G1/Traditional Designs in the Film

Discussion in 'Transformers Movie Discussion' started by Cory Bauer, Aug 31, 2006.

  1. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    There are a number of people like DrawerDemon who want to know why the film's Transformer designs don't look like anything we've seen before. While I don't pretend to have any real answers, I would like to share my theories. We largely consider Masterpiece Optimus Prime as the utopia of G1 design, and feel that the movie designs would be largely successful if they followed suit. I'd like to share several reasons why I believe putting Masterpiece Prime on the bigscreen would not be as good as ILM's new design for Prime.


    1. The Wow factor. While we hardcore Transformers fans believe we would greatly enjoy seeing Masterpiece Prime in live action, for general audiences it would not be that impressive. Masterpiece Prime's design could be accomplished on screen by putting a guy in a suit. G1 Prime, with his boxy limbs and body, is far too simplistic. You can look at him and take it all in within seconds. ILM's Prime is something you could stare at for an hour and still not fully understand it. It captures the imagination in a way that the traditional/G1 designs cannot. Moreover, if you're looking for blocky G1 designs with no exposed mechanics or wiring, what you essentially end up with is this:

    [​IMG]


    Does that wow you? Because to general audiences, that is what Masterpiece Prime would look like in a live-action film.


    2. The Budget When you're spending over 100 million on a film, you've got to deliver something no one has seen before in order for your film to be financially successful. Look at this year's Superman Returns. They stayed very true to the original look of the character and environment, which left general audiences with a reaction of, "meh". Superman Returns cost $270 million and has only made $195 million in the United States (only another $173m foreign). Audiences could take or leave Superman Returns, largely because it's just a rehash of the same thing but with today's CGI. For Transformers to be successful with the blocky simplistic G1 designs, the film's budget would have to be capped at no more than $60 million. For that money, you'd get your traditional designs, but you'd lose mind-blowing action scenes and ground-breaking special effects. The trade-off for the spectacle that $150-200m can deliver is that the character designs have to blow the minds of general audiences. See Megazord image posted above once again, and tell me if that looks like $150m-$200m film material to you.


    3. The Concept Transformers are aliens. That is something we all accept, as it's at the very core of the mythos. While that doesn't mean they have to have cliché tentacles and bug eyes, it means they have to be beyond our comprehension. When the first designs leaked, I saw a lot of people becoming genuinely upset because they couldn't look at the robots and figure out how they could possibly turn into their alt modes. The fact is we shouldn't be able to visually disect them; if we could, then the designers would have failed in delivering us something that is alien to our understanding. What we have here is the most mind-blowing transformations ever created, and free of any cheats. It's a far cry from pulling out the legs and arms and flipping the head up, but it should be. Even Masterpiece Starscream, who unlike Masterpiece Prime has a realistic alt mode, is more or less just standing the plane up and pulling the limbs and head out; it's not a far stretch of the imagination to look at Masterpiece Starscream's robot mode and see an airplane.


    Now, I am by no means in love with all of ILM's Designs. I think Prime and Blackout are their best work that I've seen so far. Megatron and Starscream I an not nuts about, and none of my above points justify those characters lack of tribute to the originals. It is obvious ILM did not intend for Megatron or Starscream to pay tribute to their original designs in any way, and I'm not going to pretend to know why that would be. But I hope what I've said here helps people think about why Masterpiece Optimus Prime is not suitable live action material for a $150-200m film.
     
  2. Kittie Rose

    Kittie Rose Banned

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    A good attempt to justify what's going on, but I think it falls flat on a few points.

    First off, the first point. We don't want Masterpiece Prime LITERALLY on screen. Magnified to that size, it would look tacky. Though it is still a better and more realistic design than the Mighty Morphin' Megazord.
    I don't see why they can't give the same level of CGI treatment to the G1 designs as they're doing to the new ones. What's the difference? Just a lot more needless detail. Are ILM coverring for their lack of realism by upping the detail level?
    Also, the realism point is moot. Cognitive science dictates that something that is recognisably say, a truck, will register better than something that's a weird mess of parts. Our brains can help fill in the rest. We have no frame of reference for the nwe Prime, there's very little recognisable - yet it's still pushing for a certain level of realism, it's MEANT to work similiar to earth machinery, but we're given so little to go on.
    Now, if you do really poor CG of a Transformed truck, then having something too unrecognisable would probably actually be preferable. So ILM could be coverring their their own lack of skill here.

