Saturday, June 25, 2011

Increasingly Pointless, Transformers Official Movie Adaptation Illustrates What Fans Already Know.

The Good: Establishes the Transformers universe adequately
The Bad: Mediocre illustrations, Jumpy story, No real character development.
The Basics: The Transformers Movie comic book anthology adds nothing to the movie experience and leaves the reader unimpressed on every level.

I began the year devoting a lot of time to graphic novels and trade paperback anthologies (of comic books) because this is a medium which has been expanding rapidly to become the source material for one of my favorite pastimes: watching movies. So, it might be unsurprising that I would look into direct tie-ins like the Transformers Movie graphic novel. Unfortunately, this is one of the most pointless graphic novels one could purchase as it is literally the film Transformers (reviewed here!) as a trade paperback anthology of four comic books. In other words, for the fans who liked the movie, this is just the comic book version of it.

That said, there is no real selling point for this, save (I suppose) that it takes less time to read than the two hour running time of the film. There are no additional scenes in the book, but there are elements which were cut out in order to fit the film's long script into a one hundred page comic book. Having only seen the film once, nothing popped right out at me as missing, but I know some of the scenes were truncated and that the big special effects-driven battle at the climax was also shortened for this adaptation because, frankly, there is less of a sense of movement in the comic book.

For those unfamiliar with Transformers, a United States military installation is attacked and the target of the attack seems to be a classified database. The mechanical assailant, cut off by a hard-line cut, appears to be searching for an object in U.S. custody. In the wake of the attack, Defense Secretary John Keller mobilizes every possible resource to determine who the attacker is and how to disable the new weapon system that seems invincible. Meanwhile, in the United States, Sam Witwicky is a high school junior who is trying to sell his grandfather's relics on eBay to afford a car for himself. His father takes him to purchase a car and he leaves the lot with a little yellow jalopy that he is not truly wild about. The car soon begins to cause problems for Sam, communicating through the radio and doing its best to hook Sam up with an attractive, but snooty popular girl named Mikaela.

The storylines rapidly converge as Sam is hunted by giant robots who realize that his grandfather's glasses contain an imprint with the coordinates to the mysterious object that is being sought by two mechanical armies. As the military forces flee the active Decepticons who are searching for an object known as the All Spark, Sam - and his car, a robot named Bumblebee - is rescued by the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime. The Autobots are seeking the All Spark to try to save Earth from the war they inadvertently brought here. The problems multiply, though, when the special teams that converge at the Hoover Dam - where the Decepticon leader, Megatron, has been kept cryogenically suspended for decades - and Megatron is reanimated and the All Spark is left in the hands of a boy.

The Transformers Movie graphic novel is entirely devoid of character development. Instead, this is a plot-heavy book which reads like a comic book. The diction is simple and the story is a pretty direct war story. As well, the story takes time before the Autobots are revealed and it follows very closely with the cinematic rendition. However, as the book plays out, it becomes a bit problematic. For example, many of the major characters look nothing like how they appear in the film. While some panels have Shia as Sam pretty clearly, many of the secondary characters like Agent Simmons do not bear a likeness to the actors who play them.

Just as in the film, the characters are fairly monolithic. The Transformers Movie Adaptation has a lot of exposition, with little alteration or development. As a result, Megatron is still monolithically evil and human characters like Simmons are still devoted to their causes without any sense of growth or change. Instead, this is simply the characters as they were in the film. Even the Witwicky family, which seems tied to the Transformers, is pretty blandly presented.

This begs the question, what is the point? Here, I am at a loss. If screenwriter Alex Kurtzman and comic writer Kris Oprisko used the medium to bring out more elements which they could not develop in the film, this might be of some value. Unfortunately, it is a truncated edition of the movie in a poorly illustrated (well-colored) comic book anthology. The only benefit to getting this in this form is to get the whole comic book story without having to hunt down all four volumes of the comic book movie adaptation. The book nicely includes a cover gallery from all four original comic books, but no other "bonus" features.

In short, this is pointless and because much of Transformers hinges on the special effects brilliance that comes from giant robots turning into cars and trucks, the sense of movement in the comic book medium is distinctly underwhelming. There is no "wow" factor, which special effects buffs did get out of the cinematic Transformers.

Even fans of the franchise are likely to be disappointed by this one.

For other Transformers works, please check out my reviews of:
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen - Defiance
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen - Alliance
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen


For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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