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!


Transmasters Magazine. Issue #11, FALL 2011

REVIEW: Recent TF toys!
REVIEW: Transformers Prime Episodes
REVIEW: Machine Robo Rescue
FICTION: Spotlight Primus (by Johan Piest)
PROFILE: Angerfish (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Animorph Darius (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Annihitron (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Anonymous (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Apeshit (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Axetaq (by Jay Gutzman)

FICTION: Transformers Prime: Unrequited
  Comic Round-up

Unless noted, this issue was produced by Tony "Thunder" Klepack. Contributions for future issues are welcome and encouraged!

(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.

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