Reassessing plot aspects of TF:TM in light of Revenge of the Fallen [SPOILERS for the latter, natch]

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Reassessing plot aspects of TF:TM in light of Revenge of the Fallen [SPOILERS for the latter, natch]

Post by Halfshell » Thu Jul 09, 2009 1:21 pm

** CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR REVENGE OF THE FALLEN **

** Obviously **

... right? We clear? Cool.

I touched upon this in the general ROTF reaction thread, but it got lost in the shuffle, so I figured I'd give it its own thread.

Some of us love the original animated Movie, some of us... don't. But what with a certain plot aspect being borrowed for the 2009 film, I thought it worth having a bit of a pow-wow about it. Specifically, I'm referring to Optimus Prime's death.

Obviously it's all a bit old-hat now, what with him dying on a yearly basis in the Unicron Trilogy (I think?) and with his analogue biting the bullet in Beast Wars. Hell, it was even a running gag before then, what with his routine side-trips to the morgue in the Marvel Comics.

I've not seen Animated yet (I'm working on it and will dispense vengeance on anybody who's oversold it), but I'd guess he probably dies at least once in that too - which is part of my point: nowadays, we kind of expect it. Though I didn't anticipate it going into Revenge of the Fallen. Maybe I should have. But it struck me after seeing the film that, even with the expectation, that's pretty much as close as the current generation of kids will get to the feeling we all had back in the 80s when we marched in to see our giant robots on the big screen, only to see Prime ruthlessly offed by Megatron with no chance of recovery within the first half hour.

Obviously, there's differences. Back then it was the result of interference from the brand new toy character who was to replace him, thus mucking up his resolution in what should have been The Big One on One We'd All Been Waiting For. Today it's the result of him being so preoccupied with protecting an innocent that he wasn't willing to wait for back-up before taking on three Decepticons at once, letting Megatron gut him from behind. A far worthier death, I'm sure you'll agree. And one that puts him nearer to Marvel Scorponok in the "against all odds" category than when he blew himself up because Megatron cheated in a video game.

But the real difference, to my eyes, was what happened next. In 1986, the Autobots stood about for a bit, got misty eyed, then carried on with their lives under a couple of useless muppets until fan outrage caused a resurrection a year later. In 2007, they carry on best they can until the discovery that they can Bring Him Back And By Gods It Will Work, at which point a massive part of the film becomes about exactly that.

Arguably, this is a result of people learning from mistakes and thinking "well, we traumatised a generation once, best not do it again!" (the same thinking that led to one of the most blatantly overdubbed lines in animation history... I wonder if Duke dies in the new one...), possibly along with the audience expectation that "well, he'll be back... he always comes back" which has been ingrained into our collective unconscious through repeated resurrections. Not unlike Jesus, Magneto, The Master, Jean Grey or a Cylon - nobody ever really believes he's dead.

But which worked best?

Have the new generation been robbed of the realisation that sometimes the hero gets killed off in the first reel? Or was resurrection the only way to go, what with it being a Major Motion Picture as opposed to a kid's animated feature?

Would Revenge of the Fallen have been improved by the Matrix subplot being dropped and the spotlight being shone on the leaderless Autobots coming into their own in a bid to stop the Solar Harvester?

Or would people have resented being sold another "and the hero's dead - come back for the next movie to see how we bring him back to life!" ending after the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 cliffhanger? Nowadays the savvy fan expects Prime to be back anyway, and doing it in the same film keeps the episodic feel of the series.

Would the animated Movie have benefited from the addition of a "we can get Prime back!" subplot to prop up the second half of the film (which, can be argued, is a just a sequence of skits and padding) and give it a greater sense of hope and urgency (and make it slightly less Star Warsy)? Would the final triumph have been more rounded if it had been a reborn Optimus (possibly in a new body to promote a new toy) who threw Galvatron out of Unicron's eye?

I must admit there was something warm and satisfying about Optimus standing tall on the aircraft carrier at the end of the film, knowing how they'd homaged the past but gone in a different direction. But what's your take?

