EDITORIAL: Defending Michael Bay's TRANSFORMERS

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.

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By NeoBaggins - 6/19/2014
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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StaticShock86 - 6/19/2014, 11:30 PM
I honestly believe that the movies are not that bad, but this movie coming out looks exactly like the last 2. I really haven't cared at all about this movie coming up. Also sense it looks the same it kind of takes what little uniqueness that the other movies had out.

Also that alien invasion crap is very old, if your going to have dino bots make it about them primarily. I highly doubt this movie is gong to be anything like that, instead focus OP and Marty Mark and whatever stupid idea that makes him revelant/important.

Good article though, long as hell too.
Starkasm - 6/19/2014, 11:49 PM
Love the first.
Number two was horrible and three kind of contradicted the history set in the first film.
They're fun films but nothing more really.
Starkasm - 6/19/2014, 11:52 PM
Buck tooth Butcher was random and hilarious!

Sam's "story" ruined TF2&3 in my opinion. He got extremely irritating. Especially his motives in TF3.
MightyZeus - 6/20/2014, 12:31 AM
Great article. I only enjoyed Transformers and the last 40 minutes of Dark of the Moon. I'm still hoping that Age of Extinction will be good.
NeoBaggins - 6/20/2014, 12:39 AM
Yeah, once a film plays the full scale invasion card, its hard to move on to the next threat being that a sequel should raise the stakes.

If it were up to me, I'd take it to space. Expensive, but other worlds need to be explored. Only so many times you can [frick] up Earth.
DEVLIN712 - 6/20/2014, 1:44 AM
Great article NB! The Transformer films aren't about a rich or human story, they're made so that we can have some fun for a few hours. When I go to see a TF film it's to see robots kick the shit out of each other (done by a director who knows how to do that). The films are about having a good time, not winning Michael Bay an Oscar for best director.
Batmaniac - 6/20/2014, 1:47 AM
The first time I sat down to watch Transformers, I wasn't expecting a lot, and to my surprise, I ended up being really impressed with how good it turned out, considering what they had to work with.

Great write up NeoBaggins. I agree with pretty much all you had to say.
Archangel82 - 6/20/2014, 5:43 AM
Great article. I couldn't agree more. I really don't know what some people expect out of these movies. As far as the original cartoon goes there really wasn't a involved storyline or a comprehensive back story on the transformers to begin with. As much as I love the 80's cartoon the main goal of the show was to sell toys. Other than revenge of the fallen the other two films in the series were very entertaining. The only issue I have with the Bayformers is that his humor is a bit forced and rediculous. Other than that these films are still action packed and entertaining. If it wasn't for Bay I really do believe that no studio or company would have attempted to make a Transformers film.
CorndogBurglar - 6/20/2014, 5:55 AM
Im with you Baggins. I've liked the TF films with ghe exception of the 2nd one simply because it made no sense at all. So, only a Prime can beat the Fallen? But anyone can beat a Prime? Plus, the Fallen is a giant sissy? Transformers are born from cocoons on Cybertron? Wait...did Sam just die and go to Transformer Heaven?

Anyhow, it sounds like me and you have the same exact history with TF. I watched the original series all the way up to the Unicron film, tried to watch the series after that but just stopped because all the new episodes sucked without all the characters I loved, since everyone died in the movie.

Yet, here I am, a fan of the films.

The complaints never made sense to me. I dont care what people think, it the designs are fine and they were never going to look loke the G1 cartoons. It would make no sense for the transformers to show up and take the shape of old things from the 80's. Why would Starscream choose to be a F-15 when he could be an F-22? Why would Soundwave show up and be a cassette player? He was always a support character who didn't usually mix it up in battle, so ot made sense for him to be a satellite l. He still shot his animals and gadgets out of him to go fight. Times have changed, and with those changes, the transformers had to change what they turn into, and in doing that, they were never going to look like the old cartoon. But the essence of the characters were still there, which is all that should matter.

As far as the plots go, not all films need a complex plot. The TF films dont have one and everyone calls them terrible, yet the Avengers doesn't have one and its considered the best CBM of all time? Okay...

And the last big complaint. People cant tell whats going on? All i can say is pay attention because Inhave no problem seeing who is fighting who and what they are doing.
BatManHeisenberg - 6/20/2014, 6:06 AM
1 was decent, 2 was shit, and 3 was kind of awesome. Arguments can be made for The Avengers ripping it off. I mean, they were both produced by Paramount....



