Monday, July 9, 2007

Inner Child vs Inner Adult on Transformers

I finally saw Transformers. Last week, I carried on in an ode to summer event movies- Transformers, in this case. I also noted my normally high movie standards and how I would put them on hold for this single frolic in childhood memories. As I sat down in the theater and the opening sequence rolled, however, I found myself a dual being: one part the child eating up the unprecedented eye-candy filling the screen and the other part the critical, earth-bound adult painfully aware of the rickety frame of a story along which these images were strung. To enjoy the film, I literally, consciously had to keep telling my inner adult to pipe down and enjoy the ride- not vocally, of course (I kept it in my head so as not to disturb my neighbors). Even now, as I write this entry, the two voices are grappling. I will, therefore, write my feedback on the film as a dialogue between the two sides:

Inner Adult: Okay, so everything is black and then Optimus’ voice fills the room, except that no effort has been made to tone down its cartoon melodrama. The result, cheesy from the start.

Inner Child: Uh, hey, big guy! You’re watching a movie about Autobots and Decepticons from a planet called Cybertron. We’re not exactly in Serious Land here. Try to just relax and take it for what it is.

Inner Adult: Whatever… Okay, so that helicopter robot that just unleashed hell on that military base, that was bad. Even by my lofty adult measuring stick, that scene was awesome.

Inner Child: I concur. Decepticons are coming out big and bad, like I expected they would.

Inner Adult: I’m liking the build up with Sam, his parents, the girl, and his new car. This is proven Spielbergian characterization, and I’m liking it. The girl’s character doesn’t have much pop, she’s kind of just eye-candy, like her CGI co-stars. Why she needs to be here is beyond me, other than that she’s nice to look at. I smell Michael Bay’s influence here. The man is all about images, pretty pictures, big Western sunsets, muscle cars, dirty, sweaty armed servicemen, strong men standing majestically on high places as the camera whirls around them, or strong men walking in a line in slow mo toward the camera; any kind of story is subservient to the image.

Is it just me, or did that scene with the crazy cop exist only to keep the audience laughing during a slow point in the story (by the way, I think Michael Bay hates cops and is infatuated with servicemen). We never saw him again. This isn’t the first scene we’ve seen like this.

Inner Child: Oh, boy! That police car Decepticon is one bad dude. Wait! Yes, Bumblebee to the rescue! This is a great scene, so great, in fact, that I forgot that slow part. This is what I like to see. Rumble, young Bumblebee, rumble!

Inner Adult: Wow! That fight rocked, and those mid-air transformations were tight! I’m glad that girl finally came in handy cutting that stupid, Jar-Jar Binks-like robot to bits. I hope to see more of these battles. They almost make me forget some of the other shoddy story bits we’ve seen so far.

Inner Child: That’s the spirit! Ooh, look! Comets blazing down through the atmosphere and, yippee, slamming right down into the greater LA area!

Inner Adult: Uh, yeah, Bay is infatuated with asteroid-like projectiles. Why did the Autobots need to come down as asteroids? Where have they been? Why haven’t they been there with Bumblebee? Why did the Decepticons get there before them? Why did Bumblebee and the kids go up to Griffiths Observatory only to have to go all the way back down into downtown to meet up with the other Autobots? Again, looks like Bay just wanted to get a cool shot of the meteors streaking over the top of the iconic observatory and also the kids looking at the smoking crater. These looked good in the trailers- it almost seems now that they were created expressly for the trailers and then crammed into the actual film, even though they didn’t necessarily make any sense.

Inner Child: What is with you?

Inner Adult: I’m old and disenchanted.

Inner Child: Obviously. Here they are! The whole band of our favorite Autobots, larger than life, textured, hundreds of little gears and pistons clicking and whirring under their armor. That’s hot!

Inner Adult: The F/X get an A+. However, I don’t remember Jazz talking like some forced hip-hop artist stereotype. I also don’t remember them being hostile to humans at all. Looks like Bay is injecting some of his testosterone juice into our beloved characters- to no good effect. In the cartoon, they were noble, loyal, and even a little child-like. Bay’s just turning them into more of his roughneck, bad-as-I-wanna-be jarheads.

Inner Child: At least they look great!

Inner Adult: Whatever… Thank goodness for those funny parents! At least they have something to do with the story. And the girl used to be a car thief? Oh, now she has a personality because she’s a bad girl- NOT! Sector 7? Cool, X-files-type stuff but not really part of the core mythology. I mean, honestly, why throw in all this military, government conspiracy crap? And they keep Megatron disabled with ice? Since when was that a way to disable these super-robots capable of traveling for millennia in the extreme cold of space? And just as a side note, is Bay incapable of building suspense? He has the scenes set up for such suspense, but he just seems to be in such a hurry to hits us over the head with the next amazing shot that he never dwells on those great little moments. I can’t believe Steven Spielberg sat down in the screening room and said, “This movie is ready for theaters!”

