My Ultimate HATE (And Love) Relationship With: The Transformers Films

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Welcome to a new style editorial series that I’ve been wanting to do for a while. This is where we look at something for a topic, whether a film series or even a group of individuals, and analyze them from certain perspectives. Generally these will include topics of things that are disliked by a majority, yet still liked by a not-so-little minority. And with the recent announcement of a particularly cancelled sixth film, as well as plans for a one-hundred percent reboot by 2021, we’re going to target the bay-splosion Transformer films as our first topic of this series.

This is how we’ll be looking at this franchise, and how this will be for all future topics. First I will be giving my personal background and story regarding how I came to be apart of, or at least knowledgeable of, the particular topic. Second, we will be looking at the major cons that I, as well as many others, have about the topic. And lastly, I will give a silver lining on some positives that the topic has either given me or most others. Now let us begin…

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My Beginning Interests With Transformers (As A Whole)

First thing to mention is that I was born in the year 1992. I find this important for veteran fans to understand because I certainly didn’t grow up with the original 80’s Transformers show, therefore that original classic was no my first experience of the franchise. My actual first encounter with the series was actually Beast Wars, which debuted in late 1996, meaning my first initial encounter was when I was about 4 or 5 years old.

Now obviously I don’t entirely remember my opinion at the time. The best way I can describe my memory of this is by explaining that I remember images and the theme of the series. I can remember the CG modeling look and aesthetic, as well as the fact that they transformed into animals. Even later on in the show’s prime lifetime I remember my old friend Chaz getting the toys of the show as birthday presents, most particularly I remember the cheetah toy (which many fans of the show will immediately know is the character “Cheetor”).

The second big encounter, which I argue didn’t really make me a fan yet, was Transformers: Robots In Disguise (the 2001 series, not the recent 2015 show). I briefly remember the show as being an anime-style show, which I know is true considering the show was actually Japanese made, but other than that I didn’t really watch it. At that time it was all about the toys! I referred to these toys by what they turned into and not by their actual names. I remember my two favorites were the “firetruck guy” (which I was shocked to later find out was actually a version of Optimus Prime, meaning I once had a legitimately cool Optimus Prime figure which is probably worth loads) and the “shark guy” (which again, researching later in life, was the character Sky-Byte). I also had “the Two-headed Dragon” which was actually the main baddie of the entire Tranformers franchise, Megatron. But as I’ve said before, I don’t consider this as my actual starting off point. For one thing I only liked the toys and never watched the show, and another big thing is that my childish hype for the toys barely lasted a year due to other interests weighing more in favor, Pokemon and Bionicle were the biggest ones.

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So yeah my interests were in minor bursts here and there but never really anything grand. I never knew the characters and I never knew the overall story arc. Sure I could tell the good guys from the bad guys, but I never had an indication of a Civil War based adventure. But then 2007 happened…

My first REAL Experience With Transformers:

Well, technically when 2006 happened, since that was where the first teaser for the live-action film first released. The teaser was incredibly simple but effective, especially to a younger boy demographic such as myself at the time. The teaser first began by showing the launch of a rover (known as the Beagle 2) and it’s arrival to Mars. While crawling atop the surface of the planet, it is halted and thwarted by a mysterious large humanoid figure. Suddenly there is a zoom out shot of our earth and eventually the film’s reveal title. You can watch the original teaser that started it all here: Transformers (2007) Teaser

This teaser, for one reason or another, truly intrigued me. The thought of this thing I knew in passing becoming a live-action series was really interesting me to the point that I begun my research on the franchise. Soon the film itself released and, while I’ll avoid my opinions and such for later, this is pretty much where my love for the franchise started. This is where I realized there was *cough *cough “more than meets the eye” *cough.

Immediately I began looking up ways to watch the original shows and even looking up fandom websites and wiki pages to learn about this universe as much as possible. I have done this many times for other franchises I like such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, DC and Marvel, hell even Planet of the Apes, so my sudden fan rage is quite common place.

The first show I obviously watched was the original 80’s Transformers show, which basically started this whole thing in the first place. And boy do I have opinions on that.

