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two powerful lessons from the transformers movie

i was deeply touched by the recent Transformers movie.

>to listen to a very cool Transformers theme by Mute Math,
see this YouTube video (it will open in a separate window —
start it up,
then come back here to read
with the theme in the background… heh-heh) <

although the cartoon has pretty much faded into my childhood memories, i can find in the corners of my consciousness a fondness for Optimus Prime and his metal compatriots. two quotes stand out in my mind:

Optimus Prime’s deep voice ordering, “autobots, roll out!”
Starscream (appropriately) screaming, “retreat! retreat!”

lesson #1: the sky is no longer the limit

i was walking through an electronics store when i first saw the movie trailer. it stopped me in my tracks.

i caught my breath.
tears came to my eyes.
it was a spiritual experience.

not because i love Transformers so much. i don’t really care about them. it was because of the possibilities that opened up before my inner eyes when i saw those images.

someone had brought a cheesy animated cartoon to life in a way that made them look utterly, completely REAL.

ANYTHING is possible now.

lesson #2: the secret to entertaining a wider audience

the second time i watched Transformers, i realized what a clever thing they’d done with the presentation of the story.

they had three major interlocking, overlapping plotlines, and each appealed to a different segment of movie-goers:

  • the war story, with the brave soldiers
  • the teen romance story, with the geeky boy and hot chick
  • the hackers story, with sci-fi robots and the unlikely alliance between hackers and the government

isn’t that brilliant?
macho guys watch the movie and like the soldiers and big robots.
chicks watch the movie and love the romance.
teens watch the movie and relate to the main characters.

there’s the “cool car” element, the awkward family moments, the hilarious “sector seven” idiot agents mocking all things MiB/X-files/secret government agencies. the Spanish-speaking soldier spoke to the cultural divides in America. even a silly little Taco Bell dog for pet lovers.

in some ways, the handling and timing of all these elements muddied the story, but their inclusion touched a wider audience.

want your story to have wider appeal? choose your main viewpoint characters and main plotlines with thought towards major demographics.

just make sure you still love the story you’re telling. if you’re bored or not into some of your characters, it will probably show. create characters you care about, just stretch yourself and create ones outside your own usual characteristics (age, occupation, personality).

i love this about a lot of Japanese manga, too. they have so many characters, you gotta relate to someone in them!

your turn

so what did you notice in this movie? any lessons learned?

even if you weren’t watching it to learn anything,
think about what you really liked.
why did it appeal to you?
think about parts that bugged you.
how did they miss the mark?

comments, please!

bonus: my fav quotes

“it’s like a super-advanced robot… it’s definitely Japanese.”

“he’s not a rodent, he’s a chihuahua.”

ironhide: “the parents are very irritating. can I take them out?”
optimus: “you know we don’t harm humans.”

re: the Nokia phone turned decepticon:
“the itty bitty energizer bunny from hell…”

fellow prisoner: “what’d they get you for?”
sam: “i bought a car. it turned out to be an alien robot. who knew?”

ahhh… classic!

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