Friday, January 29, 2010

SMCS Companion Piece #2B: The Transformers

Sorry this wasn't up sooner. I've bee sick as I mentioned earlier. Better late than never however. Also if you haven't read "Part One" of this piece there's no point into bothering reading this until you do.

Beta’s Unofficial Transformers Timeline

Part Two

The Unicron Trilogy

Or, “Japan and America: Together Again”

Beast Wars was a hit but Beast Machines was such a flop that Hasbro decided to scrap the planned second sequel Transtech and go in a different direction. Rather than start from scratch yet again they took advantage of the “Anime Boom” that was going on back in 2000 and imported the most recent Japanese Transformers cartoon Car Robots. But to understand car robots we have to go back a little.

Beast Wars II/Neo: Best Wars was a hit in North America and since Transformers were still relevant in Japan it made sense to import it there as well. It was again a hit. The problem was that Japan got tired of waiting for new seasons after the first one dropped and once again decided to make up their own crap. This time it was a mostly unrelated series called Beast Wars II (Pronounced “Beast War Second”) and a sequel called “Beast Wars Neo”. I saw a decent chunk of BW II but it was pretty horrible. The main thing I recall was one of the (robot) characters trying to put out a forest fire by peeing on it. That’s some high brow entertainment there. As time went on the Japanese public, much like the American public, missed the old days of Autobots turning into cars which led to…

Car Robots/Robots In Disguise: Similar in silly tone this show seemed to be something of a spiritual successor to Beast Wars II/Neo. The show took place on a human populated Earth with Autobots turning into cars, hence the title. It was something of a throwback to the good old days of the franchise and probably wouldn’t have made it over here if it wasn’t for Hasbro not wanting to give up on the newly rejuvenated Transformers line. Car Robots was licensed, dubbed in English, and premiered on Fox Kids (Whatever it was called at the time) as Transformers: Robots in Disguise making it the FIRST actual Transformers anime to come to America. This show seemed to be success and paved the way for a renewed collaboration between the East and the West for the first time since Generation 1.

What I got as a follow-up to Beast Wars. Sigh

Transformers Armada/Energon/Cybertron: With Beast Wars now a distant memory in the minds of Hasbro and the children of America once again interested in buying transforming robots in mass. The time was right to strike with more Super Toy Commercials. Now that Japan was back onboard a collaboration cartoon was produced: Transformers Armada in 2002. Oh God, I watched the first episode and I was done. This crap had none of the complexity Beast Wars offered, suffered from terrible dialogue, and featured a team of annoying human side characters that the previous era taught us was unnecessary. This was a cartoon for children…but dumb children (And yes I eventually saw more than the first episode). The cartoon was mostly a Japanese product and suffered from a lot of the problems most anime has when being dubbed. Its sequel Transformers: Energon continued the trend but added “Cell Shading” technology which was being used a lot back in the early 2000’s (Zoids is another example). Taking place ten years after the first series it was a flat out continuation of it predecessor. Then came Transformers: Cybertron that was originally created as a SEPARATE SERIES ALTOGETHER IN A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE but the American cartoon was dubbed to make it seem like it was another sequel and shrugged off all the plot holes from the last two series with a freaking hand wave (Such as dead characters being alive with no reasonable explanation)!

Who cares about plot? We gotta sell them toys!

The CEO of Hasbro

These cartoons have been nicknamed the “Unicron Trilogy” due to the underlying plot of Unicron doing something or other. I didn’t see it all so I don’t know. I guess it had something to do with Unicron existing in every reality at the same time as the same entity or some such nonsense. Except this reality, I assume, because Orson Wells is still totally dead.

The Dark Times

AKA The Modern Era

Transformer in the 2000’s was doing much better than it had in the 90’s, regardless as to whether any of it was well written. But one aspect that wasn’t doing as well was the comics. Part of the revival the franchise can be attributed to the highly publicized Transformers comic book by an unknown publishing company called Dreamwave.

Dreamwave Comic: Founded by Canadian model fashion designer artist pseudo-artist Pat Lee this company wound up with the rights to make Transformers comics; the first in a while. The first clue that this was a bad idea was that Pat Lee, as a young kid, tried and failed to gain attention from Marvel and DC but managed to catch the eye of Rob Liefeld and was given a job at his Extreme Studio. This is the same Rob Liefeld who is at best an extremely overrated comic book artist and at worst one of the biggest reasons that super hero comic books were universally terrible for a good chunk of the 90s.

There are already numerous things on the internet that can tell you all you need to know about the problems between Pat Lee and the Dreamwave Comic but long story short it was badly drawn and Pat at some point stopped paying his employees right before the company folded taking the comic rights with it. He has become something of a pariah in the TF Fandom, though I’d call him the Uwe Boll of Transformers due to how much he seemed to let the fans get to him and how much the fans despise him.

