Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Ramblings


Manic Ramblings and Delerious Ranting
re: Why TF:TM SUCKS!

  I have never liked Transformers: the Movie very much, but seeing it this
weekend at BotCon brought home to me just what a vast letdown it really
is. Be warned, by the time I am done you're going to think this is The
Critic posting... I fully intend to shred the Movie to itty-bitty pieces,
and I don't just mean because of trivial errors like Sunstreaker being in
two places at once. 

  Someone at BotCon commented that "it's cool because it had Transformers
in it."  No, the *TV show* was cool because it had Transformers.  A
*movie* is by its nature something greater, something special, and it
should reflect that and be held to a higher standard.  For starters, a
*movie*, be it a spin-off from a show, a toy line promotion, or otherwise,
should be a stand-alone piece of work.  It is presented in theaters where
it can reach a wider audience who might not see its subject matter on TV
or in comics.  TFTM fails in this regard.  It is never explained what the
hell Autobots and Decepticons *are*; instead we jump straight in, throwing
first-time Transformer viewers into a confusing succession of
rapidly-changing scenes with dozens of characters, many of whom die
shortly after being established, only to be replaced with new ones, and
still more new characters (Junkions, Quintessons, Wheelie, Sharkticons)
after that. Most of these characters are not developed or explained, nor
for the most part do they serve to push the plot along.

  Even if you disagree and feel that the Movie is aimed soley at fans of
the show who already know what's going on, it pales beside another fact: 
the basic plot sucks, pure and simple.  There are two major plots set up
in the first five or ten minutes of the movie: Unicron's existance, and
the coming Autobot invasion of Decepticon-held Cybertron.

  The first plot point is NEVER EXPLAINED.  WHERE did he come from?  WHY
does Unicron give a damn about Cybertron?  WHY does he choose to attack,
instead of just going somewhere else?  If he's such a menace, WHY have the
Autobots never heard of him?  In light of the fact that they don't know
about him, if he simply by-passed Cybertron he could have continued on his
merry way for the rest of enternity.  WHY is the Matrix the one thing that
he fears?  HOW does it affect him?  If he can create a whole ship, why
does he need Megatron to serve him?  Unicron is essentially the king daddy
of all plot devices, a giant threat put in soley for the purpose of having
a giant threat, without any explanation or relevance to the characters. 
Worse still, the giant threat is removed by a simplistic application of
yet another plot device, the Matrix.  No application of wit, force,
sacrifice, or intelligence by the characters is involved; the character
who just *happened* to have the Matrix just *happens* to be fighting the
one character who can open the Matrix, and they just *happen* to be inside
Unicron at the time when Hot Rod just *happens* to grab it. 

  The second plot point is dropped completely and never returned to.  The
Autobots reclaiming of Cybertron -- in essence, finally winning the war --
is a *major* event in the TF Universe and is a logical thing to make the
Movie about.  There are other possibilities, but this is the most
blatantly obvious one, the one that would best fulfill Transfans hopes and
expectations. Properly set up, it could have been the focus of an
excellent "heroic struggle against oppression" story.  But instead we get
a diversionary attack on Autobot city, which primarily serves as an
opportunity to get rid of old characters quickly.  Later Unicron attacks
Cybertron and is destroyed, and all of a sudden a few Autobots are on
Cybertron...  and the Movie ends.  No mention that they've even captured
the planet, let alone HOW, considering there were only a dozen or so of
them.  So what should be the biggest event in the cartoon's story is
completely ignored in favor of the artificial and contrived plot device of
Unicron. 

  Turning our expectations isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it leaves
the viewer wondering just why the hell we were set up to expect something
else in the first place.  You didn't really need that first plot to begin
with.  The set-up of the first two seasons would have been a fine scenario
to have Unicron arrive under; it would have required cooperation between
the two sides, strategy perhaps -- in short, an intelligent plot. 

  Furthermore, the second plot point of Unicron is itself never really
addressed; instead we get yet *another* diversion, as the Autobots
flounder helplessly from one place to another, leaving the viewer saying,
"Well, those were pretty pictures, but what does it have to *do* with
anything?"  By the time we get to Hot Rod and Kup fighting Sharkticons,
that is my precise reaction.  The only tangential relation that the
Junk/Quintessa sidetrips have is that they allow the Autobots to recruit a
few allies who prove to be rather useless in the end.  These two sets of
characters would have been much more better off being relegated to the TV
series, if they had to be shown at all.  

[And for the record, it is glaringly obvious that the writers of the Movie
never had *any* intention of the Quintessons being the TFs' creators. 
They were just a bunch of funky aliens who hung around on their planet
playing mock trial; they were no more interested in Hot Rod and Kup than
they were any other prisoner.  The Quints as the TFs creators is one of
the most abysmal retcons I've ever seen... given their role in the Movie,
it is simply and totally unbelievable.  On top of that, the Quints should
be DEAD!  The Sharkticons were right on their tail with the overwhelming
advantage of numbers.  I cannot believe the characters we saw in the Movie
actually survived, let alone regained control of their former charges.
Nowhere was it implied that this race was more populous than a few
wierdos sitting in their little fortress.]

