This is a new feature called Lost in Translation where I take characters who have managed to crossover to multiple forms of media but look unfamiliar to those who love them.
Optimus Prime. For those that grew up on the first Transformers Animated Series, there were few heroes that loomed larger than Optimus. He was everything we thought a hero and leader should be. He was strong, courageous, fair….Optimus was THAT Dude. He was the most upstanding guy most of us knew and he was a cartoon robot. What can I say? It was the Reagan Era, times were rough everywhere but the Suburbs.
When Optimus died in the Animated Movie, I was inconsolable. It was jarring and likely when I started losing my innocence. My seven-year old brain twisted around the harsh reality of cruelty in the world. The only salve the movie provided after butchering our hero took the form of Rodimus Prime (Character Issues: Rodimus Prime in the pipeline). He looked to be poised to carry on the tradition of awesomeness forged by Optimus…then he transformed….into a Station Wagon.
We were Donkey Punched back into reality.
Prime returned to lead the Autobots some time near the end of the US run of the Animated series, righting the wrongs of the Rodimus Era.
More or less, comic book Optimus remains true to this formula. Optimus is former Police Commander turned war-weary General who refuses to compromise his morals even though he is carrying the emotional baggage of millions of years of war. The IDW Transformers books really do an excellent job fleshing out the psychology of Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively as well as the politics that drive their causes.
Then the Bayformers happened. In 2007, grown ups were shoving children out of the way to buy their tickets to the Michael Bay’s vision of our beloved Transformers. We were thrilled with seeing it on the big screen and overlooked many glaring plot holes and narrative inconsistencies. In 2009 we were forced to accept the fact that the Optimus of Bay’s Universe was dipped in crazy sauce. He was joyous about killing any Cybertronians who opposed him. A Summary Executing, Face Ripping, Heart Smashing Death Machine screaming shit like “I’ll KILL YOU ALL!” and “DIE!”.
He gleefully dispatches his opponents with the passion of a spree killer. Just watch the last three movies. Prime is on some Mickey and Malory shit through most of it while occasionally dropping sporadic musings about justice and freedom. This Prime is Machete in the body of a 40 foot tall robot. In the third movie treats Megatron the way the creatures from the Predator movies treat humans when they are on a cross-Galactic safari.
In the IDW comic series. Once the Autobots had defeated the Decepitcons, Prime went against the wishes of many of his fellow Autobots, spared Megatron from execution and granted him a trial.
As part of his sentence, Prime had Megatron read a prepared statement joining the Autobots, denouncing the Decepticon cause as well as asking all Decepticons to lay down arms and work towards peace.
This splintered the remaining Decepticon resistance and granted the Autobots more ability to control them. It was a nuanced and thoughtful way of winning the war, sparing countless of millions lives in the process.
Bayformers Prime tho….
Optimus Prime was a Hero before he was protagonist in a movie franchise. He was a hero because he fought to preserve life. He fought because he had to. He didn’t do this joyfully. Killing was a was part of the war Prime was involved in, but it was not something Prime enjoyed. Prime was symbol of hope. He was strong not only physically, but able to resist the darkness that invariably comes with millions of years of warfare. Prime was not a bloodlusted psycho because of it, he fought to end the conflict at every turn while trying to prevent other sentient species from being collateral casualties. Bring that guy back. No more of the face tearing lunatic who quips as he tears his opponents from limb to limb and crushes their hearts in his bare hands. Let Optimus act like a hero and not simply the guy fighting Decepticons.