Transorming Conceptions

To say that the following contains spoilers leaves a foul taste in my mouth, since reading this will not “spoil” anything.  Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, is not worth watching.  That said, the following openly discusses important plot points trivial occurrences in the movie.

“There’s just one problem,” Sam Witwicky said, slamming the Astronomy 101 course book closed, raising a respectfully disagreeable finger, and marching to the front of the classroom.  “Einstein was wrong.”

When you grow up wishing that you were a robot that could turn into a shark, and then a helicopter, and then both at the same time, it becomes somewhat easier to ignore certain scientific declarations.  Sure, Sam had to use 18 previously undiscovered dimensions to explain how energon worked, but fans of the Transformers franchise–even the scientists among them–should forgive such inflammatory remarks.  Why?  Because energon is AWESOME.

But now that the can of proto-worms is open, let’s go trumping and stumping through this minefield: What SHOULDN’T a good Transformers fan forgive?

To say that I was gravely disappointed in the movie would be a gross under-representation of how utterly ashamed I was to be in the theater.  “It revolved around two people who each wanted the other to say ‘I love you’,” my friend Shawn put it after we had seen Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.  While I can clearly see where his misconception stemmed from, I have to admit that he was still wrong: the movie, which was almost unbearably long, wasn’t ABOUT anything.  It was a string of explosions and spinning cameras that showcased pretty cars turning into angry robots, girls running in slow motion, and “an ordinary boy” who has an entire race of robo-weapons (and, somehow, a super secret faction of the US government) at his personal disposal.

Perhaps the most offensive addition to the new movie was a pair of Twins (mostly referred to as simply “The Twins”): a pair of idiotic, racist, cursing, Blue-Collar Comedy Tour extras.  They had the ability to not only transform, but shape-shift.  I had not considered the idea of appearance alteration since Mirage, an Autobot that you will never meet unless you watch cartoons more than a decade old.  Even then, you will see a thoughtful, occasionally foolhardy hero.  To my mind, the Twins are a way of communicating with the base-line fan of the franchise: “I want to see a car beat up another car.”  While this is a provocative and flattering theory, it speaks volumes to me: of the hundreds of available options for Autobots and Decepticons, the only way to make them accessible to modern audiences is to follow the following formula:

  • All Autobots that are not punchy will be given bright, flashy paint jobs, and will have dialogue written so that every phrase contains a curse word or a “A-hyuck!”
  • All Decepticons will be silver.

With the dizzying camera work, the flat uninteresting characters, the meaningless and indistinguishable fight scenes, and the violation of the characters that had previously been introduced, there’s nothing to be said about this film.  The science, in this case, is uniformly bad.  I’ve know this since I was 5, although I largely overlooked that because the idea of robot-cars fighting in an all out battle of good-versus-evil softened the lines for me.  It helped me develop a moral network around Optimus Prime and his noble valor: “‘Til all are one,” he would say, and my best friend Brian and I, clutching toys more precious than our lives, would chime in with the other Autobots: “‘Til all are one.”  Nothing has changed; this world of fantasy still rests on the idea of acquiring energon and protecting the humans.  It’s just that the science and the war are secondary to the idea that “everything in the movie lead to a thrilling climax” can be replaced with “EVERYTHING WAS HAPPENING ALL THE TIME.”

I don’t know that Dave will agree with me when he goes to see this film.  I know Peter Cullen has to eat, and to him I still say Bah Weep Granna Weep Ninnybong.  He did his best, and I honor that.  But as far as I know, my attention span is longer than 8 seconds, and I need more substance than the self-stroking flashes of a teenage fantasy.

And I’m not talking about Sam Witwicky, Mr. Bay.

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