Transmorphers (Review)


Directed and Written by Leigh Scott

Transmorphers! Morph than meets the eye! Wait a minute, that’s the theme to Transformers, not Transmophers, another in the long line of “mock”busters from The Asylum. We previously encountered them in the first Dragon Slayers team-up with in the movie Dragon, which was mysteriously named similar to Eragon. In addition to having elements similar to Transformers, Transmorphers borrows from several famous science fiction movies, the most obvious will be The Terminator and The Matrix. We’ll point out the rest as the references happen. Before we can get to the plot, first we must address the disk. Simply put, the Transmorphers DVD shipped with an incomplete movie. Large swaths of the film are out of sound sync, and many effects are incomplete. Guns shoot silently or no lasers exit the end. CGI at times is embarrassingly bad. In fact, the film is so bad that The Asylum went back and completed the film and fixed the sound problems, and any new DVDs are supposed to have the completed film. Well, I’m not about to track down another copy of the film to play Russian roulette to see if I got a corrected version. Transmorphers was filmed under the title Robot Wars, but everyone working on it pretty much knew it was going to get a new title that would sound familiar to a certain big budget film coming out.

Ignoring those major flaws, how is the film? Actually, it is pretty entertaining. Giving the budget constraints and time spent on the film, it was amazing what was produced. Writer/Director Leigh Scott gives a few tidbits of information from his interview on about production for The Asylum and why he won’t be working for them anymore. Scott is known for creating a large bulk of The Asylum’s mockbusters and for going on message boards and arguing with irate watchers of his films. As for now, humanity is driven underground thanks to an invasion of alien robots.

Warren Mitchell (Matt Wolf) –Our main character who was frozen in prison for trying to rebel against the government to try a new tactic against the Zetabots, Mitchell is thawed out in exchange for him participating in a suicide mission. And it really is a suicide mission for him. Matt Wolf was the brave Sir Cador Bain in Dragon. I will try to keep the Mitchell jokes to a minimum. Do you know how many I deleted?
General Van Ryberg (Eliza Swenson) –Leader of the Military Guild, does not want to fight as she knows mankind cannot win at this time. Approves the crazy secret mission to save mankind. Married to Corinna Nadir, and a fan of black eyeliner. Was Freyja in Dragon, who was also played as a robotic monotone woman. I have the feeling this role was written for a man for the longest time.
Corinna Nadir (Amy Weber) – Wife of General Van Ryberg, but also formally involved with Mitchell. Her entire existence in the movie is to try to inject some drama. Amy Weber is probably most famous for being in the WWE Divas competition.
Lux (Shaley Scott) – Female leader of a fighter pilot squadron, who is tough and intense. Likes to blow up robots. Likes to beat up her own troops. Shaley Scott is a regular in Asylum features, but hasn’t appeared on TarsTarkas.NET before.
Itchy (Griff Furst) – Cohort to Mitchell, Itchy was another frozen rebel thawed out to fight the robot threat with the secret mission. Griff Furst was wimpy son James Danner in Boa vs. Python.
McGuire (Jeff Denton) – Runs the radar station in the underground human base that detects incoming Zetabots. He played the incredibly annoying Gareth Morholt in Dragon, but here he thankfully doesn’t have a terrible accent and actually doesn’t say much at all, making him a million times more likeable.
Dr. Bolistav Alextavitch (Michael Tower) – A combo of several crazy scientist characters, he has a robot girlfriend, and looks strongly inspired by Brent Spiner’s Dr. Okun from ID4.
Zetabots (CGI) – Invaders from another world, they come in several forms, from the tiny ZZ Zetas that are biomechanical life forms, to larger Mechs that transmorph into cannons or rocket launchers, to ARPs (the flying attack craft) to even a giant tower-bot. The Zetabots attack Earth because they are jerks, they blot out the sun because they watch bad sci-fi movies, and they even destroy the fabric of sound so no one’s speech matches their lip movements at the correct time. Those metal bastards!

A narrator tells us that in 2009 life was discovered on another planet 20 million light years away. We sent them a message of peace, which also violated the laws of the universe since it somehow went there faster than the speed of light, as they sent a response five years later (it should have taken 20 million years each way!) Their response is not a radio signal, but a bunch of dodecahedrons that crash into Earth like meteors. Watch as Chicago gets nailed by meteors, right through the Sears Tower, even! These dodecahedrons aren’t giant D&D dice, they are giant robots! More than meets the die. Soon, 90% of the population is destroyed, and the robots black out the sun because the sun was blacked out in The Matrix. We get a shot of a Transmorpher/Zetabot stomping around, and then it turns into a cannon thing!

