Sunday, August 7, 2011

Top 10 Megatrons

by K. Jerry Peterson

The name Megatron carries a lot of weight. For those of us that grew up in the 80s, Megatron was in the upper echelon of villainy. With the decline of the Transformers brand, the name faded into obscurity until Michael Bay's live action movies made Megatron a household name again. For those that had never seen the original show, Bay's towering metal nightmare established himself as the one, true Megatron. Contrary to popular belief, Megatron has been very active since his demise in 1986 and Bay's Megatron was only the most recent in a long line. There have been no less than 10 versions of Megatron to conquer the TV and movie screens! These are my personal favorites ranked from worst (#10) to best (#1!). I am only considering those Megatrons that have appeared in film or television. If I were to include all the rest from video games and comics, this list could go on forever. Now without further ado, here are. . .


10. Transformers: Energon (2004)

voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “Megatron Resurrected”

In the sequel to TF: Armada Megatron returns from the dead. And like a rotting zombie, he has a serious need for braaains! Of all the Megatrons on this list, Energon’s Megatron is the only one I actively dislike. Out of 51 plodding, aimless episodes he had exactly four stand-out moments. Fifty-one episodes with a running time of 22 minutes each. That’s 1122 minutes in which Megatron could have done something noteworthy. Instead he gets four moments.
He spent the remaining 1118 minutes being the most bland, uninteresting, one-dimensional caricature of a cartoon villain ever. When he wasn’t lazing about on his throne all day, he was routinely beating his own troops for daring to think on their own and take initiative.
Not even the talented David Kaye could imbue this uninspired tyrant with a personality. This guy has no brains. No intelligence. He might as well be a comet hurtling through space, threatening Earth for all the personality he displays. He needs to crawl back into the grave! Onto the next!

9. Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2001)
voiced by Daniel Riordan

1st appearance: “Battle Protocol!”

Ugh, this guy. RiD Megatron ranks above Energon Megatron because he managed to be slightly more entertaining and he didn’t beat on his troops. . . too much. That said, he also spends all his time in the comfort of his mobile base watching TV. Not even joking. On the off chance that he does participate in a battle, don’t expect him to stick around long. Just look at that glossy finish on his armor! Do you know how long it takes to buff out scorch marks? Like, forever!!
You know what else is really cool about RiD Megatron? His voice. It’s cool how no matter what, he’s always yelling with absolutely no variance at all. Whether he’s giving orders, shouting insults, wryly delivering a joke, or musing on some newfound information, he’s always yelling. That never gets old, right?
RiD was a show made very silly for very young kids and not many others. Perhaps Megatron’s greatest failure then is being in a show that plays up the laughs while not actually delivering any himself.

8. Transformers: Cybertron (2005)
voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “Fallen”

Not a spectacular Megatron, but not a failure either. He displays more personality than both Energon and RiD Megatrons. In a comical scene with the ditzy Thunderblast he grudgingly allows her to join with him, but promises that he won’t cut her any slack just because she’s “cute.” Megatron’s most interesting scenes have him sharing screen-time with the leaders of other Cybertronian outposts throughout the galaxy. He is forced to race speed-obsessed Override to gain information. After losing he simply walks away rather than fighting it out. While visiting a wild jungle planet , Megatron reigns his temper in and abides by the law of the honorable but brtual Scourge.
Where Cybertron Megatron falls short is his nigh invincibility. No one except Optimus can come close to beating him, no matter how big or powerful. Megatron will triumph through sheer stubborness. It gets old quickly. A villain without any weaknesses does not make for tense or interesting fights.

7. Transformers: Armada (2002)
voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “First Encounter”

Technically this is the same Megatron as those in Energon and Cybertron, but what a world of difference there is between them. Like them, this Megatron started life as a simple-minded brute. He displayed little in the way of intelligence, preferring to turn every battle into a war of attrition.
Then about halfway through the 52 episode epic Megatron suddenly gets an infusion of memory and processing power! He starts thinking and displaying qualities that could be attributed to having a personality.
During the final arc of the show Megatron finally pulls his head out of his metal-plated aft and is made to see that an alliance with the Autobots is the only way to save their homeworld from total destruction. The planet-eater, Unicron, appears in orbit and Cybertron’s looking finger-licking-good. Realizing that Unicron is feeding off of the hatred between he and Optimus Prime, Megatron casts himself into the maw of the monster in order to help weaken it.
Though born stupid, Armada Megatron grew into a leader that learned to respect his troops and put the good of his people before his own personal quest for glory.

