Why Ahren Morris adores… VINTAGE OPTIMUS PRIME, TAKING CHARGE

28 May

Welcome back to WHY I ADORE… HQ, where all are welcome and all cinematic and television loves are valued, without snark, hate or irony. We have no dress code here, but for today’s issue, it’d be kind of cool if you could rock some Transformers/Star Wars/Jem and the Holograms PJs… for this week, we’re being taken to the land of 1980s Saturday morning cartoons (on the big screen!).

The man taking us there is this week’s Adorer, AHREN MORRIS. Ahren is resident producer at Snowgum Films, an innovative, award-winning film company based in Melbourne, Australia, specialising in unique, genre-bending content. Ahren has always had a fairly offbeat taste in flicks (Ron Howard’s THE PAPER is one of his all-time favourite films), so I was eager to find out what his WHAT I ADORE… subject was going to be. I never expected him to take us to the war on Cybertron, on Earth…


The setup is vintage cinema nasty:

The Decepticons have launched a sneak attack on the Autobots’ home base. Good guys are caught napping, everybody is on the back foot, it’s all going south… Someone needs to step up…

Somebody does.

Called from afar, Optimus Prime, in truck mode, is racing in like a bolt of red and blue thunder. As he approaches the base, Autobots are getting wiped out everywhere.

Underbody jets fire, launching Optimus skyward at full tilt. His transformation to robot takes a split second, and soon he’s arching through the air, feet up/head down… and blasts two decepticons below him, landing in a pose that says, “who the fuck is next?”, cannon still blazing.


The whole move takes less than a bar of Stan Bush’s absolutely pumping soundtrack.

It’s hard to remember where my love of this sequence began. It certainly wasn’t as an 11 year old kid watching the film in Christchurch’s only cinema back in 1986. Like similar gems from that era, the luster didn’t really start to come through until they moved into the myth of childhood, sometime after the year 2000.

In the intervening time, a new friend — in the form of computer first person shooters — had introduced me to the adrenalin charge of player versus player combat. My game of choice (UT) favoured unusual and often low gravity environments. From here I’d quickly discovered that the absolutely greatest, biggest thrill kills of all were aerial ones.

The co-ordination required, the reflexes, the sheer arrogance of landing that shot while in mid air, is a buzz that must normally be reserved for fighter pilots.

Typically, a casual decision to reacquaint oneself with such childhood icons would reveal either horror or delight in equal measure.

[SPOILER ALERT]

In this case, the death of a favourite character, only moments after the scene above, had taken on legendary status. Every moment of that fateful final battle was now subject to minute scrutiny. Seen now with more experienced eyes, Prime’s leap lit up the screen and got me frantically hitting rewind, to watch it again and again.

[END SPOILERS]

These days, it seems a little to easy for us to separate the character from the act in a film. Choreographers are, in some cases, more famous than the actors they train, and I have no doubt that artists and animators are following suit.

But, for me, that move is all Optimus, and I don’t think the filmmakers would be unhappy to hear that.

The strength of the character survived that battle way back in 1986, and, in my mind, he’s survived bigger battles in more recent years.


But I have no doubt that Optimus Prime will live and fly again.

– Ahren Morris

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4 Responses to “Why Ahren Morris adores… VINTAGE OPTIMUS PRIME, TAKING CHARGE”

  1. joel May 28, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    and that’s what’s so goddamn cool about transformers (and there are none cooler than optimus): they are ROBOTS. they transform into VEHICLES(/tape players). they’re not just piles of metal that change into anything, moving so fast you can’t see what’s happening.
    and they’ve got guns AND laser swords!

    if only my dvds weren’t in boxes right now, i’d totally be chucking it on!

    …you’ve got the touch…
    …you’ve got the powwwwwer…

  2. Spitfire_King June 1, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    I think I wore the VHS copy of this out when I was a kid, I watched it over and over and over. Loved Unicron’s voice, and then I grew up and found out it was Orsen Welles, geeze! ‘I am Unicron…rosebud’ lol
    Unreal. So what’s the email to write one of these posts? I want in!

  3. Glenn June 2, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    I’ve never seen the movie, but I had the soundtrack for a while after I purchased it for $2. I have since lost it.

  4. sflyons June 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    I adore Stan Bush’s ergonomic guitar lifting technique.

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