Tag Archives: transformers

Transformers: The Last Knight – A Review

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Yeah, yeah, I know, this review is waaay past a day late and a dollar short. But I have been busy, and the film was so poorly reviewed that watching it as soon as it hit DVD was not a priority for this blogger. Not until a friend decided to see it and asked that I join in to watch the (hopefully) entertaining film.

*Sigh.* Mi compadre liked the film; I have mixed feelings about it. There were elements/characters/scenes of The Last Knight which I enjoyed, and then there were things I did not like. I will list the problem parts to get them over and done with quickly before mentioning the positive aspects of the movie:

Problem #1: The Plot – As one reviewer said, if you want to watch this movie, enjoy the robot fight scenes and forget about the plot. Even I, a relatively well-informed Transformers fan who kept (most of) the plot for this film clear, found it switchbacked and retread ground too often. It’s like three or four of the seven people writing this story left in elements from one another’s original script when they should have excised or changed them. There is too much going on that either happens too fast or occurs too slowly.

Problem #2: Not Enough Optimus Prime and Bad Brainwashing – In a continuation of the modern trend to delegitimize heroes Optimus Prime, the noble leader and the father figure in the Autobot faction, gets brainwashed temporarily into attacking and killing some of his allies. Obviously, I didn’t like his being brainwashed to begin with, but I could have handled that if the filmmakers had at least convinced me that he was being influenced by another’s will after enduring severe torture.

However, from what little we see of Optimus before the end of the movie, it looks more like the villainess of the film just talks him into being bad. Having the good guys snap him out of it fast is fine, but how about a little lead up to his being mind-controlled? The Avengers had a MacGuffin (the Mind Stone) which allowed for instantaneous brainwashing, but the bad girl in Last Knight is only shown beating up on Optimus twice. Bottom line, we didn’t see enough of Optimus in this movie, and most of what we did see was negative in the extreme. That’s an automatic demerit in my book.

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Problem #3: Too Much Foul Language – Truth be told, this has been one of my main problems with the Transformers films from the get-go, along with the oversexualization of the main female characters. While Last Knight dropped the more explicit sex stuff, almost everyone in the film had a potty mouth, with the worst offender being Anthony Hopkins.

This is why the Transformers movies rank at the bottom of my entertainment media. The franchise started life as an innocent children’s show, and even in its darker TV incarnations, it isn’t anywhere near this foul. I have never understood, from the POV of a Transformers fan, why the writers decided to sexualize the franchise and allow the characters – human or not – to be foul-mouthed twerps. It’s like they cannot believe anyone would take a film like this seriously unless the humans in it were screaming epithets or hooking up every five scenes.

Hello, bozos, this was a children’s franchise!!! You should have been aiming to please the PG-13 to G rated audience. So what if the critics carp about the films being unrealistic? They are not and never were the ones you had to please to sell your product. Why can’t you respect Transformers fans as much as the guys running Marvel Studios have respected theirs?

Yes, I know this is a relatively useless aside, readers. But I have been holding that paragraph in for years. It is past time I let it out – and it feels soooo good to have done it at last!

Problem #4: Merlin as a Joke and Stanley Tucci Needs a Better Agent – Seriously, the best part I have ever seen Tucci play was in Captain America: The First Avenger. Every time I see him in a new film, he is either playing a foul-mouthed jerk or a washed-up annoyance. He should fire his agent or choose better parts.

Yes, it is true that Merlin appears in The Last Knight, which decided that tying the Transformers to the Pyramids and the moon landings wasn’t enough. Now they have to go back and add Tranformers to the Legends of King Arthur, since mankind is apparently too stupid to figure out knighthood on his own. Rather than being a wise, powerful, and benevolent magician, Merlin is portrayed in the beginning of this film as a drunk and a charlatan. Thanks but no thanks, Hasbro; I like my Merlin to be a respectable magician, not a souse. Go beg for someone else’s money.

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Problem #5: Quintessa as Transformer Goddess – Okay, first off, the Quintessons were aliens opposed to BOTH races of Transformers in the original stories, and it was their homeworld which was called Quintessa. Now we get this film revamp where there is only one Quintesson – a female, at that – who claims to be the Transformers’ deity, when even in the previous films it was the Transformers’ deity Primus that made the Autobots and Decepticons? *Author pinches nose and sighs.* Can someone please stop the revisionist train so I can get off now?

Problem #6: Rewriting the Timeline – It’s not as if the films’ series of events was hard to keep track of before the writers decided to redo everything from the ground up. What exactly is the purpose of re-aligning a timeline that you have practically killed already? Your circular logic is giving me a headache, Hollywood!

Problem #7: Planet-wide Devastation? You went with that trope AGAIN?!?! – In this film, the destruction of the moon and many major population centers really hits home in a bad way. Like the X-Men films, this movie focuses on nihilism and despair; although the heroes win in the end, the enormous loss of life and near global destruction makes their victory a Pyrrhic triumph. They lose more than they save – the film ends with more torn up cities, more catastrophic human body counts, and irreparable damage done to the face of the Earth.

This is another problem I have with the TF film franchise. Heroes in most stories always try to minimize the damage the bad guys inflict on innocent civilians. It is a mainstay of the Avengers films AND the Transformers TV shows. The fact that Hollywood has most of the Autobot/Decepticon confrontations occur in large population centers, where they make sure to show massive devastation and imply great loss of life, is directly anathema to the franchise’s roots. The Autobots are supposed to care about and work hard to protect humans, but the films never really demonstrate this – and, in a couple of cases, they directly oppose the idea. This is probably due to the filmmakers’ desire to make the movie franchise “more realistic” than the TV shows.

I’m sorry, but since when were we supposed to take ANYTHING in a movie seriously?! Films are supposed to be a form of escape wherein we (the audience) are encouraged to reach for heights of grace and heroism by following the example(s) of the hero(es). They are not and should not be used as vehicles for nihilism. If that is all you want to feed us in theaters, Hasbro, then you can kiss my money and precious time good-bye. There are much better things for me to spend both those things on.

Okay, with these seven big complaints covered, I can expound on what actually made this film worth my time. Most of the reason I was able to sit through this movie was Mark Walhberg’s performance as Cade Yeager. Whether you love Walhberg or not, the fact is that he did an excellent job in this film. He sold the audience on the idea that he was talking to living, thirty foot tall robots and not tennis balls on sticks. The scenes where he deals with the Autobots under his command/care are the closest this film comes to touching on why children around the world love the Transformers TV franchise(s).

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His character, Cade, has also softened somewhat since we saw him in Age of Extinction. (You can read my review of that film here, if you would like.) Watching this movie, you can almost feel the brotherly camaraderie he has come to share with the Autobots, especially Bee. His relationship with Optimus gets short shrift in this film, but that’s the fault of the writers, not Walhberg. Cade’s transformation (pun not intended) from down-on-his-luck-independent-inventor to trigger-happy Autobot ally and fugitive doesn’t feel particularly forced, either. He is doing what he needs to do to help the Autobots survive until Optimus returns and he will not let anyone – human or Decepticon – dissuade him from his purpose.

Once again, he gives us very few screaming and “freak out” moments than we saw in the previous movies, where Shia Labeuf was always having panic attacks during a battle. The gentleness and compassion he shows to a dying Cybertronian knight in the beginning of the film is especially touching. It cannot have been an easy scene to film, either, given that Wahlberg was probably talking to a lump of plastic and a green screen.