DISCUSSINATE OR TASTE MY WRATH (tastes like chicken)!

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Post by Clay » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:33 pm

Halfshell wrote:Would the animated Movie have benefited from the addition of a "we can get Prime back!" subplot to prop up the second half of the film (which, can be argued, is a just a sequence of skits and padding) and give it a greater sense of hope and urgency (and make it slightly less Star Warsy)?
Yes. I think I've only seen the animated movie twice, both times as an adult, and both times it seemed to completely run out of ideas, steam, whatever about twenty minutes or so in. It's as if the whole script was jotted down on a napkin with, "kill toys, then run through Star Wars."

Is there even a mention or recap of Prime being dead at the end of the animated film? This new movie at least sticks to the idea that Prime's dead for entire runtime.

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Post by Halfshell » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:37 pm

Clay wrote:Is there even a mention or recap of Prime being dead at the end of the animated film? This new movie at least sticks to the idea that Prime's dead for entire runtime.
The UK home video release (not sure about our theatrical) has a Caroli voice-over at the end assuring viewers that "the greatest Autobot of them all, Optimus Prime, will return". But that's about it, I think.

Well, aside from Hot Rod hearing his voice as he opens the Matrix (a bit that once upon a time sent shivers down my spine, but now just makes me roll my eyes).

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Post by Cliffjumper » Thu Jul 09, 2009 2:54 pm

IIRC, the UK version had a dubbed line over the titles... but aside from the odd lie from Galvatron (Megatron didn't crush him, he shot him and still got battered, Megatron was merely lucky that he floated into a convenient plot device created by a monkey in a helmet) and the voiceover in the Rodimus Prime scene.

And yeh, for me it definitely gave RotF some direction in similar circumstances. Rewatching TF:TM a day or so ago it really hit me how pointless and directionless the Autobots are after Prime's death - they've got a vague plan to go and stop Unicron, and that's it - if it wasn't for the contrived sequence of Quintessons/Wheelie or Junk, they wouldn't have had a ****ing clue, and they're generally about as uninspiring and unheroic as you can imagine. I mean, RotF isn't exactly perfect in terms of both this (the Autobots rather meekly adhering to the US military's lockdown demands, and the rather convoluted Seeker thing), but at least there's some effort there to get him back.

That said, in RotF, it does bug me that we never really see any reaction to Prime's actual death - Sam (logically, to be fair) seems more scared than upset before Bumblebee gets him out of there, but some sort of reaction other than blank faces from all at NEST would have been nice. Wouldn't have necessarily gone for something as mawkish as the TF:TM version, but some indication that this is a Very Bad Thing would have been good.

I think the difference is that RotF uses Prime very well - it's got twenty-plus extra years of experience, and knows that Prime is The Big Cheese. Thus not only does he go out in a genuine blaze of glory, rather than getting sandbagged by some very poor mugging from Megatron (I mean, shit, getting outwitted by G1 cartoon Megatron...), but straight away everyone realises he's really ****ing important and they can't just ship in Someotherguyimus Prime through a plot contrivance.

TF:TM treats him as relatively disposable - of course the charge is excellent (if ruined by Stan Cocking Bush), and he does (morally) hand Megatron one last lesson in fisticuffs, but then once he's dead it's Hot Rod, who we'd never heard of 25 minutes before, is pushed to the forefront as the heroic lead, and an hour later we're told he's replacing Prime. Not so good.

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Post by Halfshell » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:10 pm

Cliffjumper wrote:Wouldn't have necessarily gone for something as mawkish as the TF:TM version, but some indication that this is a Very Bad Thing would have been good.
I think The Fallen rising upon OP's death was meant to convey that to the viewer, but the whole thing of what the Fallen's hooked up to and why he stands up then is so vague that it's best not to think about it.

Going by everybody's reaction to Jazz dying in the first one (they were more concerned by Bumblebee getting kidnapped... actually, thinking about it only Jazz was), the Movie Autobots aren't really too fussed by death. Especially considering how Jetfire just ripped his own spark out without much ceremony or reaction. Maybe they're at the point where they're desensitised to it... kinda the opposite end of the spectrum to the cartoon where lasers were just brightly coloured lights up until Brawn got shot, and they needed a weepy deathbed scene for Prime.

