Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mockbusted #10: Transmorphers

Whenever I describe the concept of mockbusters, Transmorphers is usually the movie I bring up as an example. Not only is it the one most people saw back when the Asylum first started cranking these out on a regular basis, just the name encapsulates the concept perfectly. Its kind of like the movie you know, just slightly off somehow, and in a way that suggests its probably not as good, but may just be awesome. Transmorphers hits two of those four criteria. Regrettably, the two it meets are "slightly off" and "not as good".

Transmorphers is set in a post apocalyptic future dominated by giant transforming alien robots, with the human race living underground at war against their mechanical overlords. Made two years prior to Terminator Salvation and its own mockbuster The Terminators, it bears little similarity to the film upon which it is actually supposed to be based on save for the fact that the killer robots have multiple forms, which isn't really all that relevant to the story, as they probably could have accomplished everything they did without this ability anyway. That's not to say that it has to be anything like the original, but when the movie your ripping off is Transformers, and its so bad that it actually makes me want to watch Transformers instead, clearly you've gone off the rails.

The problem isn't so much the story, which is boilerplate sci-fi action that I could have easily engaged with, but rather the execution. We bounce from one thing to another, never really establishing any interesting characters beyond the one stereotype meant to define them all, and there's no attempt to even try to do anything new or original with anything, which isn't too much to ask even for a low budget movie. The concept of completely human-like androids is introduced halfway through as an afterthought (much like Transformers 2 now that I think about it), only this time its to set up a twist that doesn't really work and proves to be mostly unnecessary, or at the very least not exploited as much as it could have been. Maybe if they'd gone further in the Terminator direction and introduced more of these characters as antagonists instead of having our heroes just shoot off screen at bad CGI, it may have built to something entertaining, but it never quite gets there.

The acting isn't too bad, at least for these movies, and everybody seems to go along with it pretty well without too much winking at the camera or flat delivery to suggest anyone is phoning it in. Our protagonist is established with a mysterious origin and a chip on his shoulder, unfrozen from the Demolition Man cryo-prison where he was evidently sentenced to 100 years in deep sleep for just being too bad ass, and he and his fellow inmate turned robot killing specialist are easily the most engaging of the cast, though that's relative to a largely boring set of characters. A brash female captain loyal to the hero and a helpful scientist and android expert all come close, but really after the second half once what passes for the action starts, things just descend into mindless and unfortunately lifeless chaos.

I wish Transmorphers was more worthwhile, not because I have some special attachment to the movie itself that I'd be pulling for it, but simply because its place in the Asylum canon coupled with its easy availability on Netflix streaming mean it will probably be the first mockbuster many people see on their own, which will no doubt leave people with the impression that they are all likely this bad. They aren't, as I've tried to argue many times before. I suppose its somehow fitting to the contradictory nature of this whole project, movies tailor made to suck that sometimes excel even past their inspiration, that its most well known and successful example would disappoint.

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