Monday, July 18, 2011

Of Course I Saw Transformers 3

I may have insinuated that I wasn’t going to be seeing the third segment of Michael Bay’s Transformers story, but I don’t think I fooled anyone, especially me. After all, I own several original Transformers, a few shirts and shorts featuring them, and this is the back of my car.

Even a Hyundai can be more than meets the eye (with Optimus floor mats).
Really, this review was inevitable, especially since they had a script this time. They also figured out how to make the 3D impressively 3D throughout the film. It looked like a visual “surround sound” of the old Disney multi plane camera, as opposed to alternating between merely increasing the depth of field, and doing cheap, eye-pokey jokes. Apologies for the review not being right after a midnight preview, but apparently I occasionally do need to sleep. (Go figure.)

Since we all know this is coming too, let’s start with the negative.

There were far too many phony looking, speaking and behaving characters. It was almost impossible to suspend disbelief long enough to follow the story when they were on screen. Luckily these were only the human actors; the Cybertronian robots were awesome and lifelike.

I suppose I should issue a spoiler warning before going any further, however I don’t see spoilers as a negative for a rabid fan of a given franchise. If it wasn’t for revealed spoilers before hand, I would have been caught flat footed by Darth Vader’s big “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” in Revenge of the Sith, and we’d all still be able to hear the echo of MY cry.
Vader laments the stripping away of years of awesomness.
On to the details:

There were some interesting combinations in this film.

First of all is the plot. It was a mix of several episodes of the G1 Cartoon. I’m not going to bother looking up the titles; because those who are fans of the show remember them, and those who aren’t don’t give a rat’s patootie. The elements from all of those episodes are woven together into a coherent whole. (Not the standard definition of coherent by the way, let’s just say if you don’t look too close or think too hard, all the elements kind of, sort of, make a modicum of sense…if you squint a little.)

Then we have Sentinel Prime, a mix of Alpha Trion and Galvatron, which turned out to be pretty interesting and effective.
Two great tastes that be-tray together!
Even though I warned above, I will say I don’t count his heel turn as a spoiler. Not only did they use Galvatron’s voice (Leonard Nimoy…and his face too, which was kind of disturbing rendered in giant metal), but early on in the movie Wheelie (the still cooler than the original version…which isn’t saying much) and his equally goofy buddy Brains give it away. They’re watching “Amok Time” and specifically state, “This is the one where Spock goes crazy.” Foreshadowing: an advanced literary device implemented by TV show reruns and horny robots…it’s a beautiful thing.

Also, as in the previous films, the G I Joe team (or whatever they call themselves) were far better and closer to the spirit of Larry Hama’s original comics than the gang in the Rise of Cobra were. It would have remained a fun movie with just them fighting nameless aliens.

Then there were the exchanges.

Instead of Wheeljack, we get Que, (pronounced “Q”) as a tribute to James Bond’s armorer; except he looks like Albert Einstein. (And Cars 2 was still a better spy movie… and intelligent vehicle movie for that matter.) This was a very odd switch, made odder because the toys (and Hasbro’s copyright, I’d gather) still say Wheeljack. They also call Mirage “Dino” in the film (again, not the toy) as a tribute to an Italian race car driver. This is simply more proof that they make these middling changes solely to provide material for me to complain about.

Most of the Decepticons were kind of faceless, Terminatoresque, evil robots. I suppose that’s necessary to make them unsympathetic when they lose. Oddly, with all the Decepticon personalities Hasbro has come up with over the years, one of the most distinctive baddies looked and acted like his namesake, “Igor”. Because Michael Bay, that’s why.

The Wreckers were a new and interesting group of Autobots. They had fun, but not grating personalities, and good visual qualities. I expected them to combine when they first showed up, but given Devastator’s appearance in the second film, I’m kind of glad they didn’t …one pair of giant robot dangly bits is enough for a lifetime of movie viewing.

Speaking of giant robots, instead of becoming a giant gun Shockwave travels with a metal version of the Sandworms of Arrakis, because enormous metal snake monsters are much more realistic than a hovering sentient pistol, obviously. Soundwave also got changed from a radio (or a satellite in the previous film) into a high end BMW. I’m not complaining because not only are both voiced by Frank Welker (as they should be) but they brought in Laserbeak. OK he’s not in his original form either, but he fulfills his stealth mode missions, which wouldn’t work as a cassette these days. They could have tried a modern replacement, but I have trouble imagining a memory stick being in any way threatening. We had Soundwave and Shockwave sounding and acting right, a well-used Laserbeak, and Starscream acting sufficiently brown nosing, contemptuous and Starscreamy. It was a Transformer geek’s dream. Once Megatron sat in the Lincoln Memorial, anything the Decepticons did after that was gravy.

