I love the Transformers. I always have. I even wrote a 17,000+ word retrospective for the franchise’s 25th anniversary on this very site. Ever since 2007, I’ve been subjected to a bi-annual berating from friends and colleagues for the simple fact that I enjoy master explosionologist Michael Bay’s Transformers films. In this post Dark of the Moon world, virtually every geek culture site and keyboard critic the internet has once again begun the dogpile on the latest entry in the series as it continues to creep closer to box office revenues of eleventy bajillion dollars despite everyone on the web hating it like it owes them money.
Everyone’s got an opinion, but if you walked into Dark of the Moon after hating the other two movies and were for some reason shocked to find that you hated this one, too, I have to wonder how many times you’d stick a fork in a live power outlet before realizing it might not be the best plan. Repeated instances of each are likely to yield similar results no matter how many times you try it, and if you’re not into that type of thing, maybe you ought to call it quits early. To bring it back on-topic, I watched the first three episodes of Transformers Prime and figured out pretty quickly that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t watch it week in and week out, hitting the internet every time a new episode came on to rag on how annoying the human characters are or how much I dislike the designs of virtually every character I’ve seen or how bland the plot was. I came to a quick realization this wasn’t my bag and moved along. What a concept.
Maybe producer Don Murphy said it best on his message board:
So I come home and read today and you know what? Fuck all of you who are haters. No, not haters. Fuck all of you who think you know better. “Oh woe is me the comic relief really took me out of the movie.” “Oh golly, I need to be fucking spoonfed just HOW Bumblebee got captured.” Etc etc.
These movies were NEVER going to be what you wanted them to be. What you wanted was an animated movie that played to the hardcore fan base. What you got was three BILLION dollar blockbusters that expanded the fan base and made it cool again. That made Joe in the street go “Yeah, loved that!”
To read the ongoing bullshit EIGHT years after we started this? Just bite me and you know who you are.
What happens next? Certainly not a reboot. We haven’t lost the Transformers. They didn’t grow up or become expensive like Toby Maguire. I don’t know what happens next. I’m pretty sure there will be a second trilogy. I am pretty sure it will kick ass. And I am pretty sure some of you will hate it because it wasn’t all bots.
That guy might be my hero.
The thing is, though, that I AM a hardcore fan, and I enjoyed the movies a lot. Did I like all the Sam stuff? Of course not. I don’t really care about Sam, but I never really cared about Spike, Rad, Carlos, Sparkplug, Bud, Lori, Hunter, Verity or any other human character in any other series with the exception of Sari because she was actually interesting. The movies didn’t invent annoying human characters. The humans had more screen time in the movies than in the past, but that was always going to be the case unless it was a fully animated movie with an all-robot cast, and that’s not what these movies are. So many of the complaints I’ve seen time and time again boil down to the movies not being something else completely different. A style was adopted early on for this universe. They are what they are. Watch them as such and there’s actually a lot to like in the Transformers movie series.
But I’m no fool. I absolutely understand and acknowledge the shortcomings and faults in each movie. None of them are perfect. And yes, most of their flaws come from the human characters, so move past them. They’re there. Sam’s parents are annoying and Agent Simmons’s shtick never really gets any better. Agreed. The plot of Revenge of the Fallen is kind of all over the place, the twins were stupid and Devastator really didn’t need balls. The first act of Dark of the Moon, the most Sam-centric part of the movie, is too long. They basically re-write the Decepticons’ reason for being on Earth in every movie. First it was to find Megatron and the Allspark. Then they were REALLY looking for the Matrix, which Optimus finds and presents to Sentinel Prime, who came to Earth to meet with Megatron even though Megatron landed on the Earth decades before Sentinel’s arrival in search of the Allspark, only to have Sentinel shrug off the powerful artifact like it was a keychain.
There’s stuff in each movie that could use some polishing (some more than others), but for me, each movie does a lot more right than wrong. The effects are spectacular, culminating in some of the most amazing CGI I’ve ever seen in the final installment. ILM has done phenomenal work on this series. While the character designs definitely took some getting used to, it’s easy to see now why they work over the boxy original designs. Maybe something akin to the movie/cartoon hybrid style of the current IDW comics would have worked, but we wouldn’t have those were it not for the movie, so the movie design are just that; they’re the movie designs. While the nameless Decepticons may be a little unremarkable, there are some very cool takes on some of the established characters and the effects team was able to inject some real life into them. Voice acting (on the bots that actually get speaking roles… Sorry, Jolt) was great across the board, headlined by Peter Cullen, the original Optimus Prime. Each and every time his voice opened the movies, I got goosebumps.
The plot of RotF is nuts. I’ll absolutely agree to the detractors on that. DotM, though, has the most solid plot of the three and reminds me very much of the old show and Marvel comics. The conspiracy side of it really works for me, but even if you do completely hate everything about the plot of the series, the action more than makes up for it. Giant robots fighting is awesome. There are crazy long expository monologues in the second movie, but what I remembered most when I left the theater was an epic battle in the forest where Optimus rips off Starscream’s arm and beats him with it and a thirty-minute robot battle at the end. For the third one, the second half is mostly robot (what everyone said they wanted) and even the human parts of the battle in this one were actually pretty good, too. That sequence in the falling building was fantastic, and it was smack in the middle of tons of giant robots fighting.
I’m not surprised people don’t like these movies. Not everyone is going to like everything, and that’s fine. What annoys me the most is that it’s impossible to even have a conversation about them without someone going off and shouting about how ungodly terrible they are with seemingly no regards for the legitimately great stuff in them. Sure, you have to dig a little deeper in the second one to find it, but if Dark of the Moon were the first movie and legions of fanboys weren’t walking into it already prepared to hate it based on the first two and all they needed were some specific scenes to fill in the gaps on their message board posts they’d drafted, we’d be hearing very different reactions.
I know these aren’t Oscar-caliber movies by any stretch (except in the effects department), but aside from the long first act, Transformers 3 is a pretty cool sci-fi movie, and most sites and critics refuse to acknowledge anything positive about it, instead opting to go for the low-hanging fruit and prove how clever they are by pointing out its flaws. This is why we can’t have nice things, internet. I’ve seen way worse movies based on comic properties the past few years that get nowhere near the venom these flicks get.
Am I wrong? Flame on, internet. Let’s see what you’ve got.