Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and now it’s time to do it again.
Starring: The best CGI the Nintendo 64 had to offer.
Ever since I started doing the Worst of Netflix series, the one question I’ve been asked again and again from readers and friends has been “So when are you going to do Transmorphers?” This movie is legendarily bad, although to be honest, most of the mountains of criticism heaped on it don’t come from the movie itself, but from its status as the most utterly shameless “mockbuster” to ever hit DVD courtesy of The Asylum, the production company that also brought you Sunday School Musical, Alien vs. Hunter, and The Da Vinci Treasure (and, mysteriously, a film adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report). From the title to the design of the box, there’s nothing about it that even comes close to pretending that it’s not marketed directly at the confused grandparents that are about to ruin some twelve year-old’s birthday.
But that’s just the marketing. Maybe, just maybe, it actually is like Asylum founder David Michael Latt says, and that’s just a tactic to give their films a competitive edge on crowded shelves. Maybe if you can get past the marketing, you’ll find something that doesn’t just rip off the plot beats of big-budget films to make a fast buck, something that’s actually more honest than the flicks from the Hollywood hype machine. Maybe you’ll find the films you should be watching.
Nah, I’m just messin’ with you. This thing sucks so hard you can feel it through the screen.
Set in the far off world of 2309, a future so grim and distant that Members Only jackets have come back into fashion, Transmorphers is a 90-minute exercise in just not giving a damn. Nothing’s ever explained, from major plot points to minor stuff like why the members of this society that’s lived underground for 300 years in a complex made up of roughly five rooms all have different accents, and the effects crew often misses obvious cues. But that’s fine, because if they’d bothered to actually watch the movie even once, we never would’ve found out that there actually is something sadder than an actor having to mime talking into a radio transmitter that clearly isn’t there: An actor pretending to feel recoil from gunfire that was never added in post-production.
It is worth noting, however, that with an opening that combines our old friend Stock Footage with a monologue that recounts a war with the machines that ended in the sun being blotted out, the filmmakers prove how versatile they are by ripping off both Transformers and The Matrix. And that’s just where it starts.
After a strike team led by Dr. Hipstergirl fails to seccure “an operational zetabot” when her crew is killed by the robots’ new brain-pulping brainwave scanner (Scanners), General Sexkitten takes drastic action. Into this dystopian world steps Captain Scott Handsomeface, a renegade soldier who was put in cryogenic storage but has now been thawed out to deal with a threat that only he can handle (Demolition Man). Putting together his team from other ex-criminals (The Dirty Dozen), they go fight the robots and save humanity, though not without sacrifice (Every Action Movie Ever Made).
I’m not in much of a position to compare Transmorphers to Michael Bay’s Transformers films, as I only watch the bad movies I get paid for, but if Bay managed to put robots on the screen for more than a grand total of twenty minutes, than he lived up to his title better than this one did. Instead, owing largely to the fact that the special effects are terrible, Transmorphers spends the majority of its time on dudes in leather jackets running around at night.
Also, as another key difference between the fanchises, the robots in Transmorphers don’t really seem to be much of a threat, as evidenced by the fact that one of them is essentially kicked to death by a man named “Itchy.” And despite the promise of the title, there’s very little actual transmorphing going on; most of the robots don’t actually turn into anything. They just sort of sprout guns.
Even with all that, though, I’ve got to say: The acting in this movie is not bad. Sure, it all comes out pretty rough what with the fact that it’s so poorly edited that dialogue is recycled from scene to scene (one poor girl announces that the robots have breached the perimeter no fewer than three times), but the fact that anyone could get through a twist with dialogue like this…
“I’m a perfectionist. I made you too human. I gave you the ability to… feel. Care. LOVE. And most importantly, I gave you the one desire that the machines have stripped away from humanity: HOPE. I made a machine that could hope. A machine… that could dream.”
…with a straight face is amazing.
Yes, it turns out that Captian Handsomeface is actually a robot himself, having been created by Professor Nerdspecs—who, in addition to the above, manages to refer to a cordless power drill as a “thermodime” without even smiling—as a trial run before he made the foxy sexbot that he pals around with now, an act that opens up the door for jokes that are beneath even Heavy.com’s standards.
This, of course, has absolutely no bearing on the plot. Or maybe it does. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what happens at the end of this movie, other than that Handsomeface dies and that means everything works out okay. So congratulations, Transmorphers: You earned the reputation of being this generation’s Plan 9 From Outer Space without even trying, and still lived up to every bit of it.
|Chris Sims is a freelance comedy writer from South Carolina. He briefly attended USC before he dropped out to spend more time with Grand Theft Auto, and his career subsequently took the path that you might expect from someone who makes that sort of decision. He blogs at http://www.the-isb.com and creates comics at http://www.actionagecomics.com.|