Tag Archives: transformers

“Transformers” redux: One shall stand, one shall fall

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GateHouse – I’m not sure what it was that drew me to the “Transformers” movie this week, but I know what it wasn’t: plot, character development, story, narrative arc, metaphors, emotional connections, thematic subtlety or the desire to see a movie in which people talk like actual humans talk.

Here’s what I think drew me to “Transformers:” For several years in the 1980s, I collected and regularly broke Transformers toys, which had names like Starscream and Metroplex and Astrotrain and had the power to do horrible things to the garbage disposal. So when I heard that Michael Bay, director of such thoughtful character dramas as “Armageddon” and “Bad Boys II,” was making a Transformers movie, I thought, “I have to go see the Transformers movie!” even though I am now 31 years old and, in direct contrast to the way things were in the ’80s, I can talk to girls without sweating. Mostly.

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Will Bay’s “Transformers” have The Touch? Or at least not be inveterate crap?

transformers_cartoon2Island Packet – As someone who spent much of his childhood collecting and breaking Transformers, I’m approaching the movie version with a feeling that veers back and forth between terror and hideous terror.

The new “Transformers” film is directed by Michael Bay, who is responsible for such thoughtful, dialogue-heavy character dramas as “Pearl Harbor,” “The Island” and “Armageddon,” which was 19 hours long and was about an asteroid, I think — it was hard to tell, because I spent most of the film trying to poison myself with some cleaning solution I found in the bathroom. In Michael Bay movies, no one falls down if there’s any chance at all he could instead fall through, say, a 12-foot-high wine rack. Any human emoting that happens is generally either of the screaming-while-falling-off-a-skyscraper variety, the yelling-while-running-from-helicopters variety or the shrieking-during-a-shootout-in-a-steel-mill variety. Michael Bay movies have plot holes the size of actor John Goodman, but Bay has the good sense, if one of those holes become too terribly obvious, to blow up some stuff. Michael Bay is not going to be directing the sequel to “Gandhi,” is what I’m saying, unless there’s some way to turn him into a one-man killing machine (three words: machine-gun leg, but hey, what do I know, I’m just a newspaper guy).

And now Bay is behind “Transformers,” the CGI-heavy action flick based on the toy line that ate up irrational amounts of toy shelf space and what would have otherwise been my college fund in the mid-1980s — and now is back in full force. In fact, the newsroom received a promotional Optimus Prime toy last week and, no joke, it took six people and about two weeks to figure out how to Transform it. And now we can’t get it back. It’s just sitting there on the desk, in a horrific, half-Transformed pile. Taunting us.

Anyway, “Transformers” fans like myself have spent weeks busying themselves debating just how brutal of an innocence-shattering disaster this film is going to be, but we can generally agree on one thing: It can’t be as weird as the original “Transformers” movie, which was released in 1986 and was noteworthy for the following things, precisely all of which are true:

  1. All of the good-guy Transformers are ALL KILLED IN THE FIRST 10 MINUTES.
  2. When all of the good-guy Transformers are killed in the first 10 minutes and you are 11 years old and a boy, it makes you wonder if it’s OK to ask them to stop the movie so you can bury your head in your Mom’s lap and cry.
  3. Orson Welles is in the movie, in what would, hilariously, prove to be his last film role. He played a planet named Unicron that eats other planets, which is more or less what “Citizen Kane” was about. (In 1988, Welles rose from the grave to exact revenge on the producers of “Transformers.” Dozens were killed. With a sled, I’m pretty sure.)
  4. Someone says “s–t”, which makes everyone gasp.
  5. “Weird Al” Yankovic appears for some reason.
  6. The theme music is a song called “The Touch” by Stan Bush. People who knew how to talk to girls in 1986 might remember this song as the one slaughtered in a recording studio by Mark Wahlberg in “Boogie Nights.” It is tough to truly convey what “The Touch” sounds like without hearing it, but it’s safe to say that if you were ever to engage in a lively dogfight over the South Pacific with a fleet of alien starships that all are armed with lasers, you would want “The Touch” to be playing on your iPod. Hey, that’s a pretty good idea for a movie! I should patent it, before it’s stolen by Michael Bay.

“Transformers” soundtrack: Listen, if you Dare

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Jaded Insider – While “Transformers” fans busy themselves with heated debate about the fact that Optimus Prime apparently has lips in Michael Bay’s upcoming film disaster, us true-blue, hard-core, long-time, throwback, friendless, sexless, athletically retarded, sallow-skinned ubernerds can get us a taste of the real thing.