    The third point. Let me put it to you one way. How do you think Star Trek fans would feel if people make insistances that the Vulcans, Klingons, Cardassians etc. weren't "Realistic" aliens and should instead be weird skeletons with random shapes of flesh stuck on? Those are "aliens", yet they still look very human. Nobody is complaining. Transformers are much more alien, yet people are complaining.
    Also, those designs aren't more "alien", they're more humanoid in shape. They look like monsters, but monsters we designed. The old TFs make more sense for human-like alien robots trying to fit in.
     
  3. Valkysas

    Valkysas Attack Buffalo

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    This has been shot down in other threads before. Transformers are no strangers to re-designs. Star Trek is one continuous timeline, one stable universe, so redesigns would never be considered. the same would be true if this TF movie was based on any existing universe, but its not, so extensive redesigns should be allowed.

    Lack of skill?
    Are you even remotely familiar with ILM's past projects?
     
  4. OmegaVPrimus

    OmegaVPrimus Well-Known Member

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    Here....let me put it this way...to transform is to re-desighn (-_-)
     
  5. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    Kittie, I didn't say that ILM's designs were more realistic, you did :wink: 

    Your point that there's no frame of reference for the new Prime only supports my point that ILM has created something that is alien to us. I believe that ILM has "done the math" and their designs do transform without cheats, so they aren't covering up any lack of skill as you suggest.

    Regarding the Star Trek reference you made, don't you think that if the technology and budgets had allowed for more alienesque characters when Star Trek started, they would have used them? A live-action Transformers film has never been done before, and Transformers changes every two years anyhow. There doesn't seem to be much justification in limiting the character designs/transformations to 20 year old cell-animation tech.
     
  6. funkatron101

    funkatron101 TFW2005 Supporter

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    I think it is a little too soon to question whether or not ILM lacks the skill to bring live action Transformers to the big screen. Afterall, we haven't seen anything more than some concepts. Just because they are different, doesn't mean the team lacks skill.

    Remember guys, realism in this case is subjective. This is one group's interpretation of what they think transformers would look like on Earth. That is all.
     
  7. Bendimus Prime

    Bendimus Prime Rolls for initiative TFW2005 Supporter

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    Agreed. As someone who is as big of a fanboy of Star Trek as Transformers, if there was a major redesign of one of the foundational races in a movie or television series that was set in another universe, say the Mirror, Mirror universe, no one would baulk because it exists outside of the established storyline. This is why Enterprise failed. They made major changes to the Star Trek timeline while still claiming to take place between First Contact and TOS.

    While the Transformers movie was initially said to be "based" on G1, not only has that obviously changed, but even if it didn't, it would still be a different universe compared to the classic G1. Just like Armada isn't in the RID universe and Beast Wars does not take place after Cybertron. I would have much more of a problem with this movie and its designs if it was stated that it unequivocally took place sometime within the G1 series, or some point between the end of G1 and Beast Wars. It doesn't, it’s just a stand-alone universe.
     
  8. OmegaVPrimus

    OmegaVPrimus Well-Known Member

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    Yeah ILM is only trying to bring a TF to life........Iam pretty sure their haveing a heart attack with bay and these CGI elements!!!!
     
  9. DrawerDemon

    DrawerDemon DOOOOOM!!

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    Thanks for breaking this thread off. I think this is a worthy discussion.

    I'm not so much slamming the new stuff, I just wanna know what issues they've run into, and you've nailed a few of them, I'm sure.

    BTW, check out the stop-motion work Robot Chicken did with MPOP. Doesn't look Megazord-y at all, but then again, it's Prime sitting in a chair, talking about prostate cancer, so take it with a grain of salt.

