Monday, July 09, 2007

about what meets the eye

i couldn't place what didn't work for me until a discussion with a friend on saturday night.

i was skeptical when i heard rumors about the live action transformers movie last summer. optimus prime's voice was still by peter cullen, but he had a mouth and not his ninja mask. further, i didn't hear THE noise when they transformed. and their mechanical construction was much more complex than i was used to. i was apprehensive.
as spring has come and the release came closer, i began to relax. i can forgive these 'minor' changes [if i concentrate hard enough], and i started to let go of my expectations and to anticipate the movie. our unofficial elder's quorum trip on opening night soon included the bisop and several girls. and i was one of those guys who clapped and cheered when a preview of it came on before 'pirates 3'.
the day before it opened, i ended up spending several hours on wikipedia, reading up on transformer mythology of all sorts. it would be really nerdy if it weren't so cool. plus, this knowledge gave me tales of 'unicron,' 'primus', and 'orion pax' [five points if you know who that last one is].

while my excitement was just a little forced, it was a lot of fun to be there on opening night. there was a feeling amongst the crowd that so many of us got to be kids again for the night; it was a time to remember why we love popcorn movies. some were there to see the big movie of the summer, and some were there to see the heroes of our past. cheers and applause were dappled through the audience, and several of us yelled when we even saw the first shot of that red and blue semi-truck.

the movie was good. it was by no means great, but it didn't rot, either.
i like shia lebeouf, though he has a crush on a girl who has to be the skankiest of all california high school girls. nevertheless, once she got her 'i'm a maxim model' shots out of the way, both of them were fine [and i liked the nod to the die-hards by keeping the name 'witwicky'.] the problem was that the movie could not stand because it was divided between robots and humans. sam, skankerella, and... to be honest, i don't even really know the names of any of the other humans in the movie. there was john turturro, jon voight, and the black and white military guys, but i don't remember ever knowing their names. the humans were there to provide human interest, so that we didn't have to try to relate to cg robots.

but that's where the film makers didn't trust either their audiences nor themselves--and both have proven capable. i'm not a cg guy; i don't get excited by a movie because of the effects. good effects are only as good as the story they are connected to. the robots in this movie were flawlessly capable of telling the story of creatures from outer space coming to earth to fight for a secret energy spark.
90% of the guys in the theater over 24 were there because they had watched optimus prime, bumblebee, jazz, and ironhide busting decepti-chops two decades before. the cartoon series had spike and his son daniel, but they were more of a connection for the robots with the human world of the show; their revelance to the relation of the viewer was minimal. there was no need for them. the personalities of the autobots [and decepticons] were so established and so real that we related to them. the most infamous example of this is how traumatized children were when optimus prime died in the 1986 movie. history has proven that people can relate to these robots, and much of that relationship was at least partially established before the movie even started. and so it was unfortunate that we had so little time with optimus prime and the autobots. so much of the movie was filtered through the unnecessary eyes of the humans on the screen.

though these weren't entirely the autobots i knew 20 years ago. the heroes of my youth carried with them an unspoken air of dignity. prime was kind and compassionate, but also taught discipline by example, and his troops respectfully emulated him. now, they clumsily try to hide behind houses with moments of cluelessness and immaturity, akin to young teenage mutant ninja turtles [i also love the turtles, but they are not autobots]. and seeing bumblebee 'open his valve' on agent turturro was almost shameful.

there were a few moments when it connected just right. in the end battle, when megatron squares off against optimus prime, one can't help but feel a bit of excitement to hear the decepticon growl, 'prime...'. and in a 100% nod to the old skool die hards, optimus solemnly declares, 'one shall stand, and one shall fall'. it got pretty fun there for a moment.
then michael bay remembered it was his movie. the camera moved so quickly in so many directions that it was nigh impossible to tell what was happening, who was pounding whom. destruction and carnage flew every which way, and when a 'mighty warrior' was taken in battle, we didn't care; we were never given a chance to know them, and so it was just another car getting torn apart.

the movie made hundreds of millions of dollars. i've heard that number two is already written and that they're just waiting for michael bay to say yes. and i'll probably go and see that one, too. on opening day.
but i don't plan on buying it when it comes to dvd.
i've already got my transformers: the movie.

1 comment:

Em said...

That's some beautiful deconstruction.