Time to get my geek rant on. I’m a Transformers fan, which, being thirty seven years old, comes mostly from my childhood folding and unfolding plastic toys, and I never really grew out of it. As I got older, I came to admire the engineering involved in making those toys, the ordered nature of the thought that had to go into building them.
Needless to say, I was excited to hear about the live action Transformers film, and though it was directed by Michael Bay (EXPLOSIONS!), it had Steven Spielberg as the executive producer, so I didn’t think it would be too bad. It, well, it was underwhelming, especially in the kibblitzed designs of the robots and the annoying nature of Shia LaBeef. But, well, o.k., it wasn’t entirely awful.
Then came Transformers 2. There’s so much wrong with that movie that it’s hard for me to encapsulate it all other than to say it is just WRONG. From racist caricature characters to a human being “chosen by the Matrix”, the movie was one long goddamned train wreck.
Being a writer, I sometimes stop and thing about how I would have done the story instead. That trails uncomfortably close to fan fiction, a genre I avoid, but I still like thinking about how I would have told the story instead. It was because of thinking this through that I stumbled upon yet another reason I really hate that movie: it wiped out the idea of equality among the Autobots.
To truly understand what I’m getting at, you have to go back to both the original cartoon series and the original animated movie. In both we’re shown that an Autobot is not “born” a Prime. They become a Prime by selection of the Matrix. Optimus Prime was Orion Pax before the Matrix chose him. If you prefer the Dreamwave re-invisioning of Generation 1, he was Optronix (Orion to his friends) and a simple data archivist. In any event, he was not “born” a Prime. No Prime was, save Primus himself, which is sort of self-referential (God is a god sort of thing). When Optimus dies in Transformers: The Movie, the Matrix is eventually passed on to Hot Rod who then becomes Rodimus Prime. The Matrix does more than convey authority to the new Prime – it physically changes them, making them larger and more powerful.
Now we get back to the Michael Bay (EXPLOSIONS!) movie and what do we find? The “Primes” are apparently a ruling class of Cybertronians. Optimus is their descendant, and he’s never had the Matrix, it’s been hidden on Earth for eons. Really? That’s how they want to go with this? Now there’s no chance for Hot Rod to become the next Prime. There’s no chance really for the passing of responsibility from Sentinel Prime to Orion Pax or Optronix. There’s just being better by birth, and Optimus is the leader by birthright and not because he was chosen.
Way to completely wreck a good thing! So lets chalk this one up to being yet another problem with the Transformers sequel, and wait and see what the third movie brings. Maybe after this they can get rid of Michael Bay (EXPLOSIONS!) and reboot the franchise.