Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Transfromers DotM and Rodimus Prime


One thing that was interesting I noticed this weekend regarding the release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, was that ever single critic seemed to hate it so so much, but every single person I talked to who had seen it, was head over heels in love with it.  Even as I was eating dinner at a restaurant, I casually said something about Michael Bay and the waiter two tables over had to yell over, "Transformers 3 is amazing!"

It's rare to see such a massive divergence between critics and moviegoers.  The Rotten Tomato average viewers review was 92% over the weekend, while the critic meeter was 38%, to give you an idea of the massive valley between the two.

So it pretty much comes down to your own ability to look past the stuff you know in your mind is bad, and just see the stuff you came to see: Autobots vs. Decepticons.

The one thing you can say for sure about Micahel Bay films, is that you really don't have to over analyze them to find the bad parts.  They are there in your face, screaming and smoking and being racist, so it's easy to just ignore them and pay attention to the parts you like.  There is never a moment in your mind where you have to sit and think, "Is this funny?  Is this ironic?  Is this a statement about the privatization of the military?"  Nope.  It's none of those things.  It just exists.

Like the previous two films the only thing you will care about are the Transformers themselves.  And to be fair to Bay an Co., that is all we have ever cared about with Transformers.  All kids hated Spike, Sparkplug and Daniel when we were kids.  Maybe it had to do with some misplaced jealousy.  Carly we probably didn't hate because she was a girl and pretty, but it just made us even more jealous when that douche Spike married her.

And here in movie form we have the same issue, Spike (now called Sam) has grown up to be a douche, and Carly has entered the scene as a total hottie, and he still gets the girl.  In all honesty they have captured my exact same feelings for Sam that I had for Spike as a kid.  Mission accomplished I'd say.

The only characters in this movie that act human, are the robots, and they do a stellar job here.  All your favorite Decepticons are here, acting like they did in the cartoon, but don't get too excited, because chances are all your favorite characters are going to die... horribly.  But it's not a bad thing, because it does add emotional weight to the film.  In fact the Decepticons personalities are the only ones that match exactly to their cartoon counterparts.  So when they die it is like they are literally killing your childhood.

None of the Autobots match their cartoon versions.  None of them.  I was shocked when I watched the credits and saw that Wheeljack, my favorite Autobot as a kid, was in the film.  I was even more shocked to learn who it was in the film when I went home.  Wheeljack was the technical genius of the Autobots in the cartoon and had a very identifiable face and body.  Tall and sleek with a facemask and two lights on the side of his head when he spoke.  In Transformers 3 he is a bloodthirsty merc, that is short and squaty and based off of an angry Scottish guy.  That being said he was my favorite new character in the film, I just have no freaking clue why they named him Wheeljack.

They also introduced a lot of new characters that have never been in Transformer media anywhere, and I don't really get why they didn't just slap a name on them from the cartoon.  It hadn't stopped them this far.  One of these characters was a fast red sports car that had some of the best action scenes in the film, and although part of me wish they had called him Rodimus, ultimately I'm glad they didn't and just made a name up for him.  I'll get into that in a bit.

So it might sound like I didn't like the movie.  I actually did.  Like I kind of said above, albeit slightly tongue in cheek, this movie felt the most like the first two seasons of the cartoon.  Where you had a lot of camp and cheese mixed with some great action and mythology.  For what it is worth Michael Bay was a great choice to capture that same feel of an 80s cartoon show originally made to sell toys.

And then the Transformers animated movie came out and changed everything.

So now it is time to throw away our OshKosh B'gosh jeans and but on our big boy pants and have Transformers 4 really bring in the goods.

I am a hard core Transformer fan.  I grew up on Transformers, and then like all kids, when Optimus Prime was killed I slowly grew out of it.  I didn't understand what was going on in the post movie Transformer Universe.  Then I grew up, watched Beast Wars, got back into Transformers and then rewatched they original series all the way through and realized that the real story in Transformers is the animated movie and the season that followed.  That was when shit got real, for a lack of a better term.

My theory has always been that after two seasons of the original cartoon, with every episode being about Megatron doing something bad and Autobots having to twart him, the writers got bored and tired of doing the same thing and given the chance to make a feature film, decided to turn Transformers into something memorable.

They created the flawed character of Hot Rod.  The only Transformer up to that point with personality defects.  In fact all new Transformers had huge flaws in their character.  Ultra Magnus, even though he might look like Optimus, was a complete failure of a leader and had no idea how to handle multiple problems at once.  Galvatron was not the criminal mastermind that Megatron was, he was a paranoid schizophrenic who was driven by his madness.  Hot Rod/Rodimus was the chosen one, but was always burdened by his lack of experience and his failure to measure up to Optimus Prime.

This was the point where Optimus Prime became a legend.  Before, he was just a cool looking robot.  Now he was the ideal to aspire to.  A leader and legacy that none of the characters could live up to.  But that was what made the show great.  When they would overcome and come close to the greatness of Optimus, those moments made the show much more memorable than anything before.

People who aren't hard core fans, hate Rodimus Prime just because he replaced Optimus and he was partially responsible for his death, but those people haven't gone back and watched the show with fresh eyes.  Rodimus Prime is the greatest character in Transformer fiction.  If you don't believe me, watch the Season 3 episode, Dark Awakening.  Rodimus vs. Zombie Optimus Prime.  Hands down the greatest episode in the series.

Rodimus also had something few Transformers had: wit.  Most of his lines are sarcastic observations about the absurdity of their situation.  Because of that he is easier to relate to and sympathize with.

And as a fighter he is unmatched.  Watch any scene with Rodimus fighting and compare it to one of Optimus fighting.  Rodimus is more mobile and pulls off some brutal headshots and acrobatic stunts.  Optimus actually gets his ass handed to him more often then not because he is so damn bulky.  Again, Dark Awakening proves witch Prime is better in hand to hand combat.

So how did this "impressions" article about Transformers 3 turn into a love letter to Rodimus Prime?  Because at this point this is where the series needs to go.

The rumor mill is already flying, with Bay and Labeouf saying they are done, and Spielberg saying he might direct Transformers 4 himself.  I say this is perfect.

Spielberg might not be what he once was, but the man knows how to make a film to appeal to all ages, which is what we need at this point.  We need to take the franchise into the future, and have Daniel as the new human, a decedent (or son) of Sam and Carly, and his best Transformer friend is an Autobot named Hot Rod.  The Decepticons are defeated.  The stage is set of Unicron.

Basically everything is in place for a live adaptation of the animated movie.  Some things will have to be changed obviously, as most Decepticons are dead now.  But the new badness should be Unicron, and it should be Rodimus Prime to take him down in Transformers 4.

Make it happen Spielberg.