Transformers the Movie Part 2: The Sacking of Autobot City

When we last left our film, Optimus Prime had sent four out-of-print Autobots on a fuel run and they got massacred by Decepticons.  It was pretty depressing for everyone.

If you’re just joining us, the G1 cartoon has jumped forward two decades and the Decepticons are now in control of Cybertron with the Autobots formulating an invasion on two “secret” bases on the planet’s moons.  Secret gets quotation marks because the Decepticons are completely aware of their existence, yet for some reason don’t wipe them out, even though they have managed to conquer the planet.  The Autobots, however, have expanded their Earth operation from one ship wedged into a volcano into an entire Autobot City, which is what we’ll be dealing with in this chapter.

We open just outside of the city with two brand new characters – young upstart Autobot Hot Rod and his little human buddy Daniel, who is the son of Spike and his lady love Carly, whom true fans of G1 will know.  However, she – along with Spike’s father Spark Plug and the wheelchair bound Chip no longer will be appearing.  Try to get over your anguish.

Hot Rod and Daniel are spending the day fishing, though Daniel is all bummed out because he’s missing his father who as you will recall is stationed up on Moon Base 2.  Hot Rod assures Daniel that Spike will be back soon, even though Spike said earlier that he wouldn’t be home until Megatron’s tail was kicked across the galaxy.  Unfortunately, that message didn’t get to Daniel, since it’s messenger sort of got his head blown off.  No mouth, no message.

As Hot Rod catches a fish, Daniel’s pocket radar (hip toy for the X-Mas season!) goes off signalling that the shuttle is coming in and he insists on watching it land, even though the prospect bores Hot Rod.  Oblivious to anyone else’s feelings, Daniel hops onto a rocket powered jet board and takes off, though he horrificly sucks at it as he hits the first two rocks he encounters and has to be caught by Hot Rod for a far less dangerous ride as his board flies away.

Way to hit a rock, kid.

Way to hit a rock, kid.

Daniel wants to stop just outside the city, but Hot Rod insists on viewing the landing from Lookout Mountain.  Unfortunately, the entrance has been closed by fellow new character, replacement grizzled veteran Kup, who is making original Autobots Huffer, Blue Streak, and Hound carry some kind of fence into place while he stands and does nothing.

Let me say that yes, I did stop the video and specifically look to see which Autobots were making cameo appearances here.  Of course, the presence of Blue Streak and Hound make a little bit of an issue, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Hot Rod completely ignores Kup’s road block and drives right through it as Kup swears he’ll straighten out the upstart, setting up the adorable duo relationship that goes through the entire movie yet ultimately leads nowhere at the end.  Daniel disembarks and goes to the telescope at the end of the mountain’s edge and discovers to his surprise that there’s a hole in the shuttle.  Hot Rod invokes some binocular vision and sees the presence of the Decepticons aboard and begins firing upon the shuttle.

This demonstrates the weakness in the Decepticon’s “sneak into Autobot City aboard their shuttle” plan.  To enter the shuttle, they blew a massive hole into the side of it.  Apparently it didn’t dawn on them that the Autobots might notice that there’s not supposed to be a giant hole in the side of their shuttle and investigate.  Actually, it’s not really a bad plan because when Hot Rod starts shooting, all the Autobots below wonder what the hell he’s doing.

But let me take a moment to nitpick on something here.  Look at this image.

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Here, you see Kup commenting on Hot Rod shooting at the shuttle.  Also looking on are Huffer, Hound, Blue Streak and Sunstreaker.  I’ll come back to two of these characters in a moment, but I should point out that Blue Streak has actually been drawn as a miscolored Prowl.  The two are pretty much identical in shape, but there are three main differences between the two besides their coloring.  Blue Streak has shoulder cannons, while Prowl has larger “horns” on his head, as well as police shields on his doors.  Both transform into Datsuns, but Prowl is a police mark.  Here, you can see that despite being colored as Blue Streak, he has all the other signs of being Prowl.  This is not important whatsoever as this is the only time he shows up, but this is the type of thing you’re reading this comic for.

