In case you’re a neophyte to this website and its redundant obsessions, 2009 saw the release of the hysterically divisive toy movie Revenge of the Fallen. To be kind, I reference this beloved turkey a lot. So often, in fact, that I’ve tried in recent months to avoid referencing it, to keep from wearing it out.
I bring it up almost as frequently as I do my time in jail. It even showed on the giant TV in stir- and the other inmates had seen it so many times they were sick of it. It was like hanging out with a hundred friends in a warehouse, bickering over what to watch.
Anyway, I’m gonna discuss Revenge of the Fallen as though you’re relatively familiar with it. It’s easier at this point to have seen the film than to have not.
There’s this little Decepticon drone, a doctor, named Scalpel. He gets the funniest lines in the entire movie, not long after major events happen. First, he and a squad of Constructicons encounter the dead body of leader Megatron, in the second-deepest part of the ocean. Scalpel inspects the corpse, and declares:
“Need parts. KILL ZE LITTLE ONE!”
Immediately the Constructicons turn on one of their group, who appears to be twice their size, and rip him to pieces. Constructicons are ruthless.
Scalpel touches Megatron with the magical doo-dad fragment, and he springs to life, now augmented by unwillingly donated parts. He bursts out of the ocean, transforms, and flies directly to a moon of Saturn, where the Fallen is recuperating and talks like Candyman. This is awesome.
Also awesome is the “Forest Fight”, which comes not long afterward, and oh hell I’ll just link to it. Even people who hate it are impressed by it.
Call the movie stupid, insulting to your intelligence, whatever. That scene is hot shit, as are several others. I’ve watched it a hundred times and it just blows my mind that it even happened. This is my handicap; I simply cannot shut up about these movies, and I’d be a fool if I didn’t at least try to be productive with it.
Scalpel gets his final scene just prior to the “Forest Fight”, when Megatron uses him to interrogate Shia LeBeouf. There’s a bad cut that undermines the tension of the scene (perhaps intentionally, as it’s technically a depiction of torture), that goes from a panicked Megan Fox with tears streaming down her face, to Shia with crossed eyes and a metal thing stuck up his nose.
Shia spits and dribbles, but not as much as in Dark of the Moon. Again, to be nice about a dumb movie I love, someone should’ve taken LeBeouf aside and told him about process and aesthetic distance. Don’t blame the script; how much did you care about scripting in Romero’s zombie movies? Almost everything in those films is down to how well the cast can pretend, on camera. (Think about the original Star Trek show, and how the actors would portray inertia.) Shia starts screaming and frothing way too quickly. It can pull you out of the movie if you let it, and it’s convenient ammo for haters.
Now, the enabler in me will also tell you that LeBeouf’s character of Sam Witwicky was directed to act like “Marty McFly on crack” (ugh), which he definitely does. Plus, in every Michael Bay Transformers, someone screams something three times. It was “LEFT CHEEK!” in the first one, and Sam’s “WHOOOOAAAAA!!!” in the third. That’s technically a running bit. I can validate just about anything in context. I’m a fucking fantasy writer, I mean, come on. Use your head.
I apologize, I’m off-topic as usual. Back to Scalpel.
Sam Witwicky has the MacGuffin inside his mind, and Megatron wants it. Robots have a very cavalier attitude about human anatomy; they think it’s plug-and-play. After molesting Sam’s sinus, Dr. Scalpel makes a command decision. It’s his best dialogue, and it’s a great tension breaker.
“VE MUST HAVE ZE BRAIN ON ZE TABLE! CHOP-CHOP!”
While Sam gibbers in protest, Scalpel produces a rotary saw, and he’s about to give Sam’s head a sunroof when Optimus Prime drops in from above to save the day.
Scalpel’s voice, like many voices in the Transformers movies, is referential to popular culture; I have no doubt that he’s a vague allusion to Peter Sellers as Doctor Strangelove.
It’s a sadistic Teuton accent, in a pitch like Michu. Germans do not become offended when you mimic or mock their accent. They literally do not care. You can’t even make them care, and Russians are the same way. Thus, Scalpel’s voice was a safer bet than, say, Skids and Mudflap’s.
The key to the comic German accent is “ze”, in place of “the”. It sounds natural because of the way Germans ask if you can speak their language:
Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
That “Sie” in the middle is spoken like “ze”. It’s one of my favorite accents, due to how sinister it can make the most mundane things sound. Technically, it’s a stereotype; it just doesn’t get criticized as one, because like I said; the Germans don’t care. They have no earthly idea how hilariously ominous their speaking voices come across.
I could go on all day about my fondness for the Germans, but my thrust is thus: “ze” is the hinge-pin of a good German accent. The z is the key. Consider Sgt. Schultz, from TV’s Hogan’s Heroes. What was it he knew again?
In some corners, “ze” is being pushed as a “gender-neutral pronoun”. It’s even been used in Transformers, briefly in recent comics (which, if I’m being honest, are the best TF comics published thus far, with awards to back it up). I’d previously seen “xe”, and “xir”, and similar science-fiction-looking labels, for analogous political agendas.
When I was growing up, something of neutral gender was an “it”. This is reflected in a character I created for Drop Dead in 1993; the utterly alienated “Non-Human”, who flatly refused to be classified by race or sex, and in fact concealed them for this purpose. Non-Human did this as a protest of society’s gender prejudices. I know Non-Human quite well, and I can tell you without question, you refer to Non-Human as “it”. Or, you don’t get to talk with Non-Human.
Some of you didn’t have a mom and a dad, or you had two of one. This is normal, but it’s also not the norm. Consider the size of populations in China and Africa, and their attitudes towards gender (which vary by region). Campaigning for a new pronoun means that all those people have to get the memo and mark it as read. In terms of effort versus results, it’s like putting a rubber on one of the Statue of Liberty’s spikes to keep teenage girls from getting pregnant.
It’s a long way to go to avoid saying “it”. Look, if something isn’t a boy or a girl, odds are it’s gonna be called an “it”, and not out of meanness. Some people freak out if you refer to them as a “thing”, for Pete’s sake. We are all living things. Chill the fuck out.
Or, just blame ze Germans.