But yeah, given the fanfared airdrop opening, you'd think at least the NEST humans would have realised his importance.
it's got twenty-plus extra years of experience, and knows that Prime is The Big Cheese.
Mmm, I think the ROTF handling of it is very much a case of learning from mistakes and a big dose of hindsight. If Hasbro realised how much OP was instrumental in the public idea of the line, he almost certainly would have had a new toy for the third year of the range. As such, he was just another product that was being discontinued.

The Movie line toys are a different animal to the 80s range, too. Back then it was a constant roll-out. Now it's a specific set every two years.

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Post by Vin Ghostal » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:18 pm

To me, the original movie is the first example of the balancing act that has driven Transformers ever since: how to introduce new toys/characters and phase out old ones without alienating the viewer. Most season 2 episodes in the original show were designed to cram an individual toy or combiner team down our throats, and Hasbro thought they could take that formula to the extreme with the movie. Keeping Optimus in the mix would have, in their eyes, defeated the purpose of spending so much money on a feature length film.

Would a "resurrect Optimus" storyline have made the original movie better? I think so, but it's hard to say. Though I didn't find the cast of new Autobots particularly likeable, their struggle against both the Decepticons and Unicron in the movie's second half came off as more heroic than a "Christ, we've just got to hang in there until we can get Prime back" angle would have. That's one thing I wasn't particularly crazy about with the new film: sure, everyone would LIKE to resurrect Prime, but what if that plan doesn't work? It seems like the other Autobots are absolutely clueless as to how to handle the situation. I could have gone for a 45-second scene where Ironhide, Bumblebee, Sideswipe and the others talked about how they could take Megatron down without Prime.
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Post by Halfshell » Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:24 pm

Mmm. Sure, the script acknowledged the notion of "er... what if this doesn't work then?" with the Matrix crumbling to dust. But it basically dealt with it in a twenty second exchange, with the answer being a straightforward "it will."

Which is a great character moment for Sam, but doesn't necessarily cover it from a dramatic aspect.

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Post by Cliffjumper » Thu Jul 09, 2009 4:12 pm

Agree on the comparisons of TF:TM to the cartoon - to run with Season 2 as an example, Sunstreaker getting shoved to one side for, say, Smokescreen is only a problem for people who liked Sunstreaker, and even they might have liked Smokescreen anyway. But pretty much all the kids liked Optimus Prime, even if they pretend they always liked Megatron more now. The other thing they failed to understand is the reason no-one minded so much in the cartoon was (pre-movie anyway) we were used to characters reappearing and disappearing. But to kill Prime with such finality (okay, so it wasn't all that final, but they had to totally ignore the continuity to do so - he's more ****ed up on that slab than he was in Dark Awakening or TRoOP) meant the kids couldn't hide from it.

You really have to wonder what sort of market research Hasbro actually had going on... And it would be interesting to wonder how things might have gone if they'd gone the 'new Optimus in TF:TM' route. Mind, I never really understood the decision to outright discontinue his toy anyway... Anecdotal I know, but in my school he was a sort of ongoing Holy Grail - even after PM Prime came out, owning an original Optimus had a hell of a playground cachet to it. Considering Gobots put Leader-1 out for three years (plus a Super version) and only stopped because the line died... I mean, out out other figures for the sales, sure - they sort of did this in Season 2 anyway, with Prime moving a little back in the mix (there are a few episodes* Optimus tops and tails at the Ark, with a new toy or two getting all the action bits inbetween) and lots of new characters featured, and you can't tell me Season 2 didn't shift a whole load of toys...

Also agree on there being some sort of indication of a Plan B. Actually, implication of a Plan B that was a heroic failure, with Prime coming in just in time to save the whole thing from the shitter, would have been even better.

* = as I recall, though there might only be one or something...