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My Transformers (1984) Cartoon Show Impression:

It was immediately apparent that this entire show’s full purpose was to sell the toys, which is a little villainous of them to do towards kids but to be fair some of those classic toys look pretty cool. And while the show certainly has that fun-feeling nostalgic 80’s vibe, similar to shows like G.I. Joe and Voltron, it was also kind of simplistic looking thanks to the robot characters looking pretty “boxy” in design. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and many people prefer this look still to this day, but in my opinion as a dumb 90’s kid it looks sometimes bland and too simplistic (with exceptions like Soundwave, who honestly has a really flawless design). The music is also heavy 80’s vibe, probably more so than I expected, and is pretty complimented by the aesthetic of it all. But by far the most notable thing about the show, the ultimate enjoyment factor of the entire package, is how ridiculous it gets.

Sure it starts off minor in the goofy train, with the simple concept of robots becoming vehicles and so forth, but the more you watch the show the more whacky it gets. Soon there are robots turning into robotic dinosaurs, little roly polie shark faced bots, multi-faced tentacle things known as “quintessons”, space ships with dinosaur heads, and even midieval knights and evil wizards (no joke). These were the moments where the show became enjoyable beyond expectations for me.

Beyond that the there was another show, one that works proper as a sequelized continuation to the original show which I did not expect.

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My Beast Wars: Transformers (1996) Impression:

Beast wars pretty much has what I would enjoy in a show. This show has no actual humans (yay!), every character turns into an animal including the likes of dinosaurs and giant insects, and the characters even have ridiculous, yet cool, names like Rhinox and Rattrap. So initially this show was a fun ride through and through, but it did have one big annoyance to it which was the CG quality.

Now this cannot be considered a con since this was among one of the first CG shows made at the time, therefore just barely getting their barrings. but it certainly resulted into some occasional bad moments of visual action. Still though, if this was the only complaint from me, this show was certainly one of the stronger shows in the Transformers universe to date. It’s no wonder why people have demanded Maximals and Predacons in the films.

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My Transformers Movie (1986) impression:

So sadly I watched the movie after both the original show and Beast Wars. I guess it was kind of odd to watch the halfway mark of the 80’s show suddenly have a bunch of new characters and stuff but I managed to accept it and figure out why pretty quickly for what it was, but I still highly recommend watching the movie before you reach season 3 because the intended way is absolutely the better way.

It was quite a shock to see a whole bunch of the classic characters get murdered left and right, both Autobots and Decepticons. While it is apparent this was just to discontinue older toys for the newer ones, it was still a compelling moment in an otherwise marketing-ploy agenda. Even Optimus Prime’s death was upsetting, while I didn’t cry or anything I can only imagine how 80’s kids reacted to this super heroic character’s passing. Other things I liked about the movie include Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron’s voice and the biggest baddie theres is: Unicron. It’s also funny to see the “future” of 2005 in this 1980 film with advanced cybertronian inclusions and concepts like “Autobot city”, especially thinking back at it here in 2018.


 

From this point on it was simply just the live-action films. I unfortunately didn’t watch Transformers: Animated (2007) until years later, and it wasn’t until Transformers: Prime came out that I went back on that personal bandwagon. So now we’ll dive into the actually films in question for this little editorial.

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What Are The Decepti-CONS?

It’s no shock or news that a lot of people have a lot of problems with this live-action franchise. And every negative and complaint has it’s truths in almost every aspect. It was a bundle of films with overdone action, poor or zero plot, and of course the many, many explosions. Which cons will I be looking at here? Well…

CON I – The Director Either Doesn’t Care, Or really is that Dumb

Now I do not want to turn this into a Bay-hate fest, because honestly he really isn’t all that bad. For one thing he certainly knows how to make a shot look incredible when he tries, and he has some other positives in his field of work such as sound quality and occasionally camera movement. There are other movies he has made that I actually like a lot (13 Hours!), You can even argue that he can, at times, make an action shot look great. But what are the main problems associated with his Transformer films?

Well overall he doesn’t really seem to care. Whether it’s his neglect of the source material or his rude behavior towards criticism or the actors/film crew, it’s clear that he just wants his way and nothing else matters. This doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture for this guy does it? I would also like to think he is somewhat smart, but he makes the most ludicrous decisions with scenes and character designs that I constantly question his motives. How can someone put effort in making a scene look good when the scene itself lacks credibility or purpose?

