Transmorphers (2007)

transmorphers-coverA zebra can’t change its stripes, and in spite of the rumblings from the movie world, the Asylum will not stop making rip offs of bigger movies, because money talks and it also has no dignity or artistic merit. So, I’ve come to terms with the Asylum’s ridiculous practices, and set my sights on bigger fish with more importance in the film world, than some company making low budget rehashes with similar titles. “Transmorphers” was a pathetic concept the first I heard of it, because—well, look at the title. What robot movie does the title hearken to? Regardless, I approached this new effort with optimism because the cover art is just great; whoever works at the art department should be commended for constantly adding appeal to the turds the studio trots out to stores, and hell, the cover for “Transmorphers” is just beautiful.

But hell, I had confidence that the much maligned studio could manage to at least pull off a guilty pleasure science fiction cheapie, because there have been low budget science fiction epics that have worked because of the low production costs. My constant tussles with Leigh Scott notwithstanding, “Transmorphers” just looks visually dynamic. The settings, aside from being basically the norm with the cheapies, look well placed amidst the post-apocalyptic landscape, with great photography. And of course, if you’re willing to ignore the fact that almost all the special effects look like screensavers for Windows 95, there’s a certain charm to “Transmorphers” from the stern tone, to the simplistic plot, right down to the opening title that’s so similar to “Transformers,” it’s just hysterical.

We follow the last remaining survivors of an invasion on Earth years before, in what looks like a hybrid of costumes from “Babylon Five” with a neo–“Battlestar Galactica” tone, and Scott attempts to unfold some truly unique chemistry between our shipmates that misses the mark on being as complex, but is still rather entertaining, nonetheless. Scott performs the Cameron tone by bringing together this group of soldiers to clash over leadership, and really just let the claustrophobia eventually get to them, setting the stage for brawls, and grunts, and it’s never too over the top. The characterization is just a combination of military lingo and back story, and Scott steeps the story in on-ship politics, and pitting two opposite teams of soldiers against one another who intend on putting a stop to the ruling class of robots once and for all. The robots in particular, never follow a specific principle here.

They can turn into almost anything that the moment calls for, but they’re gladly not reduced to mere plot devices all the time, which is satisfactory enough, and draws from the logic or lack thereof. For once, a film that promises robot wars, gives us robot wars, and we get what we pay for, and after “Supercroc,” it’s awfully refreshing to see robots fighting and tussling with human soldiers. Scott knows how to make these villains appealing without relegating them to cartoon characters, or further Transformer knock offs. The shortcomings of the production just adds to the appeal, rather than serve as a caveat, and that’s what keeps Scott’s science fiction film a plus. Overall, “Transmorphers” excels because the story just works, and the ensemble cast of Asylum regulars that form an interesting chemistry, even during some rather bad performances from a select few; particularly there’s Matthew Wolf who is a stand out as the rebellious Mitchell who engages in a bit of a power struggle and love triangle with the commander.

If you can just ignore the overall ancient CGI, it will strike all the right chords for those who love schlocky low tech sci-fi that’s dressed to look above par thanks to Scott’s direction. As with all Asylum films, most of the cast looks as if they’re difficultly trying to ace that Drama Class performance, so they all look as if they’re basically just going punch for punch in an acting class. They grimace, they yell, they walk in circles during heated arguments, and many of them are never truly convincing in their roles. Rather than fit into these characters, they often look more like they’re forcing themselves to inhabit these mannerisms, and personalities, are never as genuine as they should be. Not a single character sticks out beyond Mitchell, and that’s a shame. A movie like this should have at least two banner characters an audience can root for, and most of the personalities on-screen were awfully interchangeable and forgettable.

Scott tries to pad up the film before the final battle with inter-office politics of a sort, as outside elements are introduced, relationships are re-forged, and the dialogue becomes utterly tedious to sit through. There are almost at five different arguments about positions and power, and about seven different rants about war, and standing up for the world, before we actually get to the real meat and bones of the film that Scott takes so long to get to. Rather than engage us in the characters, and show us the carnage, they become two truly different elements, and the baggage we’re fed in the first half feels just like preamble.  I’m not one to put myself in a perpetual state of denial for the sake of spite. “Transmorphers” is… good. Granted, there’s your usual list of caveats which are the norm for an average Asylum production, but because it looks damn good for a cheap rip-off, and is rather entertaining to sit through, “Transmorphers” is worth your time. And no, Asylum didn’t pay me to say that.