And though I had slain a thousand foes less one,
The thousandth knife found my liver;
The thousandth enemy said to me,
'Now you shall die,
Now none shall know.'
And the fool, looking down, believed this,
Not seeing, above his shoulders, the naked stars,
Each one remembering.
--John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

The Asylum Director

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"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." - Russel Baker

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Precious Childhood Memory...Altered.

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about Transformers. No, not the old, classic TV series, but the new movie directed by the self-confessed non-fan, Michael Bay.

I’m a child of the 80s and I grew up watching the old cartoon, not to mention the original movie that involved the robot version of Galactus, Unicron. There were elements of that series and setting (like that very identifiable and very specific sound effect, and the rather refreshing lack of focus on humans) that I believe should be taken into consideration into any attempt to remake or modernize the old series. Plus, the core characters are solid personalities and, really, should not be tampered with or messed with.

You see, I just watched the movie (said to be a re-imagining of the old universe) and I have some rather mixed feelings and a total lack of solid opinions on the movie and how it treated the original source material. This is not a movie review, as I think the movie is an excellent action flick and has some good moments. No, this is more of a fan’s opinion of what this new take on an old concept manages to get right and wrong. All of this, of course, comes from the view of your typical Transformers (the original cartoons and film) fan.

The Bad:

1. The Autobot and Decepticon visual design. They look like agile, hulking robots, but had most of their armor in certain parts stripped off to reveal circuitry and internal systems. I realize that the designers were going for a more realistic look, but the general idea of their look is just…bad. Most of them look as if they had they rolled out of the production facilities of Cybertron a little short of being fully constructed.

2. Megatron’s new look. I can understand not going with the old and traditional form of Megatron. Transforming into a gun just wouldn’t be as cool in a movie that tries to go for realism than it was back in the original cartoon. However, I do feel the need to say that I am sorely displeased at his transformation. Megatron was a gun and I would have liked to have seen him as some sort of stationary futuristic cannon (like Galvatron) or an armored combat vehicle of some sort. Can’t say I’m that fond of the whole Cybertronian jet idea. Hopefully, if a sequel comes up, they’ll fix that.

3. The focus on humans. Part of the original show’s appeal was the distinct lack of focus on human characters. Spike Witwicky, who is arguably the main character of the movie (not the Transformers, ironically), was little more than a background characters. In many ways, he was the token human of the show and not entirely different from the token minority characters in a number of modern TV shows. The film’s focus on the human characters (none of whom are really all that memorable) is the worst aspect of it. Granted, the lead female serves as some serious eye candy, but that’s not enough, is it?

4. It isn’t easy to tell one machine from another. I had the hardest time trying to see which particular robot was an Autobot (or which Autobot it was) and which was a Decepticon. This, actually, was not really a problem during the calmer moments of the movie, but it wasn’t easy keeping score when the chaotic battle that serves as the film’s climax got rolling. About the only ones that was easy to identify would be Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. The former because messing with him and his look just shouldn’t be done and the latter because he’s on-screen a lot. Some of the camera angles can get a little confusing at times, too. Though, once you got used to it, it wasn’t that hard to tell the Decepticons apart from one another.

The Good:

1. The re-working of the story. I don’t agree with some of the reasons for altering the story of the Transformers and Cybertron, but I actually found this re-imagining of the original plot to be good. It lacks a number of the classic elements of the complex mythology of the old show, but then again, the new story works well enough. I mean, you can’t really compress that much background and history into the amount of time available for a movie. Rather confused with the decision to go for the All Spark and not the Matrix of Leadership, which is more familiar to fans.

2. Optimus Prime. Optimus fucking Prime. If there was one single character that I have to say that they managed to get as close to the original incarnation as possible, it was Optimus Prime. Sure, he doesn’t have his old trailer (which seemed to show up from out nowhere in the old show), but the core machine design is there. I think the flames were a bad touch and he doesn’t look as rock-solid as he did in the cartoon, but he retained the most of his original personality among the Autobots. He also kept his original voice, the bulk of his original design, and most of the coolness that he had. Of course, there wasn’t that much room for screwing him up considering how late she showed up.

3. Impressive Megatron versus Optimus Prime fight scene. These two acted as direct opposites of one another and as leaders of two opposing armies. There two of them really tore into each other in the film, destroying a lot of property and endangering countless lives in the process. I may not like the new look for Megatron, but you can’t deny that the fight between him and Optimus Prime is easily the best scene in the whole film. They even quoted a line from the original Transformers movie, which was both fitting and added a good nostalgic touch to the proceedings.

4. The spirit of the original Transformers has not been lost entirely. Despite the unpleasant re-design, the added attention to human characters, and the many changes made to the original story, the movie still retains enough of the old Transformers spirit to be a fun movie for an old fan like me. It isn’t the perfect conversion I’d hoped for and there are things I’d like changed for the better in possible sequels, but overall, it almost, almost felt like Transformers.

So there you have it. The movie is good, but does it really live up to the vaunted and treasured Transformers name? Almost, but not quite there yet (if you ask me), folks.

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