expand and transform

The danger of LSD is not physical or psychological, but social-political. Make no mistake: the effect of consciousness-expanding drugs will be to transform our concepts of human nature, human potentialities, existence. The game is about to be changed, ladies and gentlemen. Man is about to make use of that fabulous electrical network he carries around in his skull. Present social establishments had better be prepared for the change. Our favorite concepts are standing in the way of a flood tide 2 billion years building up. The verbal dam is collapsing. Head for the hills, or prepare your intellectual craft to flow with the current.”  - Timothy Leary, The Politics of Ecstasy

Monster Office
I expanded on the office transformation scene for another sample.

In this scene our human protagonist has severed ties with their monstrous employer. While they have been successful in relocating it has been difficult to keep a job. It seems the magic from the contract has not quite fully rubbed off.

Just cant catch a break.

Five reasons why an Expanded Transformers Cinematic Universe is an awful idea. And five why it's great.

If you’re a Transformers fan, you’ve probably heard that writer/producer Akiva Goldsman will be overseeing the the expansion of a Cinematic Transformers Universe, as Bay takes a bow from the director’s seat. (Supposedly.) This is somewhat of a mixed bag of feelings for me, as I’m not sure what to make of it. There’s good and bad in there, and well… It makes sense. Paramount wants a franchise universe they can rally behind. They want a Marvel Universe. (Especially since they HAD it for a while there.) Sony gets to be friends-with-benefits with Paramount’s old beau, as well as the recently announced Ghostbusters universe, Warner Bros. has the DC universe, along with whatever plans come out of the Harry Potter spinoff books. Fox has Marvel’s X-Men and Fantastic Four, as well as Avatar. Paramount has Mission: Impossible, but that’s still reliant on Tom Cruise, and hoping that M:I5 isn’t another M:I3. They also have the Star Trek franchise… But that last movie underperformed. (Bit of trivia, it’s the only Star Trek movie, other than Insurrection, that I didn’t see in the theater. And at least with that one, it was simply because I never got around to it. But when it came on video, I made sure to see it.) Paramount making a Transformers Cinematic Universe can be an awesome… And an awful thing. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. After all, this is the internet and if we wanna hate (or love), we will. But I wanna go over my thoughts and concerns with the topic at hand.

Let’s start off with the bad, because I’m generally an optimistic person and want to leave off with a positive note.

WHY IT COULD SUCK:

5: It may not change anything.- Okay, let’s get this out of the way. While I enjoyed the movies, I was never under any pretense that they were brilliant pieces of cinema. But a movie studio, the bottom line is how much money does that movie bring in? It doesn’t matter that the movies have a dwindling returns domestically, as they go on. They make a lot of money over seas and that’s all that matters. Age of Extinction was the highest grossing movie of 2014… Beating the far superior ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. There’s no reason for them to believe the movies are flawed at all. In fact, when what they make keeps making more and more money, the logic to take from it is to give more of it. I mean, the second, third and fourth movie was just the first movie… Just more of it. (And good lord, that fourth movie was more of it. Was it ever going to end?) So it’s likely these’ll just be more huge explosions and action movies. There’s no reason for the studio to want anything but more of the same. And it reasons they’ll find directors and writers who’ll feel the same way.

4: Have you see Akiva Goldsman’s track record?- Batman and Robin? That’s his writing. That horrible Will Smith 'I, Robot’ movie? Him again. Writer AND producer of 'Lost in Space’ (which is only notable for knocking Titanic out of the #1 spot for a week or two.) Producer of Jonah Hex, The Losers and some of the bad Paranormal Activity movies. Now he’s also responsible for a lot of good stuff too. He was the producer of Cinderella Man, which was really good. He was also the producer of the fun “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, the really fun (and surprisingly better Superman movie than the actual Superman movie) Hancock, and was one of the people behind making the Fox show Fringe really fun and enjoyable. It’s a mixed bag. It doesn’t make him a hack, but it also means that he’s not the best judge of quality. Sometimes he strikes black gold and sometimes… It’s dark and stinky, but it ain’t oil.