Comic Books Are a Serious Business!

IDW would eventually start publishing TF comics of their own. It has had mixed reactions.

Kiss Players: Oh boy. This is something of a let’s say odd, entry in the Transformers universe. Basically Kiss Players is a Japanese only toy line, comic, and radio drama that ran between 2006 and 2007. Storyline wise it is set in the G1 universe, specifically the gap between Transformers : The Movie and Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers 2010 (AKA Transformers Season 3). The premise is about girls (Really young looking girls) making-out with kissing Transformers giving the robots power-ups. Oh, and it had a target market of men 15 years old and up. Yeah. This is a good reminder that Americans and Japanese have different sensibilities.

There was a controversy about the comic though: apparently the book was filled with a series of highly sexualized scenes again involving very young looking girls. Seriously Japan? I’ve seen some of the scans and a lot of them are pretty messed up, but seeing how it’s not in my country it’s thankfully not really something I ever have to deal with.

Apparently marriage laws are looser in Japan

Enter Michael Bay

Transformers (2007 Film): If you’ve ever seen a Michael Bay film you may have realized two things about him: #1) He likes explosions and #2) He’s only good at making mindless, soulless summer popcorn action films. By the mid-2000s Hollywood had run out of ideas for new movies and therefore had been licensing anything and everything that they could and turning it into the next big cash cow. Transformers ended up as one of these properties. With some racist Michael Bay at the helm we got this steaming pile of mediocre. It wasn’t terrible and that was the victory, I think. But it was just…lacking? “Not enough giant robots fighting” I screamed. Boy would I eat those words later. Even so virtually none of the titular Transformers said or did anything and they certainly didn’t feel like actual characters. Anyway it starred Shia LaBeouf for some reason as well the amazingly untalented Boobs Magee Megan Fox who is the only person to, after I saw “How to Lose friends and Alienate People”, make me utter the words “I can’t believe that Kirsten Dunst isn’t the worst actor in this flick.” It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen but it was not at all a good film.

Intelligent Talented Funny Nice Hot

Also yes I was offended by the “Black talking” Autobot Jazz but not as much as when he was killed because then it became an issue of the only heroic robot to die was the black robot. Sigh.

Transformers Animated: Born from a drunken late-night encounter between Transformers and the Teen Titans cartoon Animated was created to ride the wave of popularity of the recent film. Begun n 2008 the cartoon barrowed a few aspects from the film but not that much. This show was supposed to be aimed at a younger than usual audience; the creators warned fans this from the start. Well it turns out that this cartoon has been the one bright spot of the franchise in recent years. Like with Beast Wars it features a smaller cast of characters and had long plotlines and story arcs that could last up to several seasons. It also featured tons of references and shout outs to past series making this something of a love letter to the old school fans. The one problem I had with it was the Autobots would sometimes fight human super villains and they were almost 100% lame…except for Meltdown. He was hardcore.

This show was easily one of the best, if not the best, cartoon based on the Transformers line following many of the examples set by Beast Wars while avoiding the crap from the more recent shows. However despite its quality the sow was abruptly canceled not by its network (Cartoon Network, who seem to like canceling good shows) but by HASBRO because they didn’t want the Animated toys to distract kids from buying the Revenge of the Fallen toys! Do I even need to say it again?!

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: I could write an entire essay about why this movie was one of te worst things ever but instead here’s a quick bullet point list.

·Starring Megan Fox who’s become a worst actress since the first film

·Twice as many action spots, half as many character moments with the bots

·A running time of roughly three and a half years (Or at least it felt that way)

·Continuity between scenes is only present if Bay felt like it

·Juvenile humor that distract from the movie as a whole

·Racist caricatures that serve no role in the film itself

·Lack of acknowledgment of the fact that there were racist caricatures in the freaking movie after it premiered!

More Talented Than Megen Fox

Also Voiced By Frank Welker

The only other thing I’ll say is that no one seems to believe this was a good movie yet somehow it made a lot more money than the better received Star Trek despite it being written by the same writing team. The only X factor: Michael Bay.

And now here we are. The future does have a lot in store for the franchise, such as a Unreal Tournament inspired video game called War for Cybertrton due out this year. I doubt Transformers will be going anywhere anytime soon and Hasbro will continue to try to trick me into buying the latest Megatron action figure. I’m stronger willed than-

What's that? He turns into a tank and a gun? You win this round Hasbro!

For more info on Transformers check out the best wiki on the internet Transformers Wiki

For more Saturday Morning Cartoon Show stuff click here

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