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.