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Big Stompfy 'Bots!

Thursday night rocked. There was a sneak preview of Transformers at the Westshore AMC. Dave-sans-LJ scammed acquired passes for himself, me, and Donald-sans-LJ. The line to get in was enormous, and as it turned out our group was the last that was let in.

Good news! Michael Bay didn't fuck it up!

In short, the movie is not intellectually challenging at all, but if you wanna munch popcorn while watching '80's TV icons jazzed up with modern CGI blowing up everything in their path and beating the crap out of each other then you're gonna have a blast! There's even some humor.

But were there ninjas?

I like "humans befriended by robots" stories. I also like "humans crushed like insignificant insects by robots" stories. This movie had both! *SQUEE!!*

At times it felt like the movie couldn't decide whether it wanted to be serious or true to its origins, so it kind of skipped back and forth. The Autobots interact with each other in much the same way that they do in the original show, which gives some of the scenes a kind of cartoony feel that fits the Transformers franchise but doesn't especially help the movie. If you remember that you're watching a movie based on a cartoon then you'll have the right mindset to fully appreciate it, I suspect.

Likewise, the banter between Autobots and Decepticons while fighting is true to the cartoon, which adds a cheese factor that could be interpreted as either charming or painfully campy. Take your pick.

Most of the Transformers have names that are familiar to fans of the 'toon. I never realized before how odd it is to have extraterrestrial battle robots with curiously English-sounding names like "Bumblebee" and "Jazz". It's not unexplainable, but it does stand out.

Peter Cullen reprised his role as the voice of Optimus Prime. This was a Good Thing. The movie really wouldn't have been the same with a different voice spouting platitudes about the value of courage and the nobility of humanity. I've heard that this was demanded by the fans, and I'm glad that the studio listened.

Likewise, the Decepticons were mean! Oh! And I just found out today that Hugo Weaving did the voice of Megatron! I'll be listening for that the next time I see it.

They took a couple of liberties with the back story established in the TV show, but I think it was necessary to create a stand alone movie.

There were only a handful of ninjas in the movie, but ninja influence was everywhere. As anyone who's ever played Monkey-Ninja-Pirate-Robot knows, ninjas and robots are allies (likewise, pirates and monkeys are allies). The Transformers obviously learned their disguise techniques from ninjas, though admittedly they've still got some room for improvement. I once heard about a ninja who as part of a mission successfully disguised himself as a school bus using just a couple of throw pillows, a can of yellow paint, and a wig. He ferried children to and from school 5 days a week for eleven years never aroused the slightest suspicion from the driver, the students, or the mechanics who did regular maintenance on him. Then there were these two ninjas who together disguised themselves as a pacemaker and got surgically implanted in their target's chest, but I digress...

There were a few violations of the laws of physics that hurt, even given the way-out premise. Dear movie people: if you're going to reference real science to come up with a specific explanation for something, make sure that the science is correct, or don't explain it at all. Fuzzy, far-out science I can accept in a sci-fi movie, but blatant fact errors are a leading cause of geek rage.

Likewise, they played fast and loose with military protocol and procedures, and don't even expect an attempt at accurate portrayal of computer technology. No great shock there, though.

But let's be honest. This is a special effects movie, and damn, the FX were good! No, really. This was the reason why I went to the movie, and I was not disappointed. The Autobots and Decepticons are simply drop-dead gorgeous, and the transformations are amazing. I've read that in some of the scenes it took 36 hours to render a single frame because there were so many polygons. It shows, and the processing time was well spent.

The chick was hot, but compared to the 'bots she just doesn't stack up.

One thing that Michael Bay said was an important parameter of the movie was that he didn't want to get into any significant changes of mass during transformations (that's why Soundwave, who changes from a 40 ft tall robot into a boom box, isn't in the movie). With one exception they held to that rule, but wow what an exception! Object in mode A is roughly the size of a smallish office building. Object in mode B looks exactly the same, but now it's the size of a hat box, and it's hefted around by humans as if it were as heavy as an empty cardboard box. Damn.

There was more humor than I'd expected, but the humor tended toward the juvenile. It was still amusing, though (or maybe it's just me).

Missing line from the movie: "Alien robots came down from outer space and stole my pants as part of their evil scheme of galactic conquest!" Yes, there's a scene where it would've fit.

By the way, attentive fans of the 'toon will find several nods to the original series. My Transformers foo isn't particularly strong, but I was able to spot a few things here and there.

There are a few bits during the closing credits, including a brief shot which leaves the door open for a sequel. Count me in.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 30th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review! When I saw they were going to make this movie I about creamed! Woot!

I can't wait until it *ahem* officially comes out, then Robert and I are THERE!

"Just remember, there's a thin line between being a hero and being a memory." You make it sound like they are still my heroes!
Jun. 30th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
**ICON ENVY** :-)
Jun. 30th, 2007 05:52 pm (UTC)

I admit though that I was hoping for voiceless robots (i.e., "Trailer style"), because I thought that the ominousness angle was played up nicely that way.

It'll be fun to hear the voices tho. :)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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