Leave Michael Bay Alone, Transformers Is Awesome

Leave Michael Bay Alone, Transformers Is Awesome

I love Transformers. I don’t mean the toys, the cartoons, the comics, any of that stuff. I mean the new Transformers, the Michael Bay Transformers. I know this is an unpopular opinion. But as far as I’m concerned, Transformers first came to life in Michael Bay’s series. And it is therefore the best Transformers until something better comes along to replace it.

Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett tried to convince me that pre-Michael Bay, Transformers was already basically Band of Brothers with giant killer robots. That sounds like an amazing show. We all know it’s not really Band of Brothers though. But hey, maybe HBO will get even more frisky now that Game of Thrones is so big.

I understand that mine is an ignorant notion, because I’ve refused to step back in time like so many who feel we all must honour the real Transformers, the classic Transformers, the one that was still pure and immune to the corruption of Hollywood despite being founded as a line of kids toys in the first place.

What really frustrates me about this stubborn nostaligia, however, is that it means the new Transformers never gets a chance to succeed on its own. It presupposes that there’s something at fault with Michael Bay’s Transformers in the first place.

Now, to be fair, a lot of people have come to that conclusion after dutifully watching several of Bay’s other Transformers movies. I know this, because I could not find a single person to go see the movie with me last night, even after buying my hypothetical guest their very own 3D IMAX ticket. Not one! Some were disgusted that I’d even suggest inviting them to see a $US25 movie on my dime.

Walking to the theatre from work last night, the dread of sitting through three hours of ultra-saturated explosions and bright flashing metallic colours on my own started to sink in. I even considered calling my mum, or an ex-girlfriend who lives nearby the theatre. But I stayed strong.

It’s weird being in a movie theatre like the ones you would go to to see Transformers on your own. It’s like going to Six Flags alone. This isn’t just a movie, see. It’s a ride, a theme park unto itself. You need someone else to hold onto sometimes. It feels like playing the most bombastic parts of Call of Duty or Titanfall without actually having to play them.

Honestly, it was the best time I could have had seeing a movie alone. That sounds far more defeatist than I mean it to, trust me.

But, man: people hate this movie right out of the gate. So much so that, judging by my social and professional circles, I’m genuinely curious how many people are actually going to go see it.

It’s easy to make fun of Michael Bay because of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but people make sure to hate Transformers on its own terms too. I don’t think I’m breaking anyone’s confidence by posting what happened when I stopped in at the late-night Kotaku campfire in the wee hours of the morning, still fresh off the adrenaline of seeing the masterpiece that is Age of Extinction.

Right before they started in on that three way alley oop of holding Michael Bay in extreme contempt, Luke acknowledged that this is how the generation that grew up on the original Transformers sees its new form. Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo said something similar to me this week, adding that what ticks people off about the director previously known for making The Rock and Bad Boys is that he turned a beloved franchise into “prototypical brainless blockbuster schlock” rather than doing something interesting with it like Christopher Nolan did with Batman.

The point I take away from these defenses is that directors like Bay and Nolan aren’t just handed any normal multimillion blockbuster film project. They’re given keys to the fate of something greater than them, or any one director for that matter. With this duty comes the responsibility to not just keep the sacred texts of Batman or Transformers or whatever alive and healthy, but to keep it relevant, which is a much harder task.

I’m not a Batman guy either, so I’m really out of my comfort zone here. But before I give up the talking pillow: seriously? The Batman who’s still prancing about in black spandex? The one growling under his breath for no good reason? The one who always takes himself so damn seriously?

Ok, one more nitpicky thing before you all realise that I’m stalling because I don’t want to talk about Age of Extinction yet. I just want to point out the posturing here seems to assume that going big in a movie is also going dumb. I don’t buy that. There’s Skrillex’s new album. But there’s also Yeezus.

Really though: does being dumb even matter? Are any superhero movies actually that smart? Be honest with yourself before you pick up the rock I see you eyeing over there. Captain America? Come on. Spider-Man? Maybe a little, but it’s every bit as preachy as Transformers. Superman? His name is a combination of the words “Super” and “Man.” Optimus Prime isn’t much more nuanced, but at least it sounds foreign, which is cool.

This isn’t really a question of smarts though. I think the issue is relevance, to go back to an earlier point. Fans want the people at the helm to use seemingly timeless characters to tell thoroughly modern stories in one way or another. And given how scarce a commodity that can be in nerd culture, it’s got us all fighting each other like it’s the last chunk of unobtanium!

Personally, I’ve always preferred the new Transformers to the Dark Knight saga because it cared more about explosions than trying to squeeze in any message more considered than “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.”

But I would argue Transformers is culturally and politically relevant, and moreso than ever in Age of Extinction. It’s just topical in a strange, even unintended way. You might say that there’s more to it than…OK sorry.

I mean, just look at this:

That’s one of the Dinobots in Age of Extinction. Now compare it to this:

Remember this guy? He’s the terrifying prototype shown off in this video that blew up after its creator was acquired by Google:

Tell me with a straight face that you don’t see any similarity between these two. That, and the fact that this real-world robot that looks like it’s already planning to hunt you down after Skynet takes control is now owned by one of the most powerful and ubiquitous internet company in the world.

This all came together when I was walking down the street one night with my friend Henry. I don’t know how this came up, but he started ranting about how much he hated Fast and Furious from the sheer stupidity of its trailer.

“And then there was a car…bursting out of a plane…and I just remember one guy being like: “Yo, they got a tank…” he went on.

