I like Transformers now, and I like Starscream. Who’d have thought? And who’d have thought it would lead me down a tangent about the mythological archetype of the Trickster and the blurring of the gender binary within?
It’s the high heels, is what it is. The Transformers property I’ve grown attached to is the 2011-2013 animated series Transformers Prime, which WB got me into, and in which Starscream is rocking a pair of stilettos built in to his very mechanics. Many of the characters went through a design overhaul for Prime, most notably baddies like Soundwave, who is no longer a walking boombox that you can slot other Decepticons into; and Starscream, who’s now delightfully spindly and spiky compared to his earlier, blockier counterparts, and who now has better-looking legs than me complete with those wonderful heels. To me, this look conveys his character well—one glance at this robot and you can tell he’s bad news, but you can also tell what kind of bad news he is. Continue reading
With Indiana Jones-like reflexes, some friends and I caught the second-last screening of Jupiter Ascending in our city last week, and let me tell you that was one wild ride. If you haven’t had a chance to get your eyeballs on it yet, I’d recommend at some point you do—it’s got something for everyone: hover boots, gratuitous and meticulously gorgeous costume changes, buff dudes with wings, spaceship battles, royalty-sensing bees, and Eddie Redmayne being the hammiest villain I’ve seen in a while, while simultaneously sounding like he has the worst sore throat ever for the entirety of the movie (now that is what should have won him the Oscar). It’s also a story about a girl discovering that the universe revolves around her, which is not something most cinemas seem to have seen for a while.
Now, if you’re wondering if this post is going to be a detailed essay declaring why Jupiter Ascending is the next great feminist masterpiece, I’m afraid I’m going to let you down. Jupiter Jones (yes, that’s really her name, despite it kind of sounding like it’d be more suited to an old country and western singer than a sci-fi character) isn’t a perfect heroine—though, bland as she is, she manages to somehow be more relatable and interesting than other young lady characters that have appeared recently in other sci-fis aimed at young people. The most recent Transformers came up in our post-movie discussion, mostly because Jupiter Ascending kind of felt, in many ways, like the antithesis to that franchise. If the Transformers movies are made to be popcorn-flavoured wish fulfilment and cool car-robot fantasies for teenaged boys, Jupiter Ascending is popcorn-flavoured wish fulfilment for teenaged girls. Continue reading
I know almost nothing about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I’m already cringing at the new movie. I first had to do a double take at the fact that they made a movie, the ‘they’ being Michael Bay, who brought us the Transformers films with a varying degree of success and a guarantee of explosions. The TMNT movie seems to very much be in the same vein, the strange new breed of cinema that takes much-loved franchises of toys and children’s TV and reworks them into a badass, sexy, CGI-filled extravaganza. Presumably so, if you’re part of the demographic that enjoyed it as a kid, you can continue to validate your enjoyment of it by sinking your teeth into this new version specially tailored for adults. Hmm.
Now, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that… but this process can go in weird directions. Or, as in the case of Transformers, just lead to some awful movies. There’s potential for great fun here, as there are with any action movie, especially based on pre-existing things like comics or TV shows so you know that the creators aren’t going to be afraid to be wacky, since they know they’ve already got an audience. If they need to, they can run on the power of nostalgia alone and it will rake in cash, but you don’t want to just lean on that. And you have to keep in mind, also, that a remake like this will draw in new fans—probably actual kids, seeing as they’re still intrinsically linked with their toy lines—and that can lead to a clash of target audiences. Continue reading
Let’s talk about utopias, giant robots and pop culture.
There’s been much talk surrounding the recent hit Pacific Rim, and how, in all its giant-alien-clobbering awesomeness it was very quick to be dismissed as a shallow creation by critics. Fair enough, I suppose, Pacific Rim isn’t exactly an award winning struggle with the Great Themes and overall the movie was pretty simple, especially in terms of its black and white morality (humans = good guys, giant poisonous aliens = not so much). It’s a lot of fun, plain old monster fighting fun, not exactly gritty, dark or deep. But here is the question: must it be, in order to be accredited any artistic merit?
Apart from, of course, the awesome characters, worldbuilding and immensely creative design of the whole thing, you could argue that one of the big appeals of Pacific Rim is that it’s an optimistic science fiction, where humans and their inventions and relationships actually end up saving the world instead of trashing it. Raleigh and Mako, the main Jaeger team, could be given the title of the heroes of the movie and could convincingly hold onto it, being heroes in the regular sense of wanting to save people, do good and being genuinely likeable characters along the way.
They aren’t twisted or cynical or even snarky, and they don’t have fathoms of shadowy depth and inner turmoil. Neither of them is Christopher Nolan’s Bruce Wayne in terms of dark, brooding complexity, but rather than making them immediately seem shallow and boring it made them part of the overall enjoyability of the movie. Perhaps, if nothing else, it’s because they stood out of the crowd. Continue reading