Thursday, June 30, 2011

More to Meet My Eyes or Robots and Dese Guys

The Transformers’ writers said their original series stands out compared to most of the "toy commercial" type shows (the new garbage they're passing off as Transformers today included, the crusty old fan added) because they were one of the first syndicated cartoons. Writers were thrilled to be free of the Saturday Morning censors, which were the worst ever at that time. This is the period they were cutting the violent scenes out of Looney Tunes, making them impossible to follow. The writing, they stated, is pretty high by TV animation standards. This claim however, doesn’t explain why other series of the time with equally strong nostalgia have aged pretty badly and are close to unwatchable. (I’m looking at you Thundercats and G I Joe…except that episode where they travel to an alternate universe where Cobra is actually competent and has taken over the world, that one still rocks) Transformers, in contrast, holds up well enough that it was the first complete series I got and enjoyed on DVD. I’m banking it has more to do with robots driving/flying dangerously fast and then beating the crap out of each other than happy writers.

The first Transformers movie shouldn’t have worked. It was three very disparate films:
A) A Spielberg “Boy and his Car” story
B) A Michael Bay military action extravaganza
C) A reference laden geek fest scripted by fans of the cartoon

Somehow, gluing these all together with shiny effects, huge explosions, and slow pans over various parts of Megan Fox’s anatomy made it all work out. Not only was it a great Transformers movie, it was arguably a better G I Joe film than Rise of Cobra turned out to be.

More importantly, Peter Cullen came back to voice Optimums and said, “One shall stand, one shall fall.” If the rest of the movie was Shia Lebouf standing around scratching his butt, I’d still give it five stars on that merit alone. (The Optimus line, not the butt scratching, grow up.)

Unfortunately, as always in Hollywood, success means having to edit less in the sequel.

Transformers: the Fallen certainly was a long movie filled with lots of stuff going on. While much of that stuff was awesome, it was all kind of in a big pile. Worth seeing on the big screen for random explosions and flying metal, the cool parts were definitely greater than the movie as a whole. Many gags and action scenes went on too long, and trying to amp up the seriousness, and the goofiness in the same movie made for some uneven transitions.

The film was concrete proof that making a movie before the script is done is going to end up somewhat lumpy. There were many new mecharacters, but very few of them got any introduction or personality.

Some that did were well done and entertaining (Jetfire) some would have been better in smaller doses (the Twins), and Wheelie was a rare improvement over the original. Most just showed up and start destroying things (not that that’s always bad thing, especially when Bay is showing off "The military will let me film their coolest stuff").

There were a great many, "I have no idea what that just was, but boy was it cool" moments. And a big geeky yay for the return of Frank Welker voicing Soundwave, Ravage and Devastator
(A double geeky yay actually, for the return of those Decepticons to begin with)

I wondered since the release of the second, how the future would be handled. Would there be improvement or additions to past mistakes?

Another big question is: Can the series survive without Megan Fox?

How integral was she?
Pretty much any mention/review/add/tangential reference/thought about Transformers 2 on the internet/TV/chalk drawings in the park showed that shot of Megan Fox straddling the motorcycle. I even found it searching only for “Optimus Prime”.

Apparently, one attractive woman still trumps countless fighting and exploding robots in nerd culture. Guess it’s a rarity thing.

They must have realized this for the second film and tried to work her into the plot more, rather than focusing her on:
Action scenes
Standing Around Looking Hot scenes
Standing Around Looking Hot in the Middle of the Action scenes

This met with mixed success as in several instances I found myself thinking "She's definitely having an emotion, but I don't know what it is." However, no matter how important you are a good rule of thumb is: Unless you work for the Red Skull, don’t call your boss a Nazi.

How was the movie with a script, and without the appropriately named Megan Fox (I had to say that, you are legally not allowed to talk about these movies on the internet without using that “witticism”) that I recently saw in the theater?

Amazing, action-packed and fun!

Full of far more heart and depth of character than any Transformers movie I’ve seen!

Engaging and well held together.

The CGI was phenomenal, seamless and the international cities, countrysides and seascapes surpassed the borders of reality on several occasions.

The amount of military hardware was impressive and powerful, while seeing (and hearing the original voice of) the big red truck was heartwarming.

John Turturro was used far better than the first Transformers films, with his abrasiveness being more entertaining and in line with the story.

The rest of the cast was phenomenal too. Though, I was quite surprised that in this greatest Transformers film I’ve ever seen, there was no human cast, and the vehicles never switched to robot mode.

Of course, Michael Caine adds class, Bruce Campbell adds fun, and Larry the Cable guy adds a goofy likeable quality.

Oh, sorry, did you think I was talking about Transformers 3 Dark of the Moon?
I’m sure that was nice too.
No, the film I’m praising isn’t that one, but it also is the best James Bond film in over a decade.



longbow said...

Chetara still rocks my world all these many years later. Though that sword elongation things makes me giggle now.

Tansformers holds up? enh... go watch that episode where Optimus' arm is attached to a tower and shooting at them.
The dinobots really hold up though.

I didn't see Trans2 and don't plan to see Trans3 BUT if there was a Grimlock short I'd totally go out of my way for that.

Jeff McGinley said...

Fortunately, having gone to engineering school, I am unphased by reactions to animated women.

Remember, it wasn’t just a tower, it was the roboticized Empire State Building that had Optimus’ arm on it. That pushes the dial significantly passed stupid into the awesome zone.

I’m still waiting for a “live action” Grimlock to appear (in any movie) and say, “Me, Grimlock say you wrong…and you ugly too!”