Though The Avengers was amazing nonetheless.
BatManHeisenberg - 6/20/2014, 6:09 AM
Oh, and good article, NEOBAGGINS! I hope we get to see some space stories and more focus on the Transformers themselves.
McGee - 6/20/2014, 6:25 AM
McGee's Next Article....

DEFENDING HITLER



Was He Really All That Bad?
McGee - 6/20/2014, 6:25 AM
The answer is no...no he wasn't.
BatManHeisenberg - 6/20/2014, 6:43 AM
McGee

So you're saying that the Transformers movies are as bad as Hitler? Maybe Mussolini or some African warlord, but damn, to soon.
RorMachine - 6/20/2014, 7:29 AM
Lots of interesting, well made points here. Of course, I completely disagree!:)
Phronesis - 6/20/2014, 7:43 AM
Oh God.... We're really defending this piece of shit of a franchise? Haha.
MightOfMagneto - 6/20/2014, 7:50 AM
Nice editorial NeoBaggins!

I enjoyed the first Transformer just like as I enjoyed the Avengers. However, I felt disappointed with part 2 and 3.

Hope this fourth movie will be good!
Highflyer - 6/20/2014, 8:05 AM
I liked the first Transformers movie. I thought the second was mindless fun but the third was shit.
POTUS - 6/20/2014, 8:12 AM
I'm POTUS

The movies aren't bad, they're great summer popcorn blockbusters. The problem with them is the same problem every movie has when it stars Shia Lebouf...Shia Lebouf. He's insufferable. He dies in Constantine, which always makes it worth watching. Without a death scene, every film he's in disappoints.

Gotta go...my turn to change Joe.

THIS IS NOT WHAT I MEANT WHEN I PREACHED CHANGE DAMMIT!

I'm POTUS
Rulk - 6/20/2014, 8:16 AM
These movies are pretty garbage to me... soulless dull pretty garbage. And the third one was so damn long.. 2 hours 45 minutes was it? Hoped for the best. Got the worst. I couldn't wait for it to end.

I'm happy that you like them though Neo!
fedeferruzola - 6/20/2014, 8:22 AM
@BatManHeisenberg Mind blow!
Nigrutin - 6/20/2014, 8:43 AM
@McGee ahahhahah lol dude u always make me laugh..
yossarian - 6/20/2014, 8:59 AM
TheRealRemyLebeau - 6/20/2014, 9:04 AM
Agree @neo. Love me some transformers films. Part 2 was a let down though. I know what to expect from these films. Michael Bay is an action genius. ;)
ndwwrestler2 - 6/20/2014, 9:10 AM
We need this article on the front page! You get a thumbs Neo!
monkeyballs - 6/20/2014, 9:12 AM
Good article, Neo. Although, like Ror, I also disagree. These movies are god awful. THe first one was fun for the first watch and had an OK story. The novelty of giant machines transforming and walking/fighting wore off after that movie. It was nothing special to see it again and again in the follow up movies which were each horrible movies.

Michael Bay has never, ever made a good film. Not one.
Christuffer - 6/20/2014, 9:12 AM
I think the Transformers movies are awesome, and you're totally right: there is very little to no source material. I think what fans forget sometimes is that comic books and cartoons always come in separate and heinously numerous volumes, the story arcs are convoluted and complicated. The job of a feature film adaptation, unless you have a situation like Lord of the Rings where the script is basically already written, is to capture the essence of the source material in the best way possible to get the story across.

Sometimes you have situations like Zack Snyder's, "Watchmen", where they adapt the movie literally panel by panel. Personally I think that the Ultimate Cut and/or Director's Cuts of Watchmen are two of the best movies to ever grace a screen, but as you know, Snyder made the perfect Watchmen movie and nobody was happy about it. Did it go over people's heads? Was it too deep? These are questions that beg to be asked, but it doesn't matter.

