5 Classic Toys Way More Movie-Worthy Than Transformers
Have you noticed that we live in a world where the crappiest of board games get their own movies, but your own favorite childhood toys and games remain tragically unfilmed? I sure have, and, to be honest, it's bullshit. So, in my ongoing campaign to improve the general quality of pop culture-based movies, we're going to take a look at some of the toy franchises that, for whatever reason, never got the credit they deserve, yet could rule the box office with an iron fist, if treated right.
BULLSHIT, I tell you!
Let's get the cringing out of the way first: The M.A.S.K. toy line depicts the epic battle between a special forces unit called -- brace yourself -- Mobile Armored Strike Kommand (I'm saying it again because, really? Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) and a Cobra knockoff called V.E.N.O.M., which stands for Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem because everyone in the organization is 8 years old. So, you know, on paper, this is not the coolest concept in the world.
Luckily, the fact that every character has a vehicle that can transform into combat mode was more than enough to distract kids back then from the unfortunate naming choices. All figures also came with a neat plastic helmet that did nothing, but the tie-in comics told us the characters had various superpowers (such as telekinesis or murder beams), which, at the time, was all our imaginations needed.
Also, motherfucking Hurricane.
Give a kid a flame-covered classic car that transforms into
a land attack vehicle, and witness true happiness.
M.A.S.K. was popular enough to get the obligatory crappy cartoon and a couple of C64 games, but, ultimately, it got more or less curb-stomped by the toy lines you have actually heard of -- a not-too-surprising fate for a toy line that found itself competing with both G.I. Joe and Transformers. Still, that's not to say M.A.S.K. doesn't have plenty of movie potential. In fact, I would argue that the franchise could mop the floor with those competitors, at least in terms of pure quality entertainment.
While the Joes are basically generic action movie characters and Transformers have been thoroughly Michael Bay'd, a series of folks with super powerful masks, riding cars that can transform into awesome things without running the risk of slapping the audience in the face with a pair of giant robot balls has all the makings of a massively awesome popcorn flick. Imagine the production value and general plot of the Fast and Furious franchise, only this time everyone has a face hat that can shoot laser tentacles and flames, and their super cool cars can turn into cannons. Can you? Of course you can, and it's awesome.
As befits a franchise with a logo that looks like this.
I'm not the only person thinking so, either. In fact, certain rumors indicate that the people in charge of the G.I. Joe movie franchise have realized the same thing, and the inevitable G.I. Joe 3 might actually revolve around M.A.S.K..
As a kid, I wouldn't even have considered the little known BraveStarr for a list like this -- in fact, had I written this column but a week earlier, I would probably have replaced this entry with a SpongeBob SquarePants-themed take on MadBalls or something. I remember hating the whole line with the kind of childish vigor 8-year-old boys usually reserve for loathing Barbie -- though, I can't for the life of me remember why. Maybe it was the Wild West sci-fi setting or the accompanying cartoon that chose to give the titular character powers roughly on par with Superman (a character I always found extremely boring for obvious reasons). Or, perhaps it was that fucking horse that was supposed to transform into a humanoid but just ended up looking like a horse balancing on two legs.
Yeah, guy. You'll pass as a person.
The BraveStarr universe is basically a Wild West-themed mining planet with some super-valuable ore, of which a number of equally desperado-themed, super-powered Space Bandits want a piece of. Marshal BraveStarr is tasked with keeping peace in this godforsaken place, armed with a bunch of vaguely racist totem-themed powers, a couple of trusty friends, and fucking Balancin' Binky up there. Granted, it's kooky as fuck and pretty damn cliche. However, weird animal powers notwithstanding, as a liberally western-themed space opera with weird and colorful alien characters, it's also pretty much a thematic cross of Guardians of the Galaxy and Firefly.
The more I imagine an unholy union between those beloved franchises, the more I want to see it happen -- and, since an actual crossover seems unlikely to say the least, I think BraveStarr: the Movie might at least be able to capture its spirit. It's not even that far-fetched of an idea: If you look at the figures in the toy line (and the various non-toy characters in the accompanying cartoon), it's basically a movie cast already. You have a hero, a comedy sidekick deputy, a romantic interest, a villainous counterpart called Tex Hex (take a wild fucking guess what his powers are and what he looks like), and a pretty neat rogues gallery. Any solid director with, say, some Marvel chops under their belt should be able to turn that cast and setting into two hours of awesome -- no problem. Even that damn horse thing can probably be a Jayne or a Groot.
Though its cartoon version seems to be keen on pulling a Rocket Raccoon.
Dino-Riders. Dino-Riders. Dino. Riders.
A toy line composed entirely of people and aliens riding armed-to-the-teeth dinosaurs and fighting each other? Nah, can't see any movie potential here.
Unless you count freaking everything.
The Dino-Riders toy line was introduced to the unwary world in 1988, and I have never understood how it hasn't dominated our collective consciousness ever since. As far as the 10-year-old me was concerned, human culture fucking peaked when I first saw a toy store shelf full of armed-to-the-teeth dinosaurs. Yet, for whatever reason, the franchise lasted only a couple of years before whittling away in 1990. Maybe they were absurdly expensive or coated in every noxious substance known to man, or maybe the same parents who didn't have problem buying their kids bodybuilder figures with pageboy hair and fur underwear somehow deemed Diplodocus tanks questionable. Gun Dinos are no more, and the world is a slightly worse place for this.