3: It’s a wide universe that’ll be ignored.- It’s hard for non-Transformers fans to believe, but the Transformers Universe is actually one of the largest fictional universes ever made. Not THE largest, but I would be very comfortable placing it lower on a top ten list. Because every one of of those toys has a story behind it. Go to the toy store and find a Transformers toy. (Odds are, it’s probably a Robots in Disguise or Combiner Wars toys.) Grab one at random. Who did you grab? Some guy named Skydive? Well, Skydive is the quiet intellectual of the Aerialbots. He’s the shy nerdy librarian, that the internet would consider adorkable. He’s part of the first Autobot combiner teams, and the sole survivor of the attack by the returned G2 Megatron. He and Slingshot once helped a sexy Middle Eastern prince regain his throne from a giant purple griffin (Hey, it was the 80s, man.) He and the rest of the Aerialbots were also there not just during the start of the Great War, witnessing the birth of Optimus Prime, thanks to time travel. And was also there to witness the revolution of the Cybertronians from the horrible Lovecraftian Quintessons, also thanks to time travel. (Guys get around more than a Time Lord!) And that’s just Skydive! Want me to tell you about Fireflight? What about Powerglide? Bombshell… Ohhh God, Bombshell. I could go on for hours about that buggy bastard! My point is that every single Transformer has a backstory and a history. It may be only implied by a few lines on the back of a card, or it may be in depth and intricate. But every single toy is a character with a past and a story. And there are literally THOUSANDS of them… And NONE of that matters, because you’re gonna get Bumblebee. What you don’t like Bumblebee? Well, have more Bumblebee! Little sick of him? More 'Bee for the fans! It’s like the X-Men movies. There’s a wide variety of X-Men that they could have picked from to tell rich and involving stories from… And we end up having them all focus on Wolverine. We’re only just now, 15 years into the Fox’s handling of the franchise getting a movie that DOESN’T have Wolverine in it. (That we know of.) Kup, Sunstreaker, Ultra Magnus… Who are they? Don’t matter, because to Paramount, Bumblebee and Optimus Prime ARE the franchise. And since they’re special effects and not actors that age and want to quit, they can keep going with them forever.

2. Your favorite stories are about to change.- As an addendum to the last point… Hey, remember Days of Future Past, where it was changed from being a Kitty Pryde story to a Wolverine time travels to the past to team up with a smelly hippie and frees Kennedy’s assassin for some dumb reason, all to save Katniss from killing Tyrion Lannister from making giant robots that he ended up making anyway, all while ignoring the one awesome highlight of the movie that could have solved every problem from the word go? Man, that movie was dumber than I remember. Anyway, how much fun will it be when Last Stand of the Wreckers now star Bumblebee, as opposed to Springer and tells how he lost his voice. Or when they adapt War Dawn, War for Cybertron, and the War Within and mash them all together into one movie that stars just Optimus and Bumblebee? Or when they finally have major characters like Prowl, Rodimus and Windblade show up in the movie, only to die real fast to give our heroes pathos. (If they’re lucky.) The idea behind a cinematic universe is great, when you actually explore it. Star Trek was awesome at this (in the 90s) where they’d make new shows based around new captains and ships and stations. But really, I haven’t see this done in a while. I mentioned all the X-Men movies all focus on Wolverine. The upcoming Star Wars spinoffs are things like a young Han Solo movie or a Yoda movie, as opposed to an Ahsoka Tano or even a movie about Lobot. (Okay, I’D like to see a movie about Lobot.) Even the Marvel movies can’t really seem to get away from the Hydra and the Infinity Gem storyline they got going through their movies. (One of the reasons I’m really looking forward to the Daredevil series to see how they handle that.)

1. A lot of the beloved cast is dead.- When we last checked into the cast in Age of Extinction, let’s see the lineup here. Starscream? Dead. Ratchet? Dead. Lockdown? Dead. The Wreckers? Dead. Ironhide? Dead. Shockwave? Dead. Soundwave? Dead. Devastator? Dead. Cybertron? Dead. (And with it, Primus?) Optimus Prime? Gone. Basically, at this time, on Earth… We only have Bumblebee, Crosshairs, Hound, Drift, a bunch of Dinobots running loose in the Chinese jungles, and Mega/Galvatron running free again. THAT’S IT. Unless the Lost Light or the Steelhaven shows up, there’s not a lot of stories to tell. And to be honest, it doesn’t look like Paramount is too thrilled to tell stories that take place off Earth. So yeah. At present, it doesn’t look too optimistic. But you know what? Let’s take this in the opposite slant now…


WHY IT COULD BE AWESOME:

5. Everyone is dead, we HAVE to develop new characters.- Here’s the thing, because we’ve got a cast of Transformers smaller than most internet review shows, Akiva Goldsman has no choice but to develop new characters and locations. Unless Marky Mark finds Fortress Maximus in another movie theater, that means more Transformers have to come to Earth… Or the movies have to leave Earth. And eventually, (almost) all Transformers universes lead to a certain planet eater. Kinda hard to have that showing up in Chicago, huh? Yeah, Bumblebee will probably still be around… But like Wolverine, other characters can easily steal the show. In First Class and Days of Future Past, Mystique was a lot of people’s favorite part of it. Sure the Avengers movies does seem to focus a lot around Iron Man, despite him having his own movies… But hell, if people don’t love Thor and Cap as well. If they’re looking for movies with new characters, and if they can get over the Bumblebee crutch… There’s a ton of great stories to adapt. Rodimus and the Lost Light, Springer and the Last Stand of the Wreckers, Windblade, the Decepticon Justice Division, the Beast Wars, Minicons, Isaac and Sari Sumdac, and if they can find a way to bring him back… Starscream running around on a reborn Cybertron, in charge and claiming to be the chosen one is pure entertainment. Hell, even telling Megatron’s history with peaceful protests, until Whirl came along… In short, if they can overcome the Camaro-shaped shadow, some really interesting stories can be told.