The narrator then shuts up for the rest of the film, despite the fact that right now we need him to explain what the heck is going on. A radar operator in what I guess is the underground human hideout detects machines are crossing the line. Yes. Um. So then a meeting with the Chairman (who is a chairwoman, but never mind) where the Science Guild demands war. The Military Guild wants peace. Obviously we are trapped in Opposite Land! The Military Guild is lead by young female General Van Ryberg, played by Eliza Swenson channeling Seven of Nine. We also find out mankind has been living underground for 100 years now, making it the year 2114 or so. Some of this was figured out after the fact, but a quick narration would have cleared it up fast and easy. It looks like instead of war they will do some sneaky Special Ops mission.

The Special Ops mission is explained to a group of Special Forces, who use lots of terms like “toasters” to try to make us immersed in the world of Transmorphers. Or just sound like those Space Marines from a certain film with aliens mixed with current episodes of Battlestar Galactica. The team is given their orders by a revolving cast of generals, commanders, and doctors, each of which say about two sentences before passing on the baton. It is like in Return of the Jedi where they keep switching admirals. No one who is a fish shows up, but General Van Ryberg is there, along with McGuire, the man in charge of the radar station. The point of the mission is to head to the surface and capture a Zetabot, because they need a fuel cell from a living Zetabot for reasons they won’t explain just yet. The method to capture a Zetabot involves using a hubcap that they tell us is some sort of EMAC device. The mission commander is Blackthorn, and since everyone dies in a few minutes, there isn’t any great need to mention any more of them except one called Bowers who is played by Jessica Bork, who was Damara in Dragon.

Blackthorn mentions the strategy the team will use so he can explain to us, the audience, some things about the Zetabots. They won’t hurt you if you don’t bother them, and there are rumors of brainscans but no evidence. That’s about it, so it is time for the team to go up top. They exit in a Los Angeles storm drain covered in graffiti. This could be filmed in a post-apocalyptic future or just yesterday! They lay the trap by just putting the hubcap a few feet in front of them, and then wait. That’s it. The entire plan. And somehow, they manage to screw it up when someone gets brainscanned and suddenly Zetabots are flying in from all over. When you are brainscanned, you get a bloody nose and have seizures. They try to abort the mission, but Zetabots rise up from the ground in front of them, like Zetabots are just lurking all over the place in case humans appear up top for the first time in 100 years in any possible location. The team finally realizes that it’s a trap (speaking of Admiral Akbar…) A Zetabot gets right next to them and the top half transforms…I mean transmorphs into a cannon and blasts the humans. By now down below in the command center, General Van Ryberg has ordered lists of the people to be promoted next in her office. And, yep, no one comes back from up top. At this point 90% of the film will be out of sound sync, which is far too often to bother mentioning it each time it happens. Just imagine the worst Godzilla dub

After the 15 minutes or so of the false start, the film finally decides to discuss the actual plot/mission with the main character who hasn’t been introduced yet. Right now, General Van Ryberg is arguing with some of her men about one Mitchell. Mitchell! Mitchell is a cool cat, literally, as he’s frozen on ice. For leading a rebellion or something. Anyway, the staff argues and one named Lux is particularly adamant about his defrosting. Newly promoted girl Ursa is also supporting Mitchell. Everyone loves Mitchell. Mitchell lived above ground. Mitchell is ruthless and cold so the Zetabots can’t scan him. Mitchell is a wild card. Finally, General Van Ryberg caves and Mitchell is thawed out.

Mitchell is no longer an ice cube, but when told he is to lead a suicide mission he demands some of his old cronies to help him. They refuse, until Mitchell borrows the speech from Demolition Man about still dreaming while frozen (except he dreams of sunlight) and General Van Ryberg agrees to let him thaw out someone named Itchy. I guess he was named after Chewbacca’s dad from The Star Wars Holiday Special which must have become a big hit when the Zetabots destroyed every other movie on the planet. We also found out that General Van Ryberg married someone that Mitchell was interested in. It’s nice that same sex marriage is finally legal, too bad it takes a robot holocaust to enact it.