  Also, a few points I've made before, but don't mind repeating: the
deaths in the movie were *extremely* poorly handled.  The Autobots on the
shuttle and in the city more than anything, but several Decepticons also
went out without a word.  If we've not seen these characters speak -- if
we know nothing about them -- who cares if they're dead?  All it does is
infuriate the fans and confuse non-fans.  The Movie did nothing to
establish these characters; it simply lifted them from the cartoon and
killed them.  Consider, what if James Kirk had been killed in the first
two minutes of Star Trek: Generations?  Say what you will about that film,
it did enough to make Kirk a real person to the viewer, so that when he
dies at the end, you actually care, even if you've never seen Star Trek
before in your whole life.  TF:TM did nothing of the sort for any of the
characters except Optimus Prime, and maybe Starscream (who went out with a
fine sense of having gotten his come-uppance.) 

  At this point, you're thinking, "Fine!  If it's so bad, let's see you do
it better."  So, okay, here's some ideas I jotted down in the course of an
hour on the flight home.  One hour.  If I were a professional writer
getting paid to do this, with several *weeks* at least to work on it, I
hope I could do better than these... 

* Keep the first five or ten minutes mostly the same, but with more
narrative explanation of what the hell is going on.  Explain that the
Transformers are living robots, and they have had a civil war going on for
eons, and that their war has recently spilled over on to Earth.  Maybe add
a series of still shots, in rough pencil or black & white, a la the first
episode of Robotech that explained the Global Civil War; a series of
flashbacks from the cartoon would do as well, or entirely new animation.
Set it up as a mythological tale, a la the movie Willow, rather than a big
toy commercial.

* Instead of attacking Autobot city, the 'cons could attack the moonbases,
which really are the more immediate threat.  The bases call for help; soon
both sides are fighting and present at Cybertron when Unicron arrives/is
detected.  Maybe Soundwave or Blaster recieves a distress call from a
planet Unicron is consuming; maybe he just pops up with no warning.

* With Big U on the way, Megs and Prime ally their forces.  A fanfic I
read once mentioned the possibility of them all retreating to Cybertron to
defend the planet by some sort of phase or time shift; ie, the whole
planet is sent a few minutes into the future, or perhaps into another
dimension.  Other possibilities include conventional large-scale defenses,
electrical counterattack, or large-scale shielding.  Whatever the case,
you could have Unicron hovering over Cybertron the whole time with hostile
intentions if you wanted... sci fi can always provide handy tech
explanations to do whatever you want in a plot.

* Perhaps while initiating one or more of these attacks, the Decepticons
manage to conveniently eliminate some of the Autobots who are helping.  I
picture Shockwave trapping Prowl inside a gun emplacement or generator
housing that's about to overload and explode... 

* A team (maybe the Movie characters - HR, UM, Kup, Arcee and Springer)
could be sent to recruit help from off-planet, seek some artifact that can
be used against Unicron, or find someone with knowledge of some weakness.
The Quints could concievably play a useful roll here.

* A team could be sent to Vector Sigma, or somewhere else inside of
Cybertron, to get answers on how to deal with Unicron.  This could also
provide a chance to give Unicron a background and motivation for
attacking.

* A team could be sent inside Unicron himself, to attempt sabotage of some
sort.

* Introduce Galvatron & co as seperate characters, perhaps, sent by
Unicron to disrupt these efforts (somewhat like what Furman did in the
comics.)  Keep them as rouge elements in the third season, perhaps loosely
aligned with the Decepticons.  Or have Galvatron's role filled by some
'con that Unicron manages to turn against Megatron somehow.  Or have
Megatron reformed into Galvatron at the end of the movie, promising to
restore the Decepticons even as they retreat.

* Have as a basic plot, "The Autobots and the Decepticons team up to fight
off a menace.  But the Decepticons betray the Autobots' trust during the
alliance.  The 'cons end up losing the war by the end of the movie despite
their underhandedness, showing that honesty and integrity will triumph."
Maybe *this* could be when Prime arrives to save the day.

* Imagine a finale in which Prime and Megatron *both* have to sacrifice
themselves to get the Matrix inside of Unicron, or to do whatever else is
necessary to get rid of Big U.

  These are only possibilities, a few of many.  I thought of them in one
hour.  I feel any of them would result in a superior product compared to
what we got.  Better writers than I could come up with still better ideas. 

  Add to this often stiff animation, frequently stiff voice work, and the
many little animation and continuity glitches that everyone likes to point
out as the movie's worst flaws, and frankly it's no wonder that critics
frequently pan TF:TM.

  And, one last thing: ditch that damn soundtrack!!  I am not knocking
Vince Dicola here; I'm not fond of his music but I think he did at least a
respectable job on the film. But "Nothing's Gonna Stand in Our Way" is
just a BAD song.  "Dare" comes off as just a gratuitous attempt to make
Hot Rod and/or Daniel seem cool.  Stan Bush's and the other guys' music
cutting in all of a sudden is distracting, abruptly taking us from movie
to music video. Stuff like that blares at the viewer, making them cringe
in their seat, distracting from action and dialogue alike, and turning off
people like myself who despise 80s glam metal. 

  Gods.  Remember analogies, from standardized testing?  Here's one for
ya...  Raksha:BW Megatron::Rob:TFTM.
-- 
Robert Powers of the Non-Smoking .sig      
repowers@shell.faradic.net ______________________________________________
| It was something like what I felt when I learned how to smoke - when I |
|  felt sick and the saliva gathered in my mouth and I swallowed it and  |
|__pretended it was very pleasant.__--- Leo Tolstoy _____________________|


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