That’s not snark, the new poster says it all.
We’ve briefly gone over what a psychopath Optimus Prime is in the Transformers movies, but Transformers: The Last Knight seems poised to convince those who aren’t critical thinkers of such.
If it wasn’t clear enough seeing Optimus body slam and then stab Bumblebee in the trailer then don’t worry, this poster shows his yellow leg lying motionless beneath Optimus as he leers over his prey.
You may need to rethink your heroes. To this I say a big, “No shit.”
Here’s what I wrote before:
“I thought Optimus Prime was already a bad guy. He let all of Chicago be destroyed, killing thousands of people just to prove a point that the humans needed him. Maybe if he showed up tooting a trumpet like the Cavalry at least it’d be a good gag to distract you from how horrific it all is. And then there was another movie where a bad guy begs for mercy and Optimus rips his head and spine out like a total psychopath. Ooh, and then there was another one where he told a Dinobot transformer that they were now free, but they had to align with the Autobots or be fucking murdered by him.”
All of that actually happened. I’m not embellishing anything to make a point. So when the series itself has a poster telling you that you should rethink your heroes I can’t help but laugh at the irony of it all. And if you think that this version of Optimus Prime is a hero and that the Autobots in this series have done anything that’s beneficial for the human race then please tell me. Besides Prime, the other Autobots have done things such as “pee” on humans, attempted to kill dogs, and in Age of Extinction, Hound kills a captive alien creature that’s ‘just too ugly to live’ saying “Take that, bitch.” as he shoots it. That alien creature also resembled female body parts, but the misogyny of these movies is another can of worms. The heroes have also destroyed millions of dollars worth of buildings and landmarks with collateral damage inside most of them as well.
There’s a scene in the first Transformers where Optimus Prime is fighting a Decepticon and crashes through a bus, disintegrating it into flames and ash, and all I could think about was the 50 people that just suffered a savage fiery death.
Compare that destruction with a scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron where Tony Stark scans a building for life forms before proceeding to drop the Hulk on it, bringing the building crashing down. Oh, and he bought the building too. That scene is all about preventing Hulk from hurting civilians after being mind-tricked by Scarlett Witch. Contrast that with most of the action sequences from the Transformers franchise and it’s easy to rethink your heroes.
Consider why Man of Steel and especially Batman v Superman didn’t connect with audiences the way a movie starring both Batman and Superman should have. In Man of Steel, Superman fights with Zod by throwing him through buildings and destroying a greater part of the populated Metropolis. This is something Batman v Superman makes a great effort to show for the reasons Batman hates Superman until he learns their moms totes have the same name. Besides lacking a basic understanding of both of these characters, specifically Superman, it’s just bad storytelling. It’s more about “wouldn’t it be cool if this exploded?” than what that means to the story or the character the movie is about. Superman wouldn’t have fought in populated areas without regard for all lives around him. He wouldn’t have destroyed Smallville and Metropolis. He wouldn’t have broken Zod’s neck or taken down that government satellite. Superman wouldn’t have killed a warlord in Batman v Superman or flew off after Lex blew up a capitol building.
I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s, Dark Knight Trilogy, with the exception of The Dark Knight Rises. My issue with that is Bruce Wayne stopped being Batman for nearly a decade. It’s also too long, overstuffed, and emotionally manipulative. The prologue is one of the best actions scenes I’ve ever witnessed though to be fair, it’s just all downhill from there. But back to the point… This is a man that dedicated his life to avenging the lives of his parents that were murdered in front of him by stopping crime as the caped crusader. Protecting the innocent citizens of Gotham so he may spare them the same fate he suffered as a child. But no, he stopped being Batman. This is a gross misunderstanding of the character. Batman is vengeance. For him to be moping around because his friend and love died at the hands of a lunatic is in direct contrast of what made him Batman, the Dark Knight, in the first place.
A hero or heroine is a person or main character of a literary work who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength, often sacrificing his or her own personal concerns for the greater good.
If that is the definition of what it means to be a hero, then why are the Transformers considered heroes? Because they fight against other transformers? I remember Optimus saying, “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.” in the first Transformers movie, but again, see what he said to the Dinobot above. When trying to research his character I found this opening at the very beginning of his Wiki page:
Optimus Prime is consistently depicted as having strong moral character, excellent leadership, and sound decision-making skills, and possesses brilliant military tactics, powerful martial arts, and advanced alien weaponry. Optimus Prime has a strong sense of honor and justice, being dedicated to building peaceful and mutually beneficial co-existence with humans, the protection of life and liberty of all sentient species.
That doesn’t sound like the cinematic Optimus Prime that we’ve gotten the last four movies, especially that last sentence. There could be a debate about his character in the first movie where he says a version of the classic phrase, “I have witnessed humanity’s capacity for courage, and though we are worlds apart, like us, there’s more to them than meets the eye.” But he’s increasingly aggressive, moody, apathetic, and more of an anti-hero in each sequel. Characteristics that don’t define heroism.
Bumblebee may be the only Autobot that has any characteristics of a genuine hero in what we’ve seen so far. The future spin-off solo film starring his character has potential for something fun. ‘A boy and his robot’ stories are always better than ‘robots transform and punch things’ stories. The key is to mix them together. It’s why Iron Giant’s and Big Hero 6’s work so well. And it’s why the first Transformers is the only one that resembles a story in even some small facet.
There’s supposedly a writers room for the ever-expanding Transformers universe and reports are that The Last Knight is supposed to have not one, but two plots in it. Which is two more plots than any of the other Transformers movies got. For now I’m skeptical because the trailer we saw was more of the same, but I am curious as always. The biggest source of interest for this series besides the writers room and plot makings is this tagline on the poster. Why is this such a push? Is Optimus really bad? Was he really ever good? And why do we need to be convinced of this? For all I know, this fifth installment could win me over and I hope that it does.
Because we need heroes. We need role models for children and adults. But we also need to keep them in check. Call them on their mistakes. Challenge them. Only then can we get the heroes we need, and not just the ones we deserve.