So, why not bring them back, Hollywood? Don't you dare tell me an army of weaponized combat-saurs shooting each other in the face is not a concept that wouldn't draw a decent audience. My personal suggestion to direct this thing would be James Cameron (because say what you want about Avatar, the man can create weird sci-fi settings like a boss) or Steven Spielberg (because duh), but really, pretty much anyone that isn't Uwe Boll would do.
After BloodRayne, it has been OK to tackle this man if he even
attempts to watch a movie with any sort of special effects.
The only truly adamant opinion I have is that Chris Pratt should probably be involved. A man who is a) a veteran of a box office smash hit that features talking raccoons and b) already pretty much a dino-rider should feel right at home in a scene where frog-faced monsters shoot laser cannons at him while he is atop a rabid Tyrannosaurus rex.
And while we're on the subject of high-tech dinosaurs ...
Related: No, We Didn't Just Find Dino DNA
In all honesty, I was never a massive toy buff when I was a kid. I mean, I did have my share of G.I. Joes, Transformers, LEGO and whatnot, and thoroughly enjoyed playing with them. But, my most vivid childhood memories re: toys tend to involve wandering in huge toy stores, just looking at different toy lines and reading the individual action figures' weird-ass descriptions. I liked to imagine stories for these hundreds of toys I would probably never have, and none of the toy lines was more enticing in this respect than Zoids.
Zoids are basically a bunch of giant robot dinosaurs (and tigers, wolves, etc.). There are blue ones, led by a huge-ass T. rex/Godzilla hybrid called Zoidzilla (or Gojulas in Japan), and red ones operating under some sad winged thing that I guess is called Krark. But, I don't really care because when you're planning to fight a giant, mechanized laser Godzilla, there's no point in bothering to memorize your name. And, of course, the red and blue team fight with each other because, in most toy universes, that's what you do when they spot someone with a different color scheme (which, in retrospect, is a pretty horrible message).
Shockingly, this is not the face of tolerance.
As actual, physical toys, Zoids represented the ever-popular genre of big-ass, cool-looking toys that were almost impossible to play with because they did jack shit apart from some clumsy battery-powered tumbling around. As a concept, they were something else entirely. As all things even marginally featuring giant robots, the toy line has seen its anime adaptations, featuring the obligatory confusing plot and a largely different set of robo-monsters from the ones I remember. However, there is potential for grander stages.
As much as it pains me to suggest it, let's take a moment to consider the Transformers: Age of Extinction. What was the coolest part (OK, the only cool part) of the movie? That's right, Dinobots. Even Michael Bay can't fuck up robot dinosaurs. Now, take that concept and hand it to a proven "big things beating the shit out of other big things" director like, say, Guillermo del Toro, and watch him go nuts. Shit, he can even call it Pacific Rim 2 or whatever if he likes, I don't give a damn. Just give me my fix of giant robo-dinosaurs fighting mechanical mammoths and laser stegosaurs. That's really not asking too much out of life.
Yes, you read that right. I'm talking about those GoBots. Although technically older than their more famous kin, GoBots were never more than knockoff Transformers, thanks to their lazy design that left them looking like someone had hacked their transformation process and rigged it unable to progress beyond "just prop that car upright and give it a face." They were no one's favorite toy, including mine; in fact, Kid Pauli was introduced to the concept of bitter disappointment with the GoBot figure that the box claimed answered the name "Sky Gun," but collector sites tell me its true name is the far more apt "Wrong Way."
Fuck you beyond all repair, rotor dick.
Yet, despite the "hey, I know he wanted Optimus Prime, but that other thing looks just the same and is way cheaper" nature of this stupid damn franchise, I find myself yearning for a GoBots movie. Why, you ask? Why this madness?
Because apart from the occasional Pacific Rim, the giant robot genre is so irrevocably fucked that we might as well green-light this shit, too. Also, a GoBots movie might actually wind up pretty excellent, specifically because of the horrible street cred the Transformers franchise has given huge robots. Imagine superhero movies had never exploded the way they did, quality wise, and, instead, some douche with a penchant for explosions had been force-feeding us with awful (but commercially successful) sequels for Shaquille O'Neal's Steel for the last decade. How cool would a genre deconstruction movie like, say, Mystery Men or Kick-Ass seem at that point -- especially as it would be a good movie in its own right. (Screw you, Mystery Men is awesome, and I won't hear a word against it.) That's the situation now with Transformers, and I think GoBots are just the ticket to slap the genre a step closer toward quality, even if it involves a cast of smirking blue poop rocks and pistol-bots with handle dicks.
Pictured: a robot that sure as shit won't be voiced by Peter Cullen.
The world's retinas have been hate-fucked by "serious" movies about transforming giant robots for the better part of a decade -- by now, we should be more than ready for a deconstruction and/or gentle parody take on the subject. So get Matthew Vaughn on the phone and go all Kick-Ass and/or Kingsman: The Secret Service up that shit. I guaran-damn-tee that it won't be worse than whatever bullshit the next Transformers movie is going to throw at us.
And hey -- if the inevitable huge-ass budget proves to be a problem, this wouldn't necessarily need to be a super expensive film. In fact, Cracked already has a script sample for a budget version of GoBots: The Movie, courtesy of our own Chris Bucholz circa 2009.
For more from Pauli, check out 9 Recipes From the Saddest Cookbook Ever (Tested) and 5 Painful Things Everyone Needs to Realize About Themselves.
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