Character Issues: Rodimus Prime (Animated Generation 1)

The Stats:
Name: Hot Rod, Rodimus Prime
Height: Giant Robot Height
Weight: Giant Robot Weight
Powers: Giant Robot based powers
Type: Wuss in Charge
Excels at: Making you miss Optimus Prime
Fails at: Leading, Not Transforming into a Station Wagon

The Character:

For people of a certain age, the Death of Optimus Prime was a signature moment in their childhood. In 1986, The Transformers were peaking in popularity.  Optimus was everybody’s favorite and those who liked Bumblebee got their lunch money taken…it was a simpler time.  At the peak of the popularity of the US Transformers series, somebody decided to maximize on the Epicness of the Animated Series and gave us Transformers: The Movie.  At the time, this movie was a departure from the kid-friendly tone of the show but, I am only now appreciating the oddness of this movie.   It was cynical, ultraviolet, bizarrely paced and had some of the most 80’s theme music in the history of film.

The movie was filled with death.  Characters that we enjoyed in the first and second season of the show were BUTCHERED in the first 20 minutes of the movie.

From the second Prowls eyes dimmed and smoke poured out of his mouth, to watching Starscream getting atomized or watching the Seekers getting crushed in the mouth of Unicron, this movie had a level of violence that many of the children and adults who saw this in theaters were not prepared for.  All of it was jarring.   The throbbing 80’s rock soundtrack, hearing Judd Nelson, Eric Idle, Orson Wells and Leonard Nimoy voice characters that they had no intention of reprising, new characters being placed front and center with little introduction or explanation.   I digress.  None of this matched the death of Optimus Prime.  It may have been one of the greatest feats of trolling of a fan base in the history of pop culture.  It left children RACKED with grief and the adults who brought them to the theater, unprepared to console them.

Near the end of the movie, a new hero arose to save the day.  Hot Rod grew 10 feet, got some bass in his voice and became Rodimus Prime.  After saving the day with his Plot Device power-up.  He looked like a worthy successor to the legacy of Optimus.  He even uttered the iconic phrase, “Autobots! Transform and Roll Out!” Things were looking bright.  Then he transformed into a Station Wagon.

The Issues:

Rodimus was everything nobody wanted in a leader.  A whiny, indecisive, chumpbot who was often handicapped by an inferiority complex. He doubts EVERYTHING he does.  He often seeks validation for his decisions.  His right-hand man spends more time giving him pep talks than anything else.  Gone is the kinda interesting Hot Rod that rushed blindly into action with a cocky swagger that we were introduced to in the Movie, he was only there as a tease. The guy we are stuck with is a boring Robo-Lame. He kept reminding himself, his teammates and us how he wasn’t Optimus Prime.

Even his vehicle form screamed “Inadequate! and “Ineffective!”  He transformed into a Station Wagon.

A. Station. Wagon.

Bringing you a shipment full of SUCK.
Bringing you a shipment full of SUCK.

Wrap your brain around that one.  Everyone else transformed into Jets, Race cars, Trucks, Space Ships….he was Transforming into a family car.  Granted Perspector and Blastar had strange transformations, but they each had a distinct use

Rodimus was such a disaster, that the producers of the show brought back Optimus to quiet the fans.

The Fix:

This Rodimus is drastically different than the guy currently in the IDW Transformers series, who is a brash, Hot Head who is half leader/POV character and half comic relief. This character has already been fixed.  The current incarnation of Rodimus Prime is a funny, interesting character.  He is an overconfident, self-obsessed jerk and a constant source of comedy.  He was given the name Rodimus Prime sarcastically by his teammates because nobody takes him seriously as a leader, though he has proven marginally effective in the position.

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The creators of the shows and comics that featured Rodimus listened to the fan complaints and fixed all of the lingering complaints regarding this character.  If they chose to have him an Optimus Prime’s replacement, I think incorporating his ego into who he is as a leader will preserve this version of the character ensuring he remains interesting.  And the Rod Pod…always the Rod Pod.

The Rod Pod. A testament to Rodimus's Ego.
The Rod Pod. BEHOLD Rodimus’s Ego.

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