    But, we're starting to talk about the slippery topic of Film Theory here. I'm don't do Film (I do Theatrical design, actually), so I'm not, by any measure, an expert.

    There's certainly a "Faster, Louder, More Intense" school of thought, to which the ILM designs SEEM to belong. That's the theory that also says "Don't actually SHOW the Alien, or it isn't scary." I've never liked that, as it seems shallow. It's built for the moment, and very little about the appearence of a character tells you very much about them.

    Then there's the Historical theory, where you build the whole universe your characters exist in, and their looks come from the history of said world.
    So, like, you'd design Cybertron c. 9,000,000 years ago, what each race's architecture, weaponry, cultural icons, etc, would've looked like, then you advance it through time.

    Younger and older characters become easy to identify, much like you can tell a '50s car from an '80s car without knowing a thing about cars. I tend to prefer this process, as it gives characters the appearence of a rich history, without having to tell the whole damned story.

    Also, as you've built this alien race (and their history) from scratch, it doesn't so much matter that they're aliens. They're simply another culture, made up of giant robots.

    I certainly don't get a sense of history or age from the Movie designs so far, but what do I know? Nobody's seen this movie yet, so perhaps somebody at ILM is busy figuring out the regional Energon flavors on Cybertron. I can hope, right?
     
  10. DrawerDemon

    DrawerDemon DOOOOOM!!

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    PS- As to ILM's fitness to do this: The Designers work for the Director.

    ILM has certainly shown its pedigree, over and over again. I know they rule, dead issue, to me.
     
  11. Team Jetfire

    Team Jetfire Pop-POP!

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    Kitty- I think you are putting far too much thought into what is and always been a child’s toy franchise. There is no real way to know what Prime will look like in the movie until it happens.

    And on the lines of the Cognitive science - why does the robot mode need to look like the truck to be a good design? The big frame of reference from Prime is the head, And by the looks of it, they got that one ok.
     
  12. funkatron101

    funkatron101 TFW2005 Supporter

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    It's tough for me to really say at this point, since I haven't read the whole script, but I have inadvertently read some spoilers and there are some minor details given to the plot and characters that I appreciate. So from what I can tell, they aren't just going to say "This is the way it is" and everyone accepts it. They have put some thought into it.

    A lot of hard work is being put into it. I bet every team working on this project has the history, plot, each character and each design fully fleshed out. Some things may be omitted because of time, some because of flow, just like most movies. But the intent is there.

    I personally don't like many of the designs, but its not my vision. It's someone else's. I'll at give them the benefit of the doubt and watch the film before praising it or disregarding it as a whole.
     
  13. Random Autobot

    Random Autobot Soviet Kanukistani

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    Actually, I am fairly certain that Superman Returns failure at the box office has less to do with it's sticking to the classic mythology, and more to do with the fact that it's a character driven film with sharp storytelling, good dialogue, and little action or adventure. Much like his first X-Film, Singer chose to focus on the characters over the wow action moments. Problem is, he went too far in the character direction. people wanted to see Superman "do" more, and talk a little less. it's a great film, but just drags in places due to a lack of action. I would imagine the sequel, much like X2, will knock people socks off. Still, to say people stayed away because Superman looked like Superman, is rather farfetched.

    As for this whole "They're aliens" argument, I'm just not buying it. For starters, why would "alien" robots have humanoid features at all on their home planet (I'm looking at you, Saurontron)? Second, the reason Prime is getting more love and less hate from fans of the film, and non fans alike, is because of all the designs, he has the most elements of the " Transformers" aesthetic that we're used to. Colour his upperbody all red and you have a good G1 Prime update. You can also see more of his alt mode in his design than you can of megatrons, Bumblebees, or Blackouts.

    See, the problem the "fans" of these designs keep harping on doesn't exist. We aren't looking for direct G1 representations on screen, by and large. We are looking for recognizable elements from the past 22 years of Transformers aesthetics. Prime is showing some of these, and many of us are ok with him. While we still question the excessive endo skeleton exposure, we can see how this is basically a good looking Prime. Megatron however, still looks like he wandered in off the set of "DOOM".
     
