The Root Beer Wars raging on in the world of video gamers

Everyone is familiar with the phrase the cola wars. It referred to the increased competition between Pepsi Co. and Coca-Cola Inc. in their pursuit to utilize the media to win over the largest loyal customer base to their respective drinks. But what about the Root Beer Wars? I guess it doesn’t sound as cool as Cola Wars for some reason.

Let me indulge in a trip down memory lane. The year was sometime in the very late 1980’s. Society was well dominated by the new video game culture. At the time home video games were starting to come into their own while the video arcade remained the dominant place a young gamer would go to experience the wonders of the new technology.

I was one such gamer. My dad took me into a bar he frequented to get a snack. It was a plate of curly fries and a cheeseburger. He ordered me a glass of root beer and I sat at the table, which was a cocktail table playing Ms. Pac-Man. My earliest memory of video games was born, married to the memory of drinking a root beer soda and eating junk food. As I grew up the three activities remained intertwined in a surely unhealthy habit I should probably reconsider. Nonetheless it stirred something up. You see at the time, and even to this day, I remained indifferent to the taste of root beer. As a classic, or even iconic American drink I savor the soda in all it’s splendor, true. But there is a part of me which prefers the tangier twinge of the citrus flavored sodas. In fact I distinctly remember asking my dad at the bar for my favored drink, at the time, a Squirt. It was to my dismay the bartender told us he didn’t offer the drink leaving me with the root beer to sip on.

Over the years I have explored the three primary flavors of root beer. This is not to say anything of the creme soda or even more rare birch beer, but let’s focus entirely on the three big ones. In our house hold it became almost a cultural divide, a rallying cry. My sister one preferred Barqs and it’s alleged “bite.” Yet another sister enjoyed the bubbles of the Mug root beer. I myself came to prefer the smooth, rich taste of the only true root beer that matters, the classic A&W. Yet this war raged on.

My parents were also indifferent. In the cola wars they took a firm side. Dad it was Diet Pepsi, mom it was Dr. Pepper. My preferred soda of course was Squirt until it became harder to find and I switched to the more common alternative, Mountain Dew. Still we each had our own preference. The problem was my parents weren’t about to buy 6 different containers of soda, for that was the number of individuals living in our childhood household. I had to share in the soda drinking with my three sisters. Often they would get 2 12 packs at a time. It was whatever my dad liked and the kids had to agree on one. Since we couldn’t all agree, I preferred citrus drinks, one sister Colas and another Dr. Pepper, they some how forced us to drink root beer instead. It was the way of many parents. Often times we got stuck with the generic, usually Shasta sometimes the store brand. But one occasion they would let us pick the name brand, usually birthday parties or other celebrations.

Thus we were forced with another conundrum. We couldn’t get the soda flavor of our choice so it was a root beer, the issue came down again to which one. I championed for A&W on the grounds that if we were forced to drink a root beer it might as well be a good tasting one. My sisters disagreed. The one who liked Barqs made the case the commercials said it had bite and it was therefore better. The baby sister, who let me assure you did in fact always get her way, liked Mug, so guess which soda we drank. Oh if you had to guess anything other than Mug you would be as wrong as you could be.

It was always a similar show at the restaurant. The glorious family outing was a rare sight. Usually it was once every two weeks and always on our way to the bi-monthly shopping. It never mattered which restaurant we went, each kid had to harass the waitress for the entire list of soda choices every single time. First was my older sister. She usually settled on a cola or a tea. My mom Dr. Pepper or whichever alternative they offered that was closest. My younger sister picked Pepsi if available but would go down her list of what was acceptable should Pepsi not be offered. She refused to drink Coca-Cola unless it was offered in a Cherry Coke. My baby sister it was root beer, she mysteriously wasn’t as picky when it came to restaurants as she was at home. I always pointed out she drank A&W at the restaurant why force us to drink the nasty Mug at home. Oh it was surely to spite me there is no doubt there.

I was the worse. I was completely indecisive. First up, do you have Mountain Dew. If yes, do you have the cherry mix you can add to it? If no bring me a Mountain Dew. If the answer to the first was no, we entered a Sheldon Cooper style process of elimination.

