A story editor on the first two seasons of “The Transformers,” Bryce Malek was one of the writers behind the series’ lore bible. He was also involved in crafting season 2’s “War Down,” an episode of the show that notably wears its anti-fascism message on its sleeve, rallying against what Malek described in a 2014 interview with Screen Crush as “fascist,” gung-ho ’80s action heroes that came to embody the decade’s Reagan-era politics (like Rambo). That being the case, Malek doesn’t take kindly to Optimus’ slide into fascism in Bay’s films. In his own words:
“Optimus has got to be Abe Lincoln. He’s got to have malice toward none. And Abe Lincoln doesn’t just up and bust a cap in a dude’s ass because he was a turncoat.”
Given Bay’s proclivity to badge worship and fetishizing the military, it’s not exactly shocking he would take this approach to characterizing Optimus. (Not that Bay’s “Transformers” films have ever been celebrated for their thoughtful storytelling or carefully considered political subtext. “From a writing standpoint, the cartoons have so much more story and characters that it’s not even funny,” said Malek.) That started to change after Bay left the franchise, with the prequel “Bumblebee” winding back the clock to the days of the younger and more heroic Optimus. But by the time that film’s sequel, “Rise of the Beasts,” picks up, Optimus has returned to his pro-murder ways in-between being a grouchy stick in the mud. He learns how to be a better team player by the end, though, so, uh, progress?