  14. Steevy Maximus

    Steevy Maximus Movie Megs eats your soul

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    That seems...contradictory to me. On the one hand, you will argue that the new designs don't do justice to the brand. Here, you call MP Prime tacky, even though as is it is the ONLY Transformers product that seems to fit what most "anti new designs" want. I just don't grasp the point you are trying to make

    They look so human because they couldn't afford anything more elaborate. In reality, the likely hood of encountering an alien species looking so much like us is ridiculously low. The reason scifi shows continue to use the "human base" is because the costs to create a real alien species is a LOT more than most budgets would allow.
    See Star Wars, you have everything from walking squids, to midget bears, to giant slugs. Star Wars is a far superior representation of aliens that one might actually find in galaxy

    And my point goes back above, why should TFs look so human? I think what really confuses me is that I don't understand what YOU want in live action Transformers?
     
  15. Cory Bauer

    Cory Bauer Well-Known Member

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    Random Autobot, my apologies for implying Superman failed because it was true to it's roots. Rather, it's scope was far less than it's budget. I'm not suggesting drastic changes were needed to be made to the Superman mythos for it to be successful, but rather that it should have had a budget less than $100m. When you spending over $100m, you've got to deliver something big and fresh to fill seats at the theatre and cover the cost. Since Transformers is a big budget flick, it's got to deliver never-before-seen stuff. A man in red and blue tights is just as out of place in a $270m film as a red and blue Megazord would be in a $150m-$200m film.

    I understand there are fans just looking for nods to the classic characters. I am one of them myself. My thread here is more addressing those who ask, "why can't they just make the robots look like (insert favorite toy, comic or cartoon incarnation here)".
     
  16. Exitspeed

    Exitspeed Well-Known Member

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    Good post Cory. You've actually persueded me that these designs are actually a good idea.
     
  17. Team Jetfire

    Team Jetfire Pop-POP!

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    I fully accept the alien designs for the reason that these are aliens not mech robots as was created from the original Gen 1 series.

    In the question of which came first the toys were in place before the concept was. The toys were originally meant to be Mech, not aliens. If the concept was created first and the toys secondly we would have far different designs than what were done originally.
     
  18. Draven

    Draven Banned

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    If there is one ting that can be said about ILM, it's not that. The guys are GENIUSES.
     
  19. Random Autobot

    Random Autobot Soviet Kanukistani

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    Exactly. People wanted to see Superman do more, but they certainly wanted him to look, act, and feel like Superman.

    My problem here is that the design team, and the creative team feel they have to go "as far away as possible" from what Transformers are, and that is usually a recipe for disaster. Prime looks like prime, I will give them that. Other than his heavily exposed upper arm skeleton, and his sides being left completely uncovered, he looks well aromoured. His chestlooks far more "uniformed" than before, and his forearms are all armour. His legs look great, even the feet work. He looks like he comes from the same design aesthetic that gave us Optimus Prime, Fire Convoy, Armada Prime, etc.

    Megatron, on the other hand, has no personality in his look. He looks Like an alien, yes, but not an alien that is the "Brother" of the other alien dude that is landing in this movie to stop him. In fact he doesn't look like he belongs on the same planet as any of the other transformers.

    Bay has never been known for subtelty or nuanced story telling, which is why we are getting a Decepticon leader who is the design equivalent of a guy jumping around screaming "LOOK AT ME!!!! I'M EVIL!!!!!!". He is a generic looking villain, and he ends up looking more silly than scary.

    They needed to keep more of the classic "Transformer" aesthetic in mind when designing these. For the benefit of the box office, not for the benefit of rabid fans. They've underestimated how much of a factor "nostalgia" will be for this movie.
     
  20. Foster

    Foster Super Mod

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    One of the reasons these designs disappoint me is they will not look the same in toy form. It's a discussion that will carry more weight once we see more proto pics, but look at Blackout. He's dumbed down a lot from the movie design. The others look even less like their alt-modes.

    They are making the same mistake that was made in Beast Machines. Jetstorm, Thrust, Tankor: cool toys. Cool show models. The one looked very little like the other.
     

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