This leads to another great aspect of Cade’s character in the film: the title Last Knight is not a reference to Optimus Prime, but to Cade Yeager. The knightly attributes which allow Cade to help save the world become more and more obvious as the film progresses. It is really nice to finally have a “chaste” character in one of these movies, even though it is too little, too late. Walhberg pulls off a splendid performance here. I have virtually no complaints about his acting, even when he has to use foul language. Given the rest of his presentation, I can put up with that relatively easily.

In a similar vein, the two girls who appear in the film are not tarts used to titilate/“intrigue” the audience. But while the fourteen year old girl (Izabella) is fun, adding depth to Cade’s character and touching on the childhood wonder of the Transformers, I am not exactly sure her presence was truly needed to complete the film. She wasn’t a bad character, but I do not think she was necessary for the story to work.

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The adult woman in the story, Vivian, has the second-worst potty mouth in the film. Though she is (thankfully) not a trollop, she is a jerk with a chip on her shoulder. It is made abundantly clear from her first appearance onward that she hates men. Normally, that would grate on my nerves and, while I am not fond of her, it was really nice to FINALLY have a female jerk in a Transformers film who did most of the screaming. This meant that I could easily accept her; in a real situation where humans meet thirty foot tall mechanical humanoids, I am fairly sure it would be the women freaking out more often than the men.

Another nice touch to her character is that she is an Oxford professor. While Izabella is given the position of mechanic-in-training, the writers somehow got it into their heads that Vivian should not be mechanically savvy. (YAY!) While Vivian is a fighter, she is not a terribly great one. It is nice to see a strong woman who is rather pathetic at physical combat but who nevertheless has a will of steel. I will take a feminist Oxford professor who fights hard but improperly, who is fluent in medieval languages, and who knows history over the faux Amazonian stereotype any day.

That reminds me, one of the best things about the addition of Vivian to this film is a brief spat she and Cade share in Hopkins’ manor house. Having been “kidnapped” by a young Autobot on Hopkins’ orders so that she can help save the day, Vivian is not in a good mood when the explainations begin. She becomes especially upset when she sees her world-saving partner is a male American fugitive. Vivian tries to slap Cade down at once but he bites back at her, criticizing her education and her dress. “Well, then, perhaps you would like it better if I took [the dress] off?” she snaps waspishly. Clearly, Vivian is expecting Cade to become embarrassed by her retort and to stutter a rejection, giving her leverage against him.

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You can see that he almost falls for the bait – almost. To my infinite delight, Cade instead does a quick one-eighty degree turn and says, “Yes [I would].” He doesn’t actually mean it; if you look at him closely, you can see he is worried that she might carry out her threat to undress in front of everybody. But his decision not to accept Vivian’s abuse quietly leaves her gaping and temporarily at a loss for words. It was probably the best scene in the movie! 😀

This scene is also important because, as she continues to verbally spar with Cade, Vivian starts to grow and change. Cade’s continuous refusal to take her vocal mistreatment makes her soften; she becomes less abrasive and demonstrates more feminine characteristics the longer they work together. In a fascinating reversal of Hollywood trends, Cade is allowed to be a “manly man” and Vivian is allowed to become a real woman. She is not the Femi-Nazi, faux Amazon warrior we are fed too often these days in modern fiction, which is a really nice change – especially for a Transformers film.

Cade and Vivian’s character arcs, while slow, were the best in the film. Bumblebee was good and even Hot Rod, a franchise character I despise, was fun. (Can we get his time gun for the Avengers? They could really use a gizmo like while fighting Thanos!) Seeing so many Autobots hidden around the world was really nice, too, since we got brief glimpses of more Transformers as characters, not just gimmicks. It was a surprisingly touching addition to the film.

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Another nice thing about it was having Josh Duhamel return as Colonel Lennox. (His comment about lawyers and Decepticons was a scream!) He pulled off the weary soldier act very well; my only complaint is that he wasn’t given as much of a chance to show his faith in the Autobots as Cade was. Hopkins’ Transformer butler Cogman was fun, too, if a little foul. The “kidnapping” of Vivian by Hot Rod was a good scene as well.

This is all I can really think of to praise the film for, which isn’t much. As my list of complaints at the top of this post made clear, this movie really isn’t recommended. But that has less to do with the actors’ performances and more to do with the way the story was executed. I will probably watch this film again in the future at some point. But when I do, there will be a lot of scenes I skip, since most of the ones I liked had Cade in them. The rest of the show can go hang; Cade is the star attraction this go around, with Bumblebee a close second.

This is my opinion of Transformers: The Last Knight. It isn’t anywhere near as palatable as Age of Extinction, but it is an improvement over the first three films, and that says a lot about the quality of those movies. There is also some genuine character growth for the humans here, which is a nice change. If none of this makes you want to see Last Knight, though, don’t worry – I understand completely. That’s why I wrote this review; The Mithril Guardian is watching out for you, so that you don’t have to watch bad entertainment to learn something good from it. 😉

‘Til next time, readers – “Autobots, roll out!”

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Christmas Tales from The Mithril Guardian

Hey, everyone! Christmas is literally just around the corner, so I thought it would be good to post links to the two almost-Christmas fan fiction stories I wrote a while back. One is for the Marvel Cinematic Universe Avengers while the other is for Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Click on the links below to read them for yourselves.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Marvel Fan Fiction: An Avengers’ Snow Day

Natasha Romanoff poured herself a cup of coffee. “So, what are your plans for Christmas, Steve?” she asked.

Steve Rogers leaned back in his chair, tossing the latest issue of the Daily Bugle onto the table as he moved. “I’m not sure,” he admitted. “Maybe some research.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. When Steve said “research,” he was referring to his hunt for his old friend, Bucky Barnes, otherwise known as the Winter Soldier, once one of the deadliest assassins of all time.

Natasha suppressed a shudder. The man was aptly named; the only person she had ever seen that cold and unfeeling had been herself. And even she had had some fears when she worked for the KGB, some insecurities.

The Winter Soldier had none of that….

 

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Fan Fiction Story for Transformers: Robots in Disguise

It started harmlessly enough, from what Drift said later.  Russell, Slipstream, and Jetstorm had been showing the newly returned Weaponizer Mini-Cons how to build a snowman.  Thankfully, they had received Optimus’ warning in time and returned to Earth safely to rejoin Bumblebee and his team – just in time for the first snow of the season.

With Sideswipe and Drift sparring nearby, and Denny out with Bumblebee to pick up more energon, Drift had been content to let his students have some fun.  He had not put it in those words, but Optimus was fairly sure that was what he meant.

Things had become more raucous when Grimlock, his arms behind his back, had told Russell that he had forgotten something to show the Mini-Cons.  Russell looked up at him in utter bewilderment.  “What’s that, Grim?” he had asked.

Grinning widely, Grimlock had brought both arms forward and thrown two giant snowballs at Sideswipe and Drift…..

Spotlight: Transformers – Female Autobots

In the beginning days of Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, I wrote a post called “Odd Girls Out.” This title did not win the article many views, so I modified it to read “Odd Girls Out: What Happened to the Original Female Autobots?”

