Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Been there, done that.

Or "Exactly what's starting to bore me about Transformers."

A heroic Megatron...exactly what this franchise needs.

Brace yourselves.

There's no question that Transformers is a juggernaut of popular culture. It's probably never been more popular or widely recognized, and there is more merchandise for fans to dump money into that could even be thought possible (TF was in fact created to sell toys, so it makes sense). Still, in the flurry of new material and fiction in the wake of the "Transformers Revival" (even though it never went away), I've come to a realization that inevitably befalls all epic, gigantic points of fiction that have been around for so long; we're retreading old ground.

Tell me you haven't seen a pattern here. Optimus Prime and his Autobots battle the evil forces of Megatron and his Decepticons. The battle is inevitably taken to Earth. Bumblebee does silly things. Starscream betrays Megatron. And then again. And then again. All of this is repeated over and over and over and over.
I'm keenly aware that Prime and Megs are the big moneymakers, the defining characters of this franchise, but for the love of Primus, can we catch a break?

Allow me to enter these examples into the mix:

G1 - Optimus Prime vs. Megatron. It was cool, it was fresh, it had the classic flair of good and evil and established the characters we all came to love. Not a great show but still extremely entertaining.

Ah, back when it was fresh.

The Movie - Optimus dies, Megatron gets reformatted into Galvatron. Rodimus Prime takes up the mantle (badly) but it shifted things around and made it all interesting again. Then Optimus came back. Okay then.

You suck. But at least you were interesting.

Thennnnn....the Japanese took over. Now let's not forget that, if it weren't for Takara's toy designs, there would be no Transformers. BUT let us also not forget that the Japanese don't have a great track record when it comes to the fiction (see: really effed-up story elements and WAY too much "comedy"). However, they still gave us a handful of switch-ups. For example, no more Convoy (Optimus) or Galvatron/Megatron/WHATEVER he was supposed to be on a given day of the week. In the new series such as Victory, Battlestars and Masterforce we were given characters like the serious-but caring Star Saber and his vicious-but-caring (?) nemesis Deathsaurus (?!) and a plethora of other Autobot Supreme Commanders and Decepticon Emperors of Destruction.

Brutally slaughtering Decepticons and raising a human child. All in a day's work.

Things were...well, not "good," but varied and crazy. If it's one thing the Japanese are good at, it's repainting an old product. Still, Optimus and Megatron returned, like they do, as Star Convoy and Super Megatron for one final, massive storybooks and whatnot, but hey, at least it was "epic"! Seriously, something like this wasn't so bad; having these legendary characters return to settle things once and for all at the tail end of G1 (and show all these upstarts how it's done) was probably the way to go.

Yes, he is, in fact, FULL OF STARS.

And no we get to Beast Wars, and by GOD is everything right in the world. G1 references are made and G1 character appear, but we now have a new, fresh cast of characters in a new era with new grievances. True, the main actors are still "Optimus" and "Megatron," but the two only resemble their namesakes in spirit *cough* BW was so damn awesome and so well written (by Season 2 at least) that it brought a new generation into Transformers (myself included) and helped push the entire mythos into a new and better direction. complete me.

And THEN Beast Machines happened. We had officially gone off-track. True, it's not a bad show, but it really stretched the definition of a Transformer, and got way too far up its own exhaust port. So what happened? Well, it was time for "back to basics," so to speak.

The only problem didn't really get things quite right. So they tried again.

...Nothing less than THREE DAMN TIMES. And the Unicron Trilogy was AWFUL.

So, Hasbro has pulled out all the stops, and now we have nothing less than three current continuities, ALL with Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, i.e. G1 rehashing.

The Movies.

The Comics.

And "Animated" (as though that's something new).

Okay, I can cut Transformers: Animated some slack. It's still Optimus Prime vs. Megatron, but the characters all have a wider range of motivations and there's new and cool influences taken from various sources, and, thank Primus, IT'S A NEW ART STYLE. But the series is already barreling head-first towards its finale. So what then? Will we have to sit through another reboot? Will we get to see Starscream backstab Megatron AGAIN? Will we get to see Optimus use the Matrix (or Allspark) to eliminate evil (see: Unicron) AGAIN?

In my opinion, it's time for a new direction. Once the movie franchise cools off, I say we start up with some new characters and a new direction. Not Optimus and Megatron (or at least not DIRECTLY those characters), but something cool and new. Hell, why not Transtech, the ill-fated sequel to Beast Machines?

I'd watch this. ESPECIALLY if it wasn't about Optimus and Megatron...although it originally was...gah.

Dammit, Janet, I love Transformers. I'm loving the comics and digging the new movies and love the hell out of Animated, but I'd love even more for another Beast Wars with a dash of Victory. In other words...let's stop walking in circles and point ourselves in a new direction.


inomuiro said...

This, mostly.
But I have to say, nostalgia and repetition plays a big role in my enjoying the Transformers. Animated is the best thing that happened to the franchise in a long time, it's fresh and interesting, but I admit much of my enjoyment came from finding the references hinted and rejoicing at the old characters appearing, in a "omg, that's Wreck-Gar and is DARING TO BE STUPID! :D " way.
I was liking the new IDW twist to the story, especially the Spotlights, and then the last All Hail Megatron issues utterly depressed me. If Starscream manages to get himself killed AGAIN I will be sorely disappointed.
Anyway... I'm ready to try everything new the franchise brings on, so we'll see.

Andy said...

I'm with you on the retreading of the Transformers concepts. It's why I enjoyed IDW's new take on things and sadly that's been pretty much spunked away by the sunbow love fest that is All Hail megatron.

I'd love to have seen the Trasntech era happen properly, real alien looking robots. It would have been cool.