Transformers 4 and 5: How can they make them good?
Transformers has become a totem of cynical box office maths: Robots + SFX + supermodel curves = bank.
You'll notice that terms such as 'script', 'story' and 'acting' made no appearance in that formula. Transformers sits alongside Pirates. They're the two mega-franchises that can make a bunch of money by appealing to the lowest common denominator. They don't even have to try.
Michael Bay took no longer than two minutes to cut to a close-up of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's arse in Dark Of The Moon - the last half-comprehensible effort that, at time of writing has made something like $1 billion dollars worldwide. Bay knows what he does best and sees no reason to change a formula that works.
That's all well and good. And Transformers 4 and 5, recently announced, could easily dupe the masses again with snazzy trailers designed to spark every synapse that leads to the opening of your wallet.
But what if they buck the trend and come up with something that actually makes us care what happens to the characters? You know, like in a movie. Rather than dragging us through a series of sparsely linked set-pieces that leave us feeling like our eyeballs have been through an intergalactic war, how about we go old-school and make a 'movie' movie. Here are our suggestions.
Use the existing Transformers material
In their search for the next big climactic action sequence, the Transformers movies have felt the need to invent massive chunks of Transformers back story and mythology.
Revenge Of The Fallen conjured 'an ancient race of Transformers who used Sun Harvesters to drain stars of their energy in order to convert it to energon and power Cybertron's AllSpark'. Our 'AllSpark' went out about halfway through that sentence. And that's before we get to the 'Cybertronian symbols' lodged in Shia's head.
Dark Of The Moon delivered another slab of cyber history, this time involving 'ancient' Autobot Sentinel Prime who is brought back to life by 'the Matrix of Leadership', so he can find 'the pillars' which will open 'a bridge through space and time'.
They seem to think that these vast swathes of the Transformers universe will be mistaken for plot. But they're almost always entirely irrelevant, coming out of nowhere. ENOUGH! They need to use the 'plot' screen time they have to tie up the many existing loose ends from the already massive Transformers conflict. The last thing we need is some fresh Decepticon threat riding in on a cyber-unicorn because 14 millennia ago Optimus Prime's great great great granddad looked at him funny.
Yes to Statham
The news of Transformers 4 and 5 comes with the likely departure of Shia LaBeouf and Jason Statham's name has been firmly attached. Boyish Shia has been whinging his way through the Transformers landscape without a single convincing performance. We've simply endured him while waiting for the next flesh-revealing shot of Fox/Whiteley. Statham knows what's required here. He's a grown-up and he'll be able to convincingly take the lead in the Transformers world. He'll be a welcome alternative to the helpless passenger of the LeBeouf character. We're thinking high-kick vs Decepticon already.
Find the funny
Part of the problem is that the Transformers have consistently failed to poke fun at themselves. There's so much potential form them to find some laughs. But they've been drab and humourless throughout. If we're going to endure another 2+ hours of cyber-war we'll want to be laughing with them rather than at them. And no, those, 'street' bots from Revenge Of The Fallen were not funny. In fact they made us want to go home and punch our toasters, or something.
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How about having Optimus Prime and the Autobots save the day instead of the usual 'god bless America', 'America saves the world bs'?
If I want to watch a movie about the US military saving the world from aliens then I'll watch independence day or battle LA. I expect a movie called transformers to be about the actual transformers and less of a US military recruitment video.
As with a lot of movie/tv franchises, the only people who really know how to make it better are the fans. If Bay were a fan of the original cartoon/comics/toys then he would know to focus on the robots not the human characters. In the original plot, humans were just a mirror for the robots alien-ness, playing a similar part to alice in wonderland; an anchor for the audience to find out the answers to their questions. Film makers seem to have forgotten this device, instead giving us unlikeable main characters and reducing the really interesting parts to mere afterthoughts.
Transformers should be about the ROBOTS! I for one want to hear what the robots have to say, what they think, feel and how they interact with each other. That is what the originals were about; an alien race... there should be complex interactions within the team dynamics.
God, does no one in hollywood know how to write a basic story with character development anymore? Why do they keep depriving the fans of the rich culture and character dynamics that made them fall in love with the idea in the first place? I think i'll go and watch the old cartoons, because I actually care what happens in those...
I liked Shia in the first one but his character became a bit silly in the 2nd and 3rd with way too many cheesy one liners and jokes.