The post has since picked up in views, for which I am thankful. The question is an honest one, readers; the Transformers franchise is naturally aimed at boys. There really are not that many girls who like cars and trucks and machines as much as boys do. Boys and girls are different and therefore have different amusements. It is totally, totally normal.

However, when it comes to characters, girls like those as much as boys do. This is probably why, in the original series, several of the male Autobots were paired off with a female counterpart in the episode The Search for Alpha Trion. In that episode, we were introduced to the leading ladies for Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Inferno, and Powerglide, who had accidentally been left behind on Cybertron when the male Autobots left to find a way to save their world. These ladies were Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, and Moonracer.

As with other franchises, Transformers was pushed to add more female characters to its roster as the years passed. So there have been many female Autobots in the franchise, readers. Most of them were added to the comics that followed the advent of the original Transformers television series in the ‘80s. I could not name them all for you for the simple reason that I do not know the half of them. I like the Transformers franchise, but I have not immersed myself in it for a while now.   Therefore, I am only going to discuss the female characters I know of, and why I like them. If you want to know how many more female Autobots there are, you will have to look them up.

So, first off, we have the most important female Autobot to ever grace the franchise…

Elita One

Elita One: Elita One is Optimus Prime’s girlfriend, for want of a better term, in the 1980s TV series and several of the comics. She has appeared sporadically throughout the subsequent Transformers’ media, including the absolutely awful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where she had no real speaking part and was killed in the final battle.

Though I have some gripes about her design and paint scheme in the original story (WHY did they have to paint her PINK?!?!?), as a character, Elita was made of some pretty interesting stuff. She had the regular sugar, spice, and everything nice, but she was also a good leader and a worthy counterpart for Optimus in that show. And she was quite capable of taking care of herself in most situations, too.

Regrettably, following portrayals of the character strayed away from this winning debut over the years. After all, these days a woman cannot be classy and a warrior; she has to be too tough to handle. This is the way the writers took the character, especially in the comics related to the Transformers films. It was sickening, after I first saw The Search for Alpha Trion, to read about how the writers had torn out everything that made Elita “strong enough” not only to be gentle but to be graceful and smart. (They also kept her pink color scheme – the one thing that should actually be changed! Pbbbbhhhh!)

If the writers ever wanted to go back to the original version of Elita’s character from the ‘80s, making only a few minor tweaks to her appearance and character to bring her up to date, I would ask them to do so. But they seem to find Elita One to be a total embarrassment to the franchise. Years after her first appearance, she is back collecting dust in the Transformers archives. Until someone pulls her out and places her in a new series, I will be missing this character very much.

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Chromia: In The Search for Alpha Trion, Chromia was to Elita One what Ironhide was to Optimus Prime.   The mentor of and wise subordinate to her commander, Chromia was a veteran of many battles and Ironhide’s longtime girlfriend. She had a rougher edge to her than Elita One; she spoke with a brisk, rough tone of command and she was not the least bit afraid of a two-bit Decepticon pushover. She was also extremely loyal and not prone to showing sentiment – at least, not until Ironhide had to say good-bye and go back to Earth. Then she gave him a smile and a big hug.

To some, Chromia might come off as a proto “Strong Female Character.” But that hug she gives Ironhide at the end of the episode hints at a soft side that she does not often show – but which differentiates her from the “SFC” trope.

Unlike Elita One, Chromia has been able to appear in later series and comics in a better light. She is the only female Autobot to survive the final battle in Revenge of the Fallen and was even considered as a guest character in the series Transformers: Animated. It is probably because of her rougher, battle-tested edge that she has received this treatment. Since she already seemed to be an Amazon warrior, the writers felt they did not need to make as many changes to her as they did to Elita One.

As I said above, I do not consider Chromia the stereotypical Amazon of modern impetus. She is a character I would like to see more of in the future – but I do not think there is much chance of her appearing on the small screen any time soon, unfortunately.

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Firestar and Moonracer: These two Autobots appeared in the same episode as Elita and Chromia. Firestar did not have a big speaking part, so I cannot say much about her – other than she liked to fight fires and appeared to be the perfect female counterpart to her boyfriend, Inferno.

Moonracer, on the other hand, was portrayed as the rookie member of Elita’s crew. She was eager to fight and tended to make mistakes more often than the other ladies. But she was the “best shot in the universe” as she told her boyfriend, Powerglide, before she successfully shot down a pole without actually looking at it.

Firestar and Moonracer both appeared in the comics after this, but I do not know enough about those appearances to say much about either of them. However, I would like it if the writers for new Transformers TV series would include them in the cast list. Why not use the female characters you have before you go off making new ones, or why not show us the originals in addition to the new ones? Some people have no sense.

Arcee (1986)

Arcee: Of all the original female Autobots, Arcee is the only one to return to the small screen with relative consistency. I do not watch her in the reruns of the third season of the 1980s Transformers series because I do not like Rodimus Prime/Hot Rod. It also strikes me that she comes across as something of a powederpuff in the original series. I may be wrong; I have never really watched her in that show and so I cannot say anything about her part there with certainty.

I can say that I was not impressed with her appearance in Transformers: Energon. The third Transformers series I was exposed to, I was very happy when a “girl Transformer” finally appeared on screen. But as Arcee became less and less involved with the main cast, and as she proved to be less and less of a fighter, I lost interest in her. This might have been around the time that I got tired of the color pink, too. I could never understand why a tough female Autobot would want to flaunt such a wimpy, frilly color on the battlefield.

My third introduction to Arcee was in Transformers: Animated in a flashback with Ratchet. She was still pink, which was exasperating, but she was also interesting because she added a new dimension to Ratchet’s crusty character. In the flashback, the two had been captured by a Decepticon bounty hunter. Since Arcee had vital Autobot information in her mind and could not escape the ship as easily as Ratchet could, she begged him to wipe her memories to keep the Decepticons from getting the information.

Ratchet was not eager to do this because he had fallen in love with Arcee, as she had fallen in love with him; the procedure was so dangerous he might make her forget him. But eventually Ratchet was forced to erase her memories just before he got the two of them away from the Decepticon. Jubilant at their escape, he told what he thought was a groggy Arcee that they had in fact made it out…

…only to find that the procedure had wiped Arcee’s entire memory. Not only did she no longer remember the important information or Ratchet, but she had forgotten her name and everything she had experienced prior to Ratchet’s address to her.

The fourth time I met Arcee was in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. That was a brief meeting because she and her “sisters,” Elita One and Chromia, had hardly any lines in the film. Arcee also died along with Elita in the final battle, so their entire part in the movie was nothing but a big waste of time.

Arcee (Transformers Prime)

The last time I saw Arcee was the only time I had a genuine respect for the character. This was Transformers Prime’s Arcee. Not only was she painted blue with only a few pink highlights, she was no powderpuff. She was strong, fast, and sharp, but more than that, much more, she was vulnerable.

At the beginning of the series, Arcee lost her partner on Team Prime, Cliffjumper. It was hinted, but never expressed, that she and he were an item. His loss hit her hard, making her snappy, angry, and bitter for the first few episodes of the series. So you can imagine how she came across to the human boy she was assigned to protect.

Jack Darby had his own problems as well. Abandoned years ago along with his mother by his father, Jack worked a dead end job and rode a bicycle everywhere he needed to go. The whole reason he and Arcee met was because he thought her motorcycle form was beautiful and he stopped to admire her. The interplay between the two characters at the beginning of the series was great, especially as Arcee thawed to Jack and developed a maternal, protective attitude toward him.

