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When Hasbro originally bought up the molds from several Japanese toylines and released them under the American banner of The Transformers back in 1984, one character in particular stood head and shoulders above the rest. Optimus Prime, originally named Convoy in the Japanese Diaclone line, immediately stood out for many reasons. An amazingly detailed realistic truck mode complete with a vac-metal front grill combined with the now standard red and blue paint job must have been quite a site to behold for a young child strolling down the toy aisle. Being 2 at the time, I was unable to acquire an Optimus Prime when he was first released. This situation was rectified in 2003 when Hasbro re-released the original mold to American toy stores and I made sure to acquire one. Despite being nearly 20 years late to the party, I have to say that Optimus Prime’s status as a toy icon is not undeserved hype fueled by nogistalia. He represents the perfect fusion of sculpt, paint, and playability.
It is within this very long shadow that many toys of the main man have been released and have tried to rival his original incarnation. Some have been good, some have been bad, and some have been downright strange (Bat-optimus, I am looking at you!) With so many different versions of Prime floating around it is easy for the more casual fan of the property to get lost in an ocean of red and blue. This is why I would like to focus on Optimus Prime released for The Transformers Movie line in 2007.
Love him or hate him, Optimus Prime IS Transformers. Without his status I highly doubt The Transformers as a brand would even be around today. Hasbro is well aware of Prime’s status, and therefore spends the most time and effort coming up with a suitable design for him. My theory of Prime states that you can tell whether or not to buy an entire line of Transformers based solely on your opinion of Optimus Prime. Lets take a look at Armada Optimus Prime. This figure followed up the Robots in Disguise line which featured the most realistic vehicle modes since G1. Armada Prime remains one of the more controversial Primes in recent memory due to several reasons. The number one charge levied against this figure is his articulation, or lack thereof. Armada Prime featured a unique gimmick not since seen in a transformer. When the "truck" portion of the figure was transformed into a robot, its trailer would automatically open up and reveal a base for Minicons caused by the magic of batteries and a sensor. This base could further fold up into legs to connect to a reconfiguration of the truck to make a super mode for Optimus. This super mode has about as much articulation as any figure from G1. In other words, it is a brick (aka a Transformer with very little articulation). The reason why Prime lacks so much articulation, especially when compared against his Robots in Disguise incarnation, is because of the automatically transforming trailer. Hasbro decided that a cool gimmick for Optimus was more important than articulation during the design process. The previous statement is also true for the entire Armada line of toys. Jetfire, Red Alert, and Cyclonus all immediately come to mind as toys with awesome gimmicks and not great articulation.
So what does all of this have to do with Movie Optimus Prime? My theory of Prime states that a fan’s opinion of the Optimus Prime toy in a line will directly influence whether they will enjoy or dislike the entire line that produced Optimus. How does our favorite Autobot stack up? Read on and find out!
Movie Optimus Prime‘s vehicle mode is a very realistic 18 wheeler truck. Some fans were upset that Bay did not use a flat nose semi like the original G1 cartoon, but I can forgive him for going for a more modern truck. When was the last time you actually saw one of those rolling down the highway? Anyway, the first time I transformed him from robot to vehicle I was struck by how many details are accurately captured by the mold. The next detail that becomes immediately apparent in vehicle mode is his paint job. Starting at the grill of the truck, you have blue flames that go toward the windshield. Underneath you have a yellowish orange that turns into a red on the hood. The red then becomes flames which continue onto the rest of the blue cab doors and onto the sleeper cabin of the truck. Here is where I am going to disagree with the direction that Bay went. What is wrong with a cherry red truck with some stripes? If Optimus Prime truly wants to stay in disguise and not arouse any suspicions, he shouldn’t have gotten a paintjob from the guys who do Trick My Truck on CMT. With that being said, the physical paint job on my Optimus Prime was spot on.

One statement is pertinent when transforming this guy: This is not your G1 Optimus. If you are not an experienced transformers fan, read the instructions and follow them step by step. It is easy to think you know what piece goes where and then get lost. The transformation is not impossible, but it can be challenging for those just getting back into Transformers and for younger children. I would rate the difficulty in transformation as somewhere in between the Cybertron line and the Alternators line. This is the perfect difficulty for a transformer at this price point. A simplistic transformation at the $40 price point breeds fan charges of "Hasbro is dumbing down the line!" and a ridiculously complex one leads to frustration. Movie Leader Optimus Prime does a great job of walking the thin line of "just right."
Robot Mode
Here is where Movie Leader Optimus Prime could take some heat. Detractors might say "He looks nothing like the movie version!" I have the following rebuttal; If you want a 100% movie accurate prime, go buy a statue. It is physically impossible to replicate that robot mode into a toy that changes back into a truck and actually LOOKS like a truck. Hell, I am not even certain how Optimus Prime transformed into a robot in the movie. It looked to me like he exploded into 10,000 jagged edged pieces and then re-arranged himself into a humanoid shape. The Movie Leader Optimus Prime does look different than his silver screen counterpart, but I like Hasbro’s version much more than the one featured in the actual movie. It has a much cleaner, more streamlined design and has the added bonus of not cheating (magically adding/ removing parts) during its transformation.
Optimus Prime has three main gimmicks. The first one is a button that when pressed down makes a horn noise. The second gimmick is used during transformation. Depress the area beneath his waist and watch as his head pops up with a machine sound effect along with lights that go off inside of his windows. The third is a slide lever on his right wrist that flips out a blaster that can actually shoot missles. All 3 gimmicks are lots of fun to play around with and do not detract from the toy in any way.
Final Thoughts
I made sure to pick up Movie Leader Optimus Prime on the day the Transformers Movie toys were released and the purchase is well worth it. He has an amazing truck mode, a challenging but not impossible transformation, nice paint applications, a cleanly designed and well-articulated robot mode, and 3 fun gimmicks. Very young children and anal-retentive fans of the movie might not agree, but everyone else should have at least one copy of this fantastic item in their collection.

-- Chris 'The Uncle' (1/23/2008)

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