Sunday, August 5, 2007

Whither the Throwdown?

So I went and saw Transformers. Being old enough to remember the introduction of the original toy line, I was curious to see what a big-screen treatment of the subject would be like.

The giant robots were pretty impressive. Equally impressive was that the designs were not very toyetic. After all, Hasbro IS a toy company, so one could forgiven for thinking that they would absolutely insist on robot designs that could be easily mass-produced as toys. The fact that they didn't perhaps points to a level of confidence in the property that we've become unaccustomed to seeing in corporate America.

But I went to the movie thinking that I was going to see two-plus hours of impressively animated robots turning into things and beating the brake fluid out of each other, and I was prepared for some serious robot-butt-kicking to go on. And I was a little disappointed that it didn't seem to work out that way. The climactic battle at the end of the movie was something of a letdown, as they kept the focus on the movie's human characters. Given that they must have had a multi-bajillion dollar special effects budget, I really wanted to see the Autobots and Decepticons go head to head on center stage - at least for a few minutes.

Oh, well. That's why they have sequels...

Don't get me wrong. It was still a very fun movie. Giant robots trying to stay out of sight by hiding behind trees and under the eaves was Looney Tunes-level comic gold. The Deception police car (Barricade), with the motto "To punish and enslave," on its side was absolutely brilliant. And the Allspark imbuing a Nokia cell phone with life, a malevolent disposition, missile launchers and a miniature gatling gun was absolutely great.

But next time, more rock 'em, sock 'em, giant robot, please. Maybe it ended up on the cutting room floor, but it seemed that much of the big battle at the end of the movie takes place off-camera. Why make a big deal out of the fact that Ironhide is loaded for bear, if we never get to see him "bring the rain?" Megatron is standing on top of a building, dangling Jazz over the street - how did they get there? What was Ratchet doing the entire time? And where was Barricade? Not that the entire movie needed to be, as a friend off mine put it, "giant robots punching each other." But few people are going to see a movie based around a bunch of toys that turn into things in an interstellar battle between good and evil and expect to see a marvel of screenwriting and character development. So why not just go for the CG eye candy, and cut out the middleman?

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