Unfortunately, I think the series drifted away from giving this relationship its due. I am all for having the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ interpersonal relationships shown to the audience, but I would like it balanced with a good showing of the Autobots’ interpersonal relationships with their human friends as well. Prime eventually tilted in favor of the former, leaving the promising friendship between Arcee and Jack hanging. If we ever get a chance for this kind of friendship to reappear in a Tranformers series again, I would like to see a better balance between the two relationship sets when we do.

Blackarachnia and Airazor: These two characters appeared in Transformers: Beast Wars, which I never saw. I cannot say anything in favor of or against Airazor; from what I understand, she was the little sister of the group, a sweet, kind, and naïve ‘bot that the rest of the gang loved. Blackarachnia I know a little more about because she sounded interesting. A Decepticon/Predacon who defected to the Autobots/Maximals out of love, Blackarachnia is a well-remembered ‘bot in the Transformers’ franchise.

However, she was reimagined in an unflattering way all around in Transformers: Animated. In that series, Blackarachnia was Elita One. This combination of the two characters had been infected by giant organic spiders on a mission with the future Sentinel and Optimus Primes. She became a half-organic, half-technological being who held a grudge against Optimus for leaving her on the planet when it looked like she had died in a fight with the spiders.

Aside from my obvious dislike of this version of Elita One (the only one I know of that wasn’t PINK), the rebooting of Blackarachnia did not do justice to my impression of the Beast Wars character. Next time, Transformers writers, if Blackarachnia must be a half-organic, half-technological Transformer, can we PLEASE keep her original character arc in place? I am flexible on everything else, but making her Elita One – for Pete’s sake!!! X(

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Override: Now Override has a bizarre history outside of the U.S., so I am not even going to go there. She was a female Autobot in the Canadian translation of Transformers: Cybertron and in the Transformers canon that has been developed in America following the Transformers films. This is the version I am going to talk about, so if you want to dredge up the confusion surrounding the character in other countries, do it on someone else’s blog, reader(s). Are we clear?

Good. All right, the fact is that I really, really like Cybertron’s Override. She was everything I had wanted out of Arcee in Energon and more. The leader of the planet Velocitron, Override was the fastest racer on that world. She had been for years. By the time the Autobots met her in Cybertron, Override had begun to get bored because there was no real competition for her on Speed Planet.

Then Megatron and Hot Shot arrived on Velocitron in search of its Cyber Planet Key. Megatron raced Override for information about it and actually made her fight for the finish line (she won, though), while Hot Shot told her about the universe-eatng black hole that was the big bad of the series and asked her what she knew about the Key. At first, Override was torn. She did not know who to trust, as Megatron took advantage of her ignorance to claim that the Autobots were evil and he was the good guy. (Studiously leaving out the name of his organization in the process; even Megatron knows that the word “Decepticon” does not exactly inspire confidence in too many people.)

In order to solve the issue, Override let Hot Shot race her. Even the fastest of the Autobots could not keep pace with Override, but Hot Shot would not give up. There was too much at stake and he had never met anyone who could beat him before. He pushed and pushed himself to the breaking point as Override worried about which Transformer to believe. Finally, she decided to settle the issue the way that Velocitronians settle most problems – with the biggest race in Velocitronian society, the Speedia 5000.

Hot Shot eventually won the race, but before he did that, he saved Override from a boulder when she had an accident mid-race. The gallantry he demonstrated made an impression on Override and she began to favor the Autobots. This became full-blown allegiance to them on her part when Megatron tried to grab Velocitron’s Cyber Planet Key after Hot Shot won the race.

Override became a valued member of the team following these events and – unlike Energon’s Arcee – she did not fade into the background during the series. She was not as front and center as she had been during the Velocitron arc of the story, but she was never far away from the action. Also, unlike the Amazonian trope, she was not averse to receiving gentlemanly aid. After finishing with Velocitron, Hot Shot would again act to protect Override on Jungle Planet, while other male Autobots would also give her a hand from time to time as the story progressed. Override was happy to say thank you at these times, even though she could usually handle herself in a fight.

I was especially happy when Override got the chance to shoot her Decepticon counterpart, Thunderblast. Of all the galling female Decepticons I have ever seen (and I have not seen many), I would have to say that Thunderblast takes the absolute cake. She was such a petulant, snide, girly contrast to Override that I was somewhat disappointed when the two never had more than one direct confrontation. But I totally agree with Override’s comment when Thunderblast and she first met: “Sheesh, where did they find her?!

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Strongarm: I have mentioned Strongarm, of Robots in Disguise fame, a couple of times in other posts before today. The one that I can remember off the top of my head is “Robots in Disguise: Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” But I think I mentioned her elsewhere as well.

I have a lot of issues with Strongarm. Now these are my issues and mine alone; they do not have to be yours, readers. First, in Transformers: Energon, her name belonged to a male Omnicon. I think several other series in the franchise had a male character who was an Autobot named Strongarm as well. So the fact that the Robots in Disguise crew decided to saddle a female character with a MALE character’s name grinds my gears even now.

My other problem with Strongarm is that she swallowed the rule book. As of this season in the series, she has gotten better about reading from it. She rarely pulls out the regulation manual these days, though she can still cite it without looking at it. This makes her stiff and unlikeable; I am all for following the rules, but that does not mean I have to be beaten over the head with them. The fact that Strongarm devours regulations like her favorite food reminds me too much of Ultra Magnus, another Autobot with his nose contiually stuck in the system. (I am not the only one who is reminded of Ultra Magnus when Strongarm cites the legal code; another fan suggested that she could be Magnus’ daughter.)

This penchant for worshipping the rules and regulations stifles Strongarm’s creativity. She has been getting better recently, but not by much.

The other thing about Strongarm that bugs me is that, to me, she is so obviously meant to be the “Strong Female Character” on the Bee Team. This is evidenced by the fact that even for a Transformer, Strongarm has more bulk in one arm than Override or Elita One had in their entire bodies. I am not saying that all female Transformers should look like these girls, but the fact is that Strongarm’s muscle structure looks unnatural even for a Cybertronian.

When such an evident character design is presented in a show like this, I cannot help but feel that the writers are stabbing me in the eye with the cause celeb of the moment. The reason I feel this way toward the writers regarding Strongarm is because, a) she was the first female Autobot we saw in the series, so they had to be making a statement; b) she was supposed to be a cop ‘bot, so they wanted her to be all muscly and brawny to make the statement that “girls can be cops, too.”

I flat-out do not like the character the way she was created; the emphasis was on her physique, not her character, and it shows. That is lazy storytelling and it does not sit well with me. I do not like Strongarm; I merely tolerate her to watch a show I enjoy. This leads me to the second female Autobot we see in Robots in Disguise….

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Windblade: Windblade is a fan-made Transformers character. Hasbro had a series of polls prepared, and they used these to ask fans what kind of new Autobot toy they wanted made. The answers the fans gave to the questions built the framework the writers and toy creators used to design Windblade.