Where was I?  Oh yes, the attack!  The Decepticons return fire on Lookout Mountain and blow up the observation deck, but Hot Rod lands safely below while the Decepticons begin their attack in earnest as the shuttle bursts into flames.  Triple Changer Blitzwing and Insecticon Shrapnel show up to attack Hot Rod, but Kup intercepts the attack while Stan Bush’s song “Dare” rocks out.  For some reason Blitzwing waits until Kup pulls his turret out of aim to actually fire and hits his teammate instead of Hot Rod.  Shrapnel lands so hard that he bounces into Blitzwing and knocks him over easily.  Bug knocks over the tank.  Yup.

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Hot Rod makes a joke at Kup’s age, and the two take off to get back to Autobot City, I guess abandoning the other Autobots who were there with them.   Who cares about them?  They’re first wave.

Within the city, the one of only two season 2 Autobots to appear in the move, Perceptor, takes a gander at the incoming attack and reports to a quartet of new characters – Ultra Magnus, Springer, Arcee and Blurr – that they are outnumbered.  And this sentence warrants a little bit of explanation.

First, this movie is meant to take place after season 2 of the cartoon.  However, the production time of it was so long, that many of the characters introduced in said season do not appear in the movie, despite having numerous roles in the show.  You want a list?  Fine – the Autobots are lacking the Aerialbots (Silverbolt, Air Raid, Slingshot, Fireflight, Sky Dive), Omega Supreme, Skyfire, Skids, Tracks, Smoke Screen, Inferno, Red Alert, Hoist, Beach Comber, Sea Spray, Powerglide, Warpath, and the Protectabots (Hot Spot, Streetwise, Blades, First Aid, Groove).  Nor do original Autobots Trail Breaker, Sideswipe, Gears, and Mirage.  With what happens to the Moon Bases (see the next chapter) and those who make it out at the end (see the final chapter), it’s safe to say that all missing characters are stationed on Earth.  Or at least the two teams of combiners are, since they show up in the 3rd season.

The Decepticons have a rather small invasion force of at most 25 members.  Want a list there?  Fine: Megatron, Starscream, Skywarp, Thundercracker, Soundwave, Blitzwing, Astrotrain, Thrust, Ramjet, Dirge, the Insecticons (Bombshell, Kickback, Shrapnel), and the Constructicons (Scavenger, Scrapper, Mix Master, Bone Crusher, Long Haul, Hook).  Fine, we’ll toss in Soundwave’s tapes of Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage and Ratbat, and maybe even include Laserbeak and Buzzsaw who do not appear.  Perceptor’s statement would suggest that the Autobots have fewer than 25 stationed at their giant city, which as you recall is their main home since they got booted from Cybertron.  19 Autobots appear in the defense, and numerous undiscernable figures are shown running around.

My point?  Perceptor sucks.

Not.  Helping.

Not. Helping.

Anyway, his statement is meant to serve as the introduction to the other four new Autobots to the series: Ultra Magnus, Arcee, Springer and Blurr.  Two of them are actually very big deals…or at least they should be.  Arcee is a female Autobot, which is a very rare occurrence according to the second season episode “The Search for Alpha Trion”.  Springer is the first Autobot triple-changer, though it’s almost a throwaway occurrence that won’t show up until later in the movie.  For the majority of the movie he simply transforms into a helicopter.

Ultra Magnus, obviously the leader figure, starts spouting orders.  While Arcee and Springer are sent off to transform Autobot City, Perceptor is ordered to tell Blaster to radio Optimus for reinforcements.  Blurr asks for orders himself, to which Magnus says “help me alert the others”.  This is a sound plan since, by Perceptor’s estimate there are approximately five other Autobots to alert, and they haven’t noticed all the massive explosions occurring all around the city.  Coincidentally, this is the last time Ultra Magnus appears in the entire battle for Autobot City.  I never noticed that until I started writing this.  I don’t want to call him lazy, but…

Anyway, Arcee and Springer follow their orders and transform Autobot City.  At the start of Season 3 it is revealed that Autobot City is actually Metroplex who has a robot form, but at this point, transforming the city just means a ton of guns appear.  Very few of them actually fire and no Decepticons are killed in the entire battle, but the thought was there, I suppose.

Perceptor fares better, getting Blaster to transmit an SOS to Optimus on Moon Base 1.  Soundwave is ordered to jam the transmission, so he sends his tapes Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage and new character Ratbat to destroy the broadcasting dish and the Autobots nearby.  For those of you familiar with the Marvel G1 comics, that is the same Ratbat who replaced Megatron as Decepticon leader at one point.  Anyway, Blaster retaliates with four tapes of his own, though none of them get named.  For those astute viewers, you’ll likely recognize them as Eject, Rewind, Steeljaw and Ramhorn.  Who needs names?

