Transformers – More Than Meets the Eye, Part 1

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-by Joshie Jaxon

It’s no secret that I love villains. In general, they get the best powers, lairs, henchmen, outfits, etc. They don’t have to worry about things like morality, or impulse control. They want what they want, and will do what they want to get it. I can’t exactly pinpoint where I got my love of villains, but rewatching the pilot for Transformers I think I found a part of it. You’ll see as you read further.

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Many millions of years ago, on the planet Cybertron, life existed, but not life as we know it today. Again I’ll state, I love me some good voice over. This establishes several things right out of the gate. This take place millions of years ago, by Earth’s accounting of time. Also that these robots can think and feel. Decepticons are driven by domination, and set out to destroy the peaceful Autobots. The voice tells us that the war between the two devastated the resources of the land, and the Autobots, on the verge of extinction, fight to survive. I’m guessing that means the Decepticons are winning, and in control of all the remaining energy.

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My theory is proven correct when we see two Autobots, Wheeljack and Bumblebee, stealing rods. Wheeljack transforms, and tells Bumblebee to load him up. Bumblebee proceeds to insert the rods from behind. Typical Friday night on Cybertron. Seriously, they’re off to a good start. That is of course until they run into a Decepticon blockade. Prime warned him there’d be days like this. As they escape, the Decepticons go after them, and transform into badass looking space jets. See what I mean about villains being better? Although I think they studied at the storm trooper academy, since even though they’re robots, and should be able to analyze and predict where their target will be, nearly all their shots miss. Bumblebee loses a wheel, and Wheeljack says he wants him inside him. He damaged his rear axel. Hang on to your crankshaft, Wheeljack is going into overdrive.

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They arrive at their base, and the platform retracts when they enter. How not having a platform is supposed to stop flying robots is beyond me, but at least they have the illusion of safety. That is, until is nearby street lamp reveals itself to be Soundwave. He launches awesome mix volume one, oops, it’s  Laserbeak, and sends it to spy on the Autobots through the windows. Optimus Prime tells Jazz and the others that unless a new source of energy is found, no one will win the war. One asks about the search mission. Optimus says whenever they’re ready to launch. Oh, if only they were robots that had sensors to detect spies. AMV1 returns to Soundwave to report to Megatron.

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I love Megatron. He’s got power. He can transform into a blaster. Plus he’s got an air of authority around him. Sorry, just had to fan girl for a second. Megatron says if there’s a source of energy to be found, the Decepticons will get it first. He orders Shockwave to keep an eye on Cybertron, soon Optimus will admit defeat. Meanwhile, Starscream says that the Autobots would have lost eons ago if he’d been calling the shots. Usurper! Megatron says that only a select few ever lead. Starscream says his time will come. Never!!

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Back at Autobot HQ, they are ready to launch. After they do, Megatron and the others follow suit. Two asteroids collide with one another, and the impact makes the ships shake. Optimus has Ironhide use the lasers to blast a path through the rubble. Not being stupid, the Decepticons follow safely behind them. Wait, they got detected. Alright, not completely stupid. Starscream says to just blow them away, since they’ve been spotted. Maybe he would make a good leader. Megatron says no, he wants to see what they’re after. Prepare the tractor beam! They connect to the Autobot ship, and a fight ensues. It is interrupted when the gravity of a nearby planet starts to pull them down. The tractor beam breaks, and the two ships crash in separate locations. Information I’m sure will be relevant later.

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We see the area the Autobot ship crashed in, complete with it’s Decepticon passengers. The landscape changes, and onscreen text tells us it’s four million years later. I’m gonna guess that on this universe, they’re what caused the dinosaur extinction. The nearby volcano erupts, which jostles the ship, and powers part of it on for some reason. We pan around to see all the broken robots, both good and bad, all over the ship. A probe leaves the ship, repeating “explore, explore”. It scans a fighter jet nearby, and relays the info to the ship. The ship starts repeating “repair, repair”. Uh oh.

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It fixes up the closest robot, and as luck would have it, it’s a Decepticon. The ship loads the new jet design for him to turn into, and repairs him. Wait a second, this is a civilization of intelligent, feeling, spaceship traveling robots, and the ship can’t tell friend from foe? Seriously? The jet drags Megatron to the beam, and it repairs him as well. Either Optimus is an idiot, or he’s arrogant, to not at least consider that an injured enemy could get on his ship, let alone his arch nemesis. Soon all of the Decepticons are up and about. Megatron says they aren’t in Kansas anymore. The jet asks if Cybertron still exists. Megatron says it must. They will take the resources from this land, and build the ultimate weapon. Starscream starts blasting, and Megatron tells him not to waste his energy. Starscream was just saying goodbye. He fires one more shot, and causes a landslide.

