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Transformers a Michael Bay Film

Thanks for the memories

I saw Transformers Dark of the Moon last evening in 3D in the South Loop of Chicago, the city where most of movie was filmed.  Joining me were a smattering of many of Chicago’s biggest Transformers fans self-dubbed the TFW Illinois crew.  As the filmed ended, we rushed out to chat about what we thought of the film, which was quite humorous and enjoyable.  I however stayed somewhat reserved.  What had I just seen?  I gave myself the night to digest it all and come back today to write my thoughts and instead of reviewing last night’s film, I have tried to give some thought to the franchise as a whole.

I am pleased that it is finally over, though it has been a pretty wild ride.  Most of my 20’s have been subversively tied into in the Transformers world, especially the movies, and I’m starting to question whether that was a good thing or not.  One thought that popped into my head during the film last night was that I was relieved this would be the final Transformers film directed by Michael Bay, because if we had another, the shark would most surely have been jumped.

I have enjoyed the films to a great extent, but it’s time to be a total nerd bitch and list the things I have the most problems with in Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise:

#10- Backstory / timeline / Earth: The Transformers magnet

Transformers crash land on earth

Movie 1: They don't need ships. Movie 2: Hey there's the nemesis. Movie 3: Of course they all had ships, how else would they get around!? Fucking writers.

So this is how it happened, right?  The Fallen comes to Earth, builds the harvestor, the Primes come to stop him and hide the matrix.  The Fallen flies away in anger or something, and the seekers run around Earth looking for the Matrix as the humans evolve.  When does the All-Spark and better yet, Megatron land on Earth?  Also, the Ark tumbled around for eons and landed on the Moon.  Why does everything-Cybertron end up on Earth when there are infinite trajectories?

Also, has Soundwave been floating up in the atmosphere for over 100 years or something?  I don’t even want to know why all those Decepticon ships were dormant on the moon.  That is just ridiculous.  When did Megatron and Sentinel Prime come up with this plan to join forces?  I am trying to not dive into any of the tertiary fiction involved that explains Megatron’s transport from the North pole to Hoover Dam, because that just makes it even worse.

The truth is, there is no explanation and the story does not hold even an ounce of water.  Like typical movie sequels, the later plot makes no effort to consolidate with the original story.  What are we supposed to expect though, these are living robots we are talking about…

#9- Cannon Fodder characters

Transformers Long Haul Constructicon

Hey there's like 8 of me! Whee! And now I can turn into a garbage truck!

We saw reused robot frames all over the place in the second two movies.  I caught a glimpse of Blackout and Bonecrusher in movie 2; Barricade, Longhaul, Sideways, Scrapper, & Brawl in movie 3.  I’m all for re-using designs, but can you please at least change them a little?

Reused characters has been a continuing theme in Transformers, but it’s never been exactly ‘right’ in most fans’ eyes.  I must reiterate: each robot is its own character and has his/her own personality.  Why was this so hard to deal with?  Yeah yeah yeah, I know it’s expensive, but the more designs means more toys and that makes EVERYONE more money, right???  I mean, I have stock in Hasbro so I think this is a sound plan. heheheh

#8- Robot fragility inconsistencies

Transformers DOTM killing decepticon

I am made of balsa wood!

When it’s convenient, the robots in the Transformers films explode like they are made of fiddlesticks, and other times they are made of ‘sterner stuff.’  A newly revived Optimus Prime flies right through some giant blocks of the pyramid of Egypt with not a scratch, but the F22’s that just tried were blown to bits.  All it takes is just a few pot-shots from some random human weapon to nail Blackout in movie 1, and Decepticons are dying by the minute in the final battle of Revenge of the Fallen.   The humans are even practicing Decpticon-killing tactics in the NEST headquarters.  They seem to have robot killing down pat, but not when Sentinel Prime has a tantrum inside of the NEST base, they just cannot stop him!  It’s all just so damn convenient, like any other lame action / comic book movie.  Arrrg, I just want this to be treated like it could really happen!  Is that so insane?

