Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Movie Tuesday

I don't think that this will be a regular feature - I was just thinking about Great Bad Movies, and have just recently re-seen one that should go onto the list.

Let's just take a moment to recall the groundrules - all categories are 5 points max except for the ten-point X-factor:

1. inane concept
2. ridiculous twists (either plot or character)
3. the Excuse Factor - in other words, was the whole project a thinly-veiled excuse to smuggle in lots of nudity/explosions/special effects?
4. good actors slumming or not yet discovered
5. cheesy music
6. clichéd dialogue/too much exposition
7. unintentional comedy
8. the X-factor: a catchall based on the timing of the movie, becoming a cultural phenomenon, and other less-defined criteria.

And with that, here's the movie - The Transformers.

Lordie, but did this ever fail to hold up. Let's take it point-by-point.

1. I can think of nothing better than the description offered by Orson Welles on the IMDB trivia page: "a big toy that attacks a bunch of smaller toys." In other words, a 90-minute commercial. Considering that the animation is no better than the actual TV show, it's not well-hidden, either. 4

2. Actually, not too many twists, except for the utter stupidity of all the characters concerned. Case in point - the very opening scene is the revered leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, issuing mission orders and casually dropping classified intel in a room with a huge window that any old spy could just look into while flying past. (More on this later.) This room is located on a moon orbiting the Decepticons' current home, so it's not like they should have been, you know, on their guard or anything. And hey, he's also a great tactician. He realizes he doesn't have the power reserves to launch an attack on the Decepticons, but apparently he has more than enough to load half of his forces into a freakin' shuttle and send them wandering to Earth - in the exact opposite direction (and thousands of light-years further off) from the bad guys who want to kill them. Luckily, the equally-great tactician Megatron decides to launch his own attack on THOSE GUYS instead of the now almost-defenseless base that's RIGHT IN HIS BACK YARD. This requires Optimus to launch ANOTHER SHUTTLE with everyone else in it all the way to Earth to rescue them, even though THEY'RE ALL DEAD. Not bad for a group of sentient robots WITH COMPUTERS (and power supply problems). 3

3. Being an animated movie about robots, special effects and nudity are nil, but we get to see a lot of stuff blow up, including the characters. Minus one point because it wasn't really that well-animated. 2

4. This is where we start making hay. Both Orson Welles and Scatman Crothers had their final movie credit on this film. We also have Judd Nelson (fresh off Breakfast Club and St Elmo's Fire) shooting his career in the foot, and Leonard Nimoy and Robert Stack. But the capper is the fellow who (believe it!) got top billing on the opening credits. If you want to guess who, here he is in spoiler-vision: Eric Idle. Best of all, none of them are mailing it in. 5

5. Oh my, yes. A synthematic craptacular from the same fellow who brought us Rocky IV's soundtrack, sprinkled with pointless big hair rock numbers. Bonus point - the Scotti Brothers owned the soundtrack rights, which means an appearance from their big artist, Weird Al Yankovic. 5

6. It's a cartoon, so clichéd dialogue is a must. Read the quotes, though, and it becomes obvious that this movie reads a lot better than it sounds. Nimoy's bad guy, Galvatron, has a couple of solid putdowns, and Stack manages a hell of a lot of diginity for a guy whose voice is coming from a cartoon robot truck. 4

7. It's a great segue, since a lot of the dialogue adds to the comedy. Case in point:
Megatron: "It's over, Prime..."
Optimus: "NEVER!"

Upon which Optimus (genius, great tactician, revered leader, etc), who has spent the last five minutes getting holes shot in him, gives Megatron the two-handed Kirk Hammer, sending him plummeting a hundred feet. Covering a guy with a ray gun doesn't count for much in the future (which, in this case, is 2005). This must explain why everyone forgets that they have them, choosing to grapple or punch instead. This includes Galvatron trying to choke Hot Rod to death.

Speaking of which - they use the song "Dare to Be Stupid" and fail to see the irony. Worse, it's the background for a ridiculous sequence which starts as a chase scene/fight and ends up with all the characters happy-dancing together like freakin' Ewoks.

We also have the sum total of two humans in the entire movie, and they're both hugely useless - except that the older of them drops a four-letter word just before the planet-eating planet (heheheheh) eats them. EXCEPT that he's not really eaten, and his hugely useless son gets to save his life, but only after a six-second long cliffhanger. (Really. That's it, six seconds. I timed it.) But that's nothing compared to Ultra Magnus (Stack's character) getting blown into hunks, only to be put back together with no ill effects. Yup - everyone else who's been shot up actually dies, but U.M. gets "misbemembered" and lives on. *

And, I hate to revisit this in a cartoon movie, but I went mad about twenty minutes ago, so here it is: in the first five minutes, we see Optimus Prime, GGTRL having his secret plans secretly overheard in what we've just been told is "a secret base." To do this, Lazerbeak uses a camera on him - the only Autobot who actually has NO MOUTH.

No, Threepio - I am your father!

One may as well lip-read a Muppet. But then again, when we see the playback at Megatron's headquarters, we HEAR everything that's said, even though Lazerbeak was sitting in the cold vacuum of space. We also see the shuttle launch - so how does Megatron's strike force catch up to them? We never see them take a shuttle of their own, they just show up and blow a hole in the side of the shuttle. This, incidentally, is the very first warning of trouble on board the shuttle - the actual hole the bad guys make in the shuttle flown by sentient robots using computers.

Nimoy's character says it best, actually: "This is bad comedy." 4

8. This is big, because, again, characters die. OK - robot characters, granted, but still characters who were pretty real to a lot of kids. I was a little too old to feel it the way I did when Obi-Wan took the fall, but Prime buys it, as do most of the forces under his genius tactical revered leadership. This was big in the world of GI Joe and the A-Team, where you'd see a plane consumed by a huge explosion, which faded to reveal a guy in a parachute floating gently to Earth. These were actual consequences. 7

Your final score - 34 of 45, a pretty decent count. Transform, and roll out!

*Thanks to Ken for the term, and the Opie Research Group for the picture. I don't know where they snitched it from, exactly...

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