1. Another ‘digging in’ week. Mostly spent prepping a few projects for release. More on those in the coming days.
2. Had a teambuilding exercise at work today, and I never come away from teambuilding exercises without a greater appreciation for solitary endeavor.
The trouble is that, with most team projects or team-building activities, my main takeaway is “This would have been so much easier, faster, and more enjoyable if I could have just done it myself.
3. By the way is it just me, or are corporations becoming increasingly infantile places? Just extensions of school, with almost exactly the same atmosphere and many of the same ‘perks’, i.e. things to break up the monotony and allow us to pretend that this is fun and not soul-crushing.
This week we had valentines and candy for St. Valentine’s Day. I mean, I’ll take the free candy, but…we’re supposed to be adults. Do adults really pass out ‘valentines’ in the same way we did in third grade?
(It was stupid then too, by the way)
4. Last week’s movie night was Bumblebee, which…well, I can believe it’s better than the other live-action Transformers films, but that leave quite a bit of room for badness. Perhaps I’m just spoiled coming off of the likes of Lady and the Tramp and Heir to the Empire, but yeah, the film has some really poor writing.
Among other things, the US government lets alien robots have access to its spy satellites? I don’t think so. If the government agrees to help the Decepticons at all, the deal would be “tell us what to look for and we’ll find it as a gesture of good faith.” They’re not going to let these things that they know absolutely nothing about walk in and mess around with their most important equipment.
For contrast, consider the scenario in Invasion of Astro Monster. In that one, the Xians’ request was to take Godzilla and Rodan so that the two monsters could defend their planet against King Ghidorah. Their requirements were little more than to be allowed to operate freely on Earth, and in exchange they offered a miracle drug to cure all disease. On the face of it, it was an entirely beneficial, minimal risk deal, and the humans already have evidence that they’re telling the truth about Ghidorah because two of their astronauts have been to the planet. Even then there is a debate in Parliament about what the response of the Japanese government should be, since it meant allowing a foreign power to operate within Japanese borders. And later the government officials call out the Xians in their first official encounter because the aliens had already landed and begun work before receiving permission.
Here, the government agents meet two alien robots operating in US territory, who tell them they’re after a dangerous fugitive. They have very little idea of what they are capable of, and even a cursory investigation of their landing would have told them that the Decepticons killed someone first thing. Yet the Joint Chiefs decide that a vague promise of technological aid is enough to justify giving them access to top-secrete military spy satellites. They have absolutely no reason to trust these creatures, no hold over them, and no way of verifying their story, and they have plenty of reason to be suspicious. This would never play out that way.
5. Meanwhile, the rest of the film is your standard contemporary Hollywood writing, which is to say it comes across like aliens trying to mimic human behavior. “Human tell joke. Yip yip yip yip!” The family is pretty obnoxious, the bullies have fewer dimensions than the Decepticons in the original cartoon, the love interest is your standard harmless beta-male type, and so on.
John “they couldn’t get the Rock” Cena is on board and is utterly unbelievable as a solider. I’m not even sure what it is, but he only ever comes across as someone’s idea of a parody of a soldier. Maybe because he mugs too broadly and doesn’t seem to have very good command of his expressions. Though to be honest, even Peter Cullen sounded a little flat to me: like he was voicing Optimus Prime for a promotional stunt at the local department store rather than a film (“Savings are the right of all sentient beings”).
6. On the positive side, however, the streamlined and more classic-style robot designs are a welcome change from the spiky, over-busy nightmares that have typified the series up to now. I appreciate that the heroine had a very close, loving relationship with her father and that the film is about her coming to terms with his death. There was some decent meat there and honest human emotion in the midst of all the craziness and stupidity. The robot action was pretty good too. Overall, I’d rank this as probably an average contemporary blockbuster. Not good, but mostly harmless and with good elements.
7. Actually, I think the film would have been a lot stronger if they had played it as a mystery / revelation kind of film. Start with the heroine, have her find Bumblebee, make it all about hiding him from the government and when he’s inevitably caught, only then do we discover that the Decepticons are here. It’s played as if Bumblebee might be the only one of his kind, some sort of advanced military prototype or something, then when they’re evading the government and it looks like they’re getting away, suddenly one of the other side’s vehicles transforms, changing the game entirely.
It would sacrifice a good deal of robot action, but I think the impact would have been much stronger. Then we could save the Cybertron scene for a flashback in the third act when Bumblebee recovers his memory.