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Fanboys Beware: MCFTR Rants about TRANSFORMERS

29 March 2007 by Gnoll 12 Comments

I’m a geek. If you’re reading this, you probably are too, although you may be either unaware of it or you’re just denying it. But you are. And I am. And as a geek, I respect certain levels of geekdom. There are certain types of geeks, however, who are worse than others. For as much shit as they get, Star Trek geeks aren’t close to being the worst. Star Wars geeks used to be bad, but they seem to have mellowed out in recent years. Anime geeks are pretty bad, Buffy geeks are worse, and Simpsons geeks are probably the worst type of geek in the known universe. But as a proud member of one particular segment of geekdom, I have to admit that Transformers geeks are gunning for that title themselves.

Yeah, I’m a pretty big Transformers nerd. I grew up with the toys, pretended they weren’t cool anymore as I entered adolescence, and started collecting them again when I got older. I’ve read comics, I’ve watch the cartoons, and I keep up with the online community, although I rarely interact with other members of the fandom. I don’t get into all of the stories, particularly some of the more recent kiddie-aimed lines, but most of the adult Transformers fans don’t particularly care for them either. So while I’m not the most hardcore fan I could be, I’m still up there.

You can imagine how psyched I am, then, about this July 4. Yeah yeah, the country’s birthday and all, but more importantly, a live-action Transformers movie hits theaters! You’d only figure that any true Transformers fan would be stoked for such a thing. However, for many of the so-called hardcore Transformers fans, that’s not a true statement.

Now, there is a vocal group who are understandably upset. Most of these people are found on sites like Ain’t it Cool News, complaining because one of the four characters they remember from their childhood didn’t make it into the film. These are the people who stopped caring about Transformers in 1986, and think that everything that came after the moment they outgrew them “sucks”. Granted, these are the people who are going to be at the core of the movie’s blockbuster success this summer — the nostalgic guys who are now working professionals in the prime demographic. Those guys who still try to pull off Soundwave’s voice and talk about how Grimlock was a badass, but couldn’t tell you who Sixshot was or name any of the other Dinobots. That’s fine and all, but that’s not the group I’m addressing.

I’m talking about the ones that should know better. The group of hardcore fans who eleven years ago pissed all over a new concept called “Beast Wars” because Optimus Prime is supposed to be “TRUK NOT MUNKY!”. Of course, as the new show proved to be well-written and the toys were ingeniously engineered, most of those hardcores warmed up to the new incarnation. Some even found it superior to the “Generation One”, or “G1”, stuff that had come more than a decade before.

In the eleven years since, Beast Wars begat Beast Machines, which introduced the concept of vehicle Transformers back into the mythos, and then Transformers went back to primarily vehicle modes for series entitled Robots in Disguise, Armada, Energon, and Cybertron. And while none of these stories remained faithful to the original “G1” series, there was little outcry from the hardcore fan base.

And then, all hell broke loose. When a Transformers live-action movie was announced, many of the hardcores immediately met the idea with contempt. After all, this was their sacred story, and they didn’t want it to be so publicly accessible that any old moviegoer might want to see it. And when Michael Bay’s name was announced as the film’s director, this contempt increased twentyfold. Now, as a movie buff, I’ll be the first to admit that Bay’s track record isn’t exactly glowing when it comes to telling great stories. However, there’s one thing that I will never deny, and that’s that not many people can bring an action sequence to life better than he can. And really, that’s the primary concern here. We’re talking giant robots from outer space having a war with one another. Let’s face it — as long as Spielberg is holding the leash, Bay’s not too bad a choice here. Sure, James Cameron or Sam Raimi might be better, but we also have to be realistic — not many big time Hollywood directors are going to be too keen on making what is basically nothing more than a two hour toy commercial.

And let’s face it — that’s all the original TV series was, despite what some fans seem to believe. When Rhino released the original series on DVD, rather than being grateful that some company took a risk in obtaining the rights to and digitally cleaning up a nearly two decade old kids’ cartoon just so a niche audience could finally get their copies in a digital format, many fans bitched that they “pissed on the original show’s integrity” by adding enhancements to the soundtrack, and some even boycotted the releases. The original animators and writers, however, were laughing at all this ado over what was nothing more than a paying gig for them. The same holds true for the later TV series, the comics, and all other official media formats they’ve taken: the whole reason they exist is to promote hunks of plastic. If that weren’t the case, Hasbro wouldn’t license the product to begin with.

