This post is part of the It Came From The Bargain Bin series.

Prior entries in this series have exclusively dwelt in the 20th century, when the likes of Roger Corman or the Canon Group were at the peak of their schlock making powers. Chuck Norris, Edgar Allan Poe, American Ninjas or a myriad of monstrous or alien bikini girls, these films flooded drive-in theatres and VHS rental stores for several decades. Well, for all the advances in technology, as well as the many changes in advertising, distribution and straight up common knowledge of filmmaking, one company seems dead set to keep B movies alive and kicking: The Asylum.

Birthed in the late 90s by ex-Village Roadshow execs, The Asylum befits its sombre name in its extensive catalogue of ‘mockbusters’, loud and proud rip-offs of some of the biggest films of the moment (I Am Legend? They’ve got I Am Omega. Emmerich’s 2012? They made 2012: Ice Age. Even an Oscar contender like Flight? Well, try Flight World War II.) Produced in tight four-month schedules, covering pre to post-production, the Asylum have achieved a modern infamy for their low-quality product that puts even the worst excesses of Hollywood to shame.  And how oddly fitting, as who better to try and make a quick buck off of the king of cinematic quick bucks, Michael Bay and his Transformers films?

It Came From The Bargain Bin: Transmorphers (2007)

The plot, what there is, amounts to a smushing together of Transformers, Terminator and any generic alien invasion narrative in cinema history. A bunch of evil robots, dubbed the Z-Bots, come to Earth in the then-future of 2009, wreck stuff, and 300 years later, a small group of soldiers must stop them after reviving some veterans from cryogenic sleep to help out.

Horrendous is more than descriptive enough of everything here, but then this wouldn’t be much of a review if I just stopped there. It’s the like the worst Banana Split you’ve ever had: no matter where you attack, you’ll still end up with something stale or putrid. Well, the acting is really poor uniformly, with everyone just being butch resistance fighters with few things to really differentiate them save for gender and who was frozen. The closest to being the best, at least by Asylum standards, is Matthew Wolf as the revived Warren, who gets something very, very vaguely resembling a character arc concerning his values and past disgraces, but it’s about as half baked and derivative as everything else, and not emotional in any way.

It Came From The Bargain Bin: Transmorphers (2007)

Of course, the performances pale when compared to the production values. As is the Asylum’s calling card, they are beyond amateur, with dull underground sets and Playstation 2-worthy CGI for the Z-Bots that are poorly superimposed onto the car parks-err, I mean, ‘post-apocalyptic wastelands’ when it comes time for the team to fight. Of course, the absence of any sense of shot composition or ambience just makes the cheapness even more obvious, not to mention visually monotonous. The score (by no less than two composers and a rock band called The Divine Madness) is completely rote and unmemorable, and the sound mixing is inexcusably lax, with very clear differences in levels that were not adequately matched up in post (there is no hyperbole when I say I’ve seen better first year student films with better post-production than this).

The story stinks of first draft, loaded with rambling scenes, bland dialogue and poorly realised characters with little identity. Everything is exposition and, surprise surprise, that means the movie is more interested in tedious talking than the robot action you were probably sold on. We probably spend longer on describing the Z-Bots and what they’ve done than the actual screen time they get, poorly rendered though they may be. Do you want to know how lazy this production gets? According to the DVD’s own behind the scenes, one of the female characters was originally male, and they didn’t bother to change the script to alter the relationship with another female character. You know, if you’re going to do cheap fanservice, at least deliver on it, but you don’t even get that!

It Came From The Bargain Bin: Transmorphers (2007)

This is the textbook definition of how cutting corners off the corners leads to compromised results. If you can’t afford big spectacle or don’t have the talent onboard to stretch what you do have like say, Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson could in their early days, don’t do it. If short films usually can’t be made within four months, at least not normally or very well, then how on Earth could anyone think that a feature film with action and special effects was going to work in that same time frame?

Simply put, Transmorphers is pants. It’s slow, it’s stupid and it’s incredibly boring. Everything is so tacky and lazy yet so self-serious that you can’t even laugh at it in that quintessential ‘so bad it’s good’ way that is the hallmark of B and Z movies. It doesn’t have enough quirkiness or oddball imagination to merit respect for trying and failing, nor is it technically accomplished enough to be admired from a filmmaker’s perspective. It’s just dull, and a complete waste of time.

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