I have to say that Hasbro’s whole idea in this regard is fantastic. If Marvel would adopt a program like this, for stories as well as new characters, they might clean up a lot of their problems overnight – not to mention find some new talent for their dwindling reservoir of artists and writers. But I will not be holding my breath for them to try this; we fans are not the “in-crowd” they listen to these days.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Windblade is a much better character than Strongarm. I base this opinion solely on what I have seen of her in Robots in Disguise; I have not read any of the comics where she appears.

In the show Windblade at first comes across as somewhat arrogant and overconfident. This attitude of hers smoothes out as the series progresses; though she remains confident in her skills and keeps her whiplash-quick voice box, she shows a softer side as well. Windblade demonstrated protective, almost daughter-like feelings for Optimus Prime while working with him in season two. This made her confident, teasing banter seem less sharp than it had when she first arrived and (rightly) criticized Strongarm’s stiff behavior. She proved to be gentle as well as competent, and that means a lot in a female warrior character.

All in all, Windblade is a character I want to see more of. I think she can hold her own among the ranks of female Autobots already extant and shows promise of not falling into the “Strong Female Character” trope which gave us Strongarm.

However, this does NOT mean that I do not want Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, Moonracer, Override, Blackarachnia, or even Arcee back in future series. I maintain that Elita and her female friends are still “Odd Girls Out” and that they should be brought back in future stories. I do not want them to be “Strongarmed” versions of the originals or arachnoid manhaters; I want them to be the classy female characters they were when they were introduced – though I am all for ditching the pink color schemes. Until Hasbro does that, I will have to be satisfied with just having Windblade.

‘Til next time, readers: “Autobots, roll out!”

Zoids: Chaotic Century – A Series Review

Technically, I already did a review of the Japanese series Zoids: Chaotic Century. But not too long ago I became curious to see if Zoids had become a topic of conversation on WordPress. After all, that was the raison d’etre for my Spotlight! posts; I started them to put the word out about not only my favorite Japanese “mecha,” but to start a conversation about my much loved anime.

At least, that was what I hoped would happen. Aside from a few likes, nobody seems really interested in discussing Zoids, whether it is Chaotic Century’s zoids or any of the other series. So I sort of let the matter drop, going back to my usual Spotlight! posts and remembering the show fondly, as always….

Then I had the trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion recommended to me, and my Zoidian fervor re-engaged itself – with a vengeance!

Not that my love for zoids is ever very far away from me. One of the things I have learned about the stories I enjoy is that, no matter where I go or what makes me set them aside, my favorite characters in fiction will reassert their importance to me when I least expect them to do so. They also seem to like doing this to me when I need them most.

One of the reasons that Chaotic Century has a special appeal to me is not simply because I was young and impressionable when I first saw it. I associate certain things with how the show makes me feel. A beautiful autumn day, an open horizon, a certain tangy, alluring bite in the air – these are triggers which still make me itch, even now, to find a zoid and hop in its cockpit.

I know that zoids do not exist. I have known this for years. But there is still something that I can sense in the air sometimes that makes me feel as eager as I only did when I watched or thought about Zoids. The trailer for Field of Rebellion not only intensified that childish wish, it made me hope for a film based on at least the zoids themselves, if not on Chaotic Century.

If Takara Tomy or another Japanese company is actually thinking of turning Chaotic Century into a film, then all I can say is: “Go for it! Go For It! GO FOR IT!!!!” I have wanted a zoids film – or a series of films about zoids – for as long as I have been a fan of Chaotic Century. But as I grew older and watched other shows I enjoyed made into films, seeing how they were abused and mangled by Hollywood, I began to fear that a film about Chaotic Century would destroy the story and the characters I loved so dearly.

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For this reason, I have decided to inaugurate a series of Spotlight! posts that will focus on the characters from Zoids. I do not want these great characters who still visit me when I need their encouragement to be destroyed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, and other childhood friends have been. No amount of CGI zoids or fantastic storytelling would save a film that abused these characters, and this is something I wish to make perfectly clear to anyone who may be considering creating a film based on Zoids: Chaotic Century.

But before I get to those posts, I thought it best to review what makes Chaotic Century such a powerful series. It is not the music (which is stellar); it is not the artistry (which is appealing), and it is not the English dubbing (which is not perfect but still works quite well).

It is the characters, the zoids, the plot, and the themes of the series that make Zoids: Chaotic Century such a magnificent story worthy of the best efforts of those who paint pictures on the silver screen. There are four main plot points in Chaotic Century that MUST be present in any film based on the show. These are:

Friendship, Love, and Redemption

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I will touch on this more in the character posts, but one of Chaotic Century’s biggest selling points was its character growth. Though the story starts out somewhat slowly, the friendships between the characters develop so well and so thoroughly that you do not notice just how far they have come until the stakes begin to rise. Then you suddenly get jerked into a position that lets you realize that these characters have grown due to their contact and interaction with each other. You realize that they would never have become the people they are in X episode if not for the fact that they fell in with each other earlier and have been traveling together since.

The love aspect is present in the main romance in the series, which lasts from episode one to episode sixty-seven. We never see the end result, but we are left to believe that the main characters do indeed live happily ever after when the credits finally roll. A few side romances are shown as well, and these are all handled with an adroit touch. The main couple only exchanges one kiss, and that was not a smooch of the physical variety. If the writers for the movie will not honor these relationships in any film about the series, I will not be watching that movie.

Redemption is a big part of the series as well. Many of the villains in the story turn over a new leaf during the course of the show, while several remain evil to the bitter end. These redemptions never feel forced, as the one for Helmut Zemo did in Avengers Assemble’s “House of Zemo.” They never feel tacked on, either, as the redemption of Doctor Octopus in Ultimate Spider-Man’s series finale did.

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Best of all, there are no saving twists for the villains, such as we see in Maleficent. The bad guys either reform or they croak. A couple of villains do kind of reform before they die, but that is probably for the best, as their redemption arcs weren’t likely to last beyond that episode.

Redemption in Zoids takes place gradually; it is natural, the result of progressive character growth and discovery. It is not a spoonfed, hamfisted “let’s all sing Kumbaya and admit that our dads were jerks” moment. (Now that I think about it, not one of the fathers in the series was even a mild jerk, let alone a horrible, horrible person. Score another point for Zoids: Chaotic Century!)

A film about this series has to include these elements; it has to build the friendships and the romances smoothly and quietly. It has to be just as soft on the redemption arcs for the villains as well. Any movie about Chaotic Century that does not do this will not do the series justice, and I will NOT pay to see it.

I know these character arcs would not be easy to condense in a film (franchise), which is the other reason I have been leery of the idea of translating the TV show into a film (series). But if a Chaotic Century movie (series) is in the works somewhere, or on someone’s mental backburner, this character growth is going to prove a challenge for them. It will be a worthwhile challenge, but they may not get the necessary thanks they deserve for this work – even from a Chaotic Century fan like me, unfortunately.

Never Give Up Hope – Or the Fight

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Mostly, it is the main character, Van Flyheight, who has the never give up/never lose hope attitude. This attitude is passed on to his friends by him, thereby infusing the entire story and tying it tightly to reality. We have all faced moments when the going gets so tough, so nigh unbearable, that we cannot stand to think of dealing with the pain for another instant.

Zoids: Chaotic Century shows that even Van is not invulnerable to these moments. What makes him different is that, for him, these moments are rare and they do not last. This allows him to inspire others to hold on to hope when it appears that the battle is already lost.