“It’s just…machinery happening at itself,” he said at one point during this tirade. I started cracking up. I hadn’t even seen the new Transformers yet, but I already knew that would be the perfect description for what I love about every part of this film series, and will probably keep loving as long as Michael Bay keeps making ’em.

Machinery happening at itself.

That’s it, I think. That’s exactly it. It describes every single part of Michael Bay’s Transformers, from the small army of people it took to make such a gorgeous monstrosity to the very literal one: two robots pounding each other on screen, over and over and over again for three hours.

It’s amazing, right? It’s like there’s some metanarrative compelling Michael Bay to never stop making these movies as long as people keep spending lots of money to see them. He’s a cog in the machine of corporate dealmaking that makes a movie like Age of Extinction possible. An integral one, but a cog all the same.

The movie can’t make pointed statements quite as clearly as The Dark Knight did when it invoked terrorism or the surveillance state. It can’t offer up crystal-clear social commentary about how we’re losing control of our already tenuous grip on the technologies that drive and support us. Transformers can’t do this because it’s a machine in and of itself, as powerful and potentially soulless as the ones it depicts. That’s what makes it so troubling, so artistically disturbing, to many jilted Transformers fans. But that’s also what makes it such a fascinating spectacle to behold, no matter how many times I’ve done so at this point.

There’s one incredible shot midway through Age of Extinction that drives this point home. Kelsey Grammer (yep), the bad guy in the movie, is laying out his nefarious plans with Stanley Tucci, the slightly less bad guy who still has a chance to redeem himself. They have harnessed something that makes the Transformers tick, and are using it to build a massive army for the United States. As Grammer monologues about securing American exceptionalism for another historical era with giant killer robots, the camera slides through different parts of the massive facilities producing the things.

A brief, passing moment: one that shows a row of utterly generic-looking Transformers behind carted off to another part of the facility with a ceiling hanger. It looks so convincing that you almost don’t realise at first that this could easily be a picture taken inside a toy factory making the real-life action figures.

That’s what’s so funny and oddly subversive about these movies. Despite what all the characters say and even show about robots being cold, inert machines primarily meant to save humanity, these are the characters that Bay has actually kept sacred in his own way. The human part of this cast, meanwhile, is unrecognizable from the one seen in Michael Bay’s first Transformers, released back in 2007.

Human actors — they’re the ones who are truly replaceable. Replaceable to the point where characters change or straight up vanish. And once they’re gone, nobody even mentions them again. Because why would they? They’re too busy searching for Optimus Prime with the rest of the cast. Well, what’s left of the cast.

That is who’s essential, irreplaceable in this movie. I guess it’s a heavy handed irony: that the robots in this fiction are far more human than the actual humans. But Bay knows you’re watching this movie just to see the next supremely badass way that Optimus prime executes the final villain while muttering some nonsense about honour and falling or standing up in one direction or another. We’re hungry for yet another money shot, and he knows just how to tease us along until the final face-rending climax.

I want to say more, but I actually, truly, sincerely, do not want to spoil anything. This thing might be an inchoate roller-coaster ride of a movie. But it’s one of the best-looking ones I’ve ever seen. Even Michael Bay had limitations when he started making Transformers. Do you think anyone tells Michael Bay he can’t afford something — at least when he’s working on Transformers and not Pain and Gain? This is a master at work, using his favourite tools.

I don’t really know how to review the new Transformers, because I’m not sure what discussion there is to be had about it yet. People have already made up their minds. Way, way too many people. Even the smart ones!

But this is where we have to start: on the same page. There’s been too much senseless hatred already. For those who’ve written Transformers off already: I implore you to see it. I want your honest opinion about this movie. Not Michael Bay, not his series, this movie. Meanwhile, those of us who are willing to give this a chance will be having fun ranking the most badass GIFs from the Dinobot fight.

Seriously, that scene is like the ride of Rohirrim, only with Optimus Prime wielding a sword and riding on top of a robotic Tyrannosaurus rex. How many times have you seen bearded white dudes riding into battle since Peter Jackson first made that epic scene? If you’ve made it this far in the article, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you’re up to date on Game of Thrones. So: a lot. And how many sword-wielding Optimus Primes have you seen riding t-rexes?

That’s what I thought.


  • I liked the original cartoons and the toys, and I liked the movies also, although I haven’t seen this latest edition, maybe I don’t get all caught up in the idea of sticking with the lore of Transformers.
    I wonder if the old saying of the 100℅ rule applies here?
    You’ll never make 100% of the people, 100% happy, 100% of the time.
    Someone is always going to be unhappy or pissed off with a movie of TV series because they didn’t follow the books/Cartoon/Comics.

  • Michael Bay: We start by making a big CG building and then we have a meteor go CROSSHH! And it, and it’s all like CRAAWW a-and motorcycles burst into flame while they jump over these helicopters, right?
    And then an eighteen-wheeler spins out of control and it’s all like BROSSHH! And then this huuuge tanker full of dynamite – CRRSHGHGHHG!
    General: Those aren’t ideas, those are special effects.
    Michael Bay: I don’t understand the difference.

  • You like the new movies because you haven’t had any exposure to the source material… Good for you. To a lot of us Michael Bay is still the ruined of childhood memories and franchises. You have your opinion, we have ours. Let’s leave it at that.

    • it’s not like he went in and re-edited the original material and added new special effects and made Greedo shoot first, the original material still exists if you would like to experience it again. Michael Bay didn’t ruin your childhood memories, you did it to yourself by watching any of his suck-fest Transformers films and allowing that drivel permeate into your mind.