Now other bad directors do seem like genuinely kind and gentle people in real life, the biggest example would be George Lucas who does seem like a nice guy despite what you think of his film work on the prequels. But aside from the negativity towards Transformers, this guy very much seems like an ass in person and, if I were a major company like Hasbro, I wouldn’t want this kind of person to lead a mega franchise such as this. It’s also annoying that he constantly goes against his word, promising things that don’t happen. Examples include how he promised making Shockwave, a favorite of mine, the primary antagonist of the third film only to have him appear in a minor role doing no less than a grunt job. And then there’s his announcements of leaving the series, only to return with another big-budget sequel made.

I guess my final conclusion is that while Michael Bay has his pros, his cons certainly overshadow them. But do I hate the guy? Not really because I don’t personally know him, I just have a mental image of how he most likely is judging by reports and special features on the movies. I think if we had him only in charge of something like camera work or stunt scenes, and have a different better director at the helm, we could possibly get some quality from Bay. But in a realistic world, Bay’s directorial moments for this franchise are just sad.

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CON II – Plots Range From Just Okay To Utter Garbage

Despite whatever fun or hatred you inherit from these films, we can all agree that the plots are… meh. Going from beginning to end, the first film in the series is fine and simple, the second is garbage, the third is fine, the fourth is garbage and the fifth is garbage. Realistically that means there are only two out of five films that actually have some form of a plot, and the plots themselves aren’t even that incredible.

This is largely disappointing due to the fact that the Transformers universe has a ton of incredible stories you can tell and tons of moments that can be remade cinematically in the best of ways. But in this Bay-verse we get an underused important villain (the Fallen) who has a rushed or half-constructed origin, a lackluster mega combiner (Devastator) that is used for a minimal task, and teeny tiny screen time for what really matters, especially since you advertised them constantly in trailers and tv spots (Grimlock and the other Dinobots).

CON III – Those Bloody Humans!

Due to it being live-action, you have to emphasis this by having humans appear in your story, which is understandable. But even so, you still have to know both the primary intentions as well as what your target audiences will want to come to your movie to see, and in this case it’s the Transformers themselves.

In these films not only do we get a lot of human screentime, but we also get them doing a ton of stupid things that usually amount to nothing. This is mainly where a lot of the major problems people have with this franchise lie, because this is where the camera sticks around for more than half of the movie, for every movie in the franchise!

Human characters have always been a thing sure, but they never took away from the actual characters of the story and were only there as informative spectators, friends or morality boosters. And, in the case of the television shows, they were never really there during major fight scenes and even if they were they weren’t there “annoyingly” or “pointlessly”. So while I understand having to save on budget of the CGI characters, this doesn’t excuse what you make those non-CG characters do in the film.

CON IV – Bad Designs and Enemy Scrotums

Speaking of the robot characters, there are some that just have bad designs. Now I’m not saying the special effects are bad but rather the choices of design, look, and even alternate vehicle modes.

Some designs are just not similar enough to an original or classic look. Take Ironhide for example, who has a vastly different look compared to his first counterpart:

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Now personally I like the movie design, but it doesn’t excuse how he has little to no comparisons to his original counterpart which I’m sure pisses off many veterans of the franchise. I personally think the film design would have looked cool in red, so why didn’t they just make him red?

Other things such as alternate modes are strange choices too. Ratchet transforms into some weird hummer emergency vehicle that’s yellow-green with black and white accents and grills instead of his classic white ambulance vehicle with the red plus sign.

An example of a character with a strange vehicle choice is Soundwave as a mercedes-benz, which seems off for a character such as him. But an example of a good vehicle choice but bad character design is Starscream, who properly transforms into an f-22 raptor but has a character design that is too dissimilar to his classic designs. And a bad idea for a bad design is easily Devastator, who instead of being a giant goliath humanoid is a crawling gorilla-thing that for some reason had to have testicles to add to one gag in the film he appeared in.

Again, most of these choices are baffling and pointless. Why couldn’t they just maintain an already known design aspect for any particular character and implement it within the film or vehicles? Was it really that hard to do it for most of these characters?

CON V – Bumblebee is Cancer And Herpes Combined

No matter how hard to try, there will always be what I refer to as the “Pikachu” of the franchise. The character that they exploit to promote the series as a whole. Well Bumblebee is certainly the Pikachu here, and I hate him!

