Sunday, July 15, 2007

Transformers: Pain From Beyond the Stars

I just have to get this out there: Stop trying to ruin my childhood.

Hollywood clearly has a vendetta against me, because they keep trying to kill any positive memory I have of my life before the age of adulthood. They were some pretty good times, from what I remember, and for the most part, I was happy. Why, Hollywood? Why would you want to take that from me?

The latest death strike against my happiness was called “Transformers,” which must be Hollywood-ese for “attractive people doing stuff with flashy camera angles.” It was a movie that I wasn’t asking for and probably could have gone the rest of my life never wanting to see. I already saw the Transformers movie, back in 1986. It was called “Transformers: The Movie,” and it came out at a time when the word “Transformers” still meant “giant robots that punch each other.” I was tricked into seeing it by four so-called friends who swore to me that it was awesome. But it wasn’t, and I hate you all. Don’t let me see you in the street.

The movie, despite the extremely leading title, was really about a boy named Sam who was a budding huckster with no ties to his family, because for most of the movie, he was trying to sell off valuable family mementos so he could buy a car for himself. And one of those mementos was a pair of glasses that the hapless Autobots would need to find the thing that created their entire race. Meanwhile, the Decepticons were using their natural robotic gifts, like hacking into computers and killing things, to reach the same goal. I wouldn’t doubt it if the Decepticons had spent the last million years giving the Autobots swirlies and stuffing them into lockers, because if the Autobots couldn’t figure out that they were also highly advanced robots that could talk to our primitive computers, they deserve to lose.

But, because they had the humans on their side, led by Sam the Invincible, the Autobots triumphed in the end. Lucky for them that everything landed on Earth, so their weak-kneed leader, Optimus Prime, could lean on the broad shoulders of Sam Witwicky. Good thing they didn’t land on the Planet of the Apes or the place where the Klingons live, because Prime would have been in SO MUCH trouble. By God, Sam doesn’t live on the Planet of the Apes.

It really is just that bad. There isn’t a single thing that the Autobots can accomplish for the entire movie without Sam or some other human holding their hands through it all. Maybe all of them should have transformed into short buses, because there wasn’t a robot among them who wasn’t almost fatally retarded. I swear there was a part where they had to call poison control because Bumblebee couldn’t stop drinking Drain-O.

And that’s what I don’t like about this movie. It’s about the damn humans. I said a year and a half ago that if I wanted to see movie about humans doing stuff, I’d watch damn near anything else, because when a Transformers movie comes out, I want to see giant robots punching each other. This sort of approach works if the evil thing looking to destroy mankind isn’t interesting (like an asteroid), or can’ts speak for itself (like Aliens or Predators) but the Transformers written properly have more personality than the half-developed human characters that make up this movie. There’s the hot chick who can fix cars, there’s the black guy, there’s the socially awkward nerd, there’s the mean military guy. You’ve seen these characters in other movies, and they were probably also directed by Michael Bay.

But not only do they manage to make giant robots uninteresting, they make them generic and unable to be told apart. I’ve put together more exciting movies with the toys in my room. The best part is when Six-Shot stops humping Barbie, then scolds Batman for being a child molester. Little boys in speedos hanging around with reclusive billionaires can’t be a good thing.

There was a scene in the movie where the Decepticons start attacking the Autobots, and there was a pause in the action for almost a full minute because we had to watch the hot chick and Sam make eye contact and reach for each other. In the middle of a battlefield. With missles and giant robots flying overhead. Because when you’re surrounded by world-ending destruction, you might as well try and get some first. And when the shit’s going down and there are arms and heads and shit flying all over the place, who actually needs to see it, when you can see the blossoming romance between Sam and his stroke-material?

When they actually did give the robots screen-time, most of it was taken up by Bumblebee and a robot that transforms into a clock radio. Clock Radio (because they couldn’t be bothered to give him a name) was clearly inspired by some of the Star Wars droids, because not only was he one of the few robots who did ANYTHING without human assistance, he made all sorts of cute bleeps and bloops and bounced off of walls and stuff. He was kind of like an evil R2-D2.

Bumblebee was Sam’s car who loved Sam so much that he looked 20 years into Sam’s future and saw that he was never getting laid. Because Bumblebee couldn’t pleasure him without violating the laws of nature, he decided to try to get him some from the hot chick. Why was he named Bumblebee? Because there had to be a character named Bumblebee. And because making him a Volkswagen Beetle like he was in the cartoon would have made his name make too much sense, they made him a Mustang and hoped no one would notice. Then, they made his robot form look like a bumblebee. Problem solved.

And where is it written that all black people in movies have to be loud, full of jokes, and able to dance? I swear, even the black robot fit that description, and couldn’t make it through his introduction without cussing and break dancing. Luckily for us all, he was killed, filling in another requirement for black people in movies: the black guy always dies. Normally, this would upset me, but since he was the proof that cooning even takes place amongst the stars, I took it as a mercy killing.

Well, what about the CGI? Because after all, that’s what we came to see, right? It would have been good if they had allowed you to actually see it. There were times when they were standing around and talking and that looked okay. But when the fights started…because the robots themselves look so plain and indistinct, you just get a blur of metal pieces every time the robots fight each other. That’s right, the last 30 minutes of the movie looked like a spin cycle with metal shards in it.

Overall, this movie was just an extreme letdown. You’d think that a movie that was about giant, shape-changing, robots from another world that hate each other and fight would have been enough, but when your name is Michael Bay, you have to add flashy camera tricks, jokes, and a scene where The Autobots have to hide in Sam’s backyard so his parents don’t see them. Yeah, as ridiculous as it sounds to hear about 30 foot tall robots that shake the ground when they walk trying to hide in a residential area, imagine having to sit through it. Optimus Prime breaks something and says, “My bad.” Oh, the comedy gold!

As a result of the tinkering, my worst fears were realized: A shit movie where the title characters became background players was released to the world. And people have been led to believe it was a good movie, and as a result, I was led to believe that I should see it. A movie about cybernetic beings from beyond the stars who have been waging war on each other for millions of years, and yet when they get to Earth, they become so inept that they have to depend on a 17 year old nerd virgin and the cool kids from your high school to survive. Because if “Transformers” taught us nothing else, it’s that the world can only be saved by the attractive. Jesus Christ, this is what Michael Bay has spent $200 million dollars on.

Look, I really tried to like this movie. I gave it a chance. I really did. I knew it wasn’t going to be anything Oscar-worthy, or even Tony-award worthy, but maybe if Michael Bay put as much effort into making his movie as I did into liking it, we’d all be in a better place right now. Instead, with the combined effort that we both put forth, neither of us accomplished what we set out to do.

Bring on the Underdog movie, so I can go ahead and drink that cup of bleach and end my suffering.

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