Monday, August 8, 2016

Some thoughts on the 30th anniversary Transformers: The Movie Blu-Ray

Just heard about the upcoming Blu-Ray release of Transformers: The Movie, and got a little nostalgic for my childhood ... while at the same time remembering the time I saw the movie and the original TV series as an adult. And wow, what a difference a couple of decades makes.


I didn't see this when it was in theaters because I was around the age where I started thinking that cartoons were only for little kids, so I never begged my parents to take me to see it. I loved the original series, though ... until I tried to re-watch it a few years ago and realized it was terrible. I could barely sit through the first episode.

Before that happened, I picked up the 20th-anniversary DVD when it was released, and that's the first time I got kicked right in the nostalgia. Terrible script, awful dialogue, and most of the movie made no goddamn sense at all. And that one robot who looked like he had fucking dicknipples haunts my nightmares to this very day.

Some time after the letdown of seeing part of my childhood ruined, I decided to watch the TV show over again, figuring it couldn't have been that bad. Holy shit, was I wrong. Like I said, I barely got through the first episode. Tried to watch another later on, and just couldn't. If someone had walked into the room and seen me watching it, I would've been embarrassed. Even more embarrassed than I would've been if someone had caught me jerking off.

As for the movie ... eh, I guess you can make the argument that it tackled subject matter that was really dark (the deaths of major characters), yet it's a part of everyday life. But those deaths were in the script for completely cynical reasons -- getting rid of familiar characters loved by the kids who watched the show, just to make room for new characters and therefore new toys to peddle.

But then, even when I was a little kid, I already understood what death was and what it meant. My parents never tried to restrict my television viewing while I was growing up, so I'd already seen characters killed off all the time on Star Trek and Doctor Who (which sometimes had an astonishingly high body count) and other shows. Even when I was five or six years old, I could see a character's death, see the reactions of others when it happened, and put two and two together. I was around nine when I saw The Wrath of Khan in the theater in 1982, and understood exactly what Spock's death meant -- that he was gone. He no longer existed. I had no idea back then that he'd be brought back in the next movie, but that's another topic.

So, if I'd seen Transformers: The Movie in 1986, it probably wouldn't have traumatized me like it did so many other kids, at least in the sense of a loss of innocence. It would've definitely been emotional for me, though, seeing a character I loved killed off. It was a tragic, sad event, and would likely have been a profound moment for me ... if not for the awful movie that surrounded it. A moment of such gravity deserves a far better story, and it needs to happen for far better reasons than just to make room for a new line of toys.

I was never able to get into any other iterations of the franchise until Transformers Prime came along a few years ago. I decided to check out the first episode just to see if I could stand watching it, and was surprised to find myself enjoying it.


Aside from a few moments here and there, most of the time I could watch it without feeling like I was being talked down to. It ended up becoming my favorite series in the franchise, despite a fair number of missteps, and I was sorry not only to see it come to an end after only three seasons, but also to see it replaced by Robots in Disguise, which is every bit as awful as Generation 1. I wanted to like the new show, but it's aimed at a much younger audience and is more lighthearted and just plain silly. Maybe it got better as time passed, but I pulled the ripcord when I got to the fourth episode and saw that the villain of the week was a giant robot lobster. I only liked one of the characters, Strongarm, but couldn't stand the rest. Whereas, with Transformers Prime, I liked almost all of the characters, as well as the more serious "war is hell" approach the series took, and imagery that was often genuinely frightening.


And in the above clip there's something else -- something that would never have happened in the original series. While no deaths are shown on-screen, it's pretty obvious. Just think about that huge metal fist slamming into a human body at that speed, and you know every bone in the guy's body was shattered and his organs turned into pulp. Some people probably complained about that sort of thing happening in the series, but let's face it -- those guys were trying to kill her just so they could get their hands on a piece of alien technology. So she took them the fuck out. I love that the show didn't shy away from that kind of thing, when G1 and most of the other cartoons I watched as a kid almost never did anything more than show one character toss another into a pile of leaves or hay or whatever. I can respect a show that's willing to go there. The show also did a really good job of being about something, rather than just a thirty-minute commercial for a toy line like the original.

And then there's Airachnid. Jesus Christ, Airachnid. While I really didn't like her swan song in the final season (or much else about that whole episode), she was one of the most sinister villains I've ever seen. Just the sight of her was extremely creepy (in no small part due to the fact that spiders give me the heebie-jeebies). Then she'd open her mouth and prove herself to be pretty much completely insane. I don't remember the exact line, but in one episode she said something that amounted to, "When you kill me, make it hurt. I'd do the same for you." Seriously, that's a fucked-up thing for a character in a kid's show to say.


So. Yeah. Now that my skin's finished crawling ...

Transformers Prime may have been aimed primarily at kids, but definitely not at young kids, and I can watch it as an adult and not feel embarrassed that I enjoy it. G1 and Transformers: The Movie ... not so much. I'll be giving that Blu-Ray a pass, unfortunately. It's much better as a distant memory.

I'd love to see TFP revisited as a big-budget movie, someday, however. If it had good writers and Michael Bay wasn't involved, there are still plenty of good stories that can be told with these characters. Not that I hate Michael Bay or anything. I really don't. It's just that his movies are largely the same thing over and over again.

But that's a whole other rant, and I've gone on and on enough for one night ....

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