It’s funny that they use him to promote the series, even though Optimus Prime was promoting it just fine on his own. But it’s also interesting that the popularity of the character came from a simple idea that was never a character trait whatsoever, but also became overused as a character trait later on. The whole thing about Bumblebee not being able to speak, from what knowledge I have been given, only came into being from the first live-action film. I wholeheartedly believe they did this in first film as a way to “ease” audiences unfamiliar with this world into the idea of robotic aliens by way of having the first protagonist bot communicate using only the car radio. I’m sure it was intended for Bumblebee to speak in the sequel films, but because the gimmick became huge they felt as though they had to resort back with an honestly crappy reason for it in the movies.

Another big pain about is that Bumblebee was never really a huge character, he was certainly there but he never to the scenery away from other characters (at least not like he does in these movies). And honestly I like the character in other forms of media like Transformers: Animated and Transformers: Prime (he also doesn’t speak in Prime, but the story reasons are waaaay better in this show), but in the movies he has certainly overstayed his welcome.

CON VI – Optimus Prime Will Kill You And Your Dog

Last con, and it’s a minor one.

Well if Bumblebee is the Pikachu equivalent, then Optimus Prime is certainly Charizard. This character is widely known among many as one of the most heroic and wisest characters in all of media. And while he certainly has his heroism and popular quotes in the film series, as well as the legendary voice of Peter Cullen, why is he also a psychotic killer?

One of the unfortunate choices made in the films is having more than a majority of the classic Decepticon villains killed off, and most of them are killed by Prime himself. This is incredibly bizarre and different from the Optimus we know, the one that would be the voice of reason and mainly fight in defense or to protect others. Sadly this guy would rip your head and spine out before even considering negotiations…

Like he did to poor Megatron here…

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Well that was all of my cons with the live-action films. Probably not as much as other people have, i haven’t even touched on the horrible excuses for jokes in this franchise, but there is some reason as to why. Now we take a look at the better side of things, and yes there are some good things to be had here whether you agree or not.

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What Are The Auto-PROS?

Sorry for the horrible word play, but here are my personal pros with the live-action films. While the positives are few in number compared to the negatives, a few of them are actually pretty strong.

PRO I – Some Legitimately Good Designs

While there were characters that I thought had bad designs, there were also characters that I thought had good designs. These are designs that I either thought were faithful enough to the original source material, or were at least cool enough to exist in general.

For example: I always thought that the many designs of Optimus Prime himself were good in the films, some I like better than others but I never felt there was really a “bad” one. And yes, the flame decor doesn’t bother me. Another example was Jazz, a character that died way too early in the films but certainly made an impression one me. He is pretty much close to, if not almost, identical to his animated counterpart. The only real thing missing would be his blue accents in his design. Barricade, the Decepticon Police car, was also good and to the point. And one of my favorite designs is Shockwave, and while I’m upset about his minimal role in the third film I cannot deny how excellent they made him look.

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And I know this next choice will be highly questionable and many will strongly disagree with me, but I absolutely love how Megatron looks in the films. All forms and versions of him, no nitpicks about any of the looks. Why do I like his look in the films, that is obviously very unlike his original animated counterpart? Well to be honest with you, I always found his classic look to be, well, incredibly bland. His classic version always looked more like a standard soldier than someone who was in charge, and I always thought his helmet and head design looked dumb. Now the one in the film looks both incredibly menacing as well as a big boss. I am aware that the design for him, and most of the Decepticons, kind of defeat the intention of the whole civil war thing (how can both sides have reasonable opinions when one side looks incredibly evil?) but I still like the looks nonetheless.

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PRO II – Two Awesome Shows Were Spawned From The Film Successes

While people were taking time hating on the live-action sequels, pure gold was being made in places such as comics, video games, and television. Most particularly, two television shows were made under the uprising popularity spawned from the films. The first one was Transformers: Animated, which was a strange but good show that inherited the animation style similar to that of something like Teen Titans. It was a very good, albeit different, show that may possibly be better than anything that came before it.

