EDITORIAL: Defending Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS
Its been done before. But this time, NeoBaggins sticks his neck out for Michael Bay's much reviled Transformers series- Though not so much for REVENGE of the FALLEN! Read on and see if you agree with his points.
With the fourth installment of the successful, yet infamous, TRANSFORMERS series on the way; I thought now would be a fun time to take a look at the extreme hatred the movies elicit from the Geek community. And if you're nice, I'll also make fun of the anti Ninja Turtles movement.
Before we begin, I'd like to give a personal account of my own history and experience with the TRANSFORMERS brand....
TOYS! Yes, toys. Not to be confused with the electrical devises you discovered while ransacking your Mom's room for loose change. I'm refering to HASBRO's original "Robots in disguise". My memory starts there which is of course followed by the animated series of the 1980s'.
I only owned a few TRANSFORMERS toys. I definitely remember having Jazz, Sound-wave and Ravage- all of which may have been acquired through theft as STAR WARS figures were the only toys I spent my own money on. Just kidding; I'd borrow TRANSFORMERS from friends for an indefinite amount of time. Hey, you gotta ask for it back.
My weekly ritual was rushing to the store after school to buy a pint of Milk and a two-for-one pack of cream-filled sandwich cookies. They came in a little plastic square pack with a big red price-sticker on it at the local liquor store. I'd make it home just in time for the opening credits and watched every episode up until the animated movie which my friends and I watched twice in one sitting. We were the only ones in the theater at the time and theater staff didn't bother us. After the film, the TV series started to follow the events of the film; Galvatron replaced Megatron and there were Quintessons, Sharkticons, Hot Rodimus Prime, Arcee, Kup and some ghostly story lines about the "deceased" Optimus Prime and still conscious Unicron head.
I'd later go on to watch Beast Wars which looked awful but found myself drawn in by the stories. Wasn't bad. Other than that, I never really got into the newer stuff like the cartoonish version, the 3D/2D version and I started to watch the PRIME series (which looked awesome) but fell off at some point and never watched it again.
So basically, I'm an Old school G1 fan; the type of fan I would've assumed to be the main group in an uproar over the live-action TRANSFORMER films. You see, that's how it usually goes; Geeks hold dear to a property that they will never have the capacity to see advance or change in a way that will satisfy them. But when you couple this purist mentality with what seems like a prerequisite to hate the director before he even points a camera, a series like TRANSFORMERS never had a chance with some people. When I see the venom spewed at what's known as (with much contempt) BAYFORMERS, I start to wonder....
WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU WANT?
All the legit things to be mad about when a film company dishonors your favorite property are pretty sketchy when it comes to the TRANSFORMERS rebellion. Did they butcher the source material? Oh wait, THERE IS NONE. Okay, maybe there's, something. You see, the only thing anyone had to go on was the back of a TRANSFORMER toy box. Decepticons: Bad. Autobots: Good. And even with limited back story, the films still manage to honor the Matrix, Energon cubes and the planet of Cybertron. These elements may not be depicted exactly as they are in the cartoons, but this isn't the first film to make alterations to a properties original elements. CBMs do it all the time, but what should be important is that the core elements remain intact to a reasonable degree. TRANSFORMERS are transforming robots that come in one of two groups; good, or bad. Check!!!! the films are on the right track.
The cartoon series merely took a simple origin and expanded it into a series of episodes displaying different cases in which Autobats and Decpticons clash. The only added dynamic to the cartoon was more characters which by extension produced, more toys.
So, what are some of the gripes I hear about the films? Good question, because for every person that complains about Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS, there's usually little to no explanation behind the scorn.
LESS HUMANS, MORE ROBOTS!
I've heard that some would like to see less of a human presence and more of a Transformers-oriented Transformers film. And I believe this could work, as an animated show on TV. But, we already have those. I can't understand why a TF fan would respond to high quality live-action TRANSFORMER films with the desire to see Disney: PLANES instead. Obviously, Hollywood is actor-driven when it comes to live-action. It is unlikely that a gamble would be taken on Robots and their plight while humanity scurries around on their own planet like runaway pets.