6. Transformers (2007)
voiced by Hugo Weaving
1st appearance: “Transformers”

Probably the most famous of all Megatrons thanks to Michael Bay’s trilogy of live-action movies. Benefitting from a massive budget, Weaving’s Megatron is animated better than any other Megatron. The hard PG-13 rating allows him to dole out death and carnage on a scale unseen in the cartoons. His schemes were grandiose, threatening the entire planet every time and he had some brief but meaty bits of characterization. So why does he rank only 6th on this list?
Looking strictly at the movies, he doesn’t actually do much. In part one he spends the entirety of the movie frozen and gets thawed out just in time to get killed by Sam Witwicky. In part two he spends all his time reporting to his fallen master. And when he’s not doing that, he’s getting his face blown off by Optimus. In part three he transforms into Hobotron and finds a dirty alley to mope in. He’s bummed out because his new boss, Sentinel Prime, is treating him like a bad employee.
Aesthetically I’m not a fan of the metal demon from Hell look. His hands and fingers are anorexic and feeble looking, his face looks more like a monster than a robot, and the rest of him looks like a towering jumble of metal bits that got spit out of an auto-shredder.
To his credit, he seemed genuinely committed to restoring Cybertron and making it habitable again. The scene in part three where he wearily says, “Cybertron. . . I saved you,” was one of the shortest, greatest scenes in the whole movie for me. His final scene where he beats his would-be master to within an inch of his life was simply grand. Weaving’s Megatron just barely claimed his right to the name in the 11th hour.

5. Transformers: Prime (2010)

voiced by Frank Welker
1st appearance: “Darkness Rising part 1"

This is the newest Megatron, and while Transformers: Prime is only 21 episodes in as of this writing, he’s had enough characterization that I can make a judgment on him. Frank Welker reprises the role that he defined with the original Megatron. Unlike his original incarnation, this Megatron is deathly serious all the time and has absolutely zero tolerance for smiling. There have been hints that he’s personable with some of the Decepticons off-scrren, but on-screen no one dares test his patience. He won’t be sitting around getting drunk and reminiscing about the good old days with his men. And rather than letting out a big ol’ belly laugh at his enemies plight, he’ll give you a silent, intense glare of hatred from his burning red optics in the darkness. This Megatron is truly something to be feared.
He shows no qualms about leaving behind troops that have fallen to enemies. By the same token, he welcomes back troops that have proven their worth. It’s still early in his career, but he’s off to a good start.

4. The Transformers (1984)

voiced by Frank Welker

1st appearance: “More Than Meets the Eye part 1"

The original Megatron. This guy set the standard for evil villains back in the 80s. To truly grasp his impact, you must journey back to 1984. Cartoon villains of that time were pedestrian. We had Snidely Whiplash and whatever monster Scooby and the gang were trying to unmask. Johnny Quest had a couple tribesmen shooting blow-darts at him. Some evil wizard that Thundarr the Barbarian had to fight.. Villains were forgettable and laughable.
Then Megatron showed up waving the Decepticon flag of conquest. The human race? Puny insects barely worth his attention. He didn’t care about conquering humans or ruling over Earth. He just wanted to strip the planet bare of all its resources and fuel his army to total victory over Cybertron.
How evil was the original Megatron? His greatest act as a villain, indeed the crescendo to his symphony of destruction, was killing the heroic Optimus Prime in “Transformers: The Movie” (1986) and ending the childhoods of thousands of children across the country. The anguished cries of kids were heard everywhere. Somewhere just off-screen Megatron was chuckling a sinister, evil chuckle, knowing what he had done.
On a personal level I like this version of Megatron more than most. He laughs, he gets drunk with his troops, he says, “Exxxcellent!” a lot while clenching his fist, and generally seems to enjoy screwing with Prime and the Autobots. In an attempt to make Megatron more scary and evil, other versions of the character have removed many of these traits. But it’s those very traits that make him so endearing all these years later.