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Sadly, had he listened, this next part wouldn’t have happened, and they may have succeeded. However, the rockslide shook Optimus into the path of the scanner for the repair beam. The probe scans a diesel, and soon Optimus is back on his feet. Stupid Starscream. Meanwhile, Megatron finds an area where they can build a new space cruiser. He orders preparations to be made, pointing out a nearby power plant that can be used for materials. Starscream borrows awesome mix volume two, I mean, Rumble, from Soundwave. The group fly off to destroy the plant.

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Optimus is busy telling the Autobots that this new planet is full of resources, and figures the Decepticons must know that too. He sends Hound and Cliffjumper to go searching for them. Cliffjumper says he’s gonna boot a Decepticon right in his turbo charger. That’s my purse! I don’t know you! Sorry, wrong show. At the plant, Starscream tells Rumble that one day he’ll be listening to his orders. Rumble tells him that Megatron is merciless, and can’t be beat. Starscream says he’ll find a way. Everyone has a weakness. You’d think four million years would chill him out a bit. Oh well, time to wreck things.

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Hound and Cliffjumper find the Decepticons, who have already made lots of progress on their base. Hound uses a small dish to hear what’s going on. Soundwave is telling Megatron they can take our earthly resources, make them into energon cubes, and fly them home in the new cruiser. Fun fact, I used to use mini marshmallows as energon cubes as a kid, and stick them in the Transformers that had a spot I could put them in. Cliffjumper has a giant bazooka from somewhere, and says he has Megatron in his sights. Not really. He misses, and now the Decepticons know you’re alive. Why they didn’t disable the repair device after their own were taken care of is beyond me. AMV1, Laserbeak, is sent to follow them. The two Autobots split up, figuring one of them will get back to prime. AMV1 manages to shoot Hound, and send him rolling down the mountain.

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Cliffjumper returns with an ambulance and a tow truck. Hound says he’s too injured to transform. Cliffjumper is sorry he fired on Megatron. Hound says he should be sorry for missing. Hauler pulls him up, and they head back to Prime. Elsewhere, the jet is talking to three robots half his size. None of them can believe the Autobots survived. One of them must be wondering who was supposed to disable the repair beam. A car drives through the desert, and the jet has the other three transform into a camera. A Polaroid at that. Reflector is made up of three robots, but manages to fit in his hand. Then again, Megatron is handheld too. I’ll just go with it. Apparently the jet’s name is Thundercracker. The villains get all the good names, and forms, if you ignore the camera. Which I will.

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Soundwave gets a report of the vehicle in the desert. Thinking it’s a possible Autobot, Megatron orders the release of awesome mix volume three, er, Ravage. Repair guys get to the wrecked plant, but they have bigger problems. Ravage is a robotic panther. They get in the truck to get away. In the Autobot ship, Optimus is briefed on what was overheard about the energon cubes. Finally growing a pair, Prime says to organize a battle plan. They’re going after them. Mouseketeer role call! Optimus, Jazz, Wheeljack, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Jailbreaker, Ironhide, Barrage, all transform and roll out!

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AMV1 returns to the Decepticon base with word of an energy source. Megatron is pleased. Any guesses? Yep, it’s big oil. The Decepticons fly to an oil rig that isn’t there’s, hellbent on taking it for themselves. USA! USA! Oops. The puny humans throw tools and pipes at the giant robots. Yeah, fellas. That’ll work. Not! They all get knocked into the water, as Soundwave prepares the empty cubes. They compress them all from cubes of oil to cubes of glowy energon awesomeness. Starscream is excited, since they can now go home. Megatron says they’re gonna suck it dry. If they weren’t robots, I’d make a joke about this not being the first time he’s said that. Then again, robots do need to be lubricated. Make your own jokes here.

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The Autobots arrive, and Megatron transforms and lands right in Starscream’s hand. Starscream pulls his, um, trigger, and Megatron goes off. The two groups fight, and the Decepticons get most of the energon cubes as the escape. AMV1 attacks Prime as Megatron and the others take off. He blasts the support pillars for good measure, leaving Optimus and the others to swim in the oil filled waters. Actually, the good measure is in lighting the oil on fire. Oh no! There are trapped humans, and Optimus can’t free them. Having never met humans before, he somehow knows to have them keep their heads above water. We end on that cliffhanger. Wow, that’s a lot to cram into the opening episode. I don’t know about you, but I loved every minute of it.

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There’s a question I’ve always had about Transformers. Where do new Transformers come from? Do a mommy bot, and a daddy bot go to the local assembly line and pick what they like from each other’s blueprints? I know the reality is they’re built, not bred, but how do they decide what it’s going to be? I mean that in terms of what it transforms into, as well as will it be Autobot or Decepticon. What if you raise your little scooter, Vespa, to be an Autobot, but it wants to be a Decepticon named Harley? Do you get upgraded? Are they marked with their symbols at “birth”, or do they get to choose? There’s a whole morality issue in there somewhere. I’m aware that I’m overthinking a 30 year old cartoon, but I’ve got nothing better to do with my time. Besides, as an author, I know how important backstory and motivation can be. I’ll leave you to ponder those things as well. Until next time!

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-JJ

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