Later this month, Legacy Recordings will reissue the soundtrack to the original 1986 animated film, which has gone down in extensive J.I. late-night rant sessions as possibly the WEIRDEST ANIMATED MOVIE OF ALL TIME, largely because most of the Transformers die in the first 10 minutes (which, when you are 11, is emotionally devastating) and Orson Welles is in it (in his last role! He played a carnivorous planet named Unicron). Also, someone says “shit.”

Anyway, the reissue features Stan Bush’s immortal “The Touch” (people who knew how to talk to girls in 1986 might remember this better as the song Dirk Diggler records at the end of “Boogie Nights”), as well as an even more execrable track called “Dare,” which is about following your dreams or something. A band called N.R.G. sounds not much worse than other tinny 1986 metal outfits on the track “Instruments of Destruction,” and “Weird Al” Yankovic appears for some reason.

The reissue also includes bonus tracks, including the mistitled but much better “Unicorn Medley” (that low groaning sound you’re hearing is Welles rising from the grave to kill somebody) and “Megatron Must Be Stopped (Parts 1 and 2).” (In Part 3, he’s stopped).

Tragically, Stan Bush still thrives, and on his MySpace page on the Interwebs, he appears — unless he’s kidding, and we have no reason to think so — to be lobbying Bay for some involvement in the new film as well. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but how can you succeed at anything if you don’t Dare?

• Stan Bush – Dare.mp3


Finally, a breakthrough in human / Autobot relations

GateHouse — Alright, everyone calm down, South Korea’s all over drawing up a plan to handle the ethical dilemmas inherent in eventual human/robot interaction. Please, try to stop panicking. Return to your homes. Put down the flaming torches, and for the love of God, everyone put their shirts back on.

Yes, in this week’s contender for Story That Exposes The Most Enjoyable Disconnect Between Scientists And Actual Humans, a report recently surfaced saying that a team of folks in South Korea is working on a set of rules – well, they’re more guidelines than rules – to prevent humans from abusing robots, and, the story continues awesomely, “vice versa.” (It’s about time; my Roomba’s been holding my son hostage for about three weeks, and there’s no end in sight – it just keeps going on and on about “must have dust input more dust then go around in concentric circles avoid stairs that’s a wall” etc. etc.)

Sorry. I make fun of the Roomba because I love it, but also because I imagine it’ll be covered under the Robot Ethics Charter, which will be available for perusal in 2007, although it’ll only work on PCs, and only those running Internet Explorer 7 or higher with updated versions of Flash, Windows Media Player and all available security patches installed.

If it sounds like I’m mocking our impending robot overlords, here’s why: such a thing intimates that humans will, one day, build computers that work long enough to achieve artificial consciousness, and if you’ve ever in your life used Windows XP, well, I think you’ll join me in a nice safe glass of self-congratulatory pinot noir. Good luck with that, Killer Machines From The Future. If I’m ever being chased by one of you down a deserted street, I’ll just tweak your printer settings; if you’re anything like my computer at home you’ll be completely useless for three months.

The story goes on to say that the team assembling the Robot Ethics Charter, which – and I’m just going out on a limb here, but I think it’s safe to say has never played a single game of beach volleyball, is made up of “a five-member team of experts that includes futurists and a science-fiction writer.” Sadly, that science-fiction writer is George Lucas, so the Charter will have miserable acting, have bowel-clenchingly awful dialogue and include several inexcusable scenes of robots rolling around in a meadow.

Happily, the Charter will likely be based on an actual non-sucky science fiction writer, Issac Asimov, who issued in 1942 the famous three laws of robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must be able to transform into a tractor trailer, F-16 aircraft or similarly awesome piece of machinery. It would also help if his voice sounded like that of actor Laurence Fishburne.
3. If we can’t make an iPod that plays video for more than 24 minutes at a time, why is anyone worried about this?

Alas, they are. “The government plans to set ethical guidelines concerning the roles and functions of robots as robots are expected to develop strong intelligence in the near future,” the South Korean ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said. In this regard, robots have a total leg up on all public school students in Mississippi.

Apparently, South Korea is one of the world’s most technologically advanced societies; a recent government report over there predicted that robots would routinely do surgeries by 2018, and that every household would have a robot sometime between 2015 and 2020. Also, there will be a great many more flying cars, and companies will look to space to house new warehouses; the first such company, Spacely Sprockets, is already looking into it.

I don’t mean to sound flip about the entities that will almost certainly one day vanquish us in a war that will drive the remaining human survivors underground, which would be kinda awesome, but I can think of a few problems on the national agenda that need attention first, such as all of them. Still, this all said, I do currently have a robot that vacuums my house; if I could secure another than mixes me drinks and another that knows how to potty-train a three-year-old, I’ll sign whatever silly Charter it wants. I’ll even throw in a free printer.


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