Transmorphers (US-2007; dir. Leigh Scott)
Though sporting a title that suggests that this “mockbuster” from the notorious Asylum was intended to be an exploitative take on the big-budget Transformers (2007), Transmorphers has very few “more than meets the eye” moments and the big mechanoids that do transform basically go from junk and rubble in the devastated cityscape to large chunky robots that look rather like mechanical assault cannons. In fact, the narrative (such as it is) is more suggestive of Terminator: Salvation than it is of Transformers — though, of course, the Asylum flick predates McQ’s blockbuster by a year or so. (Note: apparently the film was written as Robot Wars — no reference to Transformers — and its current title was given to it in order to cash in on the anticipated popularity of the big budget “event” film.)
When Transmorphers begins, the invasion of sentient alien robots from the depths of space has already taken place (several centuries before, in fact), mankind has lost the war and the survivors have retreated to underground hiding-places amidst the rubble of civilisation, forming terrorist squads that struggle to do what they can against the machines. Now a plan to finally defeat the enemy has been developed and our protagonists head off to see if they can make it work.
Given the narrative timeframe, there isn’t much attempt to give the structure of humanity’s underground existence much logic — but that’s par for the course even in big budget scifi flicks. And Transmorphers defines low-budget exploitation cinema. It is spatially and developmentally restricted, with more ambition than it has the means to fulfil it. This above all else governs the film’s limited artistic success.
Transmorphers isn’t a great film by any means. In fact, it struggles to maintain momentum as it goes along, being confined to somewhat repetitious dialogue when more robot action was needed. It isn’t ineptly acted or filmed, but the ultra-low budget does become a problem in that action that should become more expansive is forced by technical necessity to remain sadly minimalist. The CGI robots are very awkward by mainstream Hollywood standards, though the SFX would be more than servicable if the existing script had been both tightened and allowed to expand into other areas — even if those areas were kept claustrophobic enough to avoid blowing out the budget. More CGI action rather than better CGI is what was needed, along with good, succinct dramatic dialogue and original ideas, both of which are only sporadically in evidence.
But Transmorphers has an effectively claustrophic, grungy look to it — an ambiance exacerbated by rain and shadowy darkness — and when there is some action it is professionally, if not imaginatively, choreographed. In fact, the general look of the film, the competent editing, and the fact that the actors remember their lines and can deliver them with conviction, make the film watchable and (mostly) entertaining, despite pacing problems in the second half.
Transmorphers was a successful film for The Asylum. Hopefully, the upcoming prequel, Transmorphers: Fall of Man, will redress some of its deficiencies.
OK, I have to admit that I really wanted to like this film but found it very dull and some of the effects were just painful to watch. I keep hearing that so many people really love it and that it’s a favorite of Asylum Ent.’s fans but even as a big fan of their output I just felt let down. I actually think it’s one of their worst films. Not the worst of their’s in my book though. That honor would go to “King Of The Lost World”=aarrgghh!! The only thing good about that film was the presence of Rhett Giles who’s one of my favorite actors although his parts in the film are somewhat limited. Hopefully the sequel will be better. It already looks way more interesting and at least the fx look to be improved.I look forward to it.
I didn’t react as badly as you to “Transmorphers”, Avery, though it’s clearly not a “good” film. Maybe I would’ve felt worse about it if I hadn’t just watched “30,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, which was dreadful. If “King of the Lost World” is worse, I’ll have to think twice about watching it at all.
“King Of The Lost World”…to me…was beyond dreadful. I can’t wait to see your take on it. I have yet to see “30,000 Leagues Under The Sea”. I can’t wait to read your review for “Monster”. Most people really loath that one but I really like it although I’ll easily admit that it’s not a “good” film and has it’s flaws[plenty of ’em]. I still really enjoy it as a guilty pleasure. It really seems to me that they are improving their craft though recently with “Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus” and “Dragon Quest”.
wa cgeh ayntindyan daka ken
Ahh…. “Dragon Quest”. Such a pleasant waste of time. And as for the all-time worst Assylum flim, my vote goes to “Alien vs. Hunter.” Not once throughout the entire film does a character suggest something that advances the plot.
Of course I haven’t seen all the movies done by the Assylum, but it’s interesting to see how the company’s grown since it’s earliest works. They’re definitely improving.
I have “Dragon Quest” around here somewhere, so I’ll let you know what I think there one of these days. The trailer seemed OK. I’ve also got “Alien vs Hunter”, but as that one is almost universally described as “the worse”, I’m not keen. As I suggest here, “30,000 Leagues Under the Sea” was pretty abysmal (no pun intended), so it’s not easy to imagine something “worse” without getting into totally amateur territory.
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