Feb 16, 2011

[Transformers] FlutterFly Optimus Prime

In the beginning, things were as simple as black and white. Autobots were pretty much cars and lacked the ability to fly on their own. Deceptions were evil and so not only could the "cheat" by being able to fly without any clear means of propulsion, they also got the somewhat cooler, more violent alternate moves in the form of tanks, jets and all that good stuff.

Flying Autobots

Although Autobots did have a few jetpacks on hand that provided limited flight options based on the fuel capacity of those little backpacks. I have no idea what kind of physics would justify the amount of sustained thrust they manage with a relatively small amount of fuel / reactant, but that's too much to get into. This is still a cartoon universe after.

But over the years, it's pretty evident that there was some sort of an obsession with making Autobots, particularly Optimus Prime, fly. Don't believe me? Then let's take a quick review.

Beyond the jetpacks of the Generation 1 timeline, it seems that there was a fair amount of focus on giving Optimus Prime flight in his future incarnations. While I won't get into the details of the Japanese cartoons since, well let's face it - almost everyone had the power to fly given the mecha approach to Transformers over there, the US stuff alone is enough to give us a lot of materials.

Take for example the Beast Wars / Beast Machines cartoons, which were radically different than other Transformers cartoons. The show initially gave a great purpose for Transformer alternate moves - protection against the excessive energon fields of prehistoric Earth - but also limited them to organic / animal forms. But beyond this change in aesthetics, they also made one major tweak to the balance of good and evil:

Beast Wars Optimus PrimalBeast Machines Optimus Primal

They gave us a flying monkey! Well, flying apes anyway, if you're going to be sensitive about that sort of thing. Why on Earth Optimus Primal needed the ability to fly when most other Maximals couldn't besides those with avian alternate modes (e.g. Airazor) is one of those mysteries that we'll never solve. But you have to admit that it was a nice way to try and balance the odds to some degree.

And remember, he didn't even need an external jetpack - those were already built-in.

Then came the Unicron Trilogy as covered in Transformers Armada / Energon / Cybertron storylines, which eventually got into the whole Japanese-driven need for robots to combine into larger robots. It's something that's a staple of the Super Sentai and mecha shows in Japan when you think about it so for what is essentially another Japanese show ported to the US the need for combiners is not at all surprising.

Armada Optimus Prime / Jetfire

Thus this incarnation of Optimus Prime didn't have much going for him apart from an automatically transforming trailer body until they decided to let him combine with the likes of Jetfire or Wing Saber to form a flying version of Optimus. So we were back with the need for some external add-on to make Optimus get off the ground (and I won't even get into Galaxy Force Optimus right now, but maybe later on in this rant).

Energon Optimus Prime / Wing Saber

While I never really got into the post Michael Bay kiddie cartoon Transformers Animated since it just so wrong for me, we do need to stop and evaluate this particular Optimus Prime especially given the following image:

Transformers Animated Optimus Prime

For most of the series he was still your classic flightless bird like the rest of the Autobots. But all that changed when he asked for Ratchet to build wings for him so he could fly. The resulting Wingblade Optimus Prime construct was weird and highly reminiscent of other Japanese anime. And he had a big hammer.

By this point it's clear that we left the original notions that flight is best achieved by rocket packs and boosters (G1 / Beast Wars / Beast Machines) has given way to what could be a Japanese-inspired motif of wings (Armada / Energon / Cybertron / Animated). But at least the wings were generally limited to look like those of a jet or small plane of some sort.

Now we get to the Michael Bay live-action movies, and you have to admit you can't get more American than this lover of high explosives and revealing cleavage shots. The first movie kept Optimus Prime firmly on the ground, the sequel gave us this strange amalgamation:

ROTF Optimus Jetfire

ROTF Optimus Prime could combine with ROTF Jetfire to form...whatever you want to call that. I remember when I saw that on the big screen, it was clear that Michael Bay had managed something amazing...proving that a Centurions live-action movie could be made!

But that wasn't as bad as what Bay had for us next. Seriously, I can't believe he did this - and when the news broke out just before the new Super Bowl trailer for Transformers: The Dark of the Moon, well I was beside myself. Just look.

DOTM Ultimate Optimus Prime

OPTIMUS PRIME IS A FAIRY! And no, giving him gaudy wings like that does make him ultimate! And I know, I know, it's sort of like what they did with Galaxy Force Optimus Prime, but the final color scheme for these wings was just stupid. And no, I don't appreciate this as a plausible explanation of where his trailer disappears to whenever he transforms into robot mode.

To be fair, the trailer doesn't reveal much about him flying since it seems he junks whatever gives him flight in the clip below:

Transformers DOTM Super Bowl Trailer

But come on, can you forgive this new version of Optimus Prime? I know I've declared a number of times that I've never been a big Optimus Prime fan and I have very few versions of his figure in my collection, but this hurts me just knowing it exists! Why torment future generations of Transformers fans with this pixie princess version of a heroic robot leader?


Damn you Michael Bay and damn you Hasbro for supporting this! And a double dumb ass on you too for liking this! =P
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  1. As for the mystery of why Optimus Primal could fly in Beast Wars, that was explained. They originally planned to use the toy design of Optimus Primal that turned into a bat for the show when they wrote the script for first episodes, which required Optimus Primal to fly off by himself in the plot. Hasbro insisted they use the more expensive gorilla toy for Optimus Primal's design (and the T-Rex Megatron) for the show, so they simply made it so Optimus Primal could still fly as a robot so they wouldn't have to re-write the script for the parts where Optimus Primal flew.

  2. I think I had read about this previously as well.

  3. Transformers Animated is a fantastic series, and there's very little "kiddie" about it: Optimus Prime has a dishonorable discharge against his name for his involvement in the death of a classmate; Ratchet has PTSD from the war and being in command of a living WMD; Prowl screwed up his life until me met a sensei who set him right (Karate Kid-style), then had to watch him die right in front of him; Bumblebee sent an innocent robot to prison, which psychologically broke said robot; Lockdown collects bodyparts, which Ratchet ripped out of him, sans-anesthetic; Sari (a young girl) almost killed her best friend; Optimus Prime had to consider unleashing a ready-to-explode Sari against a powered up Megatron.

    Optimus Prime shares design cues with Star Convoy, while his Wingblade upgrade is based on God Ginrai.

  4. Thanks for the heads-up - perhaps I'll take the time to watch the series sooner rather than later.