      • That’s true. And i do spend time with the original material to remind myself about why I loved the original series and 1986 movie. These days, I watch these Transformers “movies” just to see how bad Bay can make them.

  • I’m only 24 so I’m not quite old enough to have seen O.G. Transformers in their prime (he he) so my issues with Transformers aren’t purely lore related. They’re just really shitty movies. 13 year old me would slap the shit out of me for saying that a movie about giant robots fighting could be boring but it really is. It’s a mindless explosion fest without any of the awesomeness that the mindless action movies of the ’80s had. Transformers isn’t a movie, it lacks the writing chops to be called that. It’s a really really long CGI demo clip.

    • The thing is, they’re very nearly good. Michael Bay is one of the better purveyors of cinematic spectacle around, but he made some poor decisions with the TF movies that really scuttled them. Namely, the far-too-busy design of the robots, and the way-overdone shakycam and hyper-editing during the action scenes.
      The effect of all this added up to me (and a lot of others) not being able to tell what the hell was going on during most of the fights. I can see a lot of explosions and debris and big hunks of metal smashing together, and it looks cool, but I don’t know what’s actually happening. Did a good robot punch a bad one? Or the other way around? Without this basic information, it’s impossible to care about the conflict. It’s practically a special effects demo reel; I might as well be watching some spare parts whirling around in a clothes dryer.
      Make the robots look more distinct from each other, and shoot the action more clearly, and those movies would be A-okay.

    • This, I watched SOME transformers on tv in my early years ( Im 24 too) and loved the shit out of it because robots that transform.

      But these movies have no special attachment to that nostalgia, so I only rate them as stand alone and even in that regard the 2nd, 3rd and 4th are some of the worst movies that make obscene amounts of $$$. They aren’t even movies for christs sake they are just 3 hour long action scenes with a single hot chick somehow tying everything together.

      The first will always be the only transformer movie, the rest should be deleted from the annuls of history so that future generations will not have to witness the horrors contained within them.

      Personally I don’t know why it has happened but movies have some how decided that longer action scenes and movie times always = better when they don’t. Everything has it place and just like the Trans formers 2, man of steel, both hobbit movies they should have ended after the first big fight, because after that they lost all climax and basically droned on with stupidly long action scenes that cease to be actions scenes and just become “the movie”.

      For long movies done right, look at the proper directors cut of Kingdom of heaven, sure its like 3+ hours but the toned down version is just awful and cuts so much stuff.

  • I didn’t mind the movie either. I also own the old cartoon series on DVD, metal case and all and anyone who tells me that the series was good is talking out their ass. It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t enjoyable but it is the truth of it. Outside of a few short arcs here and there the stories told rarely extended further than “Hurr deys after our energon, go get em guys, punch punch shoot shoot, chase scene, success”
    Yes the movies were dumb, but they were enjoyable.
    Yes the movies were a vessel to have Optimus beat someone up at the end.
    Yes the movies had a throwaway human cast
    Yes there were explosions, destruction and mayhem with big set pieces
    The same can be said of the cartoon too, albeit on a smaller scale.

    They aren’t great pieces for the story they tell, for character exposition or for intelligent wit, but when it comes to a movie basically about robot deathmatch, can you expect more? stop expecting more. Dislike the movie all you want, but if it is nostalgia talking, at least be mature enough to admit it.

    • I never saw the original stuff, but these movies are bad nonetheless. Giant robots fighting sounds good in theory, but the movie failed to make me care about (or in some cases even identify) a lot of the characters. With zero emotional investment, as well as excessive shakycam, the fight scenes are nothing but a maelstrom of anonymous polygons colliding with each other. I can’t barrack for the good guys or take pleasure in seeing the bad guys getting beaten, because I can barely tell what’s actually happening.
      In terms of movies that are basically a simple, straightforward series of fights, things like Bloodsport, The Raid, and even Real Steel did it far better.

    • The television series is fairly two dimensional but the 1986 movie is everything the Bay movies are not – simple concise plot, real stakes, the Transformers are characters not ciphers, and a cast that was probably better than any of the modern movies

  • It’s not as much the CONTENT as the way it’s put together.

    * massive plot holes and bad editing that makes said plot holes even bigger. For example – the whole role of Jetfire/Skyfire in the last one. Shudder.
    * stupid humour. Jokes about Devastator’s balls.
    * bad editing that reduces potentially awesome fights to quick cut messes where you have no idea what just happened
    * same-same – in half the battles you had no idea who was winning/fighting until a winner stood up in ultra slow motion

    • He stopped using jump shots and making all the Transformers the same colour. In the new movie he uses wide shots and each Autobot and Decepticon have a distinct colour scheme so when they fight you know it’s specific Autobot fighting and killing nameless Decepticon clone.

      His Camera work or I suppose the CGI equivilent of it is much much better this time around you can tell whose who and what side their on and even what is happening in the fight.

      There are many bad points but, the new Decepticlone army doesn’t even Transform, they just become cubes that fly along and become a robot.

  • I can forgive most things about the transformers movies but two things piss me off above all else:
    1. Product placement. It’s like one big long GM advertisement. Even the transformers that weren’t cars previously are now the latest whatever GM model.
    2. Way too much T&A. I have a wife, I don’t need extreme close-ups of tits and arse in a movie based around toys that I used to play with as a kid.
    Anyway, just my two cents.