Inner Child: I can’t believe you’re still talking. Can we just watch the movie please? I mean, check out this shot of Starscream transforming in mid-air and flipping up onto the dam. You have to admit, that was tight!

Inner Adult: Yes, it was tight… a month ago when I saw it on the trailer.

Inner Child: I hate you. You’re ruining this.

Inner Adult: Don’t blame me. Blame it on the Bay. Okay, so Megatron is now thawing, and those nameless measuring guys are still just hanging around, waiting to get creamed. Ouch! That had to hurt. Oh, and they have a plan to take this cube, which is pretty much blood in the water for the vicious Decepticons, into the heart of a major metropolitan area where there will be lots of helpless civilians in the line of fire. By car, the trip will take at least 4 hours, but we’ll never see a sign a Starscream the whole trip, even though he’s a jet, capable of flying at supersonic speeds. Why the long trip to LA? Because Mr. Bay thought it would look cooler if they were bashing into skyscrapers. It’s probably as simple and ridiculous as that.

Inner Child: You have to admit, though, it does look cool, kind of taking us back to those old Godzilla vs. Mothra movies, eh?

Inner Adult: But it doesn’t make sense.

Inner Child: Transforming robots from a planet named Cybertron don’t make sense, period.

Inner Adult: Okay, yeah, it would look cool if the guy holding the handheld camera were sober. I can’t even tell what’s happening. I think the guy was just stumbling down the street in a drunken stupor. Bay called it artistic and went on to the next shot. And you gotta be kidding me: the Autobots are getting trashed. They need the military to save them? This is sick and wrong. Anyone who watched the cartoons knows that the Autobots were always tougher than the Decepticons. The Decepticons talked a big game but always turned tail when the Autobots pushed back. What’s this getting-saved-by-Marines stuff? Retarded! Bumblebee getting dragged around on a tow truck, looking like Lt. Dan? The horror! And now I’m getting too motion sick to even complain…

Inner Child: Listen, I don’t care what you say! That fight between Optimus and the big construction vehicle thing was awesome. We’ve never seen anything like that on film ever. And his battle with Megatron was crazy-big and bad.

Inner Adult: Except that Megatron is making him his monkey, his plaything! This would never happen on the cartoon. Optimus was the most formidable warrior. When he fought with Megatron, it was tooth and nail, to the death. None of this stupid Optimus-getting-tossed-around-helplessly-like-a-rag-doll crap! And this tops it all: Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, getting saved by the Disney Channel kid??!!!

Inner Child: Whoa! You’re really, uh, uptight. Why can’t you just enjoy the good stuff? It’s just a movie, after all, a form of entertainment.

Inner Adult: And why did Bumblebee get his voice back all of the sudden? Why is Optimus holding up Jazz’s mangled remains like a trophy or something?

Inner Child: Just calm down, calm down, ssshhhhhh…

Inner Adult: I’m really angry about this movie. I just want you to know that.

Inner Child: Your opinion is noted.

Inner Adult: It’s not an opinion. It’s an expert diagnosis.

Inner Child: Whatever…

That was therapeutic and about sums up my take on Transformers. Did anyone else experience this same schizophrenia? I loved the graphics but had major issues with the story and characters. Tell me what you thought. Chime in!


  1. Well, i agree with the adult dialog on some points, (like the dead jazz thing. That was kinda disturbing..) but others, no. Perhaps its because i didn't watch them when i was really young. I'm to young to have seen the original seasons, and i didn't have a tv till i was 12 or something. The only transformers tv shows i have seen are some of the more modern ones, like transformers:energon or something when i was about 13-14.

    I agree about the girl's character. Not much there for a lot of the movie. A bit of character development later on, but still seems to just be there for the looks.

    The crazy cop and the crazy sector 7 guy where over the top, and seemed forced. They could have left the cop, but i reckon chuck out the sector 7 guy. He actually reminds me of the crazy scientist in area 51 in independence day.

    Ok, autobot entrance. If i remember correctly, the autobots knew what had happened to megatron, and how important sam was(ok, his glasses, but hey), so had sent bumblebee to protect sam/glases, while the rest of the autobots under optimus' command where off fighting other battles in their war with the deceptions. When some of the decepticons tracked down megatron, bumblebee signaled the autobots that trouble was at hand, and they came to earth. As for the asteroids, why not? How would you have done it?

    I don't know the original characters, but the ones in the movie did kinda annoy me a bit. As for them being hostile to humans, this was a quite good change in my book. It made it more realistic. The autobots had no history with humans, they where not friends at that point. They where there to fight the decepticons, not protect a less advanced race of squishy humans. Except for optimus, of course. This made the decepticons/autobots conflict more believable, as it was not the plain ultimate evil vs ultimate good.

    Yes, the suspended in ice thing was total trash. But hey. Its a movie.

    Yes, the trip to LA was the stupidest move is movie history.

    AS for the war scene camera work, i liked it. It was over done in some places, but most of the time, having a realistic camera is essential to those kinds of scenes.