Hollywood likes to unmask suited Superheroes because they believe the audience needs to see their faces. The audience needs to see people emote. I don't fully agree with this, but TRANSFORMERS aren't human to begin with which generates the need for this human element. TRANSFORMERS are robots that are computer generated so they will definitely need a point of emotional contact with an audience.
If protesters are turned off by an Optimus Prime with moving lips or facial movements, they are asking for robots that walk around with face shields as voice-actors fill the air with dialogue. But ultimately, no one will empathize or sympathize with a robot Helicopter that can be reanimated or rebuilt as quick as it can be destroyed. There are no stakes in a live-action all TRANSFORMER film. Human lives are needed for a sense of vulnerability and danger. Whether or not one believes the human characters thus far invoke compassion in a life or death situation is another debate. But it's safe to say that audiences will miss Sam Witwicky more than Wheelie no matter how much you hate Shia LaBeouf.
So, I personally see the desire to have a robot-oriented live-action TRANSFORMERS to be an adolescent desire. I can understand a 13 year old boy wanting to see an all TRANSFORMER cast. But it wouldn't be good from a business standpoint to make the TRANSFORMER version of 'ROBOTS'. Love that film by the way.
THE ROBOT DESIGNS ARE TOO COMPLEX
I've also heard/read that the designs are too complex. I agree with this to an extent and it would mostly apply to Megatron in the first film. I believe this has been improved over the series. Optimus Prime and most of the TRANSFORMERS are designed incredibly for a live action film. If a car is going to transform into a robot and vice versa, why wouldn't it have thousands of gears and moving parts?
G1 Purest want their 80s TRANSFORMERS. I guess the kid inside the grown Man needs to see a truck with legs so he won't be too confused. But we have the greatest FX team on Earth and a live-action budget. With a team of talented designers, a more imaginative approach to the TRANSFORMERS appearance was a must.
Hi. Guess what I turn into?
Perhaps some of us were pining for Megatron to turn into a large hand gun that would shrink so that another Decepticon could hold and fire him.
Now, the meat of this thing; If there is a better TRANSFORMER series waiting for you, or the one that you didn't get apparently, what is it? What does it consist of and how does it get created? I ask this because the series is in the best hands it was ever going to be in. Shocked by that statement? Well, allow me to qualify it. Who wanted to make TRANSFORMER films besides producer Steven Spielberg and Director Michael Bay? Here's a better question; what producer and director wanted to make TRANSFORMER films that could command the resources and budget at the production level of BAYFORMERS? I'd wait for answer but, I don't think I could pull off the full beard look.
I'm not clairvoyant, nor can I tap into alternate realities, but here's what I think would have happened without Micheal Bay;
NO live-action TRANSFORMERS.
Live-action TRANSFORMERS on a strained budget and weak director.
Live-action TRANSFORMERS on par with The Legend of Chun Li, DRAGONBALL Z and Underdog.
Live-action TRANSFORMERS that perform so poorly that any plans for sequels or reboots are scrapped.
Does it make the films good because Bay was the best option? Not necessarily, the films could have been a complete disaster and probably should have been. As we discussed early on, Bay is working with very little in the way of source material. He not only takes a property based on toys and builds on it, but he does it in the grandest way possible. He's an action director so the action is there, he has ILMs best at his disposal so the FX and robots are top notch and of course, his knack for making crowd-pleasing, seat-packing, summer films. Tired explosion jokes aside, the man knows how to make entertaining films and he has an audience.
Is the comedy relentless and crass? Yes. Are some the human situations over-the-top even for a sciences-fiction adventure? Yes. Does these things outweigh the excitement and entertainment value of the films? No. But then again, there's always Revenge of the Fallen- Which brings us to this; how does Mr. Baggins feel about the films on a more personal level? Well, I'll tell you.
