Tired of my puerile fixation on poorly produced children's programming, Optimism Vaccine's malevolent founder, Amos Stalin, has decreed that I must suffer that most Soviet of penalties: Banishment to Siberia. Yesterday morning I awoke in a ramshackle cabin 437 miles Northeast of Yakutsk. How I came to arrive here is unclear.
The cabin is barren, save for this filth encrusted television:
There are no provisions to be found. This would spell doom for a lesser man. Fortunately I've spent my entire life ardently preparing my body to weather periods of famine and extreme cold. I shall persevere, dear readers.
Suddenly, the television screen flickers to life and Amos Stalin's unhinged cackle fills the room.
"Hardship. You've gone your entire life without ever having experienced hardship. Yet, in its absence can we ever really know ourselves? You've spent countless hours in the pursuit of hardship, hoping to discover exactly what you're capable of, but true hardship has continued to elude you. For the next 51 days, you will face hardship. No amount of PG-13 horror or lazy, repetitive animation can prepare you for the horrors you now must face. The Asylum. A studio infamous for bringing the rich Bollywood tradition of the mockbuster to your neighborhood video store Netflix. Our valued readers deserve to know whether The Asylum succeeds in besting the mindless offal that comprises the average popcorn film. Each day will bring a new set of films and an escalating dread. Survive this crucible, and you just might emerge a serviceable man, your doughy child-like flesh honed into a steely hide of capability. I suspect you'll find the whole experience rather... transformative."
On that ominous note, Stalin's face dissolves into the opening credits of a film no man ought endure...
In 1991, John Turturro starred as Barton Fink, a proud artist who loses his grip on reality after agreeing to write banal wrestling films for a faceless Hollywood studio. In 2007, Turturro was cast in a film more vapid than anything the Coen brothers could possibly have conceived. Transformers posits that God is a cube that precedes time and space. The heroic Autobots seek to destroy God in order to prevent the creation of new life. The nefarious Decepticons seek to preserve God and use It to breathe life into the barren reaches of space. Interesting. Of course, the Cube has conveniently found its way to Earth, so sentient robots have brought their intergalactic war to our doorstep.
Now I'm not big on Transformers lore, but I do know that the tagline was Robots in Disguise, so it seems safe to assume that they sought to conceal their existence from humanity. These Transformers have no interest in hiding. The film opens with robots out of disguise murdering a shitload of men in Qatar. Discreet. The Decepticons are apparently seeking to hack into the U.S. government's secret files on the existence of Cube, and obviously the ideal place to access the government mainframe is from a remote military outpost. Or failing that, Air Force One. Perhaps the Pentagon is actually an Autobot stronghold. In disguise.
Later, witty and attractive teens befriend the Autobots, much Mountain Dew is sold to consumers across the globe, and incomprehensible metal on metal mayhem ensues. The wise robots debate whether a violent race such as humanity is worth saving. Excuse me, oh mighty Optimus, perhaps you missed the part where you're FIGHTING AN INTERGALACTIC WAR ON OUR PLANET? Good thing you've evolved beyond all of the primitive violence that besmirches our race. The robots buy some glasses on eBay that will determine the future of life as we know it. The day is saved. This movie is impossibly stupid. My theory is that Michael Bay saw John Turturro's work in Quiz Show, Miller's Crossing, and the aforementioned Barton Fink, and said to himself, "That guy's fantastic. What if we stripped him down to his underwear and had a giant robot urinate on him?" Thus Transformers was born.
No sooner had the credits rolled on this bloated abomination, then a new nightmare unfurled before me.
At their best, B-movies gleefully revel in their limitations, gleaning entertainment value from overly ambitious scripts, laughably untrained actors, and not-so-special effects. At their worst, they devolve into a slog through the poorly lit, poorly miked, poorly edited, poorly acted run time. This falls squarely into the latter category. The film opens with a debate between members of the Science Guild and the Military Guild. Clearly the filmmakers eschewed the services of the Screen Actors Guild. The film takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth plunged into eternal darkness by our robot overlords. A handy tip to all of you independent filmmakers in the audience: Do not set your film in eternal darkness if you can't afford the services of a gaffer. I'd recommend eternal blue skies. Wonderful, abundant, and free natural lighting. It's your friend. Instead this movie is set in a world where you can't see a great deal, and what you can see looks really awful.
Like most Asylum films, this is a Transformers ripoff in name only. The plot involves humanity's last remnants banding together to drive away the robot menace. The robots here don't even transform. Or transmorph. Combine that with the underground setting and you have a movie that would be more aptly entitled The Mattress Revelations or perhaps Termintater Redemption. Oddly enough, the robots are referred to in the film as Zbots, a less successful competitor to the Transformers line of toys. I would suggest that they were aiming for a less costly product tie-in, but this is The Asylum. A wooden nickel would constitute too pricey. Chalk it up to coincidence.
The dialogue mainly consists of military jargon harshly barked between characters. The plot involves a lot of macho posturing, eventually leading to an expedition to the surface in the hopes of capturing a Zbot. The Guilds decide to unfreeze a charismatic rebel leader to lead said expedition. They hope to reprogram one of the robots and insert it into the main robot hub (conveniently located a stone's throw from humanity's final outpost), thus directing the robot hordes to abandon Earth or self-destruct or something. I really wasn't paying that close of attention. Incomprehensible laser gunfighting ensues. In a twist for the ages, our rugged anti-hero turns out to be a robot. The day is saved.
Both of these movies are unwatchable trash, so in the end it comes down to two points:
- Transformers had a budget of $150 million. Transmorphers was made for $250,000.
- Transformers has a staggering 144 minute runtime. Transmorphers clocks in at a lean 86 minutes.
The goal of anyone working within a budget is to do a lot with a little. Conversely, Transformers is a prime example of doing very little with a hell of a lot. Lots of shiny effects surrounded by anti-substance. Transmorphers wins. Never watch it.