Said bride of bride is Corinna Nadir, who promptly visits Mitchell the second he’s free. Sexual tension and stuff, yada yada. Later, Mitchell and Itchy check out the recruits who are supposed to go with them to the surface. They all fail Mitchell’s tests about hitting him except for Ursa (why is a historian going on a covert ops mission?) so they secretly look for replacements. Itchy gets help from a girl named Blair, who is part of a pilot squadron. Some of the audio here isn’t just out of sync, it is completely missing. Dr. Bolistav Alextavitch explains to the whole team the mission, with his assistant Hot Girl in Silver Dress (aka Suzy) standing by his side. The mission is the same, capture a live Zetabot to use the fuel cell, but this team will also do part two, which is break into the Zetabot central database and deposit the infected fuel cell, thereby telling every Zetabot to turn off. The group is joined by Blair and two of her squadmates, one of which is Lux. Corinna Nadir also walks in to sign up, leading to some friction. She ends up getting the departing time, anyway.

The next sequences are supposed to show everyone doing something different before they leave on their suicide mission. Blair and the third squadmate of hers that was never named on camera get in a fight with the rest of their squad, who are already taking their bunks. I’m not complaining, as CHICKFIGHT!!! Commander Lux comes in to break up the fight, and then promptly starts fighting herself. CHICKFIGHT!!! Meanwhile at the bar, the bulk of the team is drinking, and we find out from Dr. Alextavitch that Suzy is an android. He also built one prior android, but doesn’t mention who it is. Who could it be? Also, we get a brief teary farewell between General Van Ryberg and Corinna Nadir, which is notable due to the fact that they are lesbians.

The next morning, it’s off to the surface! Luckily, the get up in the exact right place for a squad of twenty of the smaller Zetabots (termed ZZs) to walk right by them a few seconds later. They attack, and quickly take out 19 of the Zetabots, stunning the last one with some sort of electrical blast. It looks like an amazing win (especially since before people were saying no one had defeated a Zetabot, but I think they meant one of the huge ones) but someone got scanned and the Zetabot reinforcements will be here soon.

Flying reinforcements! Zetabots zoom in on rocket backpacks and start firing. One jumps on Mitchell and transmorphs its hand into a spinning saw, but Mitchell kicks the bot off and blasts it. Mitchell! A giant Zetabot also arrives, the movie calls them Mechs. This Mech transmorphs the top half into a cannon and fires at the humans. I guess having the cannon already sticking out would be too simple. The humans need to escape, and the surgery to try to remove the live fuel cell isn’t over yet. So the team uses glowing Frisbees that explode and blow up Zetas. Blair gets grabbed by a flying ZZ and Corinna chases after her, saying “Leave no one behind!” Not counting the five or so other team members who are dead and lying around alone up top. Corinna finds Blair pretty easily, the Zetabot hadn’t even bothered to kill her. In a sequence missing most of the effects including sound and lasers, Corinna attaches an exploding Frisbee to a rocket pack and flies it into a Mech and destroys it. Instead of going back to the group they decide to stay put since they are next to the tower they are supposed to be invading for part two. They don’t tell anyone they are all right, either, partially because the comm systems are infected by the Zetabots and partially because the plot needed some more tension or something.

The surgery team has finally gotten around to cracking open the ZZ Zetabot, and to their surprise the insides are squishy. Yes, the ZZs are the aliens, not robots sent by aliens. Isn’t it ironic? No, it’s just easily foreseen. More reinforcements are coming, so if they don’t get the operation done now they’ll have to keep saying they should get it done. The doctor who is operating (who we have never seen before) tells the nurse to sneak the Zetabot back to human underground headquarters (aka Zion) as giant robots come stomping in. A Zetabot Mech squashes the tent the group was just in, and everyone runs for the exit except for Lux and Mitchell, who elect to stay behind to cover the retreat.

Something confusing now happens. Lux sees a Mech, and the Mech transforms into a twin rocket launcher, and fires lots of rockets that don’t go anywhere and don’t explode. Then, the Mech is doused in some sort of glitter effect. That’s it, no clue what happened. Darned unfinished effects! Anyway, Lux and Mitchell are saved by human reinforcements.