    • Actually this reminds me – I have kids – here’s a movie (specifically Revenge of the Fallen) marketed at children where in one scene a robot with knives for hands turns a soldier into mince meat – sure there’s an M tag but it doesn’t change the toys, the happy meals and the incessant marketing push at kids.

      I remember when growing up there was a point when my parents took issue with the violence in the cartoon show – I remember (successfully) arguing to them that robots shooting lasers at I’ve another was less violent than the variety of WB cartoons that would air after school each day (yes free to air TV used to be good!)

      But that violence was never gore or horror – that was the moment I stopped caring about Bayformers

      • This is my issue with Revenge of the Sith. Toys and happy meals about a movie with dismemberment, beheadings, infanticide, maternal death and the great maiming finale… and these are against humans, not the robots that Bay can get away with.

        I mean for crying out loud, in #2, Bumblebee tears out Ravage’s spine. A simple death would have been fine, but no – lets grab his tail and rip out the whole vertebrae. Lets remake this scene with a person and a dog and what rating do you think it would get…

        • Yeah Revenge of the Sith is rough compared to the other Star Wars films (except maybe the first – Vader snapping a guy’s neck and that severed arm would see that film carry an M were it classified today!

  • No one actually hates the TF movies because they ruined the original. They didn’t, all the old stuff is still there and going strong. The movies suck because they are terrible all on their own. It’s mostly the terrible writing, starting with Orci and Kurtzman who have shown repeatedly that they can’t write a decent script to save themselves.
    David Goyer (who is also a consistently terrible writer) crapped all over the source material of Batman just as much, but the difference is Nolan, unlike Bay, is a more than competent director and elevated the writing in to two very good films and one barely passable.
    Oh, and Optimus literally executing enemies (not just killing in battle) is everything that’s wrong with these movies.

  • I find it funny how all you hipsters expect a movie from a franchise about giant robots punching each other to have compelling dialog and a complex story line. I mean for fucks sake go watch Rear Window if thats what you want and keep your pretentious, whiny opinions away from my inner 10 year old. >:(

    • No I expect to be able to tell which giant robot is winning the fight. Not watching a pile of shiny metal roll around until the winner stands up.

      Admittedly in the 4th movie I finally can.

      I also expect plot points from previous movies to still matter.
      In Transformers 2 the Decepticons needed the Transformers to find a new source of Energon to allow the children to survive, In Transformers 4 they are no longer self replicating, Optimus is no longer a descendant of the Original Primes he was built by another race for some reason.
      So now your ignoring your own bloody plot lines.

      • It’s not a matter of NOW ignoring their own plot lines. Every single movie ignores the plot line of the previous movie. Seriously. Think about what the Decepticons wanted in the original: The Allspark, to create more transformers, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0418279/plotsummary In the second movie, they want to harvest energon from the sun (in the most roundabout way possible) and wipe out life on Earth. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1055369/synopsis?ref_=ttpl_pl_syn
        In the third film, though, what they really wanted all along was to make a secret alliance between Sentinel Prime and the Decepticons in order to enslave the human race to rebuild cybertron… http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1399103/synopsis?ref_=ttpl_pl_syn

        Is this seriously how backwards the Decepticons are, or is it (more likely) just how bad at maintaining a cohesive theme that the writers and Michael Bay are?

        • It’s even worse when you consider the actual chain of events within certain movies. Take the second. What does the Fallen want? To activate the Sun Harvester. To activate the Sun Harvester, he needs the Matrix of Leadership. The Matrix of Leadership needs to be earned, not found (someone needs to perform a heroic act) so they need Shia to not be noobish and resurrect Optimus Prime. So they need to kill Optimus Prime. They also need to make sure that Sam know where to find the Matrix of Leadership (even though it can’t be found) so they… piss off enough of their own kind to make them want to leave the decepticons to provide a translation to Shia, because they know he already knows the location because he was exposed to the Allspark…

          Anyway. So, to kill Optimus, they need to give him someone that needs to be protected. So, they kidnap Shia and literally try to kill him. So, to kidnap Shia, they place a totally cool/creepy robot chick in his school to flirt with him. Which they do because they… somehow know that he is going to get exposed to the Allspark, and provide them with the location of the Matrix of Leadership, because they need it to activate the Sun Harvester?

          How did they know that was going to happen? Why didn’t they just leave Optimus dead, knowing he was the only Transformer that could stop the Fallen? Seriously, why not just build a new Sun Harvester in total secrecy, create it with a different key, and then just blow up the sun?

          The entire plot of the movie revolves around both sides doing something because they can, which means that the opposite side has the tools they need to win. Logic goes right out the window on this one.

          • I think I have that written pretty much ready to copy/paste in my head. Takes much less time that way.

    • It’s like the canibalized WFC/FOC to inject legitimacy into the movie games like some nightmarish reverse liposuction.

    • I have the new game and it plays exactly like Fall of Cybertron, with the exception that their are Bayformer designs. And that’s 6 out of 14 stages so there are actually 8 good ones.

      I have not completed it, and the first stage is completely illogical (Bayformers) but the 2nd one was Shockwave, Starscream and Soundwave and they sounded, and acted in character.

  • Bay is a product of the 90s and his films are a representation of what was acceptable at the time. He is from a time when explosions, arse shots and horrible dialogue were acceptable.

    But times have changed, and people as an audience do, and should expect more from their entertainment. You wouldn’t accept a game released full of bugs (in fact, your website is usually incredibly critical), so why should a film be acceptable that is lacking all substance, contradicts not only it’s previous films but also itself and is almost impossible to follow due to the shakeycam?