I cannot tell you how valuable this plot point in Chaotic Century has been for me during my life. I am as weak as the next person; there have been moments when I can see the bottom of the pit of despair, when I have thought life would never, ever get better.

Chaotic Century has been, in some ways, a life-saver for me in these moments. Sure, I have had the “it’s-a-cartoon-and-has-nothing-to-do-with-real-life” thoughts about it. But Zoids taught me that you only really lose the fight when you give up hope. Maybe you cannot always feel hope, as Van seems to, but the show taught me that quitting simply is not an option. Through this show you learn that giving up simply cements your loss while holding out in spite of the pain means you might actually be able to turn the tide of the battle.

A film (or series of them) based on this TV show has to reference tenacious hope as often as its progenitor did. Otherwise, it will not be based on Chaotic Century but on the producer/director/writer’s agenda. The only agenda for a movie (series) based on Chaotic Century should be that hope is more powerful than despair, no matter how grave matters appear to be.

Pursue Your Full Potential – As a Pilot and as a Person

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A sub-theme, if we can call it that, in Chaotic Century is that in order to become the best (or at least a competent and good) pilot in the world, the pilot and his zoid have to reach their full potential as a fighting unit. As one wise character in the series told Van’s friend, “Zoids can sense [their pilots’] feelings and emotions and use them to enhance their own capabilities [in battle]. Once [the pilots] recognize that, the possibilities are endless.”

Anyone who has ever watched zoids remembers the “awe and excitement” we felt when we first saw these enormous, mechanical “spirit animals” running across the screen. We wanted to be that strong, that fierce, and that able to fight. We wanted to be the heroic pilots of our favorite zoids.

The problem Chaotic Century addresses is that zoid pilots can lose sight of this potential in the thick of battle, and thus they lose sight not only of why they became a pilot, but of who they are as people. This leads them to consider their zoids and everyone else’s to be “ordinary” fighting machines which are only useful as tools, pets, or weapons. They stop seeing zoids for what they truly are and see only what they can get out of them.

The challenge Zoids: Chaotic Century presents to its characters – and thereby to its viewers – is it asks us whether or not we have kept our eyes on the prize. The prize is our “full potential” which, while it can never truly be reached in this life, is the only thing worth striving after. Money, power, luxury – these are distractions, in many cases deadly ones. The true potential of a man (or a woman) cannot and should not – must not – be gauged by these foolish categories. What matters is whether or not you are striving after your full potential. Because it is only by chasing after your full potential in this life that you can actually achieve it in the next.

This theme ties directly into the fourth premise any filmakers who wish to bring Zoids: Chaotic Century to the silver screen must keep in mind….

Wonder

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This theme is so obvious that we fans tend to forget it. Wonder radiates palpably from Chaotic Century; but we viewers become so accustomed to the zoids that, like their pilots, we tend to stop marveling at these magnificent mechanical creatures as we should. We become so used to the vast desert vistas, the high mountains, the plateaus, the hills and plains in the series that we forget how beautiful they are. The music – which still sends tingles along my skin and inspires me to smile like a maniac – becomes so much a part of the background that we hardly notice it.

The way Chaotic Century keeps us on our toes is by having the characters point out the wonder of these things. Time and time again, characters remark on the beauty and splendor of the zoids, reminding us of how special these creatures are. The appreciation that the ordinary village folk in the series show for the countryside they live in reminds us that these vistas are available to us wherever we live. We simply have to actually look out the window and see them as they are. The sacrifices the characters make for each other, the little gestures of friendship and romance sprinkled throughout each episode, call on us to realize how valuable our own friends and families are to us.

Above all, Chaotic Century prompts us to keep our eyes on the prize. It constantly reminds us to strive after hope in hopeless situations, to fight to maintain our urge to discover our true potential. We may not be zoid pilots (no matter how much some of us wish we were!), but we are people who are gifted with different talents, different purposes in this life.

Are we pursuing these vigorously, working to find the “endless possibilities” open to us as we work on these things that we love? Or have we become “jaded” and forgotten what made us want to be a mother, a father, a football player, a Marine, a piano player, a writer, an artist, etc. in the first place? Are we striving for the good, the beautiful, and the best that we can achieve – or have we completely lost our sense of direction?

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Many of the characters in Zoids: Chaotic Century have lost sight of the real reason they became zoid pilots. They have lost sight of the real reason why they wanted to get in the cockpit. As the series progresses, they relearn this – allowing us to learn to look at our own lives with new eyes because we have seen the characters do it.

A film – or a series of them – based on Chaotic Century must have these four qualities. If it (or they) does not, then it has failed to give homage to its progenitor franchise, just as the new TMNT movies and the first three Transformers films did. But a zoids film (franchise) that acknowledges its source material, that shows an appreciation for it, can only be pursuing the series’ full potential on a grander scale.

I leave you to discover Zoids: Chaotic Century for yourselves, readers, as I did in my last post. In addition, I also leave you the longest trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion. If they could make this video (which is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR FROM A VISUAL STANDPOINT), then they can make a film out of Chaotic Century!

I do not know if they will do this. I want them to do it, as long as they do not try to rewrite the series when they make the film(s). If they can tell this story, whole and entire on theater screens, I will be in seventh heaven. You will have to tie me to the seat and gag me in order to get through the movie, but I will be happier than a clam if Zoids makes it into theaters.

But that is not my decision to make. I can only watch the TV series and the trailers for Field of Rebellion – and dream. For now, that is enough.

See you on the battlefield, readers!

Spotlight: Transformers – Hot Shot

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Transformers: Armada Hot Shot

It is not always easy to describe a character, readers, especially one you enjoy watching. I imagine there are plenty of real people whom we like that we also have difficulty describing. We cannot even describe ourselves accurately, since we hardly know ourselves! Now, describing a character that was featured in three different TV series – readers, that is a tall order. But it is an order that I am going to try to fill in this post about one of my favorite Autobots: Hot Shot.

Hot Shot is a young Autobot rookie in the series Transformers: Armada, a seasoned warrior in Transformers: Energon, and a cocky professional in Transformers: Cybertron. I never saw the original Japanese Transformers: Robots in Disguise all the way through, so I did not “meet” the version of Hot Shot in that series in any meaningful way. Therefore he is not part of today’s discussion.

The four series I described above were written and animated in Japan before they came to the U.S. by way of Canada, where they were translated into English. Armada was the series where I first “met” Hot Shot, whom I liked at once. He was more relatable to me than Red Alert, whose focus, calm, and mostly unemotional demeanor in that series always put me in mind of a Star Trek Vulcan. Optimus, as I stated in the Spotlight! post describing his character, reminded me more of a father-figure than anything else. He was approachable, but you usually went to him when you had a problem or needed something explained.

Hot Shot was still young enough, as I was at the time, to enjoy a good game of tag with the Autobots’ human friends. He was young enough to mouth off at the bad guys, to take insults personally, and to make stunningly stupid mistakes. He also had heart, a determination to defeat the Decepticons, and an easy, endearing manner. I liked him right from the start, and I kept on liking him during Armada’s run.

