Welcome to Back in Times Thursday folks!
Decades before Michael “make it go boom” Bay gave us Megan Fox bending over, thoroughly confusing action sequences, racial stereotype Autobots and robotic testicles there was Transformers: The Movie, an animated film which continued the story of the Saturday morning cartoon series. The film is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a special edition release.
The film is more violent and darker than the series and features numerous Autobot deaths, including Optimus Prime, as well as scenes of torture and execution. It was a bit tramautising for a young child watching it (curls into fetal position).
Despite the voice talents of stars like Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy and the legendary Orson Wells (in his final role) the movie was a bit ahead of its time and bombed at the box office, though it has become a cult classic.
And, while Bay has been racking up the dollars with each successful live action Transformers film, after the original the quality has ranged from mediocre to migraine inducing awful (looking at you Revenge of the Fallen).
I rewatched Transformers: The Movie last night after many, many years, and I had quite a time. I was rocking out with the opening theme song – though some of the rock music in the body of the film was a bit distracting – and was reminded that Soundwave’s voice is the coolest thing ever.
So I thought I would share some advice with Mr Bay (anyone who knows him personally can forward a link to this article) about what lessons he can learn from the beloved animated film for his future installments. Some minor SPOILERS for the films so be warned.
#1 Focus on the bots
You know what’s the coolest part of Transformers? The Transformers. In this film we have a grand total of two humans, Spike and his son Daniel, and the former is missing for most of the movie. That was just great because we got to spend more time with the awesome Autobots and the dastardly Decepticons.
And yes you would need a few humans in any live action film as a stand in for the audience but that is not what people are paying their money for. Did I care about Shia, his annoying parents or the generic soldiers? No. Did I care about Marky Mark and his jailbait daughter? No. So the less attention paid to the meatbags the better.
#2 Get off Earth
It was fun seeing our heroes on the Junk planet with those motorbike Transformers and on the Quintesson planet in a kangaroo court and fighting Sharkticons. It was new and weird and visually interesting.
In four films the Transformers have been earth bound, though Optimus Prime flying off into space at the end of Age of Extinction could lead to some planet hopping adventures. I do hope we get more than a flashback after he returns to Earth and we get to visit some cool planets.
#3 Do Dinobots justice
The Dinobots do some major damage in this film and are presented as the lovable blockheads from the series. Their battle with Decepticon Devastator and crushing Sharkticons are highlights of the movie.
I don’t know what the heck was that in Age of Extinction but those were Dinobots in name only. They were not cool, they were not epic, they were just there. If Bay plans on bringing them back please give them personality and not as mindless beasts to ride on. Give us the Dinobots we deserve.
#4 Organic humour
This film has a couple of silly jokes but there is also some funny moments that flow organically from the narrative. Some of the laughs come from just protagonist Hot Rod (Nelson) chatting with veteran Autobot Kup.
We don’t need John Turturro stripping to his underwear, Shia derping or Autobots peeing to try and wrench laughs from the audience. Just let the jokes flow naturally from the story.
#5 Let us SEE the action
Though the animation is a bit dated I appreciated being able to see all the action. Every punch, slash and blast was clear and you knew who was fighting whom and how.
Some of Bay’s battle scenes look like you threw the contents of a toolbox into a blender. I have absolutely no idea what is happening. Take it down Bay. This crazy frenzied shooting style for big fight sequences is not working and needs to stop.
#6 Keep it short and simple
The running time for this film is one hour, 22 minutes and 28 seconds. I watched it and I was satisfied.
Why did Age of Extinction drag on for almost three hours? This is a franchise based on toys about robots fighting each other, not Lord of the Rings. Bloating your movies unneccessarily will not make them epic. These are (ostensibly) fun popcorn movies and should be no more than two hours.
And please keep it simple. The plot of the animated movie is “giant planet eating robot threatens planets”. Transformers does not need to be more complicated than that.
#7 Bring on Unicron
My goodness gracious me Unicron was an outstanding villain in this movie. His planet eating was cool, though I could have done without the breakfast cereal crunching sound in one scene, and his berating of Megatron/Galvatron was superb. Wells brought a definite gravitas and smugness to the brief role.
Unicron is such a grand movie antagonist and plot device it is wonder he has not been brought to the live action films yet. With all the convoluted and nonsensical plots we have gotten it is time to bring on the big guy. Just make him sentient and smug and do not make him lame like fellow planet eater Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
#8 Make it epic
This movie had an epic scale we have just not seen in the live action films. From Soundwave and Autobot Blaster battling using their cassette bots, to Optimus’ final conflict with Megatron – “one shall stand and one shall fall” – to Unicron’s transformation and Hot Rod’s climactic fight with Galvatron, it is just a whole a lot of awesomeness.
If Bay could bring this type of feel and stakes from a 30 year-old animated movie into his live action movies then they will be a whole lot more watchable.
So have you seen Transformers: The Movie? What was your favorite part? Feel