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Post by inflatable dalek » Thu Jul 09, 2009 6:18 pm

The original film has always struck me as being made by people who've gone giddy with the relative freedom a film gives them after two years of the restrictions of kids TV. They seem to literally be throwing everything they can think of in it (Violence! Swearing! Rock and roll! We get to design the characters for once!) creating something that's all over the place. I suspect Hasbro weren't as hands on as usual either under the assumption that what was sure to be a mega blockbuster film would only be good for them. The death of Prime pretty much sums this up, as Cliffy says they could have just faded him into the background but they kill him simply because they can now. And don't have a clue what to do next.

I still enjoy the film mind, and I think they might have recovered from its box office failure if the opening of the third season hadn't assumed everyone must have seen it and never bothered to explain the new set up. That must have been a hell of a jarring change for the bulk of the audience who watched BOT who were waiting for the video of the film.

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Post by Brimstone » Thu Jul 09, 2009 6:31 pm

Quick question: Do we know for sure that Optimus Prime was dead in the movie? I mean, does anyone (Ratchet, specifically) say that Prime is dead? Or have we just been assuming it? Because now that I've read the comic and I've gotten to that point in the novel, both of them clearly state that he is in stasis lock. The novel actually explains what that means. His whole system shuts down and his Spark solely (no pun intended) focuses on the act of healing the body. Ratchet says back on Cybertron they have fascilities to help speed up the process (CR chamber, anyone?) but without it, Prime will be out of commission for a very "long time, even by transformer reckoning."

Meaning, for all intents and purposes of humans, he's pretty much dead. And I haven't gotten to the Jetfire part yet, but I'm wondering if it's going to be that he was in stasis lock, too.

No Megatron...he was just plain brought back to life, and they didn't explain that at all in either the comic or the novel (or the movie for that matter).

I guess the idea is: too much Energon kills, just the right amount can bring you back?
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Post by wolfbolt86 » Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:52 pm

Brimstone wrote:Quick question: Do we know for sure that Optimus Prime was dead in the movie? I mean, does anyone (Ratchet, specifically) say that Prime is dead? Or have we just been assuming it? Because now that I've read the comic and I've gotten to that point in the novel, both of them clearly state that he is in stasis lock. The novel actually explains what that means. His whole system shuts down and his Spark solely (no pun intended) focuses on the act of healing the body. Ratchet says back on Cybertron they have fascilities to help speed up the process (CR chamber, anyone?) but without it, Prime will be out of commission for a very "long time, even by transformer reckoning."
After the Autobots drive Megatron and Starscream off, we get a secne of the Fallen getting off what he was setting and saying, "The last Prime is Dead!"

With bring Megatron back to life, they fixed the body with the "kindly donated" parts to fix the body and used the spark fragment to jump start or somehow get the spark to start up agian.

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Post by Tramp » Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:10 pm

Brimstone wrote:Quick question: Do we know for sure that Optimus Prime was dead in the movie? I mean, does anyone (Ratchet, specifically) say that Prime is dead? Or have we just been assuming it? Because now that I've read the comic and I've gotten to that point in the novel, both of them clearly state that he is in stasis lock. The novel actually explains what that means. His whole system shuts down and his Spark solely (no pun intended) focuses on the act of healing the body. Ratchet says back on Cybertron they have fascilities to help speed up the process (CR chamber, anyone?) but without it, Prime will be out of commission for a very "long time, even by transformer reckoning."

Meaning, for all intents and purposes of humans, he's pretty much dead. And I haven't gotten to the Jetfire part yet, but I'm wondering if it's going to be that he was in stasis lock, too.

No Megatron...he was just plain brought back to life, and they didn't explain that at all in either the comic or the novel (or the movie for that matter).

I guess the idea is: too much Energon kills, just the right amount can bring you back?
wolfbolt86 wrote:After the Autobots drive Megatron and Starscream off, we get a secne of the Fallen getting off what he was setting and saying, "The last Prime is Dead!"

With bring Megatron back to life, they fixed the body with the "kindly donated" parts to fix the body and used the spark fragment to jump start or somehow get the spark to start up agian.
Also, Optimus was struck through his Spark chamber. That is a fatal wound.

