The Transformers Movies – They’re Alive-Alive-Alive! …Except Where It Counts
Earlier this week I cast a critical eye on the 1986 animated
movie and implored people to, at the very least, enjoy the widespread success
the modern live action movies have brought the franchise as a whole.
Whilst that sentiment still stands, today I’m going to talk
from the other side of the matter and aim firmly at those same movies.
This Wednesday Dark of
the Moon was released. At time of writing I have yet to see it personally
but as a majority, critical opinion has not been good. Everyone from
professional critics to online bloggers (respect, my homies!) are generally
roasting the film. This has added fresh fire to the arguments between those who
love the movies and those who loathe them. I’ll be honest and say I veer more
to the latter. I found the first movie less then I was expecting yet enjoyable
whilst holding the second as one of the messiest films I have ever seen. So admittedly
the third movie is going to be a hard sell, what with hoping for something good
yet fully expecting more sucking then Unicron’s maw.
One of the central defences commonly used to defend these
movies is what I’d like to challenge- It’s
Transformers. What more are you expecting then giant robots beating the crap
out of each other, you snob?
You dig giant
robots. I dig giant robots. We dig giant robots. Chicks dig giant robots….nice. It is
certainly an awesome visual spectacle to see two or more engaging in a fight
and knocking each other out with powerful punches, built in weapons, etc. However,
this by itself has never been the only draw or true success of Transformers. Indeed, if that was all
that was needed then why didn’t the producers just option movie rights to Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots?
Look at the vast, just under 30 year history of the series.
Look at the various fiction, most of which has been told in animated series and
comic books. Look at the ones that have endured and are still referenced back
to even now. What do you see? Genuine craft. A concern for an interesting
story, developed and likeable characters, respect for the audience’s
intelligence. The Transformers projects that had this are highly regarded
decades later. Beast Wars certainly
made these factors top priority and look how well that’s done; in the two years
Hasbro have run the Hall of Fame, the fan vote has both times gone to Beast Wars characters even though they
were in direct competition with icons who have been present since G1. That
speaks volumes, especially from a fan base that so often feels the original is
It’s the mythology and the idea of giving as many characters
as possible even a tiny amount of characterisation that has always been one of Transformers greatest strengths. It’s an
idea which makes the stories more then just fiction to sell toys, gives
audiences a deeper attachment to the cast and provides a broad canvas for
writers and artists to explore. Would Optimus Prime dieing have been so
saddening if the previous 2 seasons hadn’t had us warm so much to the
character? How about the journey of Dinobot as he fought to discover the true
meaning of honour? Or the Animated Autobots developing from mere
co-workers to possibly the greatest of coordinated comrades? All these examples
and more came from writers respecting the audience’s intelligence and wanting
to tell involved yet accessible stories.
Again, I’ve yet to see the third movie. Maybe when I get to
I’ll be in for a welcome surprise. But if I come away under whelmed, don’t tell
me or those who feel similar that we’re snobs or expecting too much. Because
there’s nearly 3 decades of great stories that prove that isn’t the case, we
simply want these movies to at least try to measure up. Such a thing isn’t just
important, rather it should be Paramount.