I’m getting off track here. The biggest thing that people seem to have a problem with regarding the new movie is that they don’t feel it’s “their” Transformers. The character designs revealed on the web in the past few months took a different theme than most of what we’ve seen in the past: less bulky, more streamlined, more alien. Of course, the more rational of us realized that this was probably at least in part due to the fact that this was the first time that the characters had to look realistic in a live-action environment, so some liberties had to be taken to make them work in a situation where they’re not made of ink or plastic. After all, people bitched that the X-Men’s costumes were black leather rather than yellow spandex, so you can imagine how they sounded when they found out that Bumblebee didn’t have the entire bonnet of a VW Beetle on his feet.

The flood of whining complaints came in like the levees had just broken. “They don’t look like Transformers! They look like giant space bugs!” Never mind the fact that in the 23 years since the toys were first sold in the United States, there has been no single archetype of what a Transformer is supposed to look like. Some have been blocky, others sleek; some are tall, others short; some humanoid, some not. Even in the very first year of the original “G1” series you had Transformers whose only modes were a panther or condor and a cassette tape.

The alarm also went off when people started realizing that the story would focus on the human characters. Well, of course it is. This is a movie being sold to humans who relate to human characters, and it’s not going to make back its 200 million dollar budget if it’s just about giant space robots. Ironically, the same people bitching that there is going to be too much of a human element in the film are the same ones who whine and complain that the Transformers themselves aren’t human enough. I’m not fucking kidding you.

But the mere fact that people thought that these were “their” Transformers to begin with is painfully insulting. After all, this is a mythos that’s been around for nearly a quarter of a century, has evolved into multiple generations, and has amassed a pretty hefty following. Somehow, fanboys think they’re entitled to a movie that is tailor-made for them?

Fans of a toy line, one that has been surpassed in almost every conceivable way in the last two decades by its own successors, think they can dictate what the world wants to see in a Transformers movie? Excuse me for using logic here, but I’ll trust the opinions of the people who have not only made Transformers possible but also successful over the course of twentysomething years over a bunch of angry nerds with keyboards.

And what the hardcore Transformer fans really are failing to grasp, despite knowing the fact, is that their precious “G1” wasn’t even an original toy line to begin with. It was in itself an adaptation of previously released toys made by Takara (and a few other companies) in Japan. It has been adapted and adapted and adapted, and has evolved and evolved and evolved. It will continue to adapt and evolve, and this movie is just one of the steps in that evolution.

And besides that, only the people complaining that it’s not “G1” were ever under the assumption that it was supposed to be “G1” in the first place. It’s the Transformers. The only common elements that have thus far defined “Transformers” is that they are robots from the planet Cybertron, and that they transform. They’re not always Autobots and Decepticons, they’re not always led by Optimus Prime and Megatron (one only needs to go back to the third year of G1 to know that), and they don’t have to have a humanoid robot or vehicle mode. The fact that this film does feature all of those elements makes it more G1 than some of the pieces of the fiction that people still hold true as G1. Hey geeks, remember when Marvel Comics had fucking RatBat leading the Decepticons? Yeah, I try not to remember that either, but that was part of your precious “G1” continuity.

But the real point here is that nobody’s seen the fucking movie yet. You don’t know how good or bad it’s going to be, and neither do I. It might be great, or it might suck balls. If it does suck, it won’t be because it doesn’t live up to some imaginary standards of what I think Transformers is supposed to be.

But if you really call yourself a Transformers fan, and you’re one of the many who are threatening to boycott or whatever, then I say good for you. The theater might not smell so bad when I’m munching on a giant tub of popcorn and watching a movie I’ve been waiting 75% of my life for.

Related Links:
Transformers: The Movie
GoBots: War of the Rock Lords
80’s Cartoon Adaptations I Want to See

12 Comments »

  • Rachel said:

    Thank you Noel. You fucking rock and that’s all I have to say!!! I stumbled upon your website about six months ago and have been hooked ever since! I thought the Transformer’s trailer was awesome and I can’t wait. Thank you again for rocking!!!

  • Brian said:

    As a TF fan, and a connoisseur of intelligence, I agree with you.

    As a writer, I don’t.

    There is creative license, and then there is creative butchery; the latter of which is being done here. Bay is absolutely the worst man for the job, as he only became a “fan” because Spielberg made him watch a few videos. With this kind of a franchise, you need to know what you are doing (while admittedly they do: making a shitload of money off of nostalgia).

  • Scott said:

    I agree entirely dude, I hold Transformers in pretty high regard, but I dont remember who Sixshot is, or Ratbat leading the decepticons (or even who Ratbat WAS) but Im still counting down the days. At the end of the day, its good giant transforming robots vs bad giant transforming robots with people in the middle. As long as we get to see some good action, what right do we have to complain?