In the secret underground human base that the Zetabots now know the location of, General Van Ryberg wants to go save her wife, but Mitchell tells her he will go get her, as General Van Ryberg has to lead the defense of Zion. The operation on the Zetabot doesn’t go as planned, and the fuel cell dies. Dr. Alextavitch says they could use an android’s power cell to infect the Zetabot database instead. They can’t use Suzy as she has a different type, but the original android has the original fuel cell type. Have you guessed who it is? Mitchell! Dr. Alextavitch says they made Mitchell too human, he had hope, and thus rebelled. So instead of using one of the spare fuel cells they probably would have lying around if they were building androids from scratch, they will use the one in Mitchell, which will also kill Mitchell when he infects the Zetabots.

Mitchell will be joined in the assault on the tower by Dr. Alextavitch and Suzi (who has become Terminator mode), Itchy, and Ursa. Lux will be leading her all female squad of pilots to blasting the Zetabots with fighters (but first will take the squad to the tower via a cargo container on the bottom of her CGI jet.) It is good humanity developed all these effective flying machines while trapped underground where you can’t really test fly them. Hundreds of Zetabots close in on the base, but aren’t firing their weapons. They are just to prevent escape. Lots of ARVs (the Zeta Fighters that look amazingly like Cylon ships) are seen flying around by Blair and Corinna, who break radio silence to report them. That also lets everyone know they are alive.

As the jets are needed to fight off the Zetabot jets, Lux must drop her cargo. Luckily for the group, the empty cargo container also has four fully fueled hovercycles just off camera that none of the noticed, and they zoom out of the back as Lux flies off to get some bot kills. Shots of the air battle get interspersed periodically through the rest of the film. The hovercycles are chased by a few flyers, but don’t worry as Suzy is pretty adept at shooting them down. Everyone tries to protect Mitchell so he can get in. Lux and her squad engage the enemy ARVs, and the ground forces of the humans are getting whomped, so they are setting off their EMAC defenses, which is some sort of electrical charged that doesn’t seem to do much except add a few new visuals. Also, we must note that there is a General Veers running around somewhere, so that is cool. No sign of Admiral Piett but I’ll keep my eyes open.

Corinna and Blair get attacked as well, because for some reason they decide to not wait undercover anymore. Mitchell flies in to rescue him, but before he does so, Corinna gets blown sky high by a Mech. Mitchell and Blair are sad, but not for long as Corinna is not dead, and the rest of the group (Itchy, Dr. Alextavitch, Suzy, and Ursa) also arrive to help storm the tower where the Zetabot central computer is. The battle with the Zetabots is not going well for the humans, and inside the tower there are Mech guards that are giving the team trouble. Also, the Tower starts transmorphing! But in to what? Megamaid! No, wait, just a giant giant robot that is not a maid. This transmorphing also somehow gets rid of the Mechs inside so they are replaced with an automated gun with biosensors. Since they detect only biological signals, Mitchell must go on alone. Also, Suzy could go, but the script says no. Corinna has some emotional emotions because Mitchell is going to die. Mitchell walks into a room that glows blue, at the same time General Van Ryberg is planning to blast the last of the EMACs at the giant tower-bot, and begins counting down from ten. If you keep counting, there is an extra 15 or so seconds before she’d hit zero, giving Mitchell plenty of time to save the day. And he does, turning off the tower-bot. That also turns off all the other bots, and they all go dead, like in the end of Phantom Menace except the concept is also used in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s The Best of Both Worlds. But it is an homage, not a theft! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Mitchell is not quite dead yet, he manages to crawl out of the blue room, fall down, and dream of Corinna and sky before he dies. Also, the sky in real life instantly clears for no reason at all! That’s some fast weather change. The air force flies overhead launching fireworks, in something swiped from Return of the Jedi but also mysterious as to why they have fireworks despite being underground for 100 years where setting off fireworks in an enclosed space is not a good idea. But humanity is free, Neo is dead, Megatron is defeated, and Mario rescued the Princess.

In conclusion, this was almost as good as the film it was titled after (if you ignore the technical problems.) The mere fact it was entertaining is a bigger surprise than anything else I could expect from the film, and if you see only one film from The Asylum, this one is a good bet to give you the most bang for your rental buck, especially if you get a fixed version. Also, no robot pees on a human here. What other giant live action robot movie from 2007 can promise that? I rest my case. Don’t forget to check out our review of The Transformers as well!

Rated 7/10 (Hubcap of Doom, Light Rain, The Goggles Do Nothing!, Air Troops, Blair, Inside the Android, Where did they get Fireworks?)

Let’s not forget the awesome poster!

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