So I was convinced to see Transformers.

You shouldn’t be, if you value your childhood memories even slightly.  There was a mild twinge of enjoyment at hearing Peter Cullen reprise the old Optimus Prime voice, but everything else, especially anything with real people in it (and that’s mostly what it was) stank on ice.  In the TV show, the Transformers were the main characters.  In this, they are just plot devices, including comic relief.  They are characters, but the story is entirely focused on the humans.  They even ruined the nostalgia factor, with copious, and I mean copious, amounts of crap like [Boy to Girl: “No, I don’t think you’re shallow… I think there’s more than meets the eye… to you.”  I wish I were kidding.

But the thing I can’t forgive Michael Bay for is that he ruined the Transformers themselves.  Not content to strip them of real character and turn them into comic relief set pieces, he had to destroy their appearance as well, all in the name of making them “grittier” (or perhaps just greasier in this case).  I can understand extreme detail, even beefing up their coolness to make them seem more realistic/menacing/whatever, but by adding gears and parts and everything including the kitchen sink to them, he made them almost look identical.  You could barely tell Megatron from Starscream, except that Megatron scared the shit out of everyone when he was around.  You know Bumblebee because he has yellow on him, Optimus for some red and blue, and Jazz because he is a jive-talkin’ black man robot.  Other than making Bumblebee the main boy’s pet robot, and building up a last second rivalry between Prime and Megatron, there was no character to any of them whatsoever.  “Oooh, there’s the big tank transformer!  He’s going to cause damage!”  And lo!  He does!

I did swear halfway through that I’d forgive Bay all his sins if he brought in the Dinobots, but alas….  The faux gravitas made me bury my head in my hands; the awful, truly awful attempts at comedy made me bury my head in my hands.  It was a big blockbuster action movie and I was actually bored.  My first words when it was over to the friend with whom I saw it were, “How can something so big budget be so bad?”

Then I remembered Pearl Harbor (24%).  And Armageddon (41%).  And The Island (40%), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (36%), and the unforgivable Bad Boys II (25%).  I never saw a one of them, but apparently with good reason.  And after Transformers, I’ll never watch a Michael Bay film again, ever.  If his name appears with the movie, I’ll write it off no matter how good people say it is (but I’m not holding my breath till that day).

Transformer’s one redeeming grace in my mind was that it set things up for potential sequels, leaving off a bit like how the main TV show ran — the Autobots living on earth and protecting humanity (and presumably the Decepticons can mount a comeback in any case).  If they put a different director on it and actually attempted to make a decent film, which I’m entirely convinced they never set out to do here, this movie will have set that up.  And that’s all it was worth.  It’s like Phantom Menace, but made in the correct order.

Oh, I’m not promising they’d be good.  By all theories of sequels they should actually be worse, and if they stick to the same formula they will be.  But if someone out there sees this for the crap that it was and tries to take it in a new direction, the core fiction of the Transformers franchise is still relatively, albeit Dinobot-lessly, intact.

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