    This whole “it’s a movie about robots fighting robots, stop expecting so much” argument is invalid. NGE did it expertly, Transformers IDW do it amazingly, Pacific Rim did it okayish. Stop making excuses for a franchise that could be more and should be more and is being dragged down by its director.

    If this was the Avengers you would rip it to shreds for it’s flaws, so why are you accepting of this film?

    You seem quite quick to jump on the “Your biased because of sentimentality” argument, as if people are overlooking the merits of the film, when your entire article is DRENCHED in hyperbole where you skip it’s numerous issues.

    I am happy for Bay to have built his own universe, infact I implore him of it. It’s shows a bravery to do his own thing. But. When you build a mythos up from the base you don’t then get to turn around and contradict EVERYTHING you’ve built.

    The Allspark created the Transformers, but now it’s someone else? The creators want Optimus because he was one of the originals but in RotF he is a descendant of the original primes? The Allspark contains all the memories and their soul but then the empty head which should contain nothing is able to build Galveston with his memories? Transformers are made of a specific metal but the spark can turn anything into a transformer oh wait the all spark didn’t build anyone someone else did even though we had two films about it.

    They aren’t good films. It’s not about sentimentality. It’s about a director from a time before audiences expected more and now they should.

    And as to the whole thing being culturally and politically relevant, stop reaching for something so beyond non-existent. It shows a lack of integrity in an article that was already obviously lacking.

    • it’s a well written, mildly sarcastic article about a movie the writer admits is a piece of shit but enjoyed anyway. would you prefer one of Georgo Vas’ “articles”?

      • The writer is making an Argument for the movies, this is a counterargument to that. It’s polite and merely representing a different view. I agree with it but. The fourth movie corrects a lot of mistakes the first three made. Wide shots instead of jump shots, Colourful Transformers so you can tell the difference between Autobot and Decepticon. I think it’s the best shot movie in the series, it has a better plot than the previous movies. It still has flaws but. And one of the major flaws is it ignores previously established history.

        I seriously think it was 45 minutes too long (2hrs 45 mins,). It’s a movie about giant robots hitting each other, let’s keep it down to 2 hours.

        • It was FAR too long. A lot could have and should have been cut.

          I also agree it was probably the best shot ( Although far too much shakeycam and slow-mo. Honestly, if you’re going to put the Dinobots in the film for only 10 min, don’t make 7min of that impossible to see).

          Colour coding is something that should have occurred much earlier but it’s better late than never. Although I suppose when you kill everyone and end up with RGBY and that’s it, well it’s not that difficult. I still believe that a warrior race would not expose weak points to the enemy and internal machine parts would be covered, it’s basic common sense.

          Story wise: yes. It’s probably the -better- of the films. However that doesn’t save it from it’s numerous large plot holes, the biggest of which is that the entire plot of the film is based on the idea that is contradicted by the first two films ( I don’t include the 3rd because it was more of an internal conflict story between A and D and didn’t include as much mythos). It’s so large Infact that it could not have been overlooked during scripting, which means they were very likely told to ignore it.

          Sadly, for all the corrections the film makes, it opens up dozens more

  • I used to love The Transformers and do look back on them nostalgically. I have strong emotions tied to them. I even shed a tear when Optimus Prime died in the original cartoon movie. However, the series was trash. I watch it now and while some things strike a chord with me still, it’s cheap, junk TV. I can be realistic about it. The same is true for pretty much everything I used to watch.

    My problem with the new movies – primarily the first one – is that the Transformers were setting and nothing more. They were indistinguishable from each other physically and this was compounded by them having no individual character, with the exception of Bumblebee. It was a story about ‘Shia Labeouf’ and a bunch of seemingly nameless, faceless robots fighting each other. Despite the major shortcomings of the original series, it was all about the robots and their personalities. The new movies hinge on the Labeouf character (whom I still tend to call ‘Spike’), who is unappealing in every way. The movies should be called “Shia Labeouf Falls in Love With Some Hot Chick – Oh and There Are Some Robots Too”.

    THAT’S why I hate the new movies. Because they’re bad. Not because they “ruined my childhood”.

  • How many people do you think Michael Bay keeps employed?
    How many people does Lars Von Trier keep employed?

    Michael Bay is single-handedly keeping money injected into movie-making. Your childhood memories aren’t paying the gaffer’s bills.

    • Couldn’t agree anymore
      and the thing that pisses me off is more than half the people complaining about the bay films couldn’t even syndicate an actual movie script to save their life… People really take shit for granted these days…

      Also has anyone watched the g1 movie latelty… It doesn’t exactly hold up that well 🙁 *ducks for cover*

      • What exactly about the G1 movie doesn’t hold up? (Im trying to not be a fanboy about this, Im 100% in agreement that the cartoon series is very average as an adult looking at it now, though series 3 certainly had moments when it invokes the movie story components)

        It has a reasonable story line and plot considering its about transforming robots, not to mention somehow it introduced these new concepts (like the Matrix, Unicron) out of nowhere, yet it felt like you knew about it since the beginning. The script is no worse than any other 80’s action flick (live or otherwise), it has superb animation and colouring, excellent production (for the time), a couple of one-liners “Hey Perceptor, whats shakin’? Other than this fortress?” and the best movie sound track of all time.

