Yes, here it is. Another anti-Bay Transformer rant by yet another jaded critic. Tearing these movies apart is nothing new, in fact, it’s basically an art form.
The Transformers movies are the reason that Hollywood tells movie-goers, “This is why we can’t have nice things.” We still pay for the certified garbage whether we hate the experience or not. Let’s look at the numbers.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Transformers: Age of Extinction
I have three takeaways from these numbers.
1) Goodness, that’s a lot of money! Michael Bay must be a rich man.
2) American audiences are becoming more intelligent. Sure, we went to the second movie in droves, but the insanely-terrible quality of Revenge of the Fallen burnt the bridge and the next two movies saw steep declines here in the states.
3) The foreign box office means so much more than it used to. And no, just because their receipts doubled, I don’t think they’re getting more stupid. Everyone loves explosions and car chases. Now that these movies
pander cater to international audiences, more people care to see these larger-than-life flicks.
What if we lived in a world where $300 million dollars was spent on perfecting scripts, casting and effects and we had a Transformers movie that didn’t make you violently ill to watch? It’s a dream, I know. But I’m yelling in the wind with my suggestions of how this series could be great. Here are a few ways to redeem the series, in no particular order.
5 – Fire Michael Bay
This is really where it begins and ends. The war between Bay and critics is long-standing. He’s now to the point where he doesn’t screen his movies because he knows everyone will still go see them regardless of the positive or negative reviews.
I can’t necessarily blame him for the awful scripts, but as the executive producer and director, he’s calling all the shots. The terrible casting, his fault. The choppy editing, his fault. Really, every one of his movies feels and looks exactly the same, and I’m not even referring to the explosion gluttony. Each movie is slick and lifeless with a healthy dose of misogyny on the side.
What is Bay’s reason for staying attached to this franchise? Don’t you think he’d want to spread his creative wings as a director and make his passion project? Sadly, the answer is no. He’s a very rich man now and the Transformers movies, as we know them, are his signature work.
It’s more than likely that Bay will direct Transformers 5 at this point. We are now at a point where (American) public interest in the series is waning. To recapture interest, Bay needs to completely leave his stead as director and producer. He should have no attachment whatsoever. His stink is similar to that of what George Lucas left on the once-beloved Star Wars saga.
4 – Focus on the Characters that Matter
To put it simply, the title of each movie is Transformers. Why then, are they secondary characters? Yes, I do think that Sam Witwicky (Shia Lebouf) was necessary in the first movie to be the human bridge we can relate to. But he served his purpose and should have been an afterthought sooner rather than later. Even when his story was finished, the series moved on to Mark Wahlberg the inventor, who was trying to protect his skanky daughter. These characters are either lifeless or cheesy. For the most part, they’re not interesting.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has taught us that it’s possible to sympathize with CG creations. Why couldn’t that same believability and empathy transfer over to these movies? As we saw in Apes, you don’t need to see the human story. If anything, that may be more of a roadblock than anything. And no, Roadblock is not the name of a Transformer (He’s in GI Joe).
This series could take a risk by showing us life on Cybertron, the Transformers’ home planet. Yes, audiences may not feel connected if the Earth is not threatened (again and again), but with the right writing, it would work. It may be difficult at this point to relate to the movies’ heartless leader, Optimus Prime, but maybe we could see the original battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. Transforming into cars wouldn’t make much sense on another planet, instead they could become war machines. Who knows, maybe we’ll see ‘Transformers: The Rise of Hot Rod.’
3 – Know Your Audience
The audience who originally collected Transformers and loved the ’80s movie have aged, but not necessarily grown up. The old-school Transformers series has been lifted up to a nostalgic standard and been forgiven for all of its kitschy shortcomings. We liked Transformers back then because the show didn’t take itself too seriously but also treated its audience with respect by showing them stories they could handle (Optimus Prime dying).
The new movies attempt to capitalize on the new merchandise and vice versa, but they are also PG-13. The humor is far beyond inappropriate and over-sexual in nature. Bay might be going for an audience of “Bros,” but that’s all wrong. A Transformers movie without the cringe-inducing humor, but made to be innocent and fun would be a very good thing. Plot holes would be forgiven if the movies were fun. Just look at Marvel for evidence.
I’d recommend Sam Raimi taking over the franchise. Just look at what he did with Spider-Man 2. It was everything Spider-Man is meant to be; fun, emotional and innocent. Imagine a movie about Bumblebee and Starscream made in that tone.
2 – Cross-Overs
I am a little tired of seeing robots clashing together. Bay utilizes zero style during battle scenes. You can’t tell who’s winning and who’s losing at any point. I’m pretty sure that Bumblebee is yellow, but that’s really the only decipherable difference. The reason that Pacific Rim worked for me is that the battles were made simple: Robots vs Monsters. You knew which one you were rooting for. In that way, you felt every punch and fall when the Jaegers took damage.
Maybe it’s time for the Autobot/Decepticon war to end. What if these dueling factions had to unite in order to stop beasts of another sort. Paramount doesn’t own the rights to Godzilla, but they can get Hasbro’s rights to several lines of toys.
The next Transformers movie may be a good time to introduce Voltron. Yes, it’s another robot, but it’s a very recognizable robot. Perhaps the ’80s monster toys, Inhumanoids can make their first big screen appearance as the new villains. It couldn’t be any worse than the current movies.
1 – Wait 10 Years to Make Another One
I wouldn’t be creating this list if I didn’t think this series needs a solid reboot. However, no one wants or needs it right now. These movies needs a break of at least 10 years. Let audiences get over the bad taste of the franchise as it stands now and give it a chance to reach an entirely new audience in a decade. If this seems ridiculous, just look at what’s happening to the Jurassic Park franchise. Jurassic Park 3 was released in 2001 and it put the nail in the coffin. There have been rumors of sequels in the past decade, but thankfully they never happened. Now, much time and effort is being put into the reboot, Jurassic World. They picked up a great new director in Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) and are removing it from the standard plots we’ve seen twice before. There’s a chance that Jurassic World will reach a young audience just as the original did for me when I was young. A Transformers reboot, given time, could redeem everything. Well, except those two racial stereotype robots. Nothing can undo that damage.
If you happened to make it to the end of this rant, congratulations and thank you. Here is the single most important contribution of the Transformers franchise.