The second show, Transformers: Prime, Is quite possibly my favorite Transformers show of all time. Originally debuting in 2010, the show was a CG animated adventure that included a smaller, but strongly characteristic, cast of Autobot and Decepticon characters. This not only looks the best compared to all other shows, but it also has the best voice actors in it. This show also has THE BEST version of Starscream I have ever seen, and better yet he is voiced by Steve Blum who is one of my all-time favorite voice actors!

So if it weren’t for these live-action films gaining popularity, we may have never seen these shows.

PRO III – It Rekindled A Dying Franchise

Before the release of the original 2007 film, the franchise as a whole was running on dying fumes at the time. It did not really have a credible show at the time, and other properties such as Spider-man, Batman, even Pirates of the Caribbean were dominating at the time. The toys were not selling either, which is where they primarily get their marketing and sales revenue from.

So along comes a film, and now every body knows about the series and kids want to buy the toys. Now recently we are reaching a quiet break for the series, especially with the announcement of the Bumblebee film pretty much concluding the Bay-formers universe until a reboot happens later on, but it is still a far better trade off then where the company was with the franchise more than ten years ago.

So yeah, the films saved a franchise that I probably would have never given a second glance to, so I thank the constant explosions for that…

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PRO IV – Despite The Trash Fire… I Was Highly Entertained

A minor last pro…

So even though I also hate the decisions made by Michael Bay, even though the films are way too long and have a ton of mindless and pointless scenes, even though the the plots are garbage and lack consistency of substance… I had fun.

Yes, despite everything I have fun with these dumb films and I always leave the theaters strangely satisfied, I think the only one I left from feeling butt hurt was the most recent one, The Last Knight, which probably says a lot. I’m sure most of you are surprised, since many believe the action has gotten to the point of actually murdering the joy of it, but it was still entertaining to me. I like seeing how the robots look, how the transform, and I like seeing them fight. I have a similar opinion of these movies compared to monster movies like Godzilla, I do not care for the plot or human characters and I only want to see big things kill each other.


 

My Current Relationship Status?

When it comes to this franchise, I was heavily thrown into it thanks to the 2007 film that, in a way, was the reboot for a new generation of fans. Despite what wrongful bad tastes it left in your mouths from the bad directions the films went, there was still an occasional scoop of delicious flavor here or there.

I was a huge fan back when those first couple of films came out and I have fond memories of the franchise. I remember seeing the second films like four times in the theaters (yeah, four times!) because so many different people wanted to see it and they wanted to see it with me, because they knew I was a fan of Transformers. The most shocking thing about this story is that the first three viewings of it were actually met with standing ovations at the starts of the end credits! Yes, actual people standing up and applauding! And this was for the film that was heavily panned by critics and was strongly affected by the writer’s strike from 2008-09.

The third film was where the series started to pretty much hurt me in a way. As mentioned before I was disappointed by Shockwave’s minimal role in the third film but still had fun. The fourth film had minimal Dinobots which really irked me and yet there was still fun to be had, and the fifth and most recent film was all kinds of levels of disappointment by me and the final nail in the coffin for me.

Despite my inevitable departure from ever caring for the next films in the series (which is now just one film), I still don’t regret seeing the films, I still don’t regret buying them on blu-ray and I certainly don’t regret getting into this fandom. I now see the films as a historic moment in my life where I was aware of and introduced to many concept that I’ve enjoyed, in a strange way they will forever be with me.

Will I see the Bumblebee spin-off film? Probably, I’ve continued to the end of the series so far so might as well see he, technical, official end. And am I excited for the future rebooted series? Absolutely! And I hope they do it right this time.

I will not be one of those guys that either recommends a thing or tells you to avoid it at all costs, I simply just wanted to share my opinions and my relationship with the franchise and films. You’re all adults with opinions, make up your own freaking minds! Cause mine’s already set.

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Thanks for reading this, it was probably written poorly. I don’t know what topic is going to be next for this series, and I don’t know when it’ll be out, but each one will have the same amount of effort put into them, perhaps even more so.

Remember to check back whenever you can. I’m sure Shrew will be putting up more Geeks In A Dungeon episodes soon, I constantly bug him about that. Also, a future project has been getting episodes recorded and hopefully that’ll also be up fairly soon.

Take care internat peeps…

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About Tomwezt

An artist and a definite gamer. One of the original GeekBeerz members

Posted on February 21, 2018, in GeekBeerz, impressions, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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