As for Transformers...the movies capture everything I thought a Transformers movie should have, save for the cheesy humor and painfully obvious eye candy female actresses. I'm happy.
monkeyballs - 6/20/2014, 9:14 AM
My criticisms of these films have nothing to do with source material. I too grew up with G1 cartoons and had a butt-load of the toys. My criticism of the movies are that they are Michael Bay films. We could have gotten something better. Much much better.
monkeyballs - 6/20/2014, 9:15 AM
@McGee That was pretty fucking funny.
supermarioworldE - 6/20/2014, 9:18 AM
The first was the only halfway decent one. The excess of the sequels is what completely killed the quality of the franchise.
MrSuperheromoviefan - 6/20/2014, 9:44 AM
Sorry dude, I disagree with you. I want to see Transformers and care. For example in the third movie when Sentinel Prime betrayed them and kill one of the Transformers did anyone actually care? A Transformer die and nobody care that's like an Avenger died, but nobody care. So, the movie fail as a Transformers movie
Ranger14 - 6/20/2014, 9:51 AM
I pretty much agree. I have never had any challenge with the Transformers franchise. Yes, two was weaker, but I have found them to be fun and entertaining flicks. I don't go in expecting them to be some masterpiece. I just step away from reality for a couple hours and watch for the action eye candy.
SauronsBANE - 6/20/2014, 9:55 AM
...And this is exactly why I'm losing faith in humanity. No surprise at all that stuff like this is popping up on CBM though. Ugh.
Dandy - 6/20/2014, 9:56 AM
Actually I really like the first Tranformers....I just don't care for the sequel


@BatManHiesenberg

Actually the Transformers 3 ending is a direct rip off of the Doctor Who episode "End of Time".

-A once good guy is now a bad guy
-He betrays the trust of the protagonist
-He tries to bring his home world out of a war to enslave humanity, while also bring the war to earth
-The main villain ends us helping the protagonists to defeat him

It is the exact same story.
SauronsBANE - 6/20/2014, 10:00 AM
You pretty much defended aspects of the movie that most people literally have no problem with. Who the heck cares about the "source material" for freaking Transformers, or the fact that the robot designs are too "complicated"? Maybe users here voice those ridiculous concerns and allow that to ruin their movies...but most people couldn't care less about that.

What about the piss-poor action scenes? What about the terrible excuse for a "plot" in each movie? What about the racist, sexist, homophobic, and other ridiculously offensive "humor" in each movie? Seriously, summer blockbusters don't need to be as dumb and mindless as Transformers anymore. This is the 21st century...I think we can expect a little more from our entertainment.
ProfessorRick - 6/20/2014, 10:03 AM
Prime needs to die!!! All hail MEGATRON!

Kyos - 6/20/2014, 10:22 AM
I've watched all three movies at some point, and the first is the only one I somewhat enjoyed. I have basically no knowledge about the Transformers aside from the movies, so it's not like there were any memories Bay could "ruin". Also I had no expectations except seeing big robots beat the shit out of each other.

Still the movies were just not for me. Even in the first I barely cared about any character, human or robot. The second crossed the line to actually being insulting on various levels. The third was more of the same generic, clustered action I couldn't care about. It certainly didn't help that they wasted some actors I really like for BS roles, like Turturro or McDormand.

In the end it's just a franchise that's immensly popular and successful based on some appeal I don't get. Good for those who like the movies that they keep getting made, I could do without them. But as long they don't put Tucci in a thong as well I won't hate them. ;)

Nice editorial, btw! :)
skabeds - 6/20/2014, 10:25 AM
I'm sorry. Wait, there's no source material? They've been around for 30 years in various forms of media and all Michael Bay had to go off of was the description on a toy's box? Really? I pretty much stopped taking this seriously after that. Sure an editorial can be written defending this version of the franchise. This is not it. Especially if you open with that load of crap and then follow it up with those weak points. It was a good try.
CookieKid247 - 6/20/2014, 10:33 AM
I was going to see Transformers: AoE but I dropped out due to no reviews being up yet. I decided to let someone else's opinion dictate whether or not I see the movie. I like Marky Mark but let's face it he's not so good when it comes to choosing his roles i.e The Happening, Planet of the Apes, I Heart Huckabees.
xStarLordx - 6/20/2014, 10:41 AM


Awesome write up man! Personally I loved each film, but I can admit the second film was a mess. One thing in your article stuck out to me because its something big that came to my attention a few weeks ago while defending the films and it is the fact that there is no source material ( there somewhat is but its calling it source material is like trying to say you could make a Lucky Charms movie based off of the commercials simple plot). Lets face it G1 is more of a suggestion or starting point to set up a new franchise for writers and directors. Not saying G1 is bad though because I myself am a G1 fan.

@SauronsBANE1 Everything he mentioned in there is something big that people have complained to me and others about. While yes the racism of the twins was ridiculous there are a few things used to defend that. I even wrote an article on the racism of the twins. And FYI you are correct that this is the 21st century, but alot of movies contain all sorts of racist, homophobic, sexist, and ridiculously offensive humor and in this century its something that people witness everyday on TV and movies. And while you may be expecting a little more, I'm afraid that is probably what you'll still get.
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