Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Fishing in the Discount Bin - The Transformers: The Movie

Fishing in the Discount Bin time, where I blog about a movie I own and have recently re-watched.  A frequent problem is how do I tackle a film I have loved since childhood, have constantly blogged about over the years, and don't know what more to say?  It's a problem I ran into on September 18, 2016, when I watched and wrote about The Transformers: The Movie.

I have no idea what to say about The Transformers: The Movie.  Like I've said about several other films, it was simply part of the background noise of my childhood.  It was always there.  Granted, many dismiss it as just a dumb little movie about toys, but it has amassed such a cult following over the years that, the love for the film continues to grow. 

I don't remember when I first saw it.  Probably a birthday slumber party at one of my friends' houses.  But I do remember my first exposure to it.  I had all three issues of the comic book adaptation.  That's a bit of movie merchandise you don't see much of any more:  the comic book adaptation.  First comic I ever owned, and loved so much that I had to complete the entire run, was the comic book adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  But I digress.  I had read Transformers: The Movie religiously before I got to see the movie. 

The one thing that caught me by surprise the first time I saw the movie was the scene where young Daniel finds his father and several other beloved Autobots alive and inside Unicron.  Unlocking the power of his exo-suit, Daniel saves them before a gruesome death of being melted in a vat of acid.  That scene caught me off guard because Marvel omitted it from their comic book adaptation.  I was left thinking that Spike died.  So, despite knowing the film backwards and forwards for the longest time, there was still something in the film that caught me off guard. 

Around that time I had my first Walkman and was being introduced to the concept of soundtrack albums.  And for the longest time, the soundtrack was my holy grail of albums.  Every time I went to a music shop, I'd search the racks for that album, then come up with nothing.  I've blogged before how searching for that album led to me meeting my best friend. 

Back in college, my best friend was the editor of the school paper.  The paper only came out monthly, so he started ending each issue with two lists:  "Stuff that Annoyed Me this Month," and "Stuff that Got Me Through the Month."  One fateful issue, under "Stuff that Got Me Though the Month," he listed, "My Transformers: The Movie soundtrack."  Of course, I fired off an e-mail right away asking, "WHERE DID YOU GET IT?"  And he made me a copy, and he told me about this thing that music shops do called "special ordering."  So, I went down to Tune Town, Camrose's mom & pop music shop in those days, and special ordered my copy.  Cranked it up on many an episode of my college radio show for the rest of college.  And spent many a late night in the newspaper office, hanging out with my friend, talking about Transformers and other cartoons of the 1980s. 

In 2001, when DVD was still the new and exciting technology, it was the first DVD I bought.  I was upset that it wasn't in widescreen.  But then, I read that the film was originally filmed in 4x3, and then cropped to 16x9 for its theatrical release.  So I guess the debate rages as to whether the proper aspect ratio is 4x3 or 16x9.  Good thing the most recent Blu-Ray release has both. 

Of course, it is a footnote in history as being the final film role of the legendary Orson Welles.  I've heard that he finished recording all his lines 2 weeks before his death.  Since Welles first rose to fame on radio in the 1930s and 40s, I wonder if he sat there in that recording studio, behind the microphone, and thought, "This is it.  I've come full circle." 

Lots of other celebrities in the cast.  I wonder how they decided how many celebrities would voice characters?  Like, was there ever any consideration to, I dunno, Molly Ringwald as Arcee?  I remember watching it with my Dad.  He looked at the TV in puzzlement and finally asked, "Is that Robert Stack?"  And Eric Idle as Wreck-Gar, leader of the Junkions.  The theme for the Junkions on the soundtrack was Weird Al's "Dare to be Stupid."  And when they did the cartoon Transformers Animated in the late 2000s, in honour of that, they got Weird Al to voice Wreck-Gar. 

I once listened to a podcast that interviewed Weird Al about his contribution to Transformers: The Movie.  When asked how "Dare to be Stupid" wound up in film, Weird Al said, "It's actually a funny story.  My manager asked if "Dare to be Stupid" could be used in a movie, and I said 'Yes.'"  Awkward pause as the interviewer realized that was the entire story. 

The movie is so weird, when you think about it.  Any time we're treated to one of Unicron's interiors, the art gets so bizarre and surreal.  Throw in that rock soundtrack, and it's almost like it's shooting for the adult animation of Heavy Metal.  But, it's ostensibly a kids movie, and it's purpose is to sell toys.  They were ambitious, that's for sure. 

And the death of Optimus Prime.  That's the death of Bambi or Mufasa for a whole generation.  But it's not just Optimus.  The body count in this film is incredibly high as Autobots and Decepticons on both sides drop like flies in that gigantic opening battle at Autobot City. 

I cannot say anything more about Transformers.  How can I analyze one of the more pleasant memories of my childhood?  It's best to just let it be pleasant.

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