    I don't know what happened in original transformers, but in the ones i watched, they autobots quite often where matched or even "beaten" by deceptions, or those beast ones. AS the series would go on, they enemies would get worse and worse, until they where replaced or upgraded, and it would start again. And, in the series' i watched, Megatron was always more powerful than optimus. There was always some almost Deus ex machina that allowed optimus to either beat megatron or at least stop the fight. Like exactly what happened here.

    Anyway, thats my views on it.


  2. This is EXACTLY how I felt about the movie.

  3. I didn't have any of the inner child moments. I was sitting though this movie thinking that it was pretty lame. I couldn't tell what was going on in the fight scenes, I had no idea that one of them died, nothing they did made sense. If the comics and cartoon were nothing else, they were logical within their fictional setting. Space robots dont make sense but if you accept space robots in the series they arent going to do the same stupid things that happened in this movie. None of that computer hacking made sense. The robot makes a sound and that begins a wireless download of whatever he wants? And within that sound there is a hidden (written) message. I didn't like this movie. To make it good all they needed to do was ditch the plot and the humans and have a big long fight between the robots in a desert of somehting with that hot chick watching. Interms of action movies this summer this doesn't touch die hard.

  4. Braedon, here's some other inner adult criticisms:

    If Megatron had been held since the early 20th century, with less advanced technology, why did the Decepticons wait until 2007, when the humans actually have the technology to prevent their scheme, to find out where Megatron was and free? It probably would have been easier during the Depression, WWII, or any other time before the new millennium.

    Why in blazes would Megatron imprint the coordinates for the All-Spark on some human's glasses?

    And how would the Decepticons know to look for the glasses of all things if Megatron had been frozen and out of contact with his compadres for two thousand years? Is that normal Decepticon protocol? "Remember, if Megatron ever gets lost, search for a pair of earthling spectacles that will be imprinted with the directions to an all-powerful Rubix cube."

    For that matter, why was Bumblebee fooling around with getting Sam some lovin when he knew that Sam had the glasses in his possession? Uh, hello, the fate of the whole galaxy hangs in the balance, and you're wasting time trying to get some earthling teenager some nookie?

    And, as for the Autobots crashing down comet-like into Los Angeles, Bay just wanted to have meteors. He loves meteors (and, I might, is quite adept at visualizing the destruction that ensues when they crash down to the earth). This sequence existed for nothing more than pure visual fancy, whether or not it made any sense.

    We could say 'Why not?' about any bad filmmaking decision, but I'll humor you and tell you why not: Because obviously earth is crawling with Decepticons already. Why would they leave Bumblebee alone to contend with a tank, a helicopter, a giant scorpion, Starscream, a construction crane thing, a killer cop car, and even the possibility of Megatron himself? I seriously doubt that the real Optimus (like, not the one who gets his trash kicked by Megatron) would reason, "Well, it's true that the fate of the universe is at stake here, the omnipotent All-Spark is within the Decepticons grasp, the key to locating it is being held by some clueless teenager, and my arch-nemesis is being held by an inferior race of sub-intelligence, but let's just leave mute Bumblebee to handle it. We've got more important battles to wage."

    Inner Child says, "Just enjoy the ride. Forget all of those plot-, uh, I mean, potholes."

    Inner Adult responds, "I want my Transformers done right. You're my inner child, not my inner idiot. We deserve better than this."

    Inner Child: Sigh...

  5. I didn't even let my Inner Adult into the theater. If I did, I'd have gone home and tried to write my own script that 1) made sense, 2) had less humans, and 3) worked somehow within the canon of the original story.

    But therein lies my problem.

    1) It's a story about transformable robots from another planet. How could it possibly make LESS sense? But then you start thinking of other fantastical movies that at least didn't insult you by asking that you not only suspend your disbelief, but that you never reactivate it again.

    2) You have to have humans. The first one did, but they were the Doctor Who companions, the Scooby and Shaggy, the Greek chorus, the Artoo and Threepio. They provided a link to humanity. As much as the fanboy might like nothing but robots on an alien world, you subconsciously can't identify with them unless there's an onscreen representative asking the questions and making the mistakes for you. Or so I've been told. But I agree that all we needed was Sam and his parents. I don't get why the love interest couldn't have been the Aussie code breaker. I don't get why Turturro even signed up for this role, it was almost embarrassing.

    3) In the G1 series there was no All Spark, or Cube of Life or even The Matrix of Leadership, that all came later and in different iterations of the story. To make any of this fit within all versions would have been impossible, but I'm having a hard time remembering from the movie why the cube was so important to saving humanity. I liked it better when the Decepticons were just stealing energy. It was simple, it was tangible and we could identify with it. Whatever this was, it was overdone.

    But I can't do this, I can't sit here and remake the movie in my head or else I'll go insane and hate myself. Batman Begins was a really great movie, but as soon as I realize that the super weapon at the end should have vaporized humans who are mostly water, I lose the love for the film. I'm going to try, but I'm going to have a hard time thinking of any action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy blockbuster type movie in which you don't at any point ask, "Why didn't they just do this?"


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