Monday, 4 January 2021

Transformers: The Movie (1986)


No this isn't the turdy Bayformer trash, this is the original animated movie from 1986. The original cartoon series that was based on the Hasbro toy franchise (before that a Japanese toy franchise from Takara) appeared on TV back in 1984 with a three-part miniseries introduction and then followed by the first season. After much success a second season followed that debuted in 1985. Once that had wrapped up along came 'Transformers: The Movie' which would lead into the third season.

Believe it or not but I have only recently managed to watch all of the first two seasons of the cartoon franchise (giving me insight into the story leading into said movie). The reason for this simply being, back when I was a kid I'd watch the cartoon but obviously I'd miss them from time to time. And being a kid you didn't really know about seasons/series or follow the stories that closely. You'd just watch the cartoon when you could and enjoy whatever you got, simple.

So basically, this movie takes place 20 years after the second TV series ended in the distant future of 2005 where the Decepticons have taken Cybertron. In the following battle on Earth the Autobots are virtually wiped out after a large-scale battle where they actually lose Optimus Prime. From there Autobot leadership passes on to Ultra Magnus as the Autobots try to regroup and hold off the Decepticons. In the meantime, a massive planet-sized being is making its way through space devouring planets. Eventually both Autobots and Decepticons must stand together (or try to) in order to stop the mighty Unicron from destroying their homeworld of Cybertron.

So despite the fact I hadn't watched half the cartoon series before seeing this movie it was still obvious that there were dramatic changes afoot. In the first battle on board a space shuttle, many of the regular Autobots that we had grown up with got wiped out! Yep that's right, Autobots Brawn, Prowl, Ratchet, and Ironhide all got blown away. Now this was shocking on many levels. Firstly it was shocking because we had been following these guys for what seemed like eons. We knew these guys, they were old school, we cared about them, sorta. To see them get shot down was quite astonishing frankly. Secondly, the fact that these guys got taken down with a few laser bolts was really really odd. Why? Because up to now all Transformers took laser blasts on a regular basis and either shook them off there and then or went to Ratchet for some medicare. Bottom line, up to this point Transformer warriors didn't die.

So we now had one-shot kills, plus Megatron mercilessly blew Ironhide's head off (gulp!), but another obvious change for this movie was the blatant introduction of various new characters. For two seasons we had a small selection of warriors that we had grown accustomed to. Admittedly I do recall it being a little boring just seeing the same old characters cartoon after cartoon and the obvious fact that I hadn't seen all episodes meant continuity was out of the window. Nevertheless, the introduction of new characters out of the blue was still welcome if somewhat confusing at times. Of course we all know now it was simply a cheap tactic to introduce a new line of toys. Ka-ching!

Of course, you can't help but ask where a multitude of old characters were and why they didn't show up in this movie. Where did the Protectorbots go to? What about the Combaticons? How about the Aerialbots? Where did Jetfire go? How about the Stunticons? Etc...Obviously it would be impossible to fit everyone in but it's also impossible not to wonder where the hell all these guys were. And I have to ask, why did Wheeljack and Ratchet make the Dinobots stupid? I never understood that. Dinosaurs were probably dumb creatures, but why make the Dinobots dumb also? Literally made no sense and served no real purpose to the Autobots.

Speaking of new characters, I never actually liked the new guys. The regular guys had a more angular look with traditional colours and vehicle modes. So apart from the odd cameo in various episodes (Dinobots, Insecticons etc...) many of the new characters we see on Cybertron have more futuristic vehicle modes with more outrageous colours schemes. Characters such as Arcee, Kup, Springer, Blurr, Hot Rod etc...all were visually unappealing to me then and still are today. The only new guy who seemed to keep a more retro appearance was Ultra Magnus and he was easily the best looking of the bunch, Things didn't get any better for all the other various robot characters we meet throughout. The Junkions weren't too bad but I have always hated the spikes thing they had going all over themselves. Looked a bit too Mad Max-esque to me. 