4. New talent.- Look, whether you like the movies or not, it’s not hard to argue that basically we need a fresh new take on the storyline. Erhen Kruger is not a very good writer, with his only good movie being Arlington Road back in '99. Michael Bay is obviously burnt out. Now’s the time to get some new directors and writers in this. An expanded universe will allow for some wonderful new takes on the series. Get Guillermo Del Toro on a movie, or Brad Bird? How about even having Steven Spielberg himself direct a movie? Or let’s bring some unknowns into this? Who would have thought the director of 'Super’ would have made us feel sympathy and love toward a walking tree that says only three words. Who would have thought the directors of 'You, Me and Depree’ and 'Community’ would have made an amazing Captain America political thriller? I’m sure there’s tons of directors in Hollywood and beyond who’s just dying to have a shot at the Cybertronians. Not to mention, imagine a screenplay written by James Roberts?

3. New directions.- Along with new talent, we can have new directions. Look, regardless of whatever you thought of the movies… They were pretty damn dark. And not for the best. Sometimes, it’s okay to be fun. I appreciated Age of Extinction, because it got to a Michael Mann-level of gallows humor. But that’s me. We can have a more fun and lighthearted movie. We can have a darker tales as well. We can have many different types of stories, if Akiva Goldsman will actually understand that the franchise is more than the four movies. If he’s aware and can appreciate the other facets of the franchise, like the IDW or Marvel comics, the Unicron Trilogy, Animated, Prime and the others… We could have some amazing movies ahead of us. A Cinematic Universe would allow for small cast episodes like that, as well as larger Lord of the Rings quest-like movies too boot. This is a really good thing. You have to have small adventures from time to time, otherwise the large ones just seem silly after a while.

2. Fewer and fewer humans as time goes on.- One thing that becomes apparent in all iterations of the Transformers is that after a while, the writers begin to realize that the Autobots and Decepticons (more on that in a second) can carry a story without the humans around. More than Meets the Eye is almost universally considered one of the best Transformers series ever made, and the only humans that’s ever showed up the holoavatars, during a story where Ultra Magnus got drunk. We all understand why the humans need to be around, to give us the sense of scale and size… But after a while, that scale is no longer needed. We just know. It allows us to focus the story on the characters we want to care about, as opposed to stopping the movie for a few minutes to explain the creepy Romeo and Juliet law, in a movie about alien robots based on a children’s toy.

1: ACTUAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!- This is the big one. One of the frustrating things about the previous movies is that other than Optimus, Bumblebee and Megatron… If you were a Transformer, you might as well not expect any development in characterization at all. What did we know about Ironhide, other than he liked his guns? Or Sideswipe, who might as well been Ironhide in a sexy corvette form. Or the Fallen, other than being a growly Palpatine type. Or even Starscream? Did we ever really get much of his treacherous backstabbery? He’s arguably one of the most iconic villains in history, and we never got to see him once try and back stab Megatron. This is really weak. I applaud Age of Extinction for actually taking the time to develop Hound, Crosshairs and Drift for actually taking the time to give them distinct personalities. (Even though we never got a hint at all of Drift’s former Decepticon past… Well, NOW we can explore that!)

Here’s the thing that all Transformers fans know. The Transformers franchise is more than just an action series. It’s a science fiction series with some really fun, and at times, really intelligent writing behind it. Including some interesting political themes. Ask anyone who reads the IDW comics and get them to explain to you about what it means to be Cold Constructed versus Forged? Or just WHY Megatron created the Decepticons? Ask them about Caminus or the Thirteen Tribes? Ask about Conjunx Endruae or just get them to explain to you why Swerve is awesome and Tarn is scary. Transformers can be brilliant. And I’m not talking as a 30+ year fan of the toy, but as a life long fan of science fiction. We KNOW it’s more than it seems on the surface. (I’m not saying that catchphrase.) And if Akiva Goldsman pays attention to anything beyond the first four movies… He’ll know it too. Or not.

It’s one of those “wait and see” things.

The thought of your child in an intensive care unit is harrowing for any parent. 

The commitment to expand and transform the Children’s Intensive Care Unit at St Mary’s Hospital will vitally guarantee more space to treat more children and support more families.

As someone who was so brilliantly cared for by St Mary’s, I am delighted to support the Children’s Intensive Care Appeal, and commend the important work of all those involved in the project.‘ 

—  The Duchess of Cambridge declaring her support for the expansion of the Intensive Care Unit at St Mary’s, where she gave birth to her children.
The thought of your child in an intensive care unit is harrowing for any parent. The commitment to expand and transform the Children’s Intensive Care Unit at St Mary’s Hospital will vitally guarantee more space to treat more children and support more families. As someone who was so brilliantly cared for by St. Mary’s, I am delighted to support the Children’s Intensive Care Appeal, and commend the important work of all those involved in the project.
—  Duchess of Cambridge supporting St. Mary’s Hospital More Smiles Appeal