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Post by Cliffjumper » Thu Jul 09, 2009 9:23 pm

Plus if he was in some sort of stasis lock with his body trying to recover, i.e. the TF equivalent of a coma, they probably wouldn't drop his carcass from a plane twice...

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Post by Halfshell » Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:18 pm

What the comic and novelisation state is largely irrelevant. As far as the movie viewer is concerned, he's dead. I doubt anybody in the cinema's reaction was "I'll have to go and check the adaptations to see if they say he's actually pegged it before I form an opinion."

Prose TF stories usually have some preoccupation with overexamining and justifying stuff that a film or cartoon can generally just go with and let the viewer interpret on their own. The author has time and space to try and rationalise the exact phenomenon. "As Prime was struck through the back, he felt his circuits seize up and he slipped into stasis lock" translates to the big screen as *kablam!*

The beginning of season 2 of Beast Wars establishes that Optimus Primal's spark survived and merged with the Matrix, and that because of the associated transwarp explosion, it can be retrieved fairly easily and installed into a new body. It doesn't alter the fact that Other Voices ended with "holy frak, Primal's dead!"

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Post by Brimstone » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:39 pm

Okay, I'm sorry, I think I must have given too much of what I was thinking and wrote too much in my post and so everyone missed my actual question. (I do that sometimes :))

Did anyone who examined Prime's body (preferably Ratchet, but any Autobot would do...the Fallen doesn't count) actually state that Optimus Prime was dead? Or have we all just been assuming he was dead? I honestly can't remember if it was explicitly stated. Does anyone remember, or know for sure?
Cliffjumper wrote:Plus if he was in some sort of stasis lock with his body trying to recover, i.e. the TF equivalent of a coma, they probably wouldn't drop his carcass from a plane twice...
That's probably true...but at least they used parachutes this time.
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Post by Tramp » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:47 pm

Brimstone wrote:Okay, I'm sorry, I think I must have given too much of what I was thinking and wrote too much in my post and so everyone missed my actual question. (I do that sometimes :))

Did anyone who examined Prime's body (preferably Ratchet, but any Autobot would do...the Fallen doesn't count) actually state that Optimus Prime was dead? Or have we all just been assuming he was dead? I honestly can't remember if it was explicitly stated. Does anyone remember, or know for sure?That's probably true...but at least they used parachutes this time.
They didn't need to. It was blatantly obvious to everyone. As I said before, his Spark Chamber had been pierced. His Spark extinguished. That is a fatal blow. Optimus was dead.

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Post by Clay » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:50 pm

Tramp wrote:They didn't need to. It was blatantly obvious to everyone. As I said before, his Spark Chamber had been pierced. His Spark extinguished. That is a fatal blow. Optimus was dead.
Transformers didn't have sparks in 1986.

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Post by Tramp » Thu Jul 09, 2009 11:52 pm

Clay wrote:Transformers didn't have sparks in 1986.
Not quite. Sparks simply hadn't been introduced until later. Besides, Brimstone's question is in regards to RotF Prime, not '86 Prime.

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Post by Clay » Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:19 am

Tramp wrote:Not quite. Sparks simply hadn't been introduced until later.
There's a rather large chasm between 'hadn't been introduced' and 'hadn't been invented'.

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Post by Tramp » Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:27 am

Clay wrote:There's a rather large chasm between 'hadn't been introduced' and 'hadn't been invented'.
I know, That is why I very specifically said Hadn't bee "introduced". The concept hadn't been though of yet, but was retroactively established as their always having Sparks. Thus, Sparks aren't an invention of the Maximals and Predicons. All transformers have always had Sparks. the "ghost" G1 Starscream (from the cartoon) went back in time to the Beast Era Earth and posessed Waspinator. It is specifically established that this was his Spark, his Aberrant, indestructible Spark, in both the episodes Posession and Bad Spark. This was an explicit retcon of the Season three Episodes involving Starscream's ghost establishing his "ghost" as his disembodied aberrant Spark. So I chose my words very carefully. Sparks hadn't been introduced yet in '86, but they did retroactively exist.

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