I really hated (and still do) the Quintessons design as it just looks impractical on every level. Why the need for multiple faces?? The Sharkticons didn't look like sharks, just fat bulbous robots with dinosaur-like club tails. And finally, the new robotic forms that the Decepticons got from Unicron were ugly in my personal opinion. Again they were all crappy looking futuristic designs with too many silly additions like bat-like wings and facial hair. Why would robots have metallic facial hair?? Many of these designs didn't look like they could transform into the vehicles they should be. With the original guys you could almost see how they transformed, that's why they were so cool because they actually looked like they could actually work. The new guys just became outlandish in shape and totally unrealistic, if you get me.

Another aspect of this robotic universe I still can't get my head around is the apparent cannibalism and the fact that every lifeform seems to be robotic. So yeah, since when do robots need to eat other robots? Why would a robot need to eat anything? We know they need energon for 'food' or fuel so why do certain robots appear to eat each other? The Sharkticons seem to enjoy eating other robot lifeforms (at the behest of the Quintessons), but why?? Just for fun? For devilish pleasure? A fetish? Also, are the Sharkticons individual sentient beings or do they have some kind of mindless hive mentality? Unicron floats through space and eats entire planets, but why? Surely he only needs specific materials for food/fuel, not entire planets! Then there is the fact that every lifeform we see across multiple planets appears to be robotic, odd. Hell we even see a robotic Earth-like squid in one sequence.

Unicron himself was probably the most unique and impressive creation within this movie's new roster of characters. An entire planet sized transformer is pretty mindbloggling and the design was hella cool it can't be denied. Was kinda interesting in a perverse way to see that his innards was akin to a robotic hell of sorts. Obviously all sorts of mechanisms and whatnot but also lifeforms being executed in a huge vat of some bubbling erosive liquid was pretty disturbing. By this point the plot had gone somewhat awry truth be told and the ease at which the Autobots managed to destroy Unicron did seem rushed but hey. Have to point out that the death of Starscream was pretty epic here too. Again disturbing but also a real game-changer, much like the death of Prime, but we all know about that (it never bothered me).

Whilst I will gladly take this animated feature over any Michael Bay trash any day of the week, this was still a mediocre offering truth be told. Looking back there are many cool elements here, the animation is actually really sweet, and the fact that it is dark throughout does boost my overall rating. Add to that the stellar cast for voice work  (Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles!) alongside the stoic regulars and really this should and could have been a genuine classic. Alas things didn't really work out that way. 

The plot is essentially nonsense and feels like 100% filler after the initial battle. Many characters are killed off for a new toy range...and that's it! They clearly struggled for ideas. Unicron should have killed everyone in the blink of an eye. Most extra characters are rubbish. The whole Quintessons part wasn't even needed really, that added nothing to the story. And to add insult to injury the soundtrack, despite being cool, felt completely out of place. Nostalgia is a curious thing isn't it. Don't get me wrong it's still a guilty pleasure of sorts and it's still better than anything Bay came up with. And when this movie kicks off to that rockin' 80's track over the opening credits, you'll swear to yourself that it's gonna be amazeballs. For some it will still be of course, but for me it doesn't quite hold up...on its own. Within the cartoon series it fairs a bit better, ahem, if you ignore continuity errors.


Friday, 1 January 2021

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum

Punch, shoot, kick. Wash, rinse, and repeat...for a third time. The first movie wasn't anything particularly original but it was a master class in fight choreography and stunts. Nothing much else, just that. The second merely gave us more of the same with a slightly beefed-up plot. Again nothing particularly original but it actually got more confusing. Now we have the third (but not final) entry. And once again its simply more of the same only ratcheted up to another level and with the plot getting even more convoluted.

Continuing from where the sequel left off sees Wick basically in deep doo doo for the unauthorised killing of a High Table crime lord and for doing it within the Continental Hotel. He has merely one hour before being labelled excommunicado and therefore open season to every bounty hunter in the world, literally. What follows is essentially a long drawn-out chase flick as Wick must escape America to find the Elder (the highest rank in this world of assassins) and get his hit status revoked. That's basically it, nothing more.

