There are a lot of complaints about the live
action Michael Bay movies. The robots have no personalities, the
story is threadbare, it’s all explosions and slow motion shots.
And so on.
In among the travesties is the portrayal of
Optimus Prime. Traditionally, the leader of the Autobots has been
known best by his tech spec motto: “Freedom is the right of all
sentient beings.” The movie version of the character even utters
those words in the first film.
Optimus Prime is a noble warrior. Brave,
selfless, powerful. The ultimate force of heroism to counter
Megatron’s ultimate evil.
The clearest indication that neither the
writers nor the director himself understand the character of
Optimus Prime is underscored in Revenge of the Fallen. In the
opening, Optimus is leading his Autobots in pursuit of Decepticons
anywhere in the world and when they encounter the Decepticons
hiding places, destroying them without pity. In the film’s climax,
he tears the Fallen’s head apart. In the sequel, Dark of the Moon,
he inspires his troops with the line “Let’s kill them all!” before
ultimately slaughtering Sentinel Prime and a wounded Megatron who
even suggests a truce before he is executed.
Hardly the actions of a heroic warrior.
Granted, this a cybernetic soldier engaged in
millennia of brutal war against a relentless enemy. It can
ultimately only end one way. The Decepticons will not rest until
they either succeed at their goals of galactic domination or are
permanently extinguished. Reason and compassion are not tools that
will succeed where they’re concerned. This is true of the classic
Decepticons in Generation One and it is true of the Bayverse
Decepticons as well.
Still, one has to question Optimus Prime’s
motivations in the Bay movies. Many fans have taken to referring
to this incarnation as “Murderous Prime” for obvious reasons.
Compare this Prime’s attitude toward slaughtering his enemies
against G1 Prime’s attitude in the original animated movie.
In the animated film, Optimus Prime also
decides to kill Megatron. Unlike the outcome in DOTM, however, it
is clear he has resigned himself to this task. Over the years his
enemy has tried many times and in many ways to succeed at his
goals of galactic conquest. In striking Autobot City on Earth, he
has murdered many of Prime’s most loyal warriors--among them,
Ratchet, Ironhide, Brawn and Wheeljack. He has strongly crossed a
line and Optimus knows that any hope he may have ever had of
reasoning with him has passed. This Prime resorts to execution as
a last resort because it will benefit the greater good. He does
not kill lightly.
This reaches the heart of the problem with the
Michael Bay movies. A cartoon from twenty five years ago, despite
its shortcomings, manages to portray a character that is an
automaton with a sense of actual morality. Granted, the Sunbow
series was not always heavy on characterization. Often the various
Transformers depicted were little more then archetypes at best. In
the grand scheme of things, though, we got a sense of personality
from all of the robot characters. Whether the Bay movies don’t
bother with characterization for the Transformers due to the
expense of animating the robots or out of a sense of laziness on
the part of the film makers, the end result is that we experience
none as viewers and thus have no impetus for why characters such
as Optimus Prime behave the way they do.
Is the Bayverse Optimus Prime a heroic, moral
character? Is he just as bad as Megatron in his own way? Perhaps
he is simply a machine that does as he is programmed to, acting
out in cold hard logic. Unfortunately, the movies have never dug
deep enough with the characters to truly help us understand.
That is the true failing of the live action
movies. All plot issues aside, we are left with superficiality.
All style, no substance.
Til All Are One!
Issue #11, FALL 2011
REVIEW: Recent TF toys!
Transformers Prime Episodes
REVIEW: Machine Robo Rescue
FICTION: Spotlight Primus (by
PROFILE: Angerfish (by Jay
Animorph Darius (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Annihitron (by
PROFILE: Anonymous (by Jay
PROFILE: Apeshit (by Jay
PROFILE: Axetaq (by Jay Gutzman)
FICTION: Transformers Prime:
Unless noted, this issue was produced by Tony "Thunder"
Klepack. Contributions for future issues are welcome and
(Some stock graphics were designed by Peter Phelps. Thanks
to him for his many efforts).
The Transformers are Copyright and Trademark 2011
Hasbro/Takara Tomy. All rights Reserved. The TransMasters
are a Non-profit club for and by Transfans.