So what happens when the Transformers get beat up to hell?  Does someone have to fix them so they can transform?  Apparently Megatron can still change form and transform with his massive-head-wound-Harry injury.  What about all the other damage dealt to him by Optimus at the end of ROTF?  I recall a broken leg and arm.  Maybe Starscream is quite the physician, just not a brain surgeon.

#7- Irrelevant villains

Transformers The Fallen

Hey guys, anyone remember me?

There are two camps in Transformerland – Autobots and Decepticons!  Some might say it’s split down the middle but I’d err to the side of more people love the Decepticons.  Epps said it best in Dark of the Moon when he said something like “Why do the Decepticons have such badass shit?”  Indeed.

The coolest designs and features have almost always sided with the Decepticons: seekers, old-one eye, tanks, weapons, teleportation – it’s all there!  So why do the villains in the Transformers movies get wasted so easily?  Shockwave was touted as the ‘big bad’ in Transformers 3 and he was simply the driver of the Driller, and that wasn’t even necessary once it was evident the creature could eat a building on its own.  Shockwave just stood around looking skeletal until Prime came over to finish off the job.  He lasted only a few seconds, just like The Fallen once Prime was back online.

Why did it take Prime only 5 seconds to behead Megatron in TF3 when there was a 5-minute fist-fight in the first film?  Chalk it up to a change in writing style, I guess.  After making 3 movies, the prospect of dynamic robot fights must’ve gotten far less enticing for the makers of these films.  Long winded fights were replaced with killshots, which at least makes sense when taking in my previous gripe.

#6- Questionable robot designs

Transformers Movie Megatron head design

Welcome to Krull

There has not been one more hotly debated topic since the first leaks of the Transformers movie designs and that’s the designs themselves. I remember where I was the moment those designs leaked onto the net and my friends were rolling their eyes my nerd rage. We have probably just grown somewhat accustomed to them by now with the overload of Bumblebee and Optimus Prime we have seen on the screen, but at first, this stuff was unforgivable.  From Tin-foil Megatron to a flamin’ paint job for Optimus Prime, the designs have polarized fans since the beginning.

I must admit that these challenging designs have lead to some amazing advances in the technology of the toys, but it is still evident how many miracles have been overcome by the designers at TakaraTomy with each iteration of the movie toys.

#5- Haphazard plot explanation, or lack of

Transformers captain lennox

What a minute, what did you say is happening here?

Don’t know what the hell is going on?  No problem!  We have Captain Lennox to spew some plot to you.

Guess what? We’re going to Mission City!

Go where? Sam use this bullshit smoke thing and a random helicopter is going to get the cube from you!

Why are you in the desert and running from one side of the ruins to another? Because same has magic dust and he needs to get to Optimus but unfortunately we are on the wrong side of these ruins and the Autobots can’t just transform into cars and drive us there because we didn’t think of that shit.

Who are those dudes coming out of the water in Chicago? Sup Navy Seal!  Man we missed you bros welcome to the robot orgy!

Yo dude, didn’t you have a kid or something in the first movie?

#4- Characterization of Starscream

Transformers Movie Starscream

"Yes massta, yes massta, don't mind if I do massta!"

Oh my God, poor Starscream! Not only was he designed to look like a fucking Dorito chip in robot mode, he is made out to be the decrepit underling of Megatron. I understand that the development of each character took a back seat, but this is one of the five most recognized and well-known Transformer characters ever!! Everyone knows that Starscream wants to usurp Megatron, EVERYONE! Movie by movie, the writers chose to degrade Starscream to the status of Dr. Frankenstein’s Igor in stature, voice, and identity. He spit once in the last movie, and now that’s about all he can do, besides cry about things.

Not only that, he gets defeated by SAM!! I mean hey, way to go kid, but there is no way Starscream would be defeated by a kid. Also, I have to give a REAL BIG THANKS to the editors of the trailer that kept showing me Starscream dying again and again and again… way to keep it under wraps! THANKS!

