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Robots in Disguise

June 25, 2009

Jamie and I are off to see Transformers 2 tonight.

Yeah, I know the reviews haven’t exactly been kind, but you know what? I don’t care. It’s Transformers. As long as there’s a truck that transforms into a giant robot voiced by Peter Cullen, I’ll be there.

That said, pretty much every review I’ve read has come down really hard on two new Autobots who somehow manage to grab a bunch of screentime – Skids and Mudflap. The most damning – and, based on the clips I’ve seen, the most apt – description of them is “Car Car Binks”. In other words, annoying, borderline racist, and absolutely unnecessary characters.

You know, for the kids.

But seriously, what the hell? What’s the deal with including annoying, retarded characters “for the kids”? I was a kid once. I grew up on a steady diet of Transformers, Voltron, He-Man and GI Joe. And my favorite characters weren’t the comic relief sidekicks. They were the badass heroes and the completely awesome villains.

Kids don’t watch Star Wars and come away hero-worshipping C-3PO. They come away making lightsaber sounds and flying imaginary X-Wings down the Death Star trench and trying to use the Force.

But let’s assume for a moment that it’s important to have some non-badass robots for the kids to gravitate toward. Why do they have to be Kevin Federline-bots? The Gen 1 Transformers universe (i.e. the original Transformers from the mid-80s) is stuffed with non-retarded Autobots that would have made completely fitting sidekicks to Bumblebee, Sam, and Mikaela. Let’s review, shall we?

Cliffjumper

Though his bio states he transformed into a Porsche 924 Turbo, I’ll always remember Cliffjumper as basically the “red Bumblebee”. He was small, scrappy, and rash. Oh and he said things like “Decepti-creeps”. He’s the Autobot that would always rush into a situation, often against orders, and subsequently get spanked, which I guess was sort of a morality play for six-year-olds about the importance of listening to Optimus Prime.

Warpath

Warpath was always one of my favorite lesser Autobots. First of all, he turnd into an M551 Sheridan light tank, which is awesome. Second, he was an overly excitable Autobot who spoke with a Texas drawl and had a tendency to blurt out crap like “KABLAAM!” in the middle of firefights. So, kind of like a George W Bush robot. Maybe he could give all the other Autobots stupid nicknames.

Grimlock

Ah, the Dinobots. They were like a perfect storm of awesomeness for a young boy. Transformers that turn into DINOSAURS. And their leader, Grimlock, started the whole trend of refering to oneself in the third person that Bob Dole and NBA players and rappers would capitalize on so well in the 90s. Of course, robots that transform into giant metal dinosaurs makes less sense than robots that transform into cars and trucks and planes and stuff, so I’m not really sure how Michael Bay could have shoehorned ol’ Grimmy in. Probably with explosions.

Hot Rod

Hot Rod would have actually been a brilliant choice as a sidekick in Revenge of the Fallen. He was one of the new Transformers introduced in the animated Transformers movie from 1986 (which killed off a bunch of characters to make room for new ones…and their toys…and in so doing seared Transformers into the consciousness of a generation of boys with the death of Optimus Prime), and basically played the archetypal young punk who wants to be awesome but sucks, but then has adventures and proves himself and becomes the hero to the stirring lyrics of The Touch by Stan Bush:

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    June 25, 2009 4:28 pm

    You have to stop giving Michael Bay more money. He needs to be fired so we can actually have a good 3rd movie.

  2. Kay permalink
    June 25, 2009 5:57 pm

    I’m amazed you remember all these details of toys and cartoon shows from your childhood.

  3. June 26, 2009 9:39 pm

    I took Austin and one of his friends to go see it. Not bad – but not as good as the first. Since when can transformers turn into people!!!!! Little to adult for a lot of kids and a lot of the the “adult stuff” was totally irrelevant. Austin has dubbed the to annoying robots as the “Cuss-Bots”.

    Still trying to figure out how those two were “for the kids”.???

  4. July 1, 2009 9:35 pm

    My fav Transformer was Jazz, the white Porsche 911 Turbo. I actually saw this Transformers movie in the theater with my mom on my tenth birthday. And I’ll admit it, I actually cried when Optimus Prime died and passed the Matrix of Leadership on to Ultra Magnus, who couldn’t open the Matrix and enabling Hot Rod to open it later and thus turning him into Rodimus Prime. Booyah. Unfortunately I thought that the ’86 is WAY better than live action ones. For reals!

  5. Matt permalink*
    July 8, 2009 1:04 pm

    Oh, I cried when Prime died in the ’86 movie, too. I was six at the time, and I’m not sure, but I think it my first encounter with death, at least with a character I was so invested in. But I’m convinced Prime’s death in that movie is a HUGE part of why Transformers resonates so much with those our age. Yeah it was a silly cartoon…but at the same time it was a lot more.

    And sadly, watching it 20 years later, the original animated movie holds up pretty well, and has a pretty solid plot.

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  1. 10 Ways “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Could Have Been Improved « Carpe Hot Dog

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