SyFy Face Off — Junkyard Cyborg
A trip to the junkyard gives the last five Face Off contestants the ingredients to build their own cyborgs. Does it matter if you don’t really know what a cyborg is? Kind of.
It was funny watching the different reactions of each contestant when they entered the junkyard and found out they’d be building cyborgs. Roy (fabrication king) and Laura (Terminator fan, Sarah Connor-in-training) were delighted. Derek and Nicole were worried due to their lack of fabrication skill. Sarah was confused because Mennonite.
During the course of this episode, the judges made several mentions of the ridiculous compressed time the contestants get to do all this. Guest judge Gale Anne Hurd (producer of The Terminator, Aliens, The Walking Dead) observed that they took a month to design the Terminator cyborgs. Later, Glenn noted that even on a low-budget movie “we don’t do this stuff in two days.” But there’s another huge difference between Face Off and an actual movie set that this episode really brought to light: the contestants are doing the work of at least three people.
I don’t even mean that there would be a team of FX people working on sculpts and application (there would be, usually). But these people are generating concepts and designs from scratch, then executing everything themselves. If you can name more than a handful of movies (that weren’t filmed in someone’s back yard or as a school project) where the FX people also came up with the story, character concepts, designs and did all the sculpting and make-up, I’ll eat a foam-latex hat. Those are vastly different areas of expertise. Face Off is ostensibly about make-up talent, but repeatedly we’ve seen contestants get punished because they had weak concepts. I’d love to see an episode where some good designers gave each contestant a completed concept design, sketch, and story notes, and we could just see them execute the designs.
Case in point, Sarah, who just floundered with no cultural references for what a cyborg should be like. She fought through this problem for the zombie challenge earlier, but not this time. When they showed her in-progress work, it was really comically bad. They just kept showing this chest with computer parts and wires and a guitar volume knob stuck to it, the kind of design kids would make for the school play. I doubt Sarah’s work was really that bad, but that’s what they showed.
Her final product looked miles better thanks to a solid paint job, and I thought the face piece looked cool, like the model’s shattered skull had been partly replaced by a giant metal dome. It was relatively small work, though, and just not that impressive compared to the other designs we saw this week. I don’t think it deserved the dismissive, “There’s only one bottom look this week, adios Sarah,” but she was sent home just the same.
Roy had the most cohesive story, with his zombified soldier borg, which I thought looked awesome. Glenn again complained about Roy’s elaborate fabrication, referring to it as “a mistake.” If giant steering strut cyborg arms and exposed brain accent lights are wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Roy’s story was a good indication of why design people should have talented writers along to have the story done before anyone starts sculpting. There was nothing inherently wrong with anyone’s individual backstory except that every single one of them used the word “military.” I would have loved to have seen some different takes on the cyborg concept, like some weird post-human redesign, something borne out of prosthetics that help disabled people walk or see, or a fashion-driven incorporation of gadget lust into human physiology.
Laura came close to this when she redid her design to create a “Metropolis” businessman who gets cyberware like people get tattoos today. Going back to her post-apocalyptic soldier design was a big mistake, even worse than the time lost when her model got woozy.
Derek’s cyborg cyclops was just straight up amazing. His designs haven’t impressed me too much the last few weeks, but this one was a grand slam. Unique, memorable – I believe the judges called it “iconic,” and Neville gave it the ultimate compliment, that he could see it as a toy.
Nicole actually won this week though, with her vaccuu-boobed bitch brow. Did you know that Nicole’s last name is Chilelli? That sounds like a character from Dazed and Confused. Must have been a lot of fun in high school. Anyway, bitch brow was very cool, and definitely different from the other designs. There was an element of stylishness in there, rather than just apocalyptic grunge. Nicole may have actually avoided the “military experimentation” angle, though she was still a warrior princess. The design was great, but I thought the paint job on the face appliance was a little weak. That metal plate could have popped a bit more. I’d have given the win to Derek mostly based on that factor.
Nevertheless, it was a cool character (and earned her an invite to Comic Con from Gale Anne Hurd). The way Nicole’s been bringing the heat since her return from elimination has been highly impressive.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go out to the garage and fabricate something just to piss Glenn off.
Tags: face off, fx, gale anne hurd, junkyard cyborg, make-up, syfy, terminator