3. Transformers: Animated (2007)

voiced by Corey Burton

1st appearance: “Transform and Roll Out”

Villain degradation is a symptom feared by all wtiters. It happens when the same villain shows up too frequently and always loses to the hero. After a while no one takes the villain seriously anymore and a bored audience waits for the villain to receive his next beating.
The Megatron of TF: Animated cleverly escaped this fate by being written at a disadvantage for the entirety of the first and third seasons of the show. First he was reduced to an immobile head and stripped of all his physical power. In this state he was forced to use his wits and guile to manipulate his enemies and stay one step ahead of everyone. When he did arrive on the scene, it was always cause for major panic and season cliffhangers.
Corey Burton was no stranger to voicing transformers, being the voice of the original Shockwave in 1984. In Animated he delivers one of the more unique takes on Megatron. Unlike his raving counterparts, Burton’s Megatron was not prone to outbursts of manic laughter, sudden cowardice, or fits of yelling. He was calm, controlled, and a calculating mastermind. His plans spanned the course of millions of years as his double agents worked their way into the highest levels of Autobot command. And while the Autobots have had a rally cry in the form of, “Transform and roll out,” since the beginning, the Decepticons have had nothing until Burton’s Megatron coined the phrase, “Decepticons, transform and rise up!”

2. Beast Machines (2000)
voiced by David Kaye
1st appearance: “The Reformatting”

The sequel to “Beast Wars” opens with Megatron in control of all of Cybertron. All life everywhere has been exterminated and now a planet-spanning army of mindless drones swarm the globe in search of any survivors. Megatron hardwires himself directly into the planet and controls everything. His single goal is to consume all the captured sparks (souls) of fallen transformers and ascend to demigod status. And he actually does it! Of course, a last second twist frees the sparks and sees Megatron destroyed.
Megatron was undoubtedly more successful in Beast Machines than he was in Beast Wars. He holds the spot at number two because while he accomplishes more than he did in “Beast Wars”, his time spent on a desolate Cybertron has made him less charming and aloof. He’s become colder and his sense of humor is much more dry and tempered. His hatred of organics consumes his time. During his stay on prehistoric Earth he had plenty to be mad about, but he always maintained this air of haughty superiority as though he couldn’t be bothered by the Maximals. Here, he’s so obsessed with them, that he can’t see straight. I think this Megatron needs people around to see how great he is. He can’t handle being alone.
So while he soars to new heights of conquest un-imagined previously, he’s lost some of the charm that made him so endearing during his run in “Beast Wars.”

1. Beast Wars (1996)

voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “Beast Wars part 1"

Frank Welker’s original Megatron set the bar in 1984, but David Kaye’s Megatron raised it to new heights in 1996 with Beast Wars. This is a guy that really enjoys his work. He’s charming, aloof, dangerously smart, has a sense of humor, and comes off more of an aristocrat than a warlord. He does spend a lot of time commanding from the safety of his base, but unlike Energon and RiD Megatron, he won’t shy away from a fight either.
Speaking of, his track record in fights is about as good as could be expected. I like that he’s not so ridiculously powerful that only Optimus can stack up against him. Not this guy. He’s big, he’s strong, but he’s just a robot like all the others. It brings him down to Earth and forces him to be smarter and more cunning. He knows he can’t win through brute force alone.
Simply put, he doesn’t have the resources. While all the other Megatrons have an army behind them, time-traveling BW Megatron becomes stranded on prehistoric Earth with four Predacons. Human civilization and technology are non-existent at this time, so Megatron’s stuck with whatever he brought in his broken down ship. Where he excels above all other Megatrons is his intelligence. He has back-up plans for everything and is constantly two steps ahead of his opponents.
Belying his intelligence, BW Megatron is a smooth talker. Whereas some Megatrons have a heavily synthesized voice and others snarl and talk like they were gargling gravel all morning, this classy cat’s voice puts him in league with James Bond’s villains. You almost expect to see him in a tuxedo and sipping a glass of fine wine while surveying a battle from a cliff side.
He’s the Megatron by which all others are now compared. He’s not the most powerful by a long shot, but he proves that a wise tyrant can do anything. Perhaps more importantly than that, he’s got an ocean’s worth of depth to his character. He’s easily the most interesting and most entertaining Megatron to watch. He is the best Megatron of all time!

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