I’ll be honest with you- as a child of the 90s, I love Beast Wars. My original Beast Wars Megatron, though a little worse for wear, is one of the shining treasures of my childhood collection, and my friends and I quote the campy-to-the-point-you-swear-it-was-intentional of David Kaye’s Megatron so often you’d think we had a condition that caused us to overdramatically say “Yesss” unnecessarily.
My point is, you tell me you’re bringing back Beast Wars, you’d best not miss.
A Pretty Decent Plot, Kind Of
Unfortunately, like the rest of the War for Cybertron series, that’s exactly what they did. Just like how Siege was a really poor attempt at grabbing fans of the IDW comics with lip-service at best, Kingdom is a dull display of “look, remember this!” and then wheeling out the Times Square legally-distinct versions of our 90s childhood.
The worst part is I actually like the setup- Optimus and Co land on Earth, having gone through a portal where they meet a new conflict- one fought between the Maximals and Predacons, who are supposedly from Cybertron’s dark future where Optimus failed to save Cybertron. The Maximals are largely cynical and distrustful of the Autobots- after all, they’re born of a terrible timeline, one directly caused by the Autobot’s failure in their own time.
The problem is that’s pretty much where anything about the show stops being good. It’s a problem endemic to Netflix’s Transformers series- while the broad strokes always sound good, the moment to moment is always insufferable, as characters try to cram as much fanservicey dialogue in at every minute, but never commit enough to actually make it feel rewarding to watch.
Fanservice But Not In A Good Way
Despite Beast Wars being almost required watching to get most of these characters, I found most of my distaste for Transformers War For Cybertron: Kingdom coming from aforementioned love for Beast Wars. The voice cast was given a script that sounds straight out of Beast Wars, then seemingly told not to ham it up, despite that being literally the appeal of the original Beast Wars.
The worst offender of this is Predacon Megatron, who sounds like a frat boy, yet retains the original character’s habits of saying “yessss” dramatically. You can almost see the direction trying to lean away from the campiness of its predecessor, almost as if to brag that “we made it WORK!” when, unfortunately, it doesn’t.
It’s not just Megatron, either- a lot of character’s flourishes are gone, such as Dinobot snarling as he speaks, and Rattrap’s Wise Guy mannerisms are also severely dialed down. It’s just not as fun as it used to be, and I would have rather they just made them entirely new personalities a la Machinima’s Combiner Wars series instead of this half-baked attempt at “no, but see this is the series you like!”
Did I want a full on 1:1 remake of Beast Wars? Of course not. But I like I said earlier, if you’re going to bank on using nostalgia to sell your series, actually make the callbacks, you know, good.
Should You Watch Transformers War For Cybertron: Kingdom?
In case it wasn’t clear, I didn’t like Transformers War For Cybertron: Kingdom. As the next part of an unimpressive trilogy, it gets the job done, I suppose. But aside from that, its attempts at fanservice for what Hasbro has deemed the next most profitable sector of the Transformers fandom, it loses sight of what made Beast Wars so great and just kind of goes for the most bland approach to say “This is a Dark Transformers Series not for babies”.
That being said, if you’ve enjoyed Earthrise and Siege, I see no reason you wouldn’t enjoy Kingdom- it’s got all the things one could conceivably like about its predecessors, maintaining the same standard of quality. If you are strictly just “I dig giant robots” there’s plenty to gush over here too- the Beast Modes should be a nice change of pace for you.
Now, if only Netflix will add Beast Wars to its lineup, that’s a thought, yesss…