#3- Devastator and the Constructicons

Supreme Devastator toy with balls

No words

One of the coolest things about Transformers has been the gestalt combiners and it all started with the first: Devastator! Leave it to the movies to degrade him to a vacuum cleaner with testicles. There’s really nothing good about Devastator in the films other than the eye-candy his combination scene gave us. The design is dog shit, the toy is dog shit, and his death was dog shit. ONE SHOT!! Devastator should’ve been the big bad of movie 2 but instead he was just an enormous dust buster. God fuck…

#2- Overall lack of characterization of robots

Transformers Twins

We sure missed you guys this time around...

If you notice, my last few top problems have been revolving around the characters in the films. There just wasn’t enough screen time to give each robot his just desserts. We get a lot of Bumblebee, Optimus, and Megatron, but everyone else is pushed back to non-speaking rolls with just a small highlight of their capabilities. Sideswipe is a prime example of this with only about 2 speaking lines in both films.

The core of Transformers has always been the unique characterization of each robot and with so many of them taking an obvious backseat, it’ll be hard for future fans to cling to any of the second or third tier characters like Shockwave, Soundwave, or Mirage (dino).

Instead, we get lots of speaking time and screen time for brand new somewhat non-canon characters like Mudflap & Skids, Sentinel Prime, and The Fallen. These guys DID NOT EXIST until recently! I CAN’T WAIT to see DRIFT in the next movie.

In consolation, at least Laserbeak got a good chunk of airtime in Dark of the Moon but wait… since when did robots have saliva and he can what, turn into anything?!?! I want Frenzy back.

#1- The blood-thirsty nature of Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime

You heard the man!

He has been dubbed “the greatest leader figure of all time,” according to Transformers: The Movie producer Flint Dille. It’s Optimus Prime, the stoic, stern leader of the Autobots. This is an almost infallible character and he is regarded in such high standing amongst fans of the show that he just cannot seem to die! And so it was more than just a little shocking to see Optimus Prime brutally murder many of his enemies in the Transformers films. It all started with Bonecrusher on the highway in movie one, then there was face ripping and stealing in Revenge of the Fallen. Transformers 3 shows us another entirely scary side of Optimus Prime where he utters chilling phrases like “We will kill them all.”

This Optimus Prime has come a long way from the line “You who are without mercy, now plead for it? I thought you were made of sterner stuff,” which was about as cold as Optimus Prime had ever gotten in the Generation 1 cartoon. Thanks to Hot Rod’s antics, we will never know what Optimus Prime intended to do to the mortally wounded Megatron that was at his feet. My guess was they were going to attempt an incarceration of the Decepticon leader, but not in Dark of the Moon! Optimus takes a cue from Grindor’s fate in the ROTF forest battle and rips Megatron’s damaged head clean off!!! Follow that with a execution style shot to Sentinel Prime, who was begging for his life. Some may say that Optimus is justified in his judge-jury-and-executioner style motivations, but this is just not the Optimus Prime I would want to trust my children with.

In his defense, Optimus is one of the ultimate Transformer warriors and this type of hack and slash destruction is what he ought to be capable of. However, I feel most of us always knew he was a badass without seeing it. It’s like watching your beloved family dog fight the neighbor’s mean cat that scratched you once, and ultimately tear it to shreads and roll around in the blood. {shudder}

And there you have it. Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch. Keep in mind this is a super-fan’s perspective and there are definitely some great things about these films. No one has to agree with me and I am fully aware that it is the nature of Transformers-fans to disagree and gripe. I’ve followed this movie franchise since day 1 and so I am a bit too close to the source material. Perhaps I will do a flip-side to this post, and if I do, there will definitely be some praise.

I would still recommend all Transformers fans see the film, but you should probably watch the first two so you at least have some semblance of what is happening. Thanks for reading and let’s hope for more healthy Transformers action in the years to come!