Waitress would respond, no but we have Sprite. I would scoff at her it’s not the same. What else do you have. If they had root beer I asked is it A&W, if the answer was no I skipped. I had to go down to the cola. If they were offering Coke and there was nothing else acceptable I’d get a coke. Acceptable was Squirt, Fresca or Surge. If none of those were available I asked if they had an orange soda. If that was no available and it came down to coke or root beer I asked A&W. If it was a no, I would then settle for coke. My parents always snapped just get a coke you always get a coke. I responded but I hate coke. I would like to hear the options in case they did offer something I would prefer over coke. Some places did just that which forced me to reconsider the options. Cherry soda, but not cherry Mountain Dew was out. But if they offered cherry flavor I could settle for a cherry mix added to Sprite, or in rare cases 7up.

I have strayed too far from the topic at hand. The root beer issue became easier when we went to a gas station and were allowed the opportunity to purchase our own individual bottle of soda. Aw yes those were the best of times indeed. Sadly for my parents the restaurant issue played out again. I had my favorite drink. If it was available great grabbed it I did and we were on our merry way. If not I went through each and every single row until I found the closest to what my taste buds were craving. Sometimes I would get an urge for a drink I hadn’t had in a while. Maybe it was an Hawaiian Punch, or a Orange Crush. Sometimes it would be something off the wall like a Yoo-hoo! or even those rare times I found a Squirt. I wish I could say I have grown up and now I grab what is there, but to this day the cycle continues. Just this very morning I found myself at a station sold out of the drinks, in order, until I had to settle for one I have come to terms with but still isn’t my preferred.

Now when I do get a craving for a root beer I insist on buying an A&W in whichever form it is sold. Often it’s the 2 liter bottle. Sometimes it is the 12 pack. Very rare instances I will grab it in the 20 oz. Somethings never change. For me, the more flavors of soda they offer the harder it becomes for me to find one. Before it was easy, they didn’t have Code Red they had regular Mountain Dew, if not I settled for a root beer or the closet thing I could find to a Mountain Dew. Today, they might be out of Code Red and have 60 bottles of regular Mountain Dew but it would take me eliminating countless others before I settle for the soda that was once my go-to option.

I have other root beer memories, there were times, especially at the lake, we were stuck with Baqs because that was what the gas station close by sold. In order of preference, for me, it will be A&W, then if nothing is available Dr. Pepper. I will have to go down the list quite a ways before I settle for a Mug or *shudder* a Barqs root beer.

Was Bumblebee really the Transformers movie Generation 1 fans have been waiting for this whole time?

Ah movie reviews. Not my cup of tea. Hell, I don’t even drink tea. Why should I let that nullify the expression? I guess not.

There has been a war raging among the internet faithful. The TransFans, as they were once called, have been bickering over the status of the Transformers franchise ever since the internet began to transmit data into our homes over phone lines. In previous years the fight was between the die hard G1 faithful and the mouth-breathing Beast Wars fanatics. The rift ran deep into the Transformers fandom splitting them into two camps, not unlike the infamous Star Wars Special Editions. Yet at the core we all agreed on a few key points, mostly the war between living robots from the planet Cybertron and how it was depicted on the small and big screen must continue to bring us entertainment.

The factions aside the live action movies have been received with mixed reactions. There seems to be a large enough audience to keep them in production, yet there continues to be a pull in both directions to satisfy both camps, the Beast Fans and the Beast Haters. There is no middle ground really. Not for someone who soundly rejects the Beast era and all of the ways it contaminated the pure Transformers brand. Even today the argument continues to go in the favor of the G1 fans despite the movies making a mockery of the G1 canon while adhering to a tight walk between the two. This is the long way of saying the Beast fans keep pushing their monkey into our pure metallic world.

Each movie continued to push the organic look of the robots, with mannerisms modeled after an organic, beast era style of body movements. This contamination was intentional. The filmmakers wanted the robots to be based on the cars and planes we grew up with, while keeping the organic element pervasive enough to satisfy the Beast fans too. That is why despite turning into a truck in the 2007 film, Optimus Prime looks and behaves more like Optimus Primal than the G1 hero we all grew up idolizing.

You cannot go into Bumblebee without bearing in mind the struggle we have had to fight just to see a purely G1 canonized portrayal of OUR beloved Transformers, the ORIGINAL transformers displayed correctly and properly with no ties to the Beast ere. I am not anti Beast, make a Beast Wars movie I’d ACTUALLY love to see that. Introduce the Predacons I’d be all for that. but adhere to the tropes of the established continuity rather than straddling a middle ground. The cartoons did this best, simply put they gave the world PURE beast cartoons and PURE metal cartoons, why then should the films mix the two?

