The title's pretty self-explanatory, so let's not waste any time.
Masters of the Universe
(1987). This movie is based on the popular He-Man action figures, and draws from a story that includes magic, advanced weaponry, and a battle of good versus evil that spans the whole universe. How is it possible, then, that the finished product could be so bad?
For starters, the movie ignores most of the great story, choosing only to depict what is essentially the last day of a battle that has been going on for years. Character development is nonexistent, and the movie features no backstory beyond telling the audience that He-Man is good, Skeletor is evil, and they're going to fight because that's what good and evil do. The movie is also full of corny dialogue and ridiculous battle scenes, the best of which features He-Man vanquishing a small army which has decided to line up and attack him one by one.
All in all, this movie is an absolute failure of storytelling. There's a remake coming soon (Grayskull in 2011), and I just hope that it can wipe the memory of this one off my mind.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
(2009). I have never been more disappointed by a movie in my life. The plot is confusing and at times illogical, the pacing is bad, and most of the significant new characters are more annoying than anything else. The main human characters, Sam and Mikaela, have not changed at all, despite the fact that they've gone from 16 to 18 (aren't those supposed to be formative years?). The battles are difficult to follow, as the film seems to favor explosions instead of a clear presentation of who's fighting whom, and the humor that was so seamlessly integrated into the first movie is here allowed to devolve into caricature.
Image © Paramount Pictures
Maybe if the first Transformers hadn't been so good, this would have merely gone down in the books as just another bad movie. A standard was set, though, and this movie fails to uphold it in every possible way.
(2007). This is your typical teen, coming-of-age, be-yourself-and-everything-will-be-alright kind of movie, and I don't mean that in a bad way. On the contrary, this movie knows exactly what it wants to be, and for the most part succeeds in telling the story that it wants to tell.
Though the first half-hour rushes to introduce all of the characters and their backstories, the pace quickly settles into a smooth, gradually escalating pattern of give-and-take between the four heroines and their main antagonist. The movie then plays out like a well-crafted game of chess - one side makes a move and gains the advantage, then the other side counters and takes it back. All of this builds up to the final confrontation, a talent show, which unfortunately turns out underwhelming. Though the heroines do come out triumphant, there's a lingering sense that they didn't deserve to be, and that is the movie's biggest problem.
Image © Lions Gate Entertainment // Photo credit: Chuck Zlotnick
All in all, this is a movie that does the best it can with what it has. The heroes don't have superpowers, there are no high-tech gadgets, and the story has to fit the typical teen movie mold. Considering all that, this movie is actually pretty good. It won't blow anyone away, but it's a solid, entertaining story with a clear purpose and identity.
(2007). This movie is single-handedly responsible for the surge in toy-based movies, and with good reason. It is a well-crafted, well-told story that combines action, comedy, and sci-fi into an exciting film with surprising depth. Transformers uses separate storylines to build suspense: We see the government and military struggle to combat the Decepticons, we see Sam Witwicky slowly come to terms with his connection to the Autobots, and we see everything come together in the climactic final battle, which ends the movie in a visually stunning and utterly satisfying way. Transformers also succeeds in setting the perfect tone for a movie of this kind: Lighthearted but not silly, mysterious but not scary, impressive but not intimidating.
Image © Paramount Pictures
If there is a negative to be found, it is the development of Sam's relationship with Mikaela, which seems boring compared to everything else that's going on. This is a minor detail, however, which is quickly overshadowed by the more impressive aspects of the movie, and which is completely forgotten by the time Optimus Prime delivers his ending monologue.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
(2009). I don't think words exist that can describe how good this movie is. From the action sequences that constantly one-up each other, to the fluidity of the story and the depiction of the characters, G.I. Joe hits all the marks near perfectly.
The movie gets around its biggest problem, how to introduce multiple main characters, by showing flashbacks during what would normally be lag time: While characters are traveling from place to place, pondering a recent battle, etc. This allows the audience to learn the history while letting the story develop in the present, without having to rush. The movie also succeeds in presenting the characters and their environments, and making all of them look good. G.I. Joe headquarters (The Pit) is every bit as awesome as a giant, high-tech, subterranean military base sounds, and the evil James McCullen's underwater compound is at once beautiful and ominous.
Image © Paramount Pictures
The special effects are the last piece of the puzzle, and for the most part they are used intelligently, though there are moments when they overload the screen and make the action difficult to follow. These moments are quickly forgotten, however, especially after the last half-hour of the film, which may be the single greatest action sequence I have ever seen.
Story by Jose Flores
Starpulse contributing writer