As the tapes battle it out, Perceptor and Blaster take a moment to watch (rather than, you know, HELP) and comment on how this is their only role in the battle.  That’s okay, I guess, since Perceptor transforms into a telescopic microscope and seems to be the only Transformer with a shoulder mount that doesn’t fire, nor does he seem to have a weapon of his own.  Even pacifist Beach Comber had a weapon.  Blaster, on the other hand, is a popular smooth-talker who literally carries a backup force with him.  Guess which one has a major role in the movie and which one has about one more appearance.

After a fast appearance from Blurr (see what I did there?), the Decepticons take a moment to regroup while all of the Autobots immediately stop doing any kind of firing at them, apparently going with their tried and true “wait to get shot” strategy in which they stand around and wait to get shot.

Not pictured: any Autobot defense.

Not pictured: any Autobot defense.

While the Decepticons are chilling, Springer decides it’s a good idea to mount some kind of retaliatory strike, so he starts moving a launcher “into place”.  The launcher has wheels, quite a few of them actually, but Springer decides his best bet is to simply shove it into place.  He can’t do it alone, so he demands that Arcee drop what she’s doing and come help.  This is seen by many as monstrously callous on Springer’s part (and actually gets him a lot of hate from fans) because Arcee is pulling in a couple of Autobots who have successfully executed the WTGS strategy.  This, unfortunately, gives me the other haunting moment of my childhood.

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The two laying on the ground are original Autobots Windcharger and Wheeljack, both who have been shot in the chest.  Now arguably Windcharger isn’t that big of a deal, but Wheeljack was a MAJOR player in the first two seasons of the cartoon.  Like Ironhide and Ratchet, he appeared more frequently than many and was a part of many of the show’s plots.  I always liked him because he didn’t have a mouth and blinked the lights on the sides of his head when he talked.

But let’s have another nerd moment.  Despite being on camera for less than five seconds, this moment gets a lot of debate from fans (and seriously no sarcasm, I love Transformers fans as much as I hate Star Wars fans).  For one, neither Autobot has faded to the horrible gray color that is established to happen when they die.  In my mind, that suggests that while both may be “offline”, neither are actually “spark extinguished” dead.  I’ll go with that.  Also, according to storyboards that fans reference but never seem to link to, Wheeljack wasn’t even supposed to be here, but rather Smokescreen, who doesn’t appear in the movie.  That might be backed up in the earlier shot of the room.

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While the shot may be of Wheeljack, he’s been colored with Smokescreen’s color scheme.  Perhaps it was an animatioin mistake that put Wheeljack there to begin with?  Of course it doesn’t change anything – it basically comes down to fans not being able to accept when things they don’t like happen in franchises they love.  Of course, the G1 story has been re-written several times since this happened, so if you really want the likes of Prowl, Wheeljack and Ratchet alive and well, there are plenty of places to find it.

You can also see the eight of sixteen wheels that Springer ignores on the launcher.

As the two push on the launcher, suddenly Hot Rod, Kup and Daniel arrive to help out and together, they get the launcher pushed the seven feet into place.  Good for them.  Of course, if that’s where it was supposed to be anyway, why did they bother moving it to begin with?

As the Autobots take a breather (though they don’t breathe), Daniel and Kup take a look to see Megatron order the Constructicons to merge to form Devastator.  Keep in mind that in all the time this has been going on, not one Autobot has taken a single shot at any of the Decepticons just standing around.  All you have to do is take ONE Constructicon out and no Devastator.  Go after the whiny jerk Long Haul.  Nobody would miss him.

So Devastator forms and Springer callously says that he has better things to do tonight than die (keeping in mind two of his allies’ bodies are laying at his feet) and shoots a bunch of missiles at the Decepticons, putting up about as much of an assault as anyone gets in this battle.  Finally, there’s a long shot of combat going on and some time progresses, but not before we see a shot that I had forgotten about in which Perceptor actually does use a gun.  Unfortunately, I’m far too lazy to scroll up and edit my earlier comments.

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Hey, there’s Grapple!

But the REAL fun is about to begin, because the big man is about to STEP ON DOWN.  But that will have to wait until next time.

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