  • Junkyard said:

    I agree with what your saying wholeheartedly, but something to note:
    These types of fans show up everywhere. Whether it’s people saying that the Lord of the Rings films spat on Tolkien because they didn’t include Tom Bombadil, or people saying that the Da Vinci Code film was a sell-out because they softened about two lines of dialogue, or people whining about how the Blue Ranger isn’t riding a robot stegasorous anymore, these people will always be there.
    Face it, if the effects people managed to make everything look exactly like the cartoon, but decided that Bumblebee’s horns looked too silly, the fans would piss, moan, and protest it.

    I myself am anticipating a bad movie, so that I might enjoy it more when I go to see it.

  • J.K. said:

    Angry about it or not, they’re lucky they’re getting their live action flick now, after CGI has had a chance to catch up to the concept. I’d give anything to trade Masters of the Universe in for an updated version with better effects, not to mention a better cast.

    Not to say I don’t love the movie, because I do. I just know it could have been so much better given a little time.

  • links for 2007-04-10 at James A. Arconati said:

    […] Movie Criticism For the Retarded » Blog Archive » Fanboys Beware: MCFTR Rants about TRANSFORMERS Yeah, I’m a pretty big Transformers nerd. I grew up with the toys, pretended they weren’t cool anymore as I entered adolescence, and started collecting them again when I got older. I’ve read comics, I’ve watch the cartoons, and I keep up with the (tags: movies movies/transformers news blogs reviews funny) […]

  • Keeferman said:

    You, Sir, are a gentleman and a scholar. There may not be a B.S. or a B.A. in Transformerism, but when Microsoft or Oracle come out with a technical certification for it, you’ll definitely be able to write the O’Reily manual for it. i gotta say though that, having known you for awhile, your transformerosity seemed to be more of an eccentricity than an asset. You see: I’m one of those Other guys. I have held Transformers in decepticontempt for decades.

    i thought some of the TOYS were cool, but i hated hated hAted the lore to Transformers. i hated the cartoony cartoons, i hated the ridunkulous voices, and i found the story completely beyond my ability to suspend Sci-Fi disbelief. When i heard about the new movie, i rolled my eyes. When i clicked the trailer link, i groaned at the impending disappointment. BUT ZOMG WTF! HOLY SCHNIKES! THAT MOVIE IS GOING TO BE AWESOME! I guess I’m saying… “I’m in.” I’m ALL in. (Can i go to the premiere with you?)

  • DJ Skeletal said:

    I’m a huge TF nut and still have all my old toys, but I have appreciated the leaps and bounds that have been made with the evolution of these toys and the look of the characters. I am totally going to this movie unbiased and looking to be entertained. It goes without saying that people bitched about Michael Keaton being cast as Batman, but when those pictures of the suit were published and the trailer ran on TV months in advance, everyone shut up. I think too much has been invested in this movie to make it suck. I plan to enjoy it, and will probably buy some of the new toys associated with it. Thank you for saying what was on my mind.

  • Entropic Voight said:

    I am writing this reply as I had at one point also speculated the point, ‘Are we really worried that Micheal Bay is going to do a butchery of something nostalgic from our collective childhood, despite the fact that it was just a glorified half hour toy commercial?’ I was responded, ‘Yes, but my chief concern is that Micheal Bay is making another movie’. Which would be fine, of course, if I didn’t have to worry about seeing it later. Most buddies of mine who amount to the cinema going public are more concerned with the ‘big’ movie rather than the ‘good’ one.

    A few pros and cons to work from the original movie, to integrate or leave out of the July 4th one;
    Con; wiping out the recognizable cast in the first twenty minutes
    Pro; wiping out Starscream, finally
    Con; forgetting to wipe out the dinobots, and whats more, making them integral to the story
    Pro; Orson Wells as the part he was born to play; a giant planet eating mechanical ball
    Con; Plethora of more irritating voices by more minor characters
    Pro; The confounding, yet Pythonesque gibberish as spouted by Eric Idle
    Pro; Unicron lamenting that he will not fulfill his destiny, which by all account seemed to be floating around space bothering people
    Pro; Micheal Bay could get Spike to say “Shit!” again!
    Con; Most likely, Bay will wrap the movie up in an implausible and all covering deus ex machina.
    That about covers it.

  • sean said:

    Hi i was excited about this movie till i saw the images of what the transformers looked like. they are just plain ugly. and they are not stream lined. their bulky and akward looking. so i joined michael bays site and the official transformers movie site to rant and on both sites i was booted because of my complaints. i put on the movie from the 80’s and that movie still rocks. i love it but this movie IS going to be lame. oh yes very lame in deed.

  • Shrike said:

    I Just hope I don’t have to watch Optimus Die….

    Again.

  • DogmA said:

    Gobots rock. Yes, Gobots. Still got Loco, unopened…

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