The Slag Has Hit the Fans
by Jason B. Bell

Yep, after some teases earlier this week, the first real images of the robot designs from the 2007 Transformers movie have finally hit the Internet. On the same day, the screenwriters held an online video conference to try to allay the growing concerns among Transformers fans about the direction of the movie.

And the net is now a buzz with worry, shock, and horror from Transformers fans.

As a long-time Transformers fan--I still have my hundreds of original toys from when I was a kid, among numerous other items from throughout the past two decades, though that in itself doesn't begin to scratch the surface of how deep Transformers is ingrained into my psyche--people have been asking me (especially since the teaser trailer hit theaters earlier this summer) if I'm looking forward to the new movie. Of course I'm not. And you shouldn't be looking forward to it either.

Yes, the movie's going to suck. It's going to be way worse than the animated movie. (And yes, although I love it, have watched it a hundred times, and can quote it endlessly, it is a bad movie.) Unfortunately, it's almost certainly not going to be enjoyable in or in spite of its badness like the animated movie.

That said, a lot of the things people have worried about ruining the movie for them just aren't actually that big a deal and won't be the real reasons for the movie's total suckage. I'll talk you through some of the biggest ones, and why you shouldn't mind them:

Never mind the fact that although some, like myself, may find the robots to look kind of cool (even if they do go way overboard with the pointy design features on the obviously EEEEEEVIL characters), they certainly in no way resemble the general design aesthetics of any previous toy or cartoon Transformers from the past 20 years. (Before some of you write me, yes, I do know all about "Transtech," but these go way beyond that, have realistic vehicle modes, and that was a toy line that never went into production anyway.) Sure, the designs, with their teeny tiny folding bits shifted around on top of the skeletal robot frames, almost completely eliminating the "look" of the vehicles they transform into, make them next to impossible to reproduce in affordable or sturdy toy form. (The design simplifications made to the toy prototype of Blackout actually look a lot better to me than the over-complex design of the CG render.) And sure, the look of them is leading many fans to start jokingly referring to this online as Bionicle: The Movie. But this is only an aesthetic choice, and shouldn't be of any concern as long as the story and action are decent.

Never mind how the characters don't bear any resemblance to any of their many previous incarnations beyond basic color schemes and head shapes (and not even that in the case of Starscream, whose face seems to look strangely more like the Beast Wars Transformers character Waspinator's than anyone else's... though I guess that might be kind of propos from some point of view).

Never mind the silly-looking flames on Optimus Prime's paint job. The people behind the movie have assured us that there is some sort of reason for those (though they haven't revealed what that is--I'm sure it's some crucial plot point or something).

Never mind that Bumblebee is a bad ass muscle car in the movie. VW wouldn't let them use the Beetle design, so they had to opt for something else, and while, sure, they could have tried for a Mini Cooper or Gremlin or something along those lines, or adapted the part for a different, "sportier" character, it doesn't really matter as long as the character is done well. And this is a wholly new continuity anyway, so whatever.

Never mind that the filmmakers, when asked by fans, seemed reluctant at first to even consider casting Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime, as the voice of Optimus in the movie, citing concerns about whether or not he and the other Transformers voice actors could still do the voices. This, despite the fact that Cullen still regularly uses his Optimus-sounding voice in numerous cartoons, movie trailers, and fairly high profile TV voice over work, and has been doing so practically nonstop since the eighties. I guess they just never watch many movie trailers or any of the Turner cable networks. They did ultimately cast Cullen as Optimus in the movie, and are allegedly considering the other voice actors as well.

Never mind that there are only about a dozen Transformers actually appearing in the Transformers movie. The filmmakers want to gradually introduce us to the world(s) of the Transformers and save all those other characters for the next few movies, rather than even "wasting" them with cameos. That's just how you make movies--you don't put the things in them that people want to see, because you have to find some way to get them to see the sequels.

Never mind that out of all the Decepticons appearing in the movie, only two will be recognizable characters (Megatron and Starscream--some of the others use names of pre-existing Transformers but clearly aren't the same characters). The filmmakers simply must not have been able to find any decent character matches for their movie characters among the mere hundreds of distinct Decepticon characters who've appeared throughout the past two decades. It's not like this movie should be expected to depend on its audience having any kind of nostalgia for Transformers characters.

Never mind that they don't have any of the size-changing ("mass shifting" as some call it) that many Transformers characters in the comics, cartoons, and toy lines do, transforming from giant robots into stereos, cassette tapes, cameras, handguns, or whatnot. The filmmakers want to keep things completely realistic and believable in their movie about giant living shape-changing humanoid robots from outer space.

Never mind that part of the story credit for the script goes to John Rogers, the Razzie Award-winning writer of 2004's Catwoman... Oh, and also that great, well-received sci-fi movie, The Core. (Yeah, I've drifted into full-blown sarcasm at this point.)

Never mind all that. Well, except for that last one maybe...

All you need to know concerning whether or not you should be anticipating this movie is that it's directed by Michael Bay. If you've seen a Michael Bay movie, you know what to expect. You can expect loud action scenes full of quick shots of stuff exploding loudly and people running from loud explosions and things not making sense and more loud explosions. These scenes will occasionally be interrupted by scenes of people talking about stuff exploding or things about to explode and still not making sense, all filmed with the same quick jarring cuts and zooming around cameras used in the action scenes. And the average camera shot will last about two to five seconds before a jump cut to a different angle. (So for all those upset about the look of the character designs, between that and all the sweeping camera moves, it's not like you'll actually get a good look at them onscreen anyway.) Then again, maybe Bay will surprise us all. I haven't seen his most recent film, The Island (neither did anyone else), so maybe his directorial style has finally evolved from the visual crudeness of Bad Boys, the confusing disjointedness of Armageddon, and the point-missing of Pearl Harbor, and matured into a more artistic and intellectually stimulating vision. You know, for this important movie about giant robots blowing stuff up...

And the sad thing is, I'm sure I'll be seeing this piece of crap opening weekend. You probably will too. Just please be safe and bring along something for the motion sickness and epileptic seizures that Bay movies typically induce. Then we can all get back on the Internet and complain about it even more.

Copyright 19 Aug 2006 We Like Media.
You may email Jason B. Bell.