CPO: Transforming Transformers

Contradicting Popular Opinion:
An Enquiry Concerning Why Your Favorite Movie Sucks


Without planning it, I ended up seeing both the new Die Hard picture and Transformers last weekend (both starring Kevin Dunn!) It was my anniversary, and luckily none of the theaters we haunt were playing any girly movies.

I’m well aware of the fact that my wife is, as the young people say, “awesome” for going to see a film about giant robots on the anniversary of our wedding. She is very often cool like that; some may remember that recently, she checked Coffy out of the library for me.

She wouldn’t watch Coffy with me mind you; she not R0btrain for chrissakes.

New Die Hard was a lot of fun, probably the best of the lot save the first film. While it’s obvious that director Len Wiseman still hasn’t figured out how to film scenes of people talking or interacting in routine ways, Wiseman has matured in his direction of action sequences. The fight scenes, car chases, explosions and so on were refreshingly easy to follow. The fight scenes in particular are worth noting here. They are great. This is helped by a couple of things.

A. Each character has a distinct look. Visually, Maggie Q. is nothing like Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis looks nothing like Cyril Raffaelli.

B. Each character fights in a distinct manner. Maggie Q. uses joint locks and sophisticated striking techniques, Willis uses a “meat and potatoes” style, and Raffaelli jumps around like a damned monkey.

C. The fights play out logically. Willis is going to have more brute force than Q. Raffaelli is going to be able to out-maneuver Willis, the hacker kid isn’t going to be able to fight worth a damn, and so on.

As it’s stupid title can tell you Live Free or Die Hard is far from a perfect film. But it is a welcome addition to the land of summer blockbusters.

Plus, I’m glad that the main girl from Final Destination 3 has been getting so much work.

Transforming Transformers

Remember what I wrote about the fights in Live Free or Die Hard? Up there? A couple of lines ago?

Well none of that applies to Transformers. The third act is a jumbled mess of a fight scene. I could hardly tell what was going on at any given moment, and could rarely distinguish the good guys from the bad. My wife tells me you have to look for the tiny specs of color to tell which ones are the Autobots. The Decepticons were almost entirely grey. The only details I could tell you about any of the robot fights was that
1. Optimus Prime killed one robot by stabbing it in the neck; I’m not sure which one it was.
2. One big robot ripped a slightly smaller robot in half. Within the context of the rest of the movie, I guess that it was Jazz (the Eddie Winslow robot) that was bisected by Megatron.

I think.

Here are a couple of ideas that could’ve helped me understand the climax of this film.

A. Streamline the design of the f*cking robots. The robots were too danged complicated. I was getting flashbacks to those Image comics from 15 years ago or so. You know, the ones where your could see all the muscle striation of any given super-hero not only through his skin but also through his body armor?

I know that designers like showing off how much detail they can shove into a visual, but in terms of story-telling Charles Shultz runs rings around Rob Liefeld.

B. Spend more time with the robots. In 144 minutes worth of movie called Transformers remarkably little time is spent focused on the actual Transformers. I could pick Bumblebee and Optimus Prime out of a line-up, and that’s about it. What the other Autobots look like in robot form, I have no idea.

Things are worse for the Decepticons. If memory serves, the fist half of the flick introduces us to 4 Decepticons. There is the evil cop car, there is the jittery little spaz hacker robot, there is the scorpion thing, and that first robot we see is that nifty helicopter. I really liked the “rotary wing becomes a Mr. Sinister cape” aspect of the helicopter robot, but if I was looking at it from the front, I couldn’t tell it from any of the others. I think evil cop car was in the final fight, but couldn’t tell you what he did. The scorpion lost a bit of its tail in it’s first sequence and then disappeared from the movie entirely. At least, I think it did. I don’t remember the scorpion transforming into anything, so maybe it fled to a different movie called Non-Transformers..

Spazbot, of course, accidently killed itself.

I would have liked to see some of the Decepticons’ personalities. Let Starscream be f*cking Starscream. Especially if you bothered to get Charlie “Buster Bunny” Adler to do his voice. Aside from Spazbot (who I hope wasn’t supposed to be Shockwave), the Decepticons only get to break stuff and leave. And for the final battle, we just get a “oh by the way, here are some more evil robots that were just chilling until now.”

I know what you’re thinking. “If we spent more time with the robots, wouldn’t that make this a 3-4 hour movie?”

Well, if made by Michael “let’s point the camera at the sun again” Bay, the answer would be yes.

But other film-makers have developed this technique called editing, and only showing scenes which add to the story. As such, you could probably get a Transformers movie actually about the Transformers in under 95 minutes or so.

First off, remember Captain Lennox as portrayed by that dude on Las Vegas who isn’t Jimmy Caan? Well, those scenes with Tad Hamilton’s wife and baby are never paid off in the slightest bit.

Pay them off or kill them. (The scenes, not the family. . . although. . . )

Second off, remember all those scenes introducing the different computer science people? Where all the scientists try to figure out what these things are, and blonde hacker tries to convince the sec-def that they are alien robots?

Well, the audience knows what the bad guys are, and they are alien robots. Why waste time watching people pondering questions to which we already know the answers? The hackers don’t end up doing much of anything anyway, so ditch there subplot.

Thirdly, Megan Fox’s character doesn’t add anything meaningful to the picture. I know that everybody finds her very hot and all, but damnit the world is full of nice looking women! I want more jive-talking robots!

Fourthly, the Helicopter attack and the Scorpion attack can be truncated into one sequence.

Fifth, the bail sequence and the wiseass detective aren’t really necessary.

Sixth, masturbation jokes can be trimmed down, piss jokes must be eliminated entirely.

I’m telling you, if you trim this beast down to 95 minutes or less it becomes a much better movie. If it’s only an hour and a half long, I am more than willing to forgive it its magic radiation that brings sentience and motility to a cellphone, turns it evil and allows it create and fire machine guns. At the hundred minute mark, I start calling that shit stupid beyond belief, theorizing that the new life form would need to teach itself how to walk and move before it was able to complete complex matter manipulation that puts alchemy to shame.

In a 95 minute movie, I’m willing to forgive the military suggesting that the All-Spark be moved into a heavily populated area. In a two and a half hour movie, I’m going to be a bitch and suggest that there are thousands of acres of desert in Nevada to host a giant robot fight whilst mitigating collateral damage.