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observation notes: Transmorphers: Fall of Man

This is not, as it is supposed by many to be, a sequel to Transmorphers; it is, in fact, a prequel set in the modern era, a harbinger to the events that become the basis for the dystopia of the first film. Unbeknown to mankind, the transmorphers - alien robots able to "transmorph" themselves into everyday mechanical and technological apparati like all variety of vehicles, satellite dishes, cell phones, you name it - have been living quietly among us for decades, silent observers, researchers, biding their time until the opportune moment when invasion is ripe. That time, as the box warns us, "is here."

It's not really fair to compare the two films in this mini-franchise. Writer-director Leigh Scott's film - the first one - was a dark, futuristic, bleak war film, the events contained therein not disasters but battles, while this time around - written by Committed-fave and multiple-Looney-Award-nominee Shane Van Dyke and directed by Scott (Journey to the Center of the Earth, MILF) Wheeler - the result is more similar to the feel of Transformers or even Terminator Salvation in that the battles here are more intimate, still within the realm of the individual, and furthermore, nothing has yet been lost, hope isn't something that has to be regained, it is still what fuels mankind. And while, as I said, it isn't fair to compare the two films, as they really are drastically different from the get-go, and while I have nothing but respect for the first film, if I was forced at gunpoint to choose between the two, I'd probably have to sling my allegiance to this film, the second one (that's really happening before the first one), because I felt the difference in setting - temporally-speaking, our time versus a distant future - made me feel closer to story. This is strictly a personal preference, I'm admitting that, but me, I like my apocalypses close to home, I like to watch my world start to fall apart as opposed to a distant world I have no relation to; it makes the tension more tangible, the consequences more palpable. And here, I felt more a part of the action, like it was my world being fought for, not my grandkids'. Screw those ungrateful brats.

The FX this time around were provided by the fine folks at Tiny Juggernaut, and, as a result, were pretty bitchin'. The transmorphers themselves were seamless, more than realistic and larger than life, effortlessly integrated into the visual fabric of the film and rendered as no less real than the cast of human characters. They were sleek, slick, harsh but visually understandable, as opposed to, say, the robots in the Michael Bay efforts, which confuse the eye and are arranged to look like a collection of shiny shards magnetically held together, like the slivers in a Wooly Willy. The aerial footage was especially fantastic. My hat's off to TJ for this one.

As for performances, screenwriter Van Dyke (Titanic II, 6 Guns) is also our hero, and what a wide swath of a hero he cuts, equal parts jaded and just, a flawed man on the side of right, aided and hindered by a fractured heart of gold. His character is a wounded soldier, not in body, and as such he conducts himself with brooding believability. He's a weapon whose trigger has been pulled too many times, too often against its will, but a weapon still. (did you follow that? I'm not sure I did...)

The venerable Bruce Boxleitner gets second billing as a suburban sheriff a little sick and tired of dealing with Los Angelesians(?) and all the cockamamie BS that comes with them. It's this same stoicism, however, that gives him an advantage when the robo-shit hits the fan. This is BB's third Asylum film (behind King of the Lost World and Legion of the Dead) and he proves once again that no matter what the role, big or small, Boxleitner always packs a heavy punch.

Rounding out the cast is Jennifer Rubin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and the Dean Cameron vehicle Bad Dreams) as a scientist frazzled for all the right reasons, a kind of burned-out genius weary to the point of breakdown over what she's learning about this strange, invading, alien species. Whereas Bruce B might be the film's emotional anchor, Ms. Rubin is the most realistic character, allowing herself to feel and express panic, albeit in her highly intellectual manner. She's the brains to SVD's brawn, the caution to his bravado, and the two together represent mankind's best and last hopes. Other fine performances are turned in by Londale Theus (Airline Disaster, 2012 Supernova) as the Mayor, sultry Debra Harrison-Lowe (The Terminators, MILF) as a steely Master Sergeant who's as effectively authoritative as she is effectively breath-taking, and the lovely and talented Alana DiMaria (nothing else of consequence) as Madison, SVD's chockful-of-moxie love-interest in-waiting.

Overall, if I had to register any complaints, I would say that the dialog at times felt a little generic and stilted, but thankfully other efforts have proven that this is an area in which Mr. Van Dyke has greatly improved. And the film was a little slow to start, developing a lot of character traits that wouldn't really have the time to go anywhere, but once the action got going, the film became a transmorphin' free-for-all, complete with car chases, commando space robots, helicopter dogfights, alien pod armadas, a hard-rockin' sex scene, and not one but two nods to Alien in the form of chest explosion and a cell-phone-face-sucker. I don't know about you guys, but that's just about everything I was looking for when I went into this.

So, mission accomplished.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I didn't like this one nearly as much as the first, however as a franchise over all, I really like it, so I hope to see a third movie around the release of Transformers 3, lol