Review: Transformers

Jul 07, 2007

Earlier tonight, Lyssa, Jean, Jason, and myself stood in line at the local movie theatre in NOVA to see Transformers on the silver screen.

Before the spoilers start, I can only say that It Was Good. I've got a geekbone so big, that I don't think that I have to tell you what I'm pressing the spacebar with.

Go. See. This. Movie. Everyone's been ranting and raving about the animation, and as well they should. The detail on the Transformers was simply amazing. I think I read someplace that Optimus Prime alone had somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 distinct objects all moving in relation to one another. That's a hell of a lot of processing power to render even a single wallclock second's worth of video. Hell, Ironhide's cannon alone had 10,000 objects comprising it. More's the point, the Transformers weren't the blocky, modular constructions that folks my age remember and love from 1984. They were designed more along the lines of big networks of smaller objects. Build a wire and elastic armature and stick little bits of stuff to it, and that's the effect you'll get. Everything had a place and a particular motion in relation to everything else, giving the armatures a more streamlined appearance. Rather like soldiers covered with armor and little bits of gear stuck all over the place. Also, every Transformer had a segmented, articulated mouth instead of the flat speaker grilles from the old cartoon and comic (though Optimus Prime's appears as part of a defensive mode of some kind near the end). I'm told that the artists put a lot of time into modelling them, just because they could. The detailing on the Transformers is such that you can see little nurnies swivelling, rotating, flipping back and forth, or just sitting there in the form of alien glyphs etched into $random_part_of_giant_robot. There are also, Jean tells me, some easter eggs hidden in the nurnies - I'll leave it to you to find them. I'm still chuckling.

Come to think of it, Bumblebee's defensive mode (in which other segmented plates slide down to cover his face) looks very much like the face of the insect of the same name.

Second, they got Peter Cullen, who originally did the voice of Optimus Prime in the old cartoon series to reprise his role, and he's still got the knack. Third, they got Hugo Weaving for Megatron's voice. Hugo motherlovin' Weaving. And boy, is Megatron nasty: Near the end of the movie, for no good reason other than getting knocked down, he flicks a fleeing human like an ant and sends him careening into the front-end of a car. Ow.

Fourth, it was well worth it to hear and see little nods to the original toys and series: Stuff like an old yellow Volkswagon Bug (the old-school Bumblebee) in the used car lot next to the new-school version (a beat up old 70's Camaro, also yellow) getting knocked aside, Prime's quote from the back of the original packaging ("Freedom is the right of all sentient beings") and the movie from 1986, and watching Jazz breakdance. It was also cool to see William Morgan Sheppard as Sam Witwicky's grandfather (bow.. scrape.. bow.. scrape..)

I was especially impressed with the character of Frenzy (the little bugger that kept breaking into US military installations. At first I thought he was Soundwave because he turned into a boombox, but looking over the movie's entry on IMDB, I was wrong. He fit the description of Frenzy perfectly, too: Small, sneaky, and fast - scary fast. Big-ass spider that just ran across your feet in the dark in the direction of the couch fast. He was also a very complex animation, in which most if not all parts of the mesh were in motion at any one time, very much like watching a spider or scorpion twitch when it's got its prey cornered.

What impressed me the most was that the human race wasn't utterly helpless: They had weapons (not many, but a few) that were effective against sixty-foot tall giant robots. They had a hell of a time in battle but they could hold their own because they could work together.

Also, let's remember that there are still three Decepticons running around: Skorpinok went back underground (literally) after being shelled; Frenzy's still out there somewhere; and of course Starscream turned tail and headed for high Earth orbit (no surprise, he was always the coward of the Decepticons).

Okay. I've spooged enough about this movie. Go out and see it right now. No, I mean it. Go right now.