February 11, 2012

League Assignment #1: It takes an assignment to bring out the writing muse

Filed under: League of Extraordinary Bloggers — fairplaythings @ 8:27 pm

“Oh the year was 1776
How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now…

Wait a minute… The year is 2012, I’m not Stan Rogers, and this is not a folk blog. But you wouldn’t know it from my most recent absence. After a smattering of blogginess at the beginning of the year primarily concerning the event called Botcon, I disappeared again, the victim of work assignments, training and extracurricular activities of a non-toy variety. I extend (again) my apologies to you, regular and faithful readers.

But let’s put my absence aside. This is a a toy blog after all - open, dammit, open! - so let’s get back to it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to make another appearance on my friend Steve’s Roboplastic Podcastalypse  to discuss Robotix, a construction toy of the mid-1980s that tried (and failed) to contort itself into the action figure toy premise so common at the time. For a bit of a nostalgia walk down Skaloor lane, and to hear Steve’s latest revelations of the fate of the proposed second year run on Roboforce, go get the postcast here.

In other news, as you may know from a more active twitter feed, I’ve recently joined The League of Extraordinary Bloggers. I mean, how could I refuse the call to arms of Brian at Cool and Collected to assemble a group of dedicated bloggers who would discuss, muse and debate a variety of topics on a regular basis. Like livejournal’s writers’ block, except way less lame.

Forced inspiration - just what an infrequent toy blogger needs! So here I am for the first installment.

What movie is, or was, your “go to” Saturday matinee — the comfort movie you always popped into the VCR on a rainy Saturday afternoon, the movie you watched over and over again, driving your parents crazy while you recited the lines along with the characters on the screen?

Of course, we’d have to start with a subject on which I do not have a ready response.

Strange as it may sound, I really don’t have a “comfort” movie. Sure, I have a list of favourite films, and films for multiple viewings, but there isn’t (or wasn’t) a film that I completely destroyed with multiple viewings. Honestly, there are so many new (or old) programs that I want to see (hello Doctor!), it almost feels reckless to spent time on multiple repeats. Currently, we going through Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode by episode, and hope to get to the second series of the new V and the (finally!) officially released Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future soon. I’d also like to go back and watch through the recent Battlestar: Galactica (at least until the middle of season four) and Buffy.

What I do throw in when I am at a loss are old episodes of Beast Wars and Beast Machines. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge G1 fan and the dialogue and stories hit me in the old nostalgic part of my brain (in a way that most of GIJoe cannot). But Beast Wars and Beast Machines are both visually beautiful and tremendously well written that it’s hard not to be drawn back to them. Strangely the collected serialized Robotics that I have for my Region 2 player can also get thrown into the mix. But even if it is marketed as a movie, it really isn’t quite as advertised.

I doubt that on my list of favourite movies, I’ve sat through any of them more than a dozen times. Strangely, the single film I went to see on more than two occasions was Michael Bay’s 2007 Transformers. I say strangely because, as regular readers of this blog know, I was (putting it mildly) not enamored with its sequels, Revenge of the Suck or Suck of the Moon. And despite these viewing, Transformers does not have a place on my 10 ten list.

But back in 2007, when I first saw the film in Providence, Rhode Island with 500+ Transformers fan, I completely fell in love with it. It was to me what Transformers fans claim its two sequels were - a beloved popcorn film. It really was a classic example of a film that divided its three acts into very distinct styles:

  1. Suspense / horror - the weird artifacts, the building mystery of strange vehicles and machines and the initial confrontations with the Decepticons, there was a sense that Bay was actually capturing how the world would interpret giant changing robots from another world - with fear and apprehension.
  2. Comedy - almost from the moment that Optimus Prime begins introducing his teammates, right up until the unfreezing of MBE 1, the whole film plays almost like a juvenile comedy. Sex jokes, fire hydrants, oblivious parents, urine - it’s like these thousands of year old machines arrived to turn the planet into animal house. And the film would have been damaged had things not changed gears again.
  3. Action / adventure - once Megatron is loose, we get back to a semblance of a movie. These autonomous robotic organisms from the planet Cybertron were not wisecracking friends, they were galactic gladiators whose arrival heralded a terrible threat to all existence and our chance for survival.