        It even has emotional context.. who wasn’t upset after the slaughter when the Prime died and then Ultra Magnus gets obliterated! Or even the scene where Starscream is booting Megatron out of Astrotrain and earlier when the Decepticons attack the shuttle and for the first time in a TF cartoon (and any other cartoon I remember seeing) you actually see Prowl and Ratchet get killed!! Not just a laser fight where everyones cool afterwards, actual death. These characters you’ve spent 2 years getting to “know” and playing with as a toy are GONE!

        It’s also the single greatest vehicle for introducing a “new” cast of characters for a toy line and “killing” off old ones.

        The G1 movie is a cinema classic compared to Bay’s output..

    • What a ridiculous justification for endorsing a crap movie. ‘He employs a lot of people!’ So does the coal mining industry. Your point? Paying salaries doesn’t make you a good film maker. If you want to argue the movie on its merits, fine. If you want to say it fills a demand, also fine. But let’s not pretend that the multitude of minimum wage paychecks getting signed by Bay’s company is in any way indicative of a good movie.

      • If I wrote an essay detailing why I like Bay’s film from an artistic standpoint, I doubt it would change your mind.

  • This is such a garbage article.
    The argument isn’t even that classic G1 transformers is better, it’s that ALL transformers are better. Anyone that enjoys classic also likes Transformers Prime the newest series, the recent games, the recent comics, and they all provide a better story etc without being a poor adaptation like Michael Bay’s movies.

    • It’s not a garbage article, it’s well thought out, it’s more than a sentence and a picture with no context like a lot of things on Kotaku. Now you may disagree with him (as I do) but the article is not garbage it’s a subjective opinion on something.

      • The justifications that he’s giving as to why we should ‘leave Michael Bay alone’ are, in my opinion, garbage. So therefore content of article = garbage. I expect more well thought out arguments from Kotaku than this.

  • If transformers are supposed to be these big badass fighting robots, then why have they got all their circuitry and workings etc exposed when they’re in their non-car form or whatever, rather than being covered in connected armour plating? it doesn’t make any sense – the answer? i saw an interview with Michael Bay after the first movie and he said they changed the look because he didn’t think the audience would find the clean metal plates look interesting enough
    That’s why i hate Michael Bay – because he thinks his entire audience is as dumb as he is

  • This movie was three hours of the worst bullshit ever.
    So many one liners that dont even really make sense with the plot/current happenings.
    Alienspace ships with nets, that then later have giant antigravitational magnets.

    I was expecting michael bay, but this was worse, worse than transformers 2.

  • So you actually preferred Bay’s Transformer movies to Nolan’s Batman movies, which is widely considered to be not just one of the best comic book movie series ever made, but one of the best trilogies full stop. That tells us everything we need to know about your mental faculty and why we should completely disregard any opinion you have on films.

  • I thought it was a great movie. I loved the darker tone and I felt they stayed on the action of a scene for longer than the other three movies. Less cut to, then cut to then cut to. The whole genetic engineering theme never clicked with me until Tucci mentioned it. Can’t wait to watch it again. Easily the best of the lot.

  • I’m sorry, but this article failed to make one genuine argument in favour of the Michael Bay Transformers movies. And it had a LOT of words to fail to do it in.

    Yannick’s arguments can basically be summed up as:

    – “I never watched the original Transformers so I don’t know what there was to ruin.”

    – “I don’t like Batman and TDK series is too serious. Who cares if Transformers is dumb?”

    Good for you, you don’t care if it’s dumb. They’re still dumb. Poor dialogue, overuse of CGI, nonexistent plot and ignoring source material (Optimus executing enemies?) make for an objectively bad movie.

    Yannick literally said he likes Transformers more because it just cares about explosions rather than actual messages. That’s the level of thought we’re dealing with here.

    And one more thing. “Superman? His name is a combination of the words “Super” and “Man.” I despise Superman, but that is an absolutely piss poor excuse of an argument. The robot link is tenuous at best too.

    • Agreed, the level of intelligent thought going on here was pretty non existent. If I’m going to read a (massive) justification as to why a Michael Bay film is worth watching I expect some more compelling reasons than he has here. Weak sauce.

  • Even Tommy Wiseau is a better director than Bay.

    “…and as a director, I try to……”

  • I’ve never understood the hate for the new transformers movies. Sure they aren’t amazing, but I’m not always in the mood for a story I really have to pay attention to.

    Sure it might not stay true to the original in certain aspects, but I’d argue that if the movies werent full of action and splosions etc the complaints would just be swapped around. You can’t please everyone, and the whingers are always the loudest.

    Hell, I rewatched the first two the other day with my gf and we both enjoyed them. Are they up to the Dark Knight’s standards? No. Are they entertaining? I believe so.

    Reading comments on articles like this always makes me laugh. It’s like everyone feels like Bay has a personal vendetta against them or the transformers franchise.

    The best comments are from the guys that post from up on their high chair. “I know it’s going to be terrible but I’ll go see it for luls” or “I’ll see it just to see how bad it is!” Really? Your life is that empty you purposefully go see a movie you already have preconceived opinion of, then you go and complain about it online? That’s just hilarious to me.

    I’ll finish on a quote from Bay regarding his movies being filled with so many explosions and special effects: “So what?”

    (For reference I think Bay is a douche bag , but I feel like ripping on his movies is the new “hip” thing to do. And to be fair, Bad Boys II was fantastic.)

    • Ain’t nothing ‘new’ or ‘hip’ about it. Peeps been doing it since the first one. Bay’s films are the dumbest of the dumb, he treats his audience like they’re complete Neanderthals. There are ways of making a film balanced between dumb action and intelligence. Bay has exactly zero of the latter.

