BitDepth 590 - August 21

Transformers turns a television show and line of toys into a profitable movie. Why doesn't it turn me on?
Transforming TV into movies

On a highway with burning cars and flying debris, Decepticons battle to the dent with Autobots. Why don't I care more about this?

The mining of old television series to create movies is inspired by a very cynical understanding of demographics. As a critical mass of the population reaches a particular age, they yearn for the episodic pleasures of their youth and the most profitable way to satisfy that lost passion is to make a movie out of it.
So over the last fifteen years or so, there has been a growing flood of old television shows turned into big budget films with varying levels of success.

What's proved interesting for me this "summer" is the realisation that this vaguely necrophiliac unearthing of material has moved on from the television that I'm familiar with. The big movie of the last month or so is Transformers, based on a series of Hasbro toys and a Japanimation cartoon series of the 1980's. While I viewed it with some bemusement, it wasn't a show that I had followed and it had absolutely no resonance for me.
I was, in marketingspeak, outside the demographic.

Decepticons, hit them repeatedly!
This isn't to say that the film fails to be entertaining. It's a Michael Bay flick, so there is no shortage of explosions, saturated colour and carefully orchestrated violence. The introduction of Megan Fox, whose turn onscreen bathed in golden light as she leans over the engine of the hero's rickety old car is a very special effect on its own.

Left unmoved by the various bits of Decepticon and Autobot growling and the orgy of transforming metal, and finding myself only moderately intrigued by the digital magic that allowed the bots to rollerskate on a highway and perform midair kung fu rolls, I was forced to conclude that this is probably the way my nieces and nephews feel about Thunderbirds and Mission Impossible.
Sometimes, the original idea is strong enough to make the jump to the big screen, leaving considerations of the earlier incarnation behind.

Batman, for instance, was a creation by Bob Kane in the 1930's which became a popular television show in the 1960's. That version of DC's tortured hero had little to do with the seminal idea of the character, which Tim Burton successfully referenced in two films before Joel Shumacher nippled the character to an early death. 
Christopher Nolan's reinvigoration of the franchise in 2005 succeeded by reaching into the past, via Frank Miller's Batman Year One, a contemporary retelling of Kane's story. Nolan successfully reconnected with the original notion of a vengeful, possibly psychotic rich child that was a cornerstone of the best incarnations of the character.

Stop making sense
At other times, everything is lost in the translation. The Tracys as flesh and blood human beings simply looked nutty spending their fortune on rescue gear and stashing it on a private tropical island to better risk their lives rocketing around in massive metal behemoths called Thunderbirds.
The failure of that film means an end, at least temporarily, to the possibility of mining Gerry Anderson's vast treasure trove of creations. That means no Captain Scarlet and no Supercar, which, I have to assure you, is as agonising to me as the long wait for a live-action Transformers has been to its own fans.

Some films are so utterly reengineered to make them relevant to new, more sophisticated audiences that they become unrecognisable. The big hair thrill of Charlie's Angels on television bore little resemblance to the savagely witty movie and its sequel, and the three Mission Impossible movies are dedicated to a premise that was rarely part of the original television series; the mission gone wrong.

The Avengers, in 1998, floundered bereft of the essential teenage thrill of Diana Rigg in tight black leather and ended up just being Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes lounging around having tea and trading elaborately scripted bon mots.
In the context of all this, I ponder with some concern the upcoming film version of one of my favorite television shows, Get Smart. The spy spoof was created by two of the most deviously funny comic minds ever to be unleashed on midstream television, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, but the comedy was inextricably linked to its time.

Steve Carrell seems a good fit for the earnest bumbling of Agent 86, but what possible parallel can we find in 2007 for the deranged inventiveness of the Cone of Silence, the Shoe Phone and Hymie, the spy robot who could? Would you believe...nothing?
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