Sunday, July 29, 2007

Transformers


Remember the sound effects had as a cartoon when they transform?

Many of the boys, including myself, were mimicking that ‘transforming’ sound after every episode. Transformers were so popular that everyone wanted to be one in those days.

Michael Bay’s Transformers had so little of that sound. It was in selected scenes but feeling nostalgic as I am of the movie, I feel sometimes there’s not enough of it. In place of the classical ‘transforming’ sound was realistic metallic sound, which was ok.

But then, this present day, live action incarnation Transformers is not a carbon copy of the 80s. Besides the sound one of the glaring differences that jump at you at the beginning of the film is the absence of the well loved yellow Beetle. According to press releases about the film the producers did try to get Volkswagen to sign off on using their classical product but failed.

It was not a total loss mind you. Bumblebee was still present, but now, as a yellow Camaro. It is one hot looking car anyone can love, though if you at it character wise; it kinda removes the unassuming look that was meant for Bumblebee. Michael Bay was probably thinking one can never go wrong with hot looking car, and he would be right. I love the Camaro, but I miss the Beetle.

The story had some differences too. All the small glowing energon cubes the Transformers were chasing after in the cartoons was reduced to one large all powerful cube that is capable not only of unleashing energy but have some functions of Vector Sigma (remember him?). But regardless of size, number, and type of cube ultimate aim is energy and supremacy, so in that sense there remains something of the original.

From what I’ve heard personally from people who have seen it they didn’t complain about the Camaro; lack of energon cubes; or the physical look being so far different from the cartoons. The common complaint was the speed of the story, which seems to be a style wholly Michael Bay’s – fast paced. You feel as if the story is always running; not giving you enough time to get some ‘meat’ out of the story or appreciate the characters.

Who can blame them? They are the coolest thing in robots, and seeing them alive and mixing it up in the real world was something of a dream come true. The special effects is without a doubt, awesome! I was expecting a more cartoony look but was amazed on how successful they were in making the Transformers look real.

The aspiration to make a realistic looking giant robot on screen, unfortunately, was the cause of another in the movies drawbacks: the robots look almost the same, especially in the battles scenes. I can’t tell who is the good guy from the bad. Fans will remember that the primary reason for transforming is stealth, and in this case it did too well of a job.

In the cartoon they had an excuse to make the characters more colorful, which is to help differentiate one robot from the other. If Starscream had his color in the cartoon in this movie then it would be strange that the United States Air Force didn’t fin it odd to have an F22 colored with a mixture of white and red.

The Autobots were easier to spot that the Decepticons favored more dull colored military and construction vehicles. For realism’s sake, I think we can excuse the coloring; there is simply no way around it. I suppose I can also cut the movie makers some slack if the scenes of the robots were too few and too fast because it reportedly takes 30 hours per frame just to maintain the level of detail and realism we all appreciated in this film.

The human contingent in this movie comes off a little weird for me. I liked scenes with Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) because they provided some of the most hilarious parts of the film. The others came off as too hilarious at times especially hacker Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson).

Who shouldn’t be hilarious or funny were Defense Secretary John Keller (Jon Voight) and Agent Simmons (John Turturro). The Defense Secretary came off too weak for a man in his position, and Simmons came off as too nutty for a leader of a super secret agency. Don’t get me wrong but I had some good laughs in the entirety of the film, some of them with these two government guys, but considering that the story had some ‘end of the world’ crisis to it, I was thinking that the men in power should have looked more serious.

Overall, I liked this film because of its special effects and the nostalgia involved with seeing the characters I have loved so much growing up. I enjoyed it immensely in spite of sounding too critical of the shortcomings I have seen. But I can ask for improvements right? Since a sequel or two seemed assured based on its ticket receipts maybe the movie’s producer, Steven Spielberg, can turn the quality up a notch.

But I am realistic. Considering the technological limitations and the mind-numbing work (30 hours per frame, my God!!!), I am not expecting full length movie of computer generated robots. But the story of the Transformers is still about a war, and as such, maybe the sequels to come should have more depth to it. Maybe what we need is a slower paced movie. War is about characters and lives too than just exploding cars and buildings.

If a slower pace lessens the action maybe it’s worth it. After all wouldn’t you want more time to see those Transformers doing what they do best – move around and act like humans do, and of course, TRANSFORM!