Five years ago, how could anyone know that this film would be followed by two sequels, each of which would be the second highest grossing films for their year of release? Or that Bay would take the “comedy” style from the second act of the first film, already sprinkled lightly throughout the other parts of the film, and decide that gay jokes and dog humping should trump subtlety every time? Or that the subsequent films would muddle the identities of both Prime and Megatron to the point that they were no longer recognizable - the hero a cold blooded killer, the villain a pathetic second banana. Or that he would take the somewhat problematic but completely understandable premise of the first film - Optimus Prime and Megatron were shared guardians of their home world until a quest for power led Megatron and his followers to try and seize the soul of their world - and then add contradiction after contradiction into Revenge of the Fallen (the arrival on earth of the Prime and their betrayal by the Fallen millions of years after the war for Cybertron had begun and the Prime were already extinct) and Dark of the Moon (the crash on the moon in the early 1960s of Sentinel Prime in league with a Megatron who had disappeared from Cybertron millions of years before in a vain attempt to retrieve the All-Spark from space). Or that despair and disgust at the last two films would lead me to question what I liked so much about the first one (to say nothing of leading to very very long sentences like the previous one?) At the time, given modest expectations and hopes, Transformers was a somewhat imperfect film that hit enough touchpoints to be worth eight separate viewings in the theatre. Eight.

I saw the second and third film a total of once each. Just enough to know how wrong things went.

So that’s my entry on the topic of “comfort” movies. Not exactly on topic. But an interesting chance to talk a bit about the first film for a change. And of course bash the sequels.

And, in case you are interested, this is my list of favourite films:

  • Fight Club
  • Shawn of the Dead
  • John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Superman Returns
  • 28 Days Later
  • Usual Suspects
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • High Fidelity
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Run Lola Run

A sampling of what other members of the league had to say:


  1. [...] Another fan of those fighting robots: Fairplay Things: (Transformers) [...]

    Pingback by Grab the popcorn and let’s watch a Saturday Matinee! — Cool and Collected - collecting pop culture memories and memorabilia — February 13, 2012 @ 9:29 am

  2. Wow, choosing a Michael Bay movie for this topic sure is different! ;) Transformers fans can hate on the movies all they want, but I actually enjoyed them. sssshhhh.

    Comment by Brian (Cool and Collected) — February 13, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  3. The first movie isn’t terrible, the third is okish. I hate Revenge of the Fallen more and more the more I watch it. I actually enjoy the other two LESS when considering RotF and MORE if I pretend revenge doesn’t exist.

    I commented to my brother I think before he watched it the first time that “you can tell, the exact moment, when the writer’s strike began, Exactly the moment. It’s around when they meet up with Jetfire. The plot is not Shakespear but it’s ok up to around this point, then suddenly, the Strike. The bottom falls out and the whole thing becomes a jumbled confusing pointless anger inducing mess.

    Also the whole thing is better when you just accept that Optimus Prime is not the John Wayne Prime of yore but a whole new completely new Psychotic Prime. Hell, if you consider Dark of the Moon from the robot perspective, the Autobots are the villains, and the Villain wins. Guess what, you’re a powerful alien race in need of energy, Screw the insect humans. BUT HUMANS R OUR FRIENDS LETS DESTROY OUR HOME PLANET BY LETTING IT GET TRAPPED IN A BLACK HOLE WARP THINGY…

    Think about that happening to Earth with an all human cast. Oh snap, the Earth was destroyed but these ants were saved!

    Comment by Josh Miller — February 21, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

  4. [...] Another fan of those fighting robots: Fairplay Things: (Transformers) [...]

    Pingback by The League One Year Anniversary. | Team Hellions — February 24, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

  5. [...] a blog post by someone that has a picture of the set this guy came with and a little information: fairplaythings.com ? League Assignment #1: It takes an assignment to bring out the writing muse Robotix, a construction toy of the mid-1980s that tried (and failed) to contort itself into [...]

    Pingback by Please Help Identify Figure — December 31, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

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