodes aren’t really self-contained chapters. My last bit about Transformers covered how Arcee, and female characters in general, have evolved in the franchise and you can read that here. Okay that’s the boring stuff now here we go!

  • The CG looks great almost all the time. There’s a weird thing where on Optimus Prime specifically, his midsection just kind of like stretches when he turns at the waist for some reason and does not move in any way remotely possible for something made of metal. But the show looks great, and it was neat to see the very faithfully recreated Beast Wars characters given a new CGI facelift.
  • Music and sound effects are fine. The score is nothing disagreeable, but nothing that blew me away. At times it gets into a synth-style feel that I really like, but otherwise you kind of just forget about it. The sound effects are good and well-dubbed, which sounds like a weird thing to note, but it really helps a CGI thing feel smoother.
  • The show really tries to tell a big story and be more than a toy commercial. This does not necessarily work out, but the attempt seems sincere and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a proper film/television reboot of the franchise that’s this faithful.
  • Lots of subtle nods to stuff from the original Beast Wars show like Dinobot sacrificing himself, Beast Wars Megatron’s way of saying “Yess-” after everything, and Starscream being a ‘ghost’(he abruptly starts being able to turn invisible at one point and then it’s hastily explained that he has some kind of thingy he stole at some point, which Megatron steals and uses once, then forgets about)
  • They finally pulled the trigger on officially making Elita-1 Optimus’ girlfriend, which is nice. I don’t think you need to cram romantic arcs into everything, but if you’re going to bother differentiating between boy and girl robots and have other characters actively flirt, you may as well establish that they have romances. Unfortunately she’s dead in this season and the show really makes sure there’s a long scene where Optimus finds her dead frozen corpse and blames himself and Bumblebee is like “yeah i mean kind of true but we gotta go”, lol

BAD

  • Six 25 minute episodes is not enough time to tell the story they wanted to tell. The prior seasons felt about right, but this one needs to cram in time travel and the whole Beast Wars storyline and the conclusion to the trilogy AND introduce the whole Unicron saga. You wind up with an inability to explore any of these plots right and instead the show just whizzes all over the place and relies very heavily on convenient mcguffins to just do whatever needs doing at any given moment. There’s a million fun things you could do with crossing the G1 and Beast Wars casts, or retelling the Unicron saga, or exploring the alternate future where Unicron turns Optimus into Nemesis. But Kingdom has to zip through it at breakneck speed so while you get some nice tastes, you never get to bite into it.
  • Plot bad. Sorry! It is! Too many mcguffins! You’ve got the Matrix which Optimus and Megatron are slapfighting over because it has varied mystical powers but also lets them into a room which has the Allspark which is like the soul/afterlife of Cybertron but also has a consciousness but also has other varied mystical abilities, but first they need the golden disc which is future Megatron’s diary which will allow current Megatron to predict everything. But wouldn’t him getting that diary immediately start changing things? Sometimes yes and sometimes no! A big climactic scene occurs when Optimus Prime and Optimus Primal are double-teaming Megatron and have him beat, but then the AllSpark appears in Prime’s head as his dead girlfriend and says the only way to win is to surrender and give Megatron the Matrix. So that’s what they do, and Megatron goes into the Allspark room and then falls in a hole that he apparently didn’t see coming even though his diary has been spot-on about everything until that point. And then the door opens and the Optimuses go in and a little blue light appears and turns into the Matrix so then they have that again. And then Megatron just shows up shortly thereafter again like nothing happened. So WHAT WAS THE POINT OF ANY OF THAT?
  • Almost every…character…talks…like they…are out…of…breath…and…it is…fucking…infuriating. This is especially true for Optimus Prime, I think because they want to add gravitas to him.
  • This season has gone the route of some other Transformers stories, in which the relatively small central cast appear to be the Only Transformers In Existence, yet they still talk and act as if their conflict is a grand and massive-scale war. This tends to happen with the CGI ones because of expenses, I presume. The first two chapters just used copied assets and tried to create a sense of lots of other characters around, but this one seems to pretty clearly imply everyone on Cybertron is dead except for the two dozen or so characters standing around at the end. But whenever the next trilogy starts, no doubt a bunch of new characters will just be around. They could have easily shown that the Allspark was bringing back dead characters, but instead explicitly showed that no dude those characters are gone. And they could have easily shown it maybe producing new ‘sparks’ to suggest a new generation was being born. But they didn’t do that either.

WEIRD

  • They are definitely trying to do something with Blackarachnia’s sexuality but, uh, it’s shoehorned in with an odd and somewhat forced style. At one point she sees Arcee and says “the pink one’s kinda cute” and I thought oh, hahah, okay so a very subtle wink that maybe she likes that other girlbot and also perhaps even an acknowledgment of how much uhhhhh creative fanart of the two exists. Cool. But then later when saved by another lady robot, Air Razor, the scene is framed in very flirty context and she kisses her on the cheek. Do Transformers kiss? And there’s ANOTHER scene where Air Razor threatens Blackarachnia not to betray the good guys, and Blackarachnia says “Well I like it rough”!!! What is going on!!!
  • This was not enough to get a ‘bad’ tick but Beast Wars Megatron’s voice is really out of place. Everyone else sounds like they did in the original Beast Wars show and sound robot-y, but BW Megatron just sounds like some guy. He also is like the only one who…doesnt…talk like…this, which just makes it stand out more.
  • Dear Transformers Writers: I know we’ve advanced Optimus Prime into a sort of self-doubting spiritual leader who doesn’t like violence, but I promise it’s okay if he just kicks someone’s ass once in a while! There’s such a thing as making a giant cool robot a little “too emo” and I think we’re at that point!
  • Tarantulas making no appearance is disappointing, I’m guessing this was because they didn’t want two spiders? I understand not having Terrorsaur, I guess, but where the hell was Waspinator??? Come on! Also what was the deal with there being like 50 Scorponoks; are they just drones or are they random goons built the same way like seekers or what?

Final word: still good and worth the watch. Plenty for old fans, but people totally new to Transformers might honestly have no idea what the hell is going on. Check it out but try not to think about anything!