  • When I watch Transformers movies, I’m like, “Yeah, pew pew! Smash him Optimus, yeah!” Not, “Oh my god, there is a serious lack of dialogue in this scene, I mean, what is Optimus trying to represent, oh my, why aren’t their more sub plots and blah blah.”

    You watch Transformers to watch robots fighting robots. Jesus.

    • It’s not a matter of robots having engaging dialogue etc. It’s that the films have zero intelligence in the character, story and dialogue departments, and this equates to a super stupid movie. As I keep saying, there are ways to make robots fight other than treating your audience like they’re morons

  • If you make something and put it into a public space you have to expect Criticism. So Bay needs to be a big boy and not read it or accept it.

    The problem with using somebody elses characters and story is that people know that story and will be critical of changes they don’t like. If you don’t want them to compare it to what came before than think of something original.

    Imagine if the Harry Potter Movies didn’t follow the books, and basically had Harry as a overprivalleged Brat with incredible magical powers who used them to bully other people. People would be furious even if the movie was actually fantastic.

    There is a reason Bay is only producing the new TMNT movie and not directing it, because he didn’t own the rights and his script where they weren’t Teenagers, Mutants, Ninjas or Turtles was rejected by the people who did own the rights.

    When you make a reboot, a sequel or a film adaptation of a well known IP (Transformers has it’s own international conventions so it’s kind of a big one) you will get people who don’t like your interruption of it.

    I look at the Total Recall reboot, which I don’t see as that bad of a movie, but when I think Total Recall I think of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie on Mars, and not just because there was a chick with three boobs.

    I think this was the best Transformers Movie in the series, but:
    1.) It was about 45 minutes too long. It should have only been 2hrs.
    2.) It contradicted things they showed us in previous movies.
    3.) Terrible Terrible robot faces, Drift and Lockdown most specifically, Hound also made no sense.
    4.) We need a Love story, because I know I need to see one in a Movie about Robots fighting.
    5.) There where (and I know it’s a Bay thing) far too many Explosions. To the point where they where setting off cheap fireworks around the action just for more explosions. And yes they looked like cheap bottle rockets. Like they ran out of money and spend the last couple of hundred at the local firework store.
    6.) I know it’s like a Transformers thing to have the Government constantly make stupid stupid braindead decisions but yeah they made it so much worse.
    7.) Lazy lazy Tranformations for the Decepticons. They don’t Transform at all. Car > Flying Lego Bricks > Robot.

    There’s more but they’d be spoilers.

    The Pros:
    1.) Wide Shots, holy crap you could finally see the action.
    2.) Coloured robots, it no longer looked like random scrap metal rolling around.
    3.) John Goodman as Hound. Just something I really liked.
    4.) Kelsey Grammer was a great villain, he ruthlessly pursued his objective.
    5.) No Shia Lebouf (Spelling?) or his parents.
    6.) Very little Humans being Human doing Human things. It’s a Robot fighting movie, I don’t need to know about Humans.

    • Goodman was fantastic, as was Grammer. I would have been happy to have more humans, but the story needs to be there and by the attempts made with Shia in the first trilogy, well I’m glad they skipped it.

      And there was only one racist character in this one (Not sure how Drift, an alien, is dressed in samurai garb and had a Japanese accent), so I guess that’s an improvement?

      • I do hate his face, but you could argue that he studied Earth culture and modelled his form on Samurai culture as it reflected his personal feelings.

  • Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett tried to convince me that pre-Michael Bay, Transformers was already basically Band of Brothers with giant killer robots. That sounds like an amazing show.

    I think it’s pretty clear bynow that Luke Plunkett doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • “What really frustrates me about this stubborn nostaligia, however, is that it means the new Transformers never gets a chance to succeed on its own.”

    Ummm, what part of 3 sequels later and bazillions of dollars at the box office is not ‘succeeding’ on its own?

    Still shite though.

  • “Are any superhero movies actually that smart? Be honest with yourself before you pick up the rock I see you eyeing over there. Captain America? Come on. Spider-Man? Maybe a little, but it’s every bit as preachy as Transformers. Superman? His name is a combination of the words “Super” and “Man.” Optimus Prime isn’t much more nuanced, but at least it sounds foreign, which is cool.”

    This whole article is a defense of enjoying Transformers in a way that the author’s peers find contemptible, and yet in this paragraph the author applies the same logic to superheros; according to the author, people enjoying superhero films for their stories are doing it wrong, because the source material is inherently and can only ever be ridiculous. It’s a clear double standard.

    I’ve seen all the Michael Bay Transformer movies and enjoyed them, while also being a fan of the non-Bay franchise. That said, this latest one made the least sense of all of them. CIA assassins deployed on American soil without any form of oversight? One part of the Evil Plan involves selling cars that are also transformers to consumers; who the hell would want to buy a car that was also an alien robot? And don’t even get me started on the contrivance that is where the dinobots come from.

  • Transformers 3 was a bloody joke. I very nearly walked out of it.
    Not only were there COUNTLESS plot holes throughout the whole thing (I know, Bayformers… woo cg), but the dialogue was pathetic (even for transformers standards) the cinematography was pathetic – a lot of cringeworthy moments without even needing any dialogue or cg…. it was just horrible. I’m torn on the CG, it was amazing but CG does not make a film – and in fact i was just thoroughly bored of it by the end.

    For the love of god, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, save yourself 3 hours.