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Left to right: Energon Inferno, Optimus Prime, and Hot Shot

Admittedly, my favoritism toward the character cooled during the second series: Energon. Hot Shot was an experienced ‘Bot by then, with a more serious and focused deportment than I was accustomed to seeing in him. He still retained his sense of humor and a degree of cockiness, not to mention that loyal spark. But the light-hearted elements of his character and the easy manner were missing. I was rather disappointed that my favorite Autobot had lost his friendlier characteristics in the span of time between Armada and Energon.

But what he lost in Energon, Hot Shot got a double dose of in Cybertron. In that series, he was as cocky and jovial as ever. He also possessed the same act-first-think-later attitude which had caused him so much pain in Armada. But in Cybertron there was a more professional temper to it. This time, instead of charging off like a little kid, he behaved more like a teenager on the very cusp of adulthood. He was a professional warrior who knew his business on the field of battle. So what if he threw in some flair while he did his job? It got done, right? And if it kept the ‘Con down longer, or softened him up more than the traditional attack would have, all the better. When he acted before thinking, it was usually because he was doing the right thing that needed to be done, even if it would get him in trouble with Optimus later on.

I think, though, that one of the things about his performance in Cybertron which REALLY got my attention was the lack of angst. Hot Shot still had his dour, “I’m the worst thing that ever happened to the team,” moments but they did not last nearly as long in Cybertron as they had in Armada. Hot Shot needed fewer wake up calls in Cybertron, both on the angst and the cocky fronts. If he got knocked down, he learned he could get right back up again if he had the determination to do so. Once he learned that, he was literally off to the races.

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Transformers: Cybertron Hot Shot

This also afforded Hot Shot a better teenager-to-adult story arc. Less angst and more determination to keep going no matter what meant that, when Megatron almost killed him and two friends in a battle, Hot Shot remained the only one stubbornly determined to get back up and rejoin the fight. His compatriots gave up at the knowledge of the amount of damage they had sustained, sure that they were going to die.

Only Hot Shot remained firm, saying the damage was “no biggie” and he would get up once the proper repairs were made. His determination and that of the human kids the Autobots had partnered with inspired Red Alert and Scattershot to fight through their injuries as well, which allowed the three of them to acquire enormous upgrades shortly thereafter. This meant that Hot Shot abandoned his favorite race car mode to become a large tank.

Though not as aerodynamic or as fast as his previous alternate mode, Hot Shot’s decision to become a tank was a sign that he had grown up. He was still cocky, still funny, and definitely endearing because of that. But he was also battle-tried and true, with more confidence for having beaten greater odds than he had previously. He wanted to, as Auntie Mame said, “Live, live, live!”, and he was going to do it no matter what happened to him.

It is not hard to see why Optimus always valued Hot Shot in these series. Though the two had their attitude differences (Optimus has never been what one could call cocky after he earned the mantle of Prime), their sparks were always in alignment. They always knew the right thing to do and were willing to do it, no matter the cost to themselves. They knew it would not be easy for them, but because it was the right, true, good, and just thing to do, they were willing to bear the pain and to do their duty.

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Optimus’ position as Hot Shot’s mentor and father-figure is likely one of the reasons I always associated him with that role. The two got on in that manner, and Hot Shot never failed Optimus, even when he made a spectacular mistake or disobeyed orders. Although he might be annoyed or disappointed, Optimus never stopped believing in Hot Shot, never gave up hope that he could become a great ‘Bot with the right encouragement. For his part, Hot Shot remained loyal to Optimus in everything, even when the two disagreed or Hot Shot goofed up magnificently.

I have always been saddened by the fact that Hot Shot is absent from the American Transformers series. This is understandable; the Japanese put Hot Shot in Bumblebee’s place for their stories. I do not know why they did this – maybe there was and remains some kind of licensing disagreement with their Hasbro branch and ours, or something like that. I cannot say. I only know that Bumblebee traditionally has a filial relationship with Optimus in America, for generally the same reasons that Hot Shot does in Japan.

While I admire and like Bumblebee, I have always missed having Hot Shot around in the American Transformers series. Bumblebee is not the same character as Hot Shot; the two are not interchangeable. What you gain with one, you lose with the other, and vice versa. Bumblebee has always had a cooler head than Hot Shot, shown by the fact that he is not a very big fan of racing as Hot Shot always has been. Bumblebee is more fascinated with the intricacies of human society and humanity itself. Hot Shot has never failed to befriend the humans present in the Japanese series, but he acts more like their big brother than an intrigued social scientist. He would happily spend a day just hanging out with humans, talking about their shared interests, while Bumblebee tends to be more concerned with finding out the whys and the hows of human life.

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I like Bumblebee pretty well, but I know which character I would rather have an afternoon chat with: Hot Shot. Until Japan’s Hasbro branch makes a new Transformers series, however, it seems unlikely that I will be seeing Hot Shot again anytime soon. Besides, I would hate to see our writers on this side of the Pacific manhandle such a great character. Even the Japanese had to try three times to get a version of him that struck just the right balance with this viewer!

Another character who may be associated with Hot Shot is Hot Rod. But the fact of the matter is that Hot Shot is NOTHING like Hot Rod. While they share similar names, have a fascination with racing, and both transform into race cars, that is about as far as the similarities between them go. Hot Rod is cocky, but his swagger strikes a far more abrasive tone than Hot Shot’s does. Hot Shot’s bravado is endearing while Hot Rod’s is aggravating; Hot Rod earns the mantle of Prime not through mentoring under Optimus, but through simple luck. Hot Shot earns his leadership skills in battle, taking pointers from Optimus and abiding by his commander’s wisdom. No matter which series you find him in, Hot Rod has either no relationship with Optimus or it is so strained that it is not worth being designated a relationship.

This is a difference for which I am thankful. I am no fan of Hot Rod, anymore than my friend who admires Optimus Prime is. We both find him irritating, with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. The idea that some would put Hot Shot and Hot Rod in the same class, and I think they might be tempted to do this, does not rest well with me. Compare apples and oranges if you must, readers, but at least admit that they are apples and oranges! They are both nutritious, round fruits, but that is where their likenesses end!

This is not a terribly extensive Spotlight! post, readers. Hot Shot deserves better than I have given him, but this is the best that I am capable of at this time. Suffice it to say that Hot Shot is an Autobot I wish we had more of in current and upcoming Transformers series. He is a worthwhile character and, while not interchangeable with Bumblebee, I think the two would be excellent friends in a series. There is no law saying Optimus cannot have two protégés, after all, and I think Hot Shot and Bee would get along like a house on fire!

Accordingly, I therefore cede the floor to Optimus Prime, so that he may have the last word:

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“Autobots, roll out!”

Robots in Disguise: Why are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?

You want to know what the most popular post on this blog has been for the last three years, readers? It is the post titled “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?”

I have no idea why this post is so frequently read. In some ways, it is rather annoying. I would really like it if something else would get looked at rather than that post. But apparently no one is as interested in anything else as they are in “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?”

*Sigh*

Anyway, this post is something like a sequel to “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” It is also a look at the latest Transformers series to hit the airwaves: Transformers: Robots in Disguise.

First and foremost, I have to say that the Autobots have not always been outnumbered. In the 1980s TV series and a couple of sequel TV series, there have either been an equal number of Autobots and Decepticons, or more ‘Bots than ‘Cons. My problem with the later series is that there have been fewer and fewer Autobots. The 1980s series had a long roster, and few ‘Bots from that series appear in newer shows today.