Spike’s girlfriend’s name is finally Carly. Yay! (His name still isn’t Spike, but it’s not like I’m going to continue complaining about that three movies in…much.) Although this Carly is no expert on cars like in the series. (Get it, her name is CARly, those cartoon writers were SUBTLE.) No, this Carly is apparently an expert on evil alien robot psychology. Hooookay.

There were many reenactments/references to Generation One.

I’ve mentioned the plot elements, but there’s one tribute to the 1984 Movie I could have easily done without.

In the immortal words of my good friend and fellow Transformers fan who managed to not see the old movie until waiting for other guests to arrive at my combination Halloween/Housewarming party over a decade later.

“IRONHIDE! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! You didn’t tell me they die!”

Bad enough I had to see a favorite blasted once…I may be scarred for life.
Oh no, not again.
Sometimes I will make justifications.

With any stupid movie that gives me this much entertainment, I feel the need to don my Captain Continuity hat and come up with explanations for the unusual events, which may jar the less forgiving out of the story.

First, I have identified the Cybertronian’s Achilles’ heel. It is an item that apparently is not native to their planet that both weakens and confuses them. I speak of course of cable.

The evidence:

After flying through several buildings without slowing down, Optimus gets tied up in some wires and has to be cut free by others.

Shockwave, who is in the process of leveling a city block by himself, is dazed and confused when a parachute and its cords tangled over his head.

Spike (fine…Sam) takes out Starscream almost completely on his own after shooting a grapple line into his eye, shortly before demonstrating how lacking his combat knowledge truly is by getting his heiney whipped for a good ten to fifteen minutes by Doctor McDreamy.

Cable…it’s like long stringy Kryptonite to them.

This is obviously a world very different from our own. No, not the presence of giant sentient alien robots, I’m sure we’re only a couple of weeks away from that. The tipoff is that people can slide over, run or fall through, and be covered by flying shards of glass and never get cut. The reason for this is they have much thicker tougher skin than the humans of this world. The purpose of this thick skin is to keep their highly volatile bodily fluids inside them. Don’t believe me? Watch the glide suit scene where they pass through the building. A Joe team member in a plastic outfit, carrying only a rifle and parachute hits a wall and VIOLENTLY EXPLODES INTO A FIREY BALL. Clearly, these humans have nitro glycerin in their veins and their extra thick skin is the only thing preventing severe damage to the surroundings.

I’ve seen complaints that in order to teach humans a lesson, Optimus uncharacteristically let the Decepticons kill a large number people. Firstly, it was kind of nice (probably the wrong word) to see an accurate depiction of just how many lives would be lost in a giant robot war. Secondly, Optimus lost his friend and trusted lieutenant due to humans not being completely honest with him. Since he only had about ten Autobots with him, that’s ten percent of his team. He allowed Chicago to be decimated, and after an equal percentage of its population was destroyed, the scales were evened and the Autobots returned to save the day. A slightly extreme version of “Firm but Fair”.

A final justification for anything else anyone might disagree with in this movie (even poorly stealing a quote from Wrath of Khan, Jon Malkovich leading a pack of erratically insane performances, and vast tracks of the film being indistinguishable from a car commercial) in only three words.

Buzz – Freakin’ – Aldrin.

The whole space race back story was very cool, intercutting real footage with effects shots.  But seeing the Apollo 11 astronaut standing proud and tall, face to face with - and called a hero by - Optimus Prime, the Greatest Fictional Leader in History (-Wendi Pini)...

For that act alone, this movie gets bonus allowances.

Jeff’s note to Hollywood.

People who make movies: Yet again please remember, the hero (especially ones of a certain character) does not ALWAYS need to turn into Dirty Harry when vanquishing his foes at the end of the film.

Will Optimus Prime have to change his toy’s quote to?

“Freedom is the right of all sentient beings…unless they piss me off. Then I shall slay them as they grovel before me helpless and unarmed.”
Do you feel lucky, punk?
Seriously, after he viciously dispatched his foes without mercy and sneered down at the pathetic humans around him, I expected his next line after, “It’s over,” “to be,”

“The earth is now mine! Autobots - eat as many of the women and children as you can catch.”

Final Thought:

Sure it had some uneven scenes, lame humor, bad acting and plot holes you could fit Unicron through; but it did hold the soul of the Transformers mythology with the reverence and awe it should be given.

And that soul is:

Life on prehistoric Cybertron


Anonymous said...

Very Nice! Good Points brought out about the movie and the story! I wonder if there is a green pill I can take to get super duper human skin - I can do without cuts ;0)

Jeff McGinley said...

Glad you like it. Thanx for reading and posting. Not sure I'd take thick skin if it came with a body that exploded on impact though.

longbow said...

I believe my exact words were, "You didn't tell me it was a snuff film"

Jeff McGinley said...

Thought that memory might get your attention. You may have said that later when you calmed down, but the original exclamation echoed down the hall pretty much as above. Thanx for stopping in.