Bumblebee starts off on Cybertron. Not the Michael Bay bastardization of Cybertron we see depicted in the previous films, we see *the* Cybertron we grew up with in the original G1 cartoon. The film shows us brightly colored, metallic robot beings with robotic movements and mannerisms and robotic faces. Not a living organism with metal skin, not a robot wearing fur to protect it from the energon, no we see the very Cybertronian war we have been damn well asking for since the original film was first revealed.

The movie immediately shifts to Earth. From there it does a good job firmly planting us back in 1987, the middle of the G1 cartoon universe. It doesn’t take place in Tacoma, Washington, but at least it’s set on the West Coast so they get that right. Also, Sector 7 is mentioned but there hasn’t yet been a full on merging of the mythos. This is clearly a Generation One live action film with just barely enough allusions to tie it into what comes later. This is acceptable because the G1 cartoons did exist BEFORE the Beast Wars so it makes sense to finally separate the two. You can have a blend later because that is what the comics and toys have done since, but we still needed to see a live action film set almost entirely in the original G1 cartoon universe. This movie could be redone in the animation style of the classic cartoon and edited into the canon and hardly anyone would notice. It was the film a die hard G1 loyalist such as myself had been waiting to see. I don’t mind occasional hints of what comes later, the first two films were pretty good movies.

The human character is very important. Unlike a whiny, spoiled post-millennial teenager who demands the world be handed to him on a silver platter and yells on the top of his lungs constantly to get his way, this human has real heart, emotions, human traits. Sam was a caricature. He was there to move the plot forward nothing more. The human in this film, which I have already forgotten her name but she was important nonetheless. She was a real person to me. I could see myself rooting for her life outside of the movie. I can see her past, her childhood forming. I felt for her. I was sad for her when it was appropriate and glad for her when it was acceptable. She was a real character even more than Spike from the old cartoons.

Bumblebee himself was the best. Not just how he turned into the Nazi war symbol we all loved him as when we were kids, but also his child-like innocence. In the original cartoons Bumblebee was often bewildered by human behavior yet he was always seen doing everything he could to fit into human society. He was truly Spike’s best friend. That relationship was carried over into this film. There was a mutual respect they were friends. In the 2007 and subsequent film Revenge of the Fallen, Spike and Bumblebee’s relationship were more like protector and pet, only the film never established firmly which one was the pet. I never cared for that. Bumblebee was mischievous for no logical reason.  In the context of the retconning this movie does, it’s a little more palatable but I still need to revisit the film to decide for myself once and for all.

There is a scene in the G1 first season where Spike is hanging around a video arcade with Bumblebee walking around. That scene depicts the very nature of the character I wanted to see in this film. They have a few moments that made me recall that picture. It was a nice nod to the original cartoon that ALL of the stuff that followed owes a debt of gratitude. As I have always said, the Beast stuff can exist and is fine, but they need to acknowledge without the G1 stuff there wouldn’t have been a Beast Wars to begin with.

The action in this movie is also not going to satisfy the fans of the series. It’s far from head the dizzying explosions and shaky cam stuff the latter films are known for. In fact the movie is very much more reminiscent of Short Circuit than a Transformers film.

The characters are real, the story is believable and the action is fitting. By the end of the movie my heart had warmed and I felt a twinge of gratitude towards the filmmakers from sitting down and saying, here you go Merry Christmas TransFans, we’re sorry for Dark of the Moon here is the film you were picturing in your head when we announced a live action Transformers movie.

It has minor flaws, as all movies do. But nothing stood out to me as glaringly obvious. The first film was riddle with cringe worthy moments I edited out myself in the first ever Fan Edit I made in an attempt to salvage what was there. I see no need to ever have to do that with this. I only wish there was a way to transpose the character models from this movie over the top of the other films to at least salvage what is there. Oh well, nothing is perfect, but the Bumblebee movie gets about as close as a movie about alien robots ever could. I give it a perfect score, five our of five. I saw no need to defend this or that, it felt entirely fresh and familiar at the same time. It was a blast to watch and a joy to experience.