A Transformers movie that wasn’t


I watched the third Transformers movie recently and it sucked. Ok, to be fair it was a very valiant attempt to remake the second Transformers movie with a coherent plot. And, in this respect, it succeeds in the sense that there is a mostly coherent plot. It combines the plot of a first season transformers cartoon episode with the idea that we found aliens on the moon.

And as an alien invasion movie, it wasn’t half bad. But that is the issue, isn’t it? That’s been the issue the whole time. They aren’t Transformer movies, they are alien invasion movies. Mikey Bay himself admitted that he had never seen any Transformers and thought the idea of making a movie about a toy was stupid UNTIL someone said “well think of it as an alien invasion movie.”

And he did. Now to be fair, the first movie almost gets it. While it is about an alien invasion, it still has, as its focus, at least one of the transformers: Bumblebee.

The second movie is the amazing adventures of Shia Laboof and his Air Force buddies with some fancy cars that show up at the end to fight something buried in the great pyramid.

By the third movie the fact that these large robots can transform is inconsequential to the plot as a whole. They are no longer Robots in Disguise, but Robots that are also their own transportation.

More importantly, they are not the main characters of the movie. I understand the desire to have a character that the audience identifies with, who in this movie is played by the LaBoof, but that should not overshadow the actual characters of the movie. You know, the ones the movie is named after.

Think of it this way. There is a movie coming out called BATMAN. And the previews all have a dude in a suit kicking some ass. But then you go see it and it is actually a police procedural with Gordon as a detective still hunting down a murderer in Gotham and sometimes this guy dressed up as a bat shows up and helps.* That isn’t a BATMAN movie. That’s a Detective Gordon movie with a cameo.

And these are not Transformer movies. Robot alien invasion movies with valiant humans fighting to keep their planet, yes. Movies about robots in disguise? not at all. And that is my real issue with them. Not the Bay-isms, the gratuitous ass shots, the exploding toaster ovens or even the off handed ‘humor’ that just sucks. It is that he didn’t even really try to make a Transformers movie.

So why bother? sure there is product recognition, sure there is a pre-existing audience, but they are all familiar with this world. And if there is anything to learn about nerdy fan boys is that we know our stuff. This is part of the fan-fiction discussion I made earlier. Even for Mikey Bay there are rules to this world of Robots in Disguise, and instead of making a great Transformers movie by living in them, he chose to make a mediocre movie about alien robots.

* BTW, i think this movie would kick ass. So if you are a DC guy with Batman pull and you like it, steal it, and make it.

Rise of the Planet of the Not So Believables

I’m on an airplane as I write this and have just seen most of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. “Seen” being a well chosen word, since I did not listen to it. A bad habit I picked up after flying to California entirely too much. I’ll put on my iPod, listening to whatever strange selection of music I was in the mood for that trip and watch, half hazardly, whatever movie was being played on the aircraft.

It leads to strange and sometimes appropriate mixture of soundtrack and sights. Like the time I watched some new romantic comedy, you know the one, that girl from some show was in it, and the guy who is a half time comedy and half time action star. They meet, fall in love, it doesn’t work, but then this thing happens, and, not to give it away, but in the end, they realize they are meant for each other and walk off into the credits with a happy, but unnatural smile. For this movie I listened to Seasons in the Abyss by Slayer.

So that is the setting, me, music, awkwardly humanoid apes running around a serious looking James Franco. I suspect that it goes something like this: they catch the apes, the zap them with SCIENCE! and then they become smart, in doing so realize that being a prisoner sucks and do something about it.

This is to lead us to the Planet of the Apes, which was on two channels higher, so I watched more of that instead. What can I say? Chuck Heston running around in a loin cloth is more manly than James Franco.

Anyway, the point of this rant (yes there as a point) was not about whether SCIENCE could do what it claims to do in this movie, or even if intelligent apes could collect and lead a rebellion against the evil humans. It is about the idea that this is supposed to be a prequel to a move where Apes RULED THE WORLD and a bare chested Chuck Heston was unhappy with them touching him.

In the original movies, the apes blow up the future, but somehow come back to the present and then their kid, Caesar is the one who leads the rebelling. The difference is all in the set up. In these stories we, humans, have been horrible to our mother, earth, and as such have basically killed off just about everything else. So dogs to fetch sticks, no fish to stare blankly. No cats to wake you up in the middle of the night so you can pet them. Apparently we got lonely. So we started keeping apes. Well, all of the species of apes, gorillas, orangutans, etc. as pets. But! then they became smarter. Not Caesar smart, I mean, he could talk, but like robots. Hey Chippy! Go get me a beer! and he would. Isn’t that nice?

So (yes yes, the point) when Caesar starts that rebellion there are a few important differences. The first is the shere number of apes. They are everywhere, tons of them. They are in our homes, in our work places, on the streets. In this new movie, not so much. Just a few dozen or so in a lab that go reek havoc on San Francisco.

And here is where I have the issue. The numbers presented in an incredibly low budget movie present a situation where there is a real threat to the humans. Caesar raises an army. But this new one? One AC-130 could have fixed the problem fairly quickly. We have serious military hardware, with seriously trained soldiers on how to use them. The numbers, the intelligence, the plausibility of the situation isn’t there.

You say this leads to a decaying Statue of Liberty on the beach and a camera fad as Chuck Heston gets beaten by the incoming tide and I say bullshit.

As a story, well as a silent movie, it was fun, and I don’t have anything against it as it is. It is the connection to the future movie that I don’t buy. And I don’t. Though It was fun seeing Rodney run away form the scary thing in the trees. This is the danger of a prequel. No matter how good your story is, it has to fit with the unchanging stories that have already been seen as well as live in the most real of believability.

Where will this Caesar find his army? Not in Muir woods where the are left by the end of the movie. Could you still get there? Perhaps. But I suspect that when (yes, when) the sequel to this prequel comes out that there will be a few leaps of faith made to bring you to Chuck Heston. Or Marky Mark. Either way.

oh and I was listening to Aqua, but then switched to Tupac.