  • I saw it today and loved it by far my favourite of the four films. I’m also really looking forward to Bay’s TMNT, maybe my affection for these movies is due to me being a 90’s kid, when I was growing up we were all about the Power Rangers and the fads of Transformers and TMNT had for the most part died off by then. So unlike a lot of people that hate these movies for not being what they remember I never really gave two shits about either franchise, the only reason Optimus Prime was my “favourite” was because he was on the only one I could ever recognise and the only one whose name I could remember.

    Also it annoyed the ever loving shit out of me that whenever Bale was doing his Batman voice he would never close his mouth in-between lines, he’d just stand there with it hanging open like a stunned goldfish.

  • There’s plenty about the movie that guarantees a mass market success. Lots of explosions, lots of skin, pre-sold marketing franchise that to this day brings in millions (YOU try buying an original Transformer on eBay without spending a paycheck). It should be a slam dunk, and for many people of a certain demographic, it is. The problem lies, as will all Bay films, in the story telling. Michael Bay’s belief that a storyline is secondary or even tertiary to CGI and explosions is evident in everything he produces, and this movie was no exception. I’m not sentimental about the franchise. I’m frustrated that someone took a great talent like Stanley Tucci and still managed to present him in a steaming pile of a film.

  • I’m pretty sure that the problem most people have with those movies stem principally not due nostalgia, but rather, because they’re through and through terrible movies. Violation of one’s childhood memories is the insult on top of the injury.

    I believe that the modern movie-goer geek (stemming from a childhood in the 80’s-90’s) has now reached the age where he or she is more discerning, and things going BOOOM and CRAAASH and WOOOOSHH cannot longer be accepted in lieu of storytelling, internal consistency and believable, developing characters. In addition of those things? Sure, it’s welcome. Without them? Contemptible rubbish.

  • i love this article. i agree completely. transformers 4 (to me) was a masterpiece. it was so much fun. and i actually am a huge fan of the cartoons as a kid too. i really really enjoyed the movie, i loved the human characters (mark wahlberg character was so awesome). “one day im going to make something that really matters.” “Why cant you look at all this junk and see the treasure?”. i love it and im glad im not the only one. my favourite article ive read on age of extinction so far! sorry you had to watch it alone! ive seen it twice and loved it both times!

  • My biggest issue is the “plot”…. yes I know dumb thing to say but let me expand slightly

    Yes i know plot on Transformers is basically just a vehicle for showing us more vehicular and robot destruction but here’s the thing. I am more than happy to overlook the shallow plot because its Transformers. I quite enjoyed the “new” designs.

    The problem is MB has seem to have gotten stuck on the same plotline – humans (usually some government organisation w/ a pencil pusher) gets rid of autobots saying they don’t need them, they go willingly since their “good guys”, Decepticons and/or Evil of the Day comes in and wipes out a good chunk of the population, people cry for Autobots and they come in and save everyone! everyone is happy… until the next pencil pusher does the “gets rid of the autobots” and the cycle continues anew for the next sequal =_=

  • People complain too much. Enjoy everything for what it is. I have enjoyed most transformers series since G1. Heck, I even enjoyed Beastwars. Even with nostalgia for the old shows, Transformers: Prime has become my favourite series. So while the Bay-movies deviate from stuff in the past, they are still enjoyable.

  • Transformers 4 was probably my least favorite. I mean, giving the Transformers a creator? what the hell.

    The first transformers was the best, it was close to the original source material and still held up as a blockbuster movie. The second started to deviate but was still awesome and is my favorite. The third was just all hell broken loose.

    Things that could make the movies amazing:
    1) Stop with the dumb jokes.
    2) Give the bad guys more character again. I loved how we knew who all of the bad guys were in the first movie, but the second introduced all these hundreds of random faceless nameless cybertronians and that has continued since, they are just soldiers now, whereas in the show every single Decepticon mattered just as much as the Autobots. I mean take Starscream for example, he was by far the coolest of them all, but they killed him off in TF3, and he was killed by HUMANS!!!
    3) Let us know their names!!! I mean, we SEE these cybertronians but have no idea what their names are.
    4) I’m so tired of the whole idea that humans are able to outright defeat a cybertronian one-on-one. Are you kidding me?
    5) STOP MAKING THE BOTS LOOK LIKE HUMANS!!!! Like far out!!! The best part about them is that they AREN’T humans!!! They should be big and blocky and badass.
    6) You gave us Dinobots, but did not introduce them AT ALL. Optimus was just like “oh so the legendary such and such does exist” without even telling us who he was or why he was a legend!

    I get that TF movies are Blockbusters now, but there is LITERALLY no reason to totally destroy so much of the source material. These movies would still sell billions of dollars worth even WITH the things I mentioned above. They might even sell more, because the older fans might enjoy them a bit more.

  • Have they introduced Hot Rod, Cup, Ultra Magus, Springer, Blaster, Blur or Perceptor yet???

  • Yyyyyyyyeah, nah.
    Bay’s movies suck.
    Transformers is just a particularly recent/loud example.

  • The fact you need to write a thousand word article to justify the movie means that it is terrible.

  • Wow! I’m surprised that someone who writes so well and is clearly intelligent can like this movie, or its predecessors.
    Michael Bay needs to stop making movies. I completely agree with the South Park quote above and it’s what I think of when I hear Michael Bay’s name.

  • I read the article. Basically, the author is saying, ‘But, have you seen this film? If not, you can’t complain.’

    That’s like saying, ‘But have tried eating THIS maggoty bread? Try it, you might like it.’

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGFXEtPUkDA (nsfw)

    You’ll understand if I don’t plan to take his advice seriously.

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