A friend of mine sent me a note pointing me to the new slated-for-2017 Transformers movie trailer, and asked me what I thought of it.
After watching it and being completely underwhelmed, I wrote this:
I don’t trust Michael Bay’s vision of the Transformers anymore. Not to put too fine a point on it, I think he’s the worst thing to happen to the franchise. Part of the point about the Transformers was supposed to be the balance between “we’re screwed” and “but through trust and teamwork, we can save the day” and other than the first movie, he’s shown no sign that he understands that balance or cares about it. Transformers under Bay has become yet another excuse for grimwankery.
I was a little surprised to get back a reply that I have a “much higher expectation” for a move story line. I got thinking about it, and realized that yeah, I probably do. After taking the time to write up a more in-depth response, I realized I should repost it here.
Yes and no. Part of it is the emotional attachment to the Transformers franchise I have, part of it is that because of my writing I can’t help but analyze story. I don’t just blindly consume entertainment – haven’t been able to for years. That’s not the way my brain works and why I enjoy it. I am not normal. J
Where he parted ways with me was in envisioning that only good-hearted rebels would be the ones left working with the Autobots. Our government does lots of politically expedient shit – there would be a faction in our government that would work with the Decepticons if they thought they were getting a good enough deal to outweigh the risks. He’d already squandered a lot of my good will from the first movie with the stupid racist/low-brow crap he shoe-horned into the second movie, but at least in the first two the female lead had an active presence and agency in affecting the outcomes. The third movie, while a much better story, not only betrays what I saw as one of the fundamental underpinnings of the Transformers (humans and robots working together to fight Evil) but unceremoniously threw away the one female character with any sort of agency and replaced her with another sex symbol whose sole role was to be in peril and scream so that the male lead could do his thing. And let’s not talk about the travesty of #4. How you can have an actor of Wahlberg’s talent and throw him away – well, the last time I saw someone do that it was Lucas in the prequel Star Wars trilogy and he was doing it to an entire cast of actors.
A lot of people who really enjoyed the old Battlestar Galactica made similar complaints about RDM’s remake. It was no longer the fun, campy, shiny and optimistic space opera – the new BSG was very gritty, very dirty, and grappled with hard questions about humanity. It was a totally different show. They weren’t wrong about their criticisms, where they were wrong was in expecting that everyone else felt the same way. I personally loathed the original BSG and very much enjoyed the remake.
So I’m the guy yelling “get off my lawn” at Michael Bay this time around. I have enjoyed other movies he has done in the past (“The Island” is some of the best SF I have seen on the screen) and I am sure there are movies he will do in the future that I will enjoy. His strengths and weaknesses as a director are pretty firmly defined by this point, and there are types of movies and stories that match up well. I think he’s a bad tone match for the type of Transformers franchise I personally enjoy. I never wanted Transformers to be transformed to being a totally modern, socially conscious story – but it needed to not move backwards, and for me, that’s all Bay has accomplished.
As it stands, I will not be seeing this movie. If you’ve read this far and care about what I think, thanks! I will say this — if future trailers for this movie show the potential for a radically different movie than what we’re seeing here, I will of course rethink my position.
I also want to point out that more than a few superficial resemblances to The Force Awakens have jumped out and grabbed me, and I wonder if that’s deliberate.