Dominic: I pretend the Alternators fill out my G1 roles for my heroes and villains - SideSwipe is still a red sports car, that sort of thing. The headsculpts on the Alternators are certainly true to their G1 cartoon appearances.
I have to agree with you about science and warfare now that I thought about it. Starscream seems sort of younger and less experienced next to Megatron - the classic upstart like Anakin next to Palpatine, so I always found it hard to envision him as a serious scientist, alien from Cybertron or not. Then in reverse, you also have to question his qualifications as the Decepticon's military air commander.
It's funny, as he was always my favorite Decepticon, but I seriously question his competence.
PlasticFetish: A fan did custom work with Photoshop to paint this one, but it sort of goes along with your request and looks great, though not authentic (no flames - but that's not necessarily a bad thing).
Meanwhile, I've seen about all of this movie's mainline robots now (I'm talking about the TOYS). Here's my call:
Optimus (this one in particular) - awesome
Ratchet - really cool
Jazz - pretty good
BumbleBee - disappointing
Ironhide - no thanks
Megatron - very nice
Starscream - not working
Frenzy (it's been confirmed it's not Soundwave) - not inspiring
Barricade - cheap
Bonecrusher - cheap (I think I only saw the low pricepoint version)
Scorponok - eh - I don't like the idea too much anyway
Brawl - cheap - but again, I think I only saw a lowball price version
Blackout - might be very cool if well-articulated
Anyway, here's the FAN PHOTO-PAINTED Prime: