Monday, August 20, 2012

Ever notice that the Transformers are homicidal maniacs? Revisited.

at 11:11 AM
DISCLAIMER: All I know about Transformers is taken from one video game I played, ever. I guess I saw that first Michael Bay movie but at the time I remember my reaction being "this is the worst movie I've ever seen", "why do movies still not know what computers is", and "was that a Mountain Dewbot?" So if something I said here conflicts with TF canon, let's just say I don't even begin to understand how someone could care.

The blue one is Optimus Prime and the yellow one is Bumblebee
Comic books, cartoons, video games, and Jack Nicholson frequently employ a device so familiar to us that we don't notice it: robot bad guys. Or undead, or skeletons, or giant bugs or aliens. Monsters. The reason is fairly simple: it's hard to sympathize with a protagonist who mows down dozens, hundreds, or thousands of sentient individuals, even if he was chosen by some gussied up broadsword for the purpose of saving Delaware from a screen-door market collapse. War games tend to play in more reasonable numbers, not to mention provide a(n*) historical anchor. You can believe an Ammy soldier in WWII killed a handful of Japs because someone, somewhere, as a matter of fact did. And it was probably pretty horrifying for him and for them, and he sure as hell doesn't want you to call him a hero. But I don't play Historical Simulation of Duty, and I never served in a war (fat), so I'm not going to get into those heavy implications. It's hardly a video game specific issue anyway.

On the other hand you have games like Max Payne and god-forbid-I-even-mention-it GTA where some unlicensed vigilante kills enough people to start up a small Soylent Green product line. Laughable though it may be, the leads in these games usually to some extent lament the lengths they've been driven to to fight for their [I don't know]. I actually recently played Max Payne 3, and the existential Max's dedication to revenge paints him as perhaps the greatest villain in the medium. The number of people he kills and gets killed and the number of lives he ruins because they needed to drag the campaign into just one more level is staggering. At least Max pretends he cares though, at least he asks why.
You can see how much those lives mean to him. Look ye upon the face of true anguish
I put a bit of time this past weekend into Transformers: War for Cybertron, because I'm moderately excited for the pending release of the sequel. I just wanted to swing by to say that the dialogue is hysterically violent. The traditional circumstance of man-on-machine destruction is supplanted by machine on machine; if you care to recall, the Transformers are basically aliens of steel. I'm not gonna get into why is Megatron evil and Optimus good, because I already had to deal with stupid religion good/evil chromatics while watching Wizards yesterday. The point of robots is normally that it doesn't matter which side they're on - they aren't people, so you're really not killing them at all. Transformers, however, aren't really robots. And in a story without humans, they aren't aliens either. They're very much people.

Let's just say: Sideswipe and Jetfire and all the 'sympathetic' Autobots take a lot too much pleasure in not only killing Decepticons, but literally tearing them to pieces. Bumblebee says something along the lines of "there's nothing I like more than murder". You don't notice it at first, but swap in humans for the 'bots for a sec. What you get is the stuff of the worst ethnic conflicts the world has seen - not our everyday American war, not even the Holocaust. It's bad enough that they are born (are they?) as war machines, call home a planet comprised entirely of factories building more war machines, and have tires on the sides of their heads. Then the only thing they enjoy is murdering the guys that wear a different crest?

God I mean it's really grim. It's not mindless KILL KILL KILL, it's yayyyyy ripping peoples heads off is awesome. They may actually be a step ahead of Warhammer, the universe that has WAR and HAMMER in the name.

*if you so choose

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