This goes for the original female Autobots as much as for the male ones. Transformers Prime had one female Autobot, the perennially popular and recognizable Arcee. Arcee is a great character (Prime had an especially intriguing take on her, not least because she barely had any PINK in her armor!), but the original characters are either shunted aside to make room for new characters or they are left out completely.

As an example, both Transformers Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise have character rosters that include old stand-bys Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. These are two great characters, and I certainly cannot imagine a Transformers series that does not have Optimus Prime as the leader of the Autobots. I much prefer him to all the other potential supreme leaders of the group, quite frankly.

But other ‘Bots from the original series are either never brought in or are killed off, as in the case of Cliffjumper and Seaspray in Prime. If the writers do not want to bring them in, they certainly do not have to. But why bring them in only to kill them off? Especially when most of their target audience (children aged seven and up) either barely got to know them or have no idea who the particular characters were?

I simply think it would be a good idea to include as many original characters in the new Transformers series as possible. Luckily, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, is doing that fairly well. The current Autobot roster consists of such originals as Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Grimlock, Optimus Prime, and Jazz. Slipstream and Jetstorm, whose names have been applied to characters in previous series, appear in the show as Mini-Cons. The newcomers in the series are Autobot bounty hunter/samurai Drift, Decepticon hunter Windblade, Mini-con Fixit, and Elite Guard cadet Strongarm. (Previously, characters named Strongarm were male. I am sorry, but would it not have been better to bring in an original female Autobot instead of retrofitting a male Autobot’s name for a female character? Anyone…?) The only newcomer in Prime was Bulkhead, who in that series was a former Wrecker, while the ‘stand-bys’ included new versions of Wheeljack, Ratchet, Arcee, Ultra Magnus, and Smokescreen.

And, as I said in “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?,” it is rather irritating that the Decepticons end up outnumbering the Autobots in the newer stories because the Autobots are too stupid, wishy-washy, or otherwise ignorant of the coming Great War. Robots in Disguise seems to recognize that fact, being helped along by the detail that the series takes place after the close of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. Now, the Autobots rule the rejuvenated Cybertron and the Decepticons have been reduced to the criminal class. Their alternate modes are vehicle and animal, much like those in the Japanese show also titled Robots in Disguise.

And in this new Robots in Disguise series, Bumblebee’s team roster is up to the task of re-incarcerating the Decepticon(s) they face each episode, escaped criminal(s) from the wrecked prison ship, the Alchemor. Though there are technically about two hundred or more Decepticons loose on Earth after the crash of the Alchemor, this discrepancy in Autobot/Decepticon numbers is compensated for by the fact that ‘Cons are notoriously bad team players. Only a strong, terrifying leader like Megatron or, in this series, Steeljaw, is capable of keeping a unit of Decepticons together for any length of time.

And a couple of the ‘Cons in this series are also certifiable nutjobs, so they are unwilling to be part of a gang for very long. This makes them much easier for the Autobots to handle.

The only irritating thing about the shift in tactics for the Autobots in Robots in Disguise is how by-the-book Cybertronian society has become post-war. This is demonstrated best by Strongarm, an Elite Guard cadet and Bumblebee’s protégé. She believes that following the rule book will help her advance in her career, not realizing that such rigidity stifles creativity – her own as much as anyone else’s. (Though it is nice that it is a female Autobot who is so by-the-book and not a male Autobot.)

The opposite is brought out in Sideswipe, who in this series is an Autobot ‘punk’ who has been nabbed several times for minor infractions of the law. As he once put it, one apparently “can’t turn left on Cybertron without breaking some law!”

Bumblebee is in the middle. He follows the rules every hero follows and is flexible enough that he is willing to bend or break the rules when he has to. In this way he is less rigid than Strongarm; however, he also recognizes the importance of laws and rules, something the high-spirited Sideswipe is still learning.

Unfortunately, this regulation-bound version of Cybertron is a trap that I did not realize the writers might fall into if they followed my advice in “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” I should have seen it coming, but I did not. The result is that the new Cybertron has too many rules and regulations on the books. Now that the Autobots are in charge, the writers have made Cybertron something of a “regulation nation” in Robots in Disguise. Instead of keeping order, most Autobots seem focused on being orderly.

That is not the solution to the problem I brought up in my last post. Too much regulation breeds characters like Sideswipe who, if you tell him “it’s the law,” but do not explain why, go out and cause trouble because he feels he is being squashed to death by a bunch of regulations. It also breeds characters like Strongarm who live, breathe, eat, and dream about the rule book.

Neither attitude is proper for life, something Bee has been training the “two teenagers” to realize. You cannot live without law and order, but you also cannot kneel down and worship the rule book. One attitude leads to anarchy while the other leads to a police state, wherein only the police are happy. What is necessary is a balance between these two viewpoints.

And this, from what I remember of my research, is the problem that I was trying to address in the original “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” post. If the writers make most of the Autobots by-the-book characters like Strongarm, then of course they are going to be devastated in a war! They have no flexibility or capacity to think beyond the instructions in the book, so how can they react to life-threatening situations?

Meanwhile the Decepticons, who want to take over Cybertron, are not going to cut such ‘Bots any slack. Their pride demands that they be in charge of everything, and if someone is going to stand there and quote the rule book to them, they will not be quoting it for long. The ‘Cons will see to that.

This is why Ultra Magnus has always been an inferior leader when compared to Optimus Prime. He has too much rigidity in his outlook on life, too much dogmatic love of the rule book, to think on his feet and face the enemy when they strike at him. In contrast, Optimus knows the difference between right and wrong, maintains that outlook on the battlefield, and is prepared for the Decepticons to play dirty. Because he knows that they will. Experience and an understanding of his enemy, namely Megatron, assure him of this.

And this is the attitude I would rather the writers took toward the Autobots and Decepticons the next time they tell a story about the Autobot/Decepticon Great War. No more rigidity; just an understanding of good versus evil. That does not eliminate characters like Strongarm or Ultra Magnus, but it does give the Autobots a much better chance of survival as a race!

Well, readers, this is the successor to “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” If this post tops the charts for the next three years…!! Do you think you could look over some of the other posts? Please?!

Let’s roll out!

The Mithril Guardian

Transformers Prime

Vote for Your Favorite Autobot Today!

The Original Optimus Prime

The Original Optimus Prime

Hello, readers! Today, at the request of a friend, I have decided to put up another poll. In this poll you get to vote for your favorite Autobot (sorry, Decepticon fans, but I tend to dislike those clowns with the purple insignias).

Now not all the Autobots who were ever written about, appeared in a show, or the like, made it into this poll. That is too tall an order for me to fill! But I put down as many as I could remember (and I can remember a great many), including several Female Autobots. (If you read “Odd Girls Out,” then you know I wish we could see more of the original Autobot ladies on the newer series’ battlefields!) This poll will be open for up to a month, possibly a little more, and then I am shutting it down. Previously, I left my polls open for a week only, but when those posts began receiving more looks long after a week had passed, I decided that I would leave any new polls open for a longer period of time.

However, I WILL NOT LEAVE THESE POLLS OPEN CONSTANTLY!!! They will only be open for a month, more or less. Then they are closed down until I decide if/when to reopen them.

So, readers, make hay while the sun shines and vote for your favorite Autobot with all conceivable speed! “Autobots, roll out!”

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Transformers Prime