The first TRANSFORMER film was great on a few levels. First off, it was unique for its time and separated itself from other science-fiction and action films. They weren't Pirates, Super Heroes, Cops, Mercenaries, Talking animals, Kung Fu experts or Sword-wielding legions of Men with English accents. They were sports cars that transformed into robots that kicked ass, all based on a popular property. But what was most memorable about seeing the first film for the first time was the experience. The packed theater with a crowd of people who cheered, laughed and interacted with the film from start to finish took me back. It was fun and only a few tweaks in the right direction would allow a sequel to surpass it.
I couldn't believe how big of a mess Revenge of the Fallen was. Instead of minimizing or doing away with the elements that didn't work in the first film, its like they were amplified. Dudes ass-cheeks hanging out, balls swinging from Devastators crotch, extreme buck-tooth butcher, annoying twin robots and a Decepticon TERMINATRIX a' la Species. Thot Bot. If TRANSFORMERS could disguise themselves as people... never mind.
Then there was the exposition. The constant explaining of already confusing and ridiculous plot elements. Then there's the overly dramatic scenes that never earned the emotional weight they were aiming for. Ironically, in contrast to the defensive nature of this editorial, I took to youtube and voiced my thoughts on the FALLEN and was met with an angry mob that defended the film viciously. Where are these people now?
If there's any film that you must turn your brain off to enjoy or deem a guilty pleasure, this is it. Or, you could deem it completely terrible as it is indeed a bad film. Its definitely the weakest point in the series for me thus far.
Dark of the Moon got things back on track to that kickass action film stage the first film was on. There's a lot of great scenes and the 3D was beautiful. It was at this point when I started wanting to know what was shot in 3D and what was post-converted. And even tho Bay took a better approach to story and tightened up where 'Fallen' was all over the place, I don't think he can exclude his brand of humor. It may be impossible for him. But the main scene that needed to be removed from the entire film is the office scene with Ken Jeong. Its not funny, overlong and forced. But overall I liked Dark of the Moon and I thought it was the end of the series. A decent ending with possibilities to continue. And it did.
Looking at the content thus far of EXTINCTION, it looks like Bay has tightened things up again and is presenting a more clear cut story. This film even feels a little smaller than the other TRANSFORMER films, more intimate in some way- aside from the Cruise ship falling out of the sky of course. Perhaps it has this feel due to what looks like less TRANSFORMERS. I'm not sure at this point but I don't get that overblown vibel from this one. The robot designs also seem to be less complex and busy as well.
I don't own any BAYFORMER posters and this article isn't representative of a die-hard protest against BAYFORMER haters. I don't take the movies that seriously because there's really nothing being disrespected that I love. The films expanded on TRANSFORMERS and the films are fun movies. I'm just curious as to what people wanted and/or expected from this series. It exceeds everything the films could have been which I think is nonexistent or unwatchable flops. I have to conclude that the hate is due in large part to the stigma and infamous nature attached to Michael Bay. People praise all manner of awful films that exude the same negative qualities they apply to the TRANSFORMER films. There's an obvious double-standard.
When its Bay, the films must be made with exceptional actors, award winning scripts and tear-jerking robot drama. Otherwise, its not good. However, when we watch Pacific Rim, we shouldn't expect anything more than big robots fighting monsters and having fun. Any demand exceeding that is a snobbish one.
Oh, Ninja Turtles. Almost the same case as TRANSFORMERS; It's Michael Bay related so I hate it. I had written more on this, but the more I think about how ludicrous most of the gripes are, the less I feel the need to address claims that the new film's Shredder looks silly opposed to how he normally looks. That goes for pretty everything about the property. It's already silly.
Are they aliens or are they real Turtles roided out by something called the ooze?
Cawabunga meets the eye. See you at the movies!!!!
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