Mechanically Inclined

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A bit of Transformers ranting. Caution: Very Nerdy.

You're aware that I like robots. You're probably aware that I really like Transformers. Based on that, you should know that I am excited (to put it mildly) that they're going to be on the big screen in a couple of months.

What I'm going to offer you today may disturb you. It may force you to question how well you know me. Most of all, it will make you feel embarrassed to be a human being.

Ever since the news came out, back in 2004 or so, that the Transformers was going to be made into a Summer blockbuster film, the fandom has been in constant turmoil. Yes, Transfomers has a vast, confusing, internet-wide fan system which is dwarfed only by the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, and probably whatever it is that girls and people who have real lives like to do. Well, that's not entirely fair. Now that I have a new job and am regaining a social life, I think I might have a life again now. Anyway. The point is, nothing divides a fandom better than something that you'd think would totally unite them. To illustrate this point, I'm going to give you a quick rundown of all of the various permutations of Transformer fan that have arisen in the past several months. Be warned. Some are more stubborn than gravity. Some are more anal than a porn star's birthday.

First off, we have one of the farthest ends of the spectrum. The Complete Geewunner. "Geewunner" refers to "G1", being the first incarnation of the Transformers universe, back in 1984. To this fan, anything but this original cartoon and its immediate comic and toy offshoots is garbage. less than garbage. This fan is usually pushing thirty or past it, and frequently carries an air of "I'm older than you, back in my day, etc". To this fan, the past is sacred, the present is worthless, and the future is scary. In context of this new movie, The Geewunner's life is a constant rollercoaster of praising highs and hateful lows, a whiplash of posts on the internet to allow the masses to know that either YES, the movie may proceed with his divine blessing, or NO, this film is filth and those involved with it should be sent to a gulag to atone for their crimes against True Believers. Peter Cullen will be voicing Optimus Prime? Glorious! Frank Welker got beat for the part of Megatron by Hugo Weaving? Blasphemy! Transformers is about transforming robots from 1984 and there's No room For Change. Think about that for a bit.

Following closely behind the Complete Geewunner are his assorted lackeys. They aren't nearly as devoted or as pure as he, but still find their own ridiculous reasons to not see the movie. To boycott it, even. Yes, some of my fellow Transformers enthusiasts still believe that this film is being made just for them, and not, you know, to make a zillion dollars on the busiest movie day of the year. What a crazy idea. Anyway, these minor towers on the great wall of Protecting the Purity of the Fandom have any number of complaints to lodge, most of them based on their own idea of what's best. A certain character is not present in the lineup of good guys/bad guys. The usual MacGuffin plot device has been switched out for another one. The wrong kind of truck was used. One of my favourites is the "Megatron doesn't turn into a gun" argument. Because, apparantly, some people haven't realised that a mighty robot turning into a dinky little pistol is not only ridiculous by standards of physical science, but also in the idea that somehow, this dinky little pistol which cannot fire itself is somehow more intimidating than a tank or a spaceship. thank goodness we learned that Soundwave was not in the movie early on, or we'd still be inundated with whinings about how he shound be a boxy little tapedeck. Because, you know, there's NOTHING conspicuous about a cassette tape player with a Decepticon symbol in a society that hasn't been using them for two decades.

Now there's an entirely different group, and granted they're half right because Pearl Harbour was about as good as a wedgie full of sand paper and wasabi sauce. They are Those Who Cannot Abide Michael Bay. Do they really think that a different director would give this movie some kind of outside shot at an oscar (Granted, it could very well win for some of the visual effects involved)? The honest truth here is that this is a movie about robots fighting and blowing things up. Michael Bay is very, very good at this kind of movie. People will slag him for Armageddon and its thinnish strings of plot elements (Ben Affleck, second-best oil driller in the world!) but the honest truth is that the director has nothing to do with that. He's there to make the shots look good. Michael Bay is right for this movie. He's not my favourite director either, but if you're going to blow shit up for two hours, do it with a guy who knows how it works.

I could have put this group in with the second group, but they're too funny to really block in with anyone else. They are the Human Inferiorists. From the get-go, these are the guys who posted in forums about how the movie should not involve humans at all. It should be on Cybertron, the Transformers' mechanical homeworld. Humans should take up maybe 10% of the film space, tops. And even then, it's just so they can get squished by their superior invaders. I don't get these guys. Do they hate being a miserable flesh creature? Do they dream of transforming into airplanes and breaking the bonds of gravity? Do they run around the living room going "woooosh" until they pass out and need a twinkie break? I've seen a lot of self-loathing types out there, but some of these people seem to actively despise their own race. It's absurd. Moreover, I'm going to go ahead and contend that humans are INSTRUMENTAL to the Transformers in all its incarnations. Why? because it gives us something to relate to. It gives a reason for these machines to transform at all. The wonder of the Transformers, as far as I can tell, is not watching timeless mechanical giants punch each other for millions of years. It's in understanding how this affects US. To spoil mildly (and very mildly, so don't worry), something the Transformers want winds up on Earth. Some of them are going to tear everything apart until they find it, and others want to retrieve it in a peaceful fashion. We have our conflict. We have a reason to care who wins. These may be my least favourite of all the fan subgroups, and I can say with some conviction that I hope their little brains explode when they see humans - HUMANS! - Take down a Transformer in combat thanks to our organised and advanced armed forces instead of simply rolling over and becoming so much lasagna on the concrete.

At one point, I was sort of bothered by the other end of the fan spectrum too. The ones who came in only because they were fans of the director or producer, the ones who think that the original cartoon was overrated (they aren't entirely wrong) or that the newer cartoons are vastly superior (they ARE wrong about that). The Japanophiles are usually on my list of retarded fans too, but since this is an American-made movie with American actors and designers and dialogue, they've been eerily silent, possibly waiting for someone from the orient to dub it so they can re-import it and re-subtitle it or some stupid thing like that. I'm sure they'll all show up again anyway in a few months to tell us how much better their Takara-made toys are than our Hasbro-made toys, but that's an entirely different story and one that isn't worth anyone's time, even their relatively worthless internet time. But back on track now. I normally might take shots at the doubtless optimists. The ones who can see nothing wrong with this film. The floater fans who show up ever few weeks and say "HEY GUYS THERE'S A TRANSFORMERS MOVIE COMING OUT LOL". However, their optimism is refreshing at best, and silly at worst when held up to the piercing pessimism of a great deal of the fan base.

Luckily, many of the doomsayers are being mellowed with time. It's growing on them. Not at all like, say, when Beast Wars came out and everyone HATED that Optimus was a gorilla. Don't hear so much about that nowadays. Probably because it was ridiculous and people got over it.

What's going to be the best thing about this movie for me? That's an easy one. Seeing other people, especially kids, enjoying this franchise as much as I did when I was little. The cynics will talk about all the money that Hasbro will make, and how we're being jerked around by people who have no emotional attachment to the mythos/history/etc. Luckily I've tuned them out for as long as I can remember being a fan.

Lastly, there are two kinds o toy fans in the world. The MISB (Mint, in Sealed Box) collectors and the guys who take them out and play with them. I'm in the second category. If you look hard enough, there's money in this hobby, it's true. For some of us though, we just like transforming robots. We aren't concerned with "generations" or what's die-cast and what's plastic. When the time's right I'm going to give my toys, all of them, to someone younger who can enjoy them hopefully as much as I do. Isn't that why we became fans in the first place? Fun?

When this movie comes out I'm going to have fun. It's not really that hard.


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