Thursday, April 26, 2007

Fire burns. Water flows. History repeats.

Once upon a time, there was a blockbuster movie.

It hadn't even come out yet, but everyone already knew it was going to be huge. It didn't really have any huge stars in it's lineup, and yet it didn't seem to need them. Because it was a "franchise" adaptation, a big-budget Hollywood re-imagining of older material. The material in question was of somewhat "dubious" origin, at least as far as the old-guard critical press elite were concerned: An import from Japan, made legendary in the U.S. as a fixture of Saturday Morning kiddie TV and toys. It's lead character wasn't even human, and would be created entirely using CGI... a prospect which sent eyes-rolling and tongues-clucking throughout the aforementioned critical elite. But the fans knew better. Who needs some overpriced marquee-name "human," or even a B-list tagalong? They knew who the REAL star was.

And yet, among the fans there was concern and discontent: They'd been down this road before, and they knew the danger of trusting the makers of megabudget summer popcorn films to understand the essential "soul" of the material they sought to re-configure into The Next Big Thing. Would the "specialness" of the franchise be gutted in order to appeal to a lowest-common-denominator "mass audience? Would the character(s) be changed beyond the point of recognition by studio-dictated designs with little to no respect for what had made them iconic in the first place? There was every reason to believe that such was almost... innevitable.

The key bone of symbolic contention between the fans and the filmmakers would become the design of the signature character(s), with rumors swirling in the fanbase of radical (and radically-underwhelming-looking) reworkings underway. Fanning the flames was the fact that the character(s) had yet to be fully-glimpsed, doled out in teasing images of limbs and details. For the longest time, the film's signature peice of advertising key-art was simply a closeup of the main character's EYE...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

And then there was the filmmaker(s) themselves. Proven they were, yes, at the making of enjoyable genre-fluff. Films which many of the fans had greatly enjoyed, though perhaps in a somewhat ironically-detached "whee, it's just a ride-movie!" fashion. Oh, the filmmaker(s) in question had been greatly suited to those. But to THIS? For all the pyrotechnic skill previously displayed, were they REALLY the best choice to be helming something which - however quirky - had always worked best when infused with a certain degree of sincere respect and intelligence? Or was it merely an indication that those in charge had no intention or ability for sincerity here... that they saw merely the chance to crank out a generic, dumbed-down genre-entry for the summer season, hoping that the in-name-only connection to this "culty" franchise would be worth a few extra million bucks of "fanboy" lucre?

I'm talking, of course, about the 1998 American remake of "Godzilla."

BUT, as I trust most of you already gathered, I'm ALSO talking about "Transformers."

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

In any case... At one point in the great Godzilla debacle, a bit of "leaked" visual information appeared on the web that seemed to confirm that the G-Fans' worst character-design fears had been not only realized... but exceeded. It wasn't so much that American Godzilla (or "GINO: Godzilla In Name Only") was "different," but rather the VOLUMES that the difference implied - when coupled with all the bad news and worse rumors that had come before - about the complete lack of understanding, appreciation or even CARE held by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich in regard to the franchise they were taking the reins of. Faced with this, the filmmakers issued statements claiming that the designs were "fake," or "decoys," or several other curious-sounding explanations.

Trouble is, it turns out that wasn't true. What people had seen was a real, and the bad feeling it gave them was justified: "GINO" was a financial dissapointment, a critical disaster and remains an industry-punchline and film-geek cautionary tale to this day. As you can see, the paralells between the "Godzilla" disaster and potential "Transformers" fan-bust are somewhat hard to ignore, so much so that it already has an intentionally familiar-sounding moniker in the circles where it counts: "TINO."

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Recently, the part of the web that covers this stuff had ANOTHER "leaked peak" moment on their hands. A video clip that seemed to confirm (or at least strongly-indicate) that the already much-maligned re-design of "Transformers" lead-good guy Optimus Prime was set to give trans-fans even more to be down about. Faced with this, director Michael Bay offers his denial: (scroll down to the 2nd 4/22 entry.) Short version: It was a test-shot. Um... or it was a marketing thing. Or it was the Europeans.

Uh-huh. Now, I'm reasonably confident that given the "fuss" over this we won't see it in the movie when it's released. But I'm almost not really buying the explanation(s). So many bad ideas in this have already been seen, evidencing nothing more complicated than lack of good design-sense or franchise respect... why should THIS one require some bizzare explanation? Can "European marketing test-shots" also explain away Prime's moronic "dude-Fast-and-The-Furious-is-da-illest-movie-E'VA!!!!" flame-decals? "Alien Jet?" Starscream looking like the bastard offspring of Donkey Kong and a fried chicken-breast?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

For what it's worth, I'm not the only one. is skeptical as well:

And, for perspective, let's keep in mind that Joblo was founded by dudes who didn't like that there wasn't a place where you could find film writers who actually liked Michael Bay's "Armageddon.",9171,1612687-1,00.html
P.S. To the folks who's additude on this is "yeah, but maybe we're still getting a kickass giant robot movie out of it even if it isn't a particularly great Transformers movie, so it's good for the genre, right?" I was with ya for awhile, but ask yourselves this: How many monster movies did we get as a consolation prize for "GINO?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(Yawn) Rubbish