Monday, July 25, 2005

Other Voices

The Transformers message board I most often visit practically exploded after the interview with one of the producers of the upcoming Transformers movie in which, asked about whether the voice actors from the 20-year-old Transformers cartoon would reprise their roles, had this to say:
"No, I don't believe that is going to happen, I don't know why you would want the original voice over actors."
Many Transformers fans took this remark as an insult, and have begun a bitter debate on the message board (no doubt echoed elsewhere on the web) about how, if Peter Cullen and Frank Welker (Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively) aren't doing their character voices, these fans won't go see the movie. Moreover, they insist that, as fans who have (in some cases) supported the Transformers franchise over the entirety of its 20+ year history, they are entitled to have the actors they remember from their childhood play these parts again in the upcoming movie. These are, they insist, the definitive voices, and to use anyone else would fail to capture the characters they've grown to love.

To borrow a response from William Shatner's famous SNL sketch: "Get a life!"

To paraphrase a response from another Transformers fan, nearly a year ago (when the first news of a proposed Transformers movie came out): "It's not being made for you."

Seriously. It's not. While long-time fans of the Transformers are, at least in part, responsible for keeping the franchise alive for so many years, the producers of this movie would be idiots to listen to half of what the fan base wants. If they did so, they'd possibly create a movie that Transformers fans would love, but they'd alienate the vast majority of people out there who may remember Transformers from when they were kids, but haven't followed up on the franchise much since then.

And to be fair, the producers of the new movie have been extremely open to listening to fan comments. Transformers fans will not be forgotten when this movie is made. But movie producers generally have a better idea of what will make a good movie than Transformers fans do, and they're generally smart enough to know when to go with what will work, and drop the ideas that simply aren't practical.

That's not to say that I expect the producers to make all the "right" decisions. However, I am reminded of when Tim Burton directed his first Batman movie so many years ago. A lot of fans were furious that Adam West (Batman from the 60's TV series) wasn't even being considered for the role. (West himself declined to do a cameo, he was so upset.) The casting of Michael Keaton, previously known best for such comedies as Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom, did little to assuage fan fears. As it turned out, Keaton was perfectly capable of taking the role into the darker realms that had already started to become (to some fans, admittedly not the same ones rooting for West, I expect) the expected norm for all Batman franchises to follow.

Let's give the producers a chance to explore their vision of what the Transformers should become. If they hold open auditions, who's to say whether Cullen and Welker might even prove able to do exactly what they're looking for? But there's no reason we should expect this. For all the support we've given the Transformers franchise over the past 20 years, we have no right to dictate to movie professionals how they should make movies.

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