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But despite this, The Autobots are still driving around as whatever car/truck they first took the form of - even during black ops missions where they are ostentatiously out-of-place and a different form would benefit them. This odd manifestation of robo-vanity doesn't seem to plague Megatron, who is on his third new form - a big rusty poacher's(?) truck, presumably to blend in with his campsite on the African plains. Oh yeah, and if the "Decepticons = Scary Dark Foreigners" angle isn't made explicit enough by all this, New Megatron wears a headscarf. (And before you say it, yes, I know that the ostensible reason for it is to cover up his head wounds, which makes little-to-no sense.)
Oh, and come to think of it, in Part 2, the Decepticons have an agent that can disguise herself (itself?) as a 100%-convincing human female. And "she" doesn't seem to be some kind of special deal - just a random underling! If they can do that, why is the car/truck/plane thing in play at all?
Why Is Optimus Prime Basically Useless?
Optimus Prime is the dominant figure of the Transformers marketing, reigning over each trailer, most of the posters and the majority of the merchandising key art. The real reason is pretty banal: He was the main character of the cartoon and comics, so inseparable from the franchise that Peter Cullen's iconic voice is the sole remnant of the original series to be carried over largely unmolested.
But in terms of just the movies themselves he's a loser, a poor excuse for a leader and deathly dull, yet the swelling soundtrack and sweeping low angle cinematography keep insisting that we're supposed to be in awe of him for no discernable reason.
Think about it: He's not the main character, Sam is. And he's not even Sam's best pal among the Autobots, that's Bumblebee. He spends a lot of time lecturing the humans about keeping him in the loop, but remains behind the curve among every major story event of the series. He never even wins a major fight without an assist - Sam kills Megatron in Part 1, he requires Sam's magical resurrection save and Jetfire's gear in Part 2, and in Part 3 he can't kill Sentinel Prime until Megatron hooks him up. Heck, even before that, he's waylaid from the fight because he got tangled up in some ropes. Really.
What's the Point of All This?
The Transformers franchise has always flirted with a certain amount of portentous message mongering. Optimus Prime's somber warrior ethos platitudes, delivered in Peter Cullen's rich growl, are probably what made the character such a memorable father/hero figure for Gen-X youths, and Megatron's merchandising was often emblazoned with his philosophical motto "Peace Through Tyranny!" And despite the gut reaction to dismiss any notion of meaning in a Michael Bay movie based on old action figures, the fact remains that anything that has a story (even a thin one) also has a theme - however unintentional it may or may not be.
So what, exactly, is Transformers selling?