OK so the first movie was a solid gritty revenge flick. The second movie expanded a few ideas which was nice but it got slightly ridiculous and became CGI heavy. Now this third movie goes above and beyond into the realms of nonsense as far as I'm concerned. The first thing that bugs me is how insane this world has become since the first movie. We're now in a situation where Wick literally cannot turn a corner without some random gang of thugs trying to kill him. If not on foot then roaming motorbike gangs. The movie moves from one set piece to the next without any real sense of reality anymore, it's like a showreel. There don't appear to be any normal people in the city, no police, no emergency services etc...Fights break out, people are killed, blood gushes everywhere, no one bats an eye. Where are the police??? Do the High Table control the cops?

Granted most of the fights are still well done but with this being the third movie things are getting a tad repetitive...and daft. In one early fight Wick and his enemies just happen to stumble into some kind of museum full of weapons behind glass, lots of glass. As said we get more motorbike jousting, and speaking of jousting Wick actually fights on horseback this time too. Original yes, but signs of desperation for originality? Yup. Still not sure what this place was in the middle of New York that had an open stable. I also failed to see how the bad guys couldn't bring Wick down when they were on motorbikes.

Another issue with the fighting was once again the heavy use of CGI for almost all blood. I understand that it's probably more cost effective instead of using actual live squibs but boy does it look crap. That's the difference between old action flicks and modern ones. Then add to that the simple fact that Wick is nigh on invincible no matter who he fights or how badly injured he is which I just can't get on with. Plus I just can't believe how useless everyone is in this movie. No matter who the bad guys are they are useless, depending on the scene. All the bounty hunters are useless. All the elite High Table henchmen are useless. All the elite assassins are essentially useless but manage to offer somewhat of a battle. All the Continental Hotel men are useless. You'd think the Continental staff would be badass all things considered, nope. Oh yeah and when the hotel is announced as deconsecrated it was full of people, next scene its empty! Apart from a handful of useless staff members. You'd think there would have been many more staff members ready to defend the premises. And when I say useless I mean Stormtrooper levels of useless, no matter how much weaponry they have.

How come the top echelons/the Elder of the High Table are a bunch of Arabs in a tent in the middle of a desert? Seemed a bit random. I'm guessing this entire sect of assassins possibly dates back to the medieval period? Twas also amusing how Wick managed to survive walking through said desert without any food or water to find said echelons too. Before that we got some pointless scenes with Halle Berry, in an obvious Caucasian wig, as an old friend of Wick who helps him get info from some other pointless character to find the Elder (seemed like totally drawn out filler). Essentially this was just an excuse to have a strong female character fight sequence...because equality. This merely exposed how bad these fight sequences can be when you have someone who doesn't really do movies like this much (the fight choreography becomes obvious). It was also an excuse to add some dog action in there which was also stupid because how did those dogs not get shot??

And finally, yawn! We get a big fight sequence between Wick and yet more so-called elite assassins from the High Table led by Zero (Mark Dacascos). This tiresome affair takes place in some hall of mirrors setup or something. It's an entire floor within a skyscraper made of glass, for no apparent reason. But you can guess one thing, its decked out with tonnes of glass just right for throwing people through, ugh! Clearly using ideas from Bruce Lee. I should also point out that The Bowery King (Lawrence Fishburne) is back again simply to set up the story for the inevitable fourth movie.

And thusly in the end we go right back to where we started. Winston and co help Wick, the High Table seem to give up and offer a deal, Winston seemingly betrays Wick to save his place of power within the hotel. So does this mean it's back to Wick versus everyone yet again? Possibly, although I'm sure Winston and co are merely covering their true intentions and will possibly help Wick in taking down the entire High Table organisation (with the help of Laurence Fishburne's artful dodger types) in the fourth outing.

So yeah, I don't really get the hype over this franchise. Probably because I firmly believe it shouldn't have become a franchise. The first movie was a simply gritty affair, it didn't need any more, it didn't need milking (think 'Taken'). But since then we've gotten two more movies and they have taken the whole idea into this inane videogame-esque world where reality has gone out the window. Sure it looks pretty and the fights still look good (for the most part), but this is the third movie people, and they're doing another one! Geez!