My response to my own “Absurdly Awesome Finale” series

It’s probably more courageous to critique your own art than someone else’s art, especially when people know that you put years of your life into something to please an audience for no profit only for you to say when it’s finally finished that you’re disappointed by its story. I suppose that makes me my own worst critic since the recently finished “Transformers: The Absurdly Awesome Finale” (2015-2017) series isn’t the first time a series I poured months into disappointed me afterwards.

That previous series, “Transformers: The Next Generation One” (2013-2014), tells the story of how a Decepticon—formerly named Deadlock, now named Drift—joins the Autobots and helps them defeat the Decepticons. Except it was built so much around comedy amid the drama that I somehow missed a couple of obvious opportunities: explain how Drift even found the Autobot base, and have Drift lead the Autobots to the Decepticon base instead of letting the Autobots wait around for the Decepticons to come out of hiding. Heck, it should have been about how Drift decided to join the Autobots in the forefront instead of explaining it in exposition after the fact.

Nonetheless, my biggest issues with “TNG1” are logical, and we can sympathize with its protagonist right off the bat. That’s where I think “The Absurdly Awesome Finale” falls flat.

“The Absurdly Awesome Finale” connects and climaxes several of my previous continuities via alternate universe portals. The series starts off in the Jaggedverse, or my version of Michael Bay’s Transformers (with a couple other universes brought into the mix later). When we first meet the main Autobots—the “good” transformers—who we’ll be journeying with throughout the series, they’re big jerks, jerks to the Decepticons—the bad transformers—and jerks to each other. I meant this as a parody of how Michael Bay depicts his Autobots, and the point of the story is how the Autobots learn to value the lives of their enemies, but we’re hardly given a chance to sympathize with them right off the bat. Heck, the way the Decepticons are shown to recognize the Autobots’ distorted values more than the Autobots do makes it easier to sympathize with the Decepticons.

Sure, these Autobots do encounter a universe where enemies’ lives are valued, but the way I kicked off this series’s characterization casts a shadow over the rest of it. Having the Autobots start out as jerks and end as noblemen works for a morality tale, but for a sci-fi/war epic, one that couldn’t always avoid the darker side of war (i.e. the aftermath of the attack from Part 2), it needed to show a sympathetic side to the Autobots, especially to each other, before it showed their ugly side toward their enemies.

The moment all the Autobots realize the personhood of their enemies comes in Part 4 from a bizarre vision. Unfortunately, from there, I couldn’t deliver what I wanted to deliver. I had a huge final part planned, one that would involve a battle between Autobots and Decepticons from three different dimensions. Before the battle, the Autobot leaders would have tried to negotiate with the Decepticons, but, of course, it doesn’t work, except for when Jagged Optimus forgives his former mentor Sentinel for betraying the Autobots.

I was not ready to film something so chaotic on that big a scale. Over the course of the following year, I kept scaling down the script, figuring out a both satisfying and filmable way to end the story. Just when I was about to give up and announce that the story won’t have an ending, I finally came up with a device to tell that this massive battle and Optimus’s forgiving happened without showing it. What is shown is the fatal climactic battle with the villainous Starscream.

Of course, Starscream’s a stubborn ghost in possession of another, and the only way to take him out is to kill him with a special ghost-killing device (to avoid major problematic spiritual implications, I made it a joke that not even the transformers know why transformer ghosts exist). Sentinel tries to negotiate with Starscream, but I’m not sure the Autobot leaders’ angry attitudes during this battle (my music choice of which had me geeking out as I was editing it) helps the theme of “learning to love your enemies”. I mean, it needed a cool climactic battle, but the good guys could have been a bit more resistant to participate in it. Even so, by itself, Part 5 is my favorite episode out of all of them.

“The Absurdly Awesome Finale” was certainly a learning curve for me, including a learning curve in directing others’ voice performances; I’m proud of it more on a technical level than a thematic level. My audience may love these characters, but I wish I’d written them in a way that I could love. I made this just for my fans; next time I provide for them, I’m going to make sure I’m proud of what I give them before I release it.

My response to Catholic Skywalker’s response to me

Fellow blogger Catholic Skywalker and I have been following each other for quite some time. As his name would suggest, he loves Star Wars. In fact, he defends Star Wars more than anyone I’ve seen. He could make you look at the Prequels in a new light. He even contributed to Gaming with Faith (my contributions to which I’ve taken down due to my developed apprehensions about video games), and he’s a more qualified critic than I am, having seen over 2,100 movies over his lifetime, and viewing a wider scope of movies in theaters than I do.

Our first big response to each other was a couple years ago where I, through a blog and post that no longer exists, criticized A New Hope for being “bland, silly, rainy day-type entertainment”, and Catholic Skywalker went full-on Aquinas on it. Given how little I was looking at the big picture, I deserved that one.

Now, with “The Generational Choice: A Response to Catholic Wannabe Critic on The Force Awakens, he’s responded to my latest critique of Star Wars, “Where Disney’s Star Wars Went Wrong”. He is much more appreciative of this critique than he was of the previous critique, and so am I. And once again, he’s proven how he’s both a better critic and a better Catholic than I am, particularly because of his understanding of humanity.

The main point of his response is that even though Return of the Jedi may have brought an end to the Sith, it was the next generation’s choice to continue with that peace, and it failed. As he states, “Human beings have the power to reign down utter destruction on ourselves. But even the best of us can only offer hope with no guarantees. All we can ever leave the next generation is a chance. Even Jesus’ saving work is ultimately a free invitation. The choice is still up to us.”

Even with that, while I can excuse the First Order, I still find it a stretch to say that it was humanity’s choice to keep the balance to the Force that Anakin Skywalker was prophesied to bring. If merely defeating the Dark Side balances out the Force, then the Force could theoretically be balanced out multiple times in history; why was it so important that a Chosen One would balance out the Force if balancing the Force can be replicated? Perhaps it’s our choice to follow the path to salvation, but our prophesied redemption through Christ was never undone and repeated.

The whole “Chosen One permanently defeating the Sith” prophesy doesn’t line up with how humanity actually works, but the Dark Side returning doesn’t line up with how the whole previous Saga actually works. Saying that a spiritual evil can be permanently killed is a lie, but having that evil return contradicts what was prophesied. Perhaps the Chosen One angle doesn’t enhance Return of the Jedi‘s climax at all but rather problematizes it.

That’s why the Original Trilogy by itself stands the test of time. Without the Prequels, there’d be no promise that the Dark Side would be permanently defeated, and without the Sequels, there’d be no way for the Saga to contradict itself. Star Wars would not be about the fulfillment of a prophecy but rather about a son who saves his father for its own sake, which is still why Luke did it as he never knew that his father was a fallen messiah.

Then again, they could still pull that “Rey is the real Chosen One” twist I theorized…