Friday, October 8, 2010

How come things don't look like stuff anymore?

I form the...uh, left upper thigh...?
Wait, which one am I again?

I was never much of a Voltron kid, but I cannot stand idly by and watch another beloved 1980's animated toy commercial get Michael Bay-ed without saying something. Yeah, there's going to be a Voltron movie, so clearly the well of hipster nostalgia is going dry. Although I did like the car one, remember the car Voltron? No, no one does, but thanks to the internet and its ability to take hazily-remembered childhood memories and drag them blinking into the harsh daylight of adulthood I can now prove that such a thing existed: behold!

If memory serves (and it rarely does, so click on this if you don't believe me), this Voltron was made up of like 15 vehicles (15!) each operated by a forgettable character. That's a lot of crap to keep track of, but I found cars more interesting than lions, even robot ones. Cars and robots just go better together (see below).
These Transformers are better than-

The original Transformers turned into cars to blend in. They were robots in disguise.* With me so far?

-these ones. It's simple math. 

Beast Wars Transformers on the other hand turned into robotic animals on Earth 4 million years ago. But since there were no modern humans around (sorry, but there weren't, no matter how fancy this website is), who were they disguising themselves from? These guys?

As a side note, I'm not sure who lion Voltron was defending from the evil King Zarkon. They live on a planet populated entirely by themselves, their maid and the bad guys (and presumably the bad guys' maid as well). What was up with that? 

"Selling your childhood back to you a substantial markup."
Wait, I don't care. That's not the point of this rant. The point (or something like a point) I wanted to make has to do with movies based on cartoons from the 1980's. Any-who, ever since the film industry turned into Hot Topic about 10 years ago (see left) movie makers have been charged with the task of dredging the vast sea of 2D cartoon characters and translating them into live action CG images (you know, rather than creating new things).  

If you clicked on the link to Joblo (here it is again) you saw the concept art for the Voltron movie and probably formed an opinion of it. I did. Here it is: I don't think I like it. I know it's premature to criticize a movie before it's even made, but I'm going to anyway. The design seems to be from the Michael Bay school of robots. That is to say, take a recognizable robot from an 80's cartoon and turn it into a hyper-detailed mess of parts that bears no resemblance to the original and then throw it into confusing and blurry action scenes until the viewer has no idea what they're looking at.
Hey! I know that guy!
What is that, a robotic ape
 or something? Starscream?
Really? Ok...

Take Starscream for example. There he is on the left as he appeared in the cartoon series. On the right is Starscream from the live action movie series. And below is a scene from Revenge of the Fallen...I think. It might be from District 9, or a Playstation game. I really can't be sure.
It's like a magic eye poster, if you stare long enough
it might look like something (but probably won't).
Here are some other examples:

Devastator, ready to do some devastating.
Revenge of the Fallen Devastator:
looks like something
Dyson should be selling.

And from next year's Transformers 3, here's fan favorite Cliffjumper and his live action counterpart:
He's the guy you got if the toy store
was sold out of Bumblebee...
The producers of Transformers 3
took some creative license.

With Michael Bay's movies (which weren't all bad...I mean, they did get Peter Cullen, so there's that...) the look of the Transformers was an attempt to bring in a sense of a story about alien robots that turn into cars. Let me re-iterate this point: The producers thought that the audience might get hung up on the believability of sentient transforming robots-from the planet Cybertron. I rarely find myself arguing for a relaxing of realism and logic in a sci-fi movie, but I'd let my skepticism take a back seat if it means knowing what's going on on-screen. Similarly, I think the producers of Voltron can relax a bit. It's a movie about robot space lions, from space. I think a little more fi and a little less sci is called for here. After all, this isn't Star Trek we're talking about here, it's just a cartoon.
You heard me.
*p.s. I should point out that the Dinobots from the original Transformers series broke this 'robots in disguise' rule in a big way. Their disguise was robot dinosaurs. They get a pass however, because 'awesome' trumps 'logic.'
Holy crap! Giant robots!
Oh, wait, no. My mistake, there just robot dinosaurs...
p.p.s. I kid, the Star Trek cartoon is rad.

1 comment:

  1. The Beast wars Transformers weren't in disguise, the mysterious planet they landed on (It was Earth all along) was rich in natural, raw Energon, which was lethal in high-doses to mechanical lifeforms. They took on organic outer skins/beast modes as protective covering.

    As to why Earth had Energon? Aliens planted it there in order to force proto-humans to evolve into higher beings.