Keep up the good work, but please get Hot Rod thrown in :)
A huge amount of Transformers lore actually comes from the comics, for example, Primus creating the Transformers. Unicron originated from the animated movie, but it was the Marvel UK comics which revealed him to be a God.
The Marvel/Dreamwave comics really enriched the TF universe in a way the cartoons never did. Look at the hugely superior portrayals of Shockwave and Grimlock found in the comic books (which are actually based on their tech specs). I much prefer the millitant warrior and the master of logic to the clowns we got in the cartoons. Having said that, Bay completely wasted Shockwave, and I kind of think he did it out of spite, to annoy the comics fans and make a sequel more problematic.
The Galvatron Vs Ultra Magnus fight in the Marvel UK comics destroys anything in the Bay movies.
A much better plotline for TF:DotM would have been Megatron being ousted by Shockwave, who then teams up with Sentinel. Meanwhile, Starscream maneuvres between Megatron and Shockwave, hoping to exploit their rivalry to his advantage. Then you've actually got a convincing reason for Optimus and Megatron to team up.
In Bayformers the Transformers get no actual dialogue, other than to provide exposition. Simon Furman's advice, to write them the same way you would a human character, was completely ignored
Bumblebee's muteness is actually one of the most offensive aspects of the movies. They turned Bumblebee into a Hollywood "cute pet robot", making the cliche cute pet robot noises and fitting into Hollywood's narrow notion of what a robot is, it diminishes Bee asa character.
Why did we have the Twins when Sideswipe and Sunstreaker already exist? Why did we need the Dreads when Runamuck and Runabout already exist and are ACTUALLY FUNNY?
Why did the Decepticons look more "alien" than the Autobots and behave like brainless drones? Likewise the Autobots are not the mixed bag of pacifists (Beachcomber, Bluestreak), doubters (Mirage), and jerks (Sunstreaker, Blades, Slag), but a bland team of white hats. That totally misses the whole point of Transformers, these are supposed to be sentient robots, everymen. All the Transformers have unique personalities and motives, but apparently that's too complex for Hollywood so we get dumb pet robots and drones.
And of course, in DotM Bay misses the whole point of Optimus Prime by turning him into a merciless killing machine. "We will kill them all" is not something OP would ever say, and he certainly would not sacrifice human lives to prove a point. He does not believe the ends justify the means. OP's heroism and courage is in his morals, not his actions. Bay thinks that courage and heroism are all about killing the baddies.
Finally, we don't need human characters "to relate to" because if the Transformers are actually given the chance to be characters isntead of just specila effects, the audience will realte to them.
Funnily enough the Transformers comics and War for Cybertron managed perfectly well without any humans at all.
adding jason statham to the films would just ruin them, he has completely the wrong "vibe" for the films, placing him as one of the special forces yes, but as main character no way.
Let's be honest the only reason Statham's name is being mentioned is because he is dating Rosie.
As for his "acting ability", what a joke. He always plays the same character the same way, like a 4 by 2 plank!
His supposed to have great fight sequences, the problem is if you actual watch them they are punch pause, kick pause, duck throw pause, etc. There is no fluidity, no style, he is just a cheap D list celebrity, and lets be honest how did he get famous in the first place, dating Kelly Brook. How he is rated as an actor is beyond me.
If you want a good lead character how about promoting Tyrese Gibson or Josh Duhamel from supporting characters to leads, or and this might be a little too far out there for Hollywood, given the film is called Transformers how about making I don't know, the TRANSFORMERS the lead characters or is that just too sensible?
I don't like any of his films (I think they're shallow and brainless), but he certainly brings in the bucks and that's what studios want.
I have to both agree and disagree.
I'm a big fan of Transformers and I think the movies look great, the Transformers couldn't look any better.
The movie story's are good and fill in a decent portion of past cybertronian history.
I do how ever think they have strayed a long way from the original cartoon and should inject more of the old characters instead of making unfamiliar ones.
The worst thing about these movies is the totally un-necessary sexual content. Its completely needless, it should be all about the robots.
Well megatron is dead, most of the decepticons are dead, whos left.
Hope they not going to find another peice of the all spark to bring them back.
I can only think of Galvatron from the orignal cartoons, Stratham is a bad idea, but would only be good as a supporting roll in the army or as a baddy.
Just my opinion.
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