Friday, July 13, 2007

Robots in disguise

Michael Bay's Transformers, as I suggested, is one of those movies that's good enough to make one hunger for something in the same vein that's actually good. A few thoughts after watching the original Transformers: The Movie then?

It's not a great movie and there are dozens of reasons why it wouldn't have translated to a live-action movie, or at least one of a budget of a "mere" $150 million, but I think its makers, and others, could have made something vastly more interesting if they'd taken a closer look at it.

I'm still unconvinced that the story about the Transformers themselves couldn't have drawn an audience, not in a world where Cars made $462 million. It might have taken some extra effort in marketing, but I think it would have been worth it. For one thing, I think the movie would have had a bigger impact and more potential to be a movie with some resonance rather that a simple hit in the summer of 2007.

I was 13 when The Transformers went on the air. My brothers were younger than me and I usually watched it with them, but I never particularly cared for it. My recent brief attempt to slog through the series confirms for me that it is indeed rather a rather pedestrian show.

The movie, on the other hand, suffers from, if anything, too much imagination - or, at least, struggles toward it - and wild action.

Much of the material that begins in the movie seems to owe a tremendous debt to Jack Kirby. Most obviously Unicron is clearly a rip-off of Galactus (and wouldn't something closer to that have been a more interesting solution to the issue of a live-action Galactus than a space cloud?), but the designs of new characters, such as Galvatron, have a strong Kirby flavor to them.

Overall, the movie fits best into the 12-year old mode of enjoyment. There should be a whole category for this, I think. The movies best enjoyed by the 12-year old inside you. The worst of these are the ones you see and enjoy when you actually are 12, but when you try to revisit them later, you struggle to understand exactly why. The best of them bring out the 12-year old inside you, no matter when you watch them. For me, this one is definitely on the better end of the scale.

It was a fun little movie and did indeed prove to me that something could be done with the concept that I enjoy, that the live-action movie was really wasted potential and not the inevitable result of trying to build a feature length story on a bunch of giant transforming robots.


Piper said...

Interesting thoughts about Galactacus. I agree that the original movie isn't much. The soundtrack is surprisingly cool.

It is an interesting concept that in my opinion was screwed up by the movie. And you're right, it was screwed up because they didn't focus on the robots enough. We should have seen more robots. Wasn't the movie titled Transformers?

Neil Sarver said...

The soundtrack to the animated movie is a blast of '80s awesomeness.

The movie is tied to the fact that it's the "dump the whole line of toys so season 3 can be all about the new toys and kids will need to buy them all" movie, but handles it better than it deserves, giving some real scope to all of this. Not to mention, it is attempting to stretch into the realm of imagination and tell a story for humans to enjoy that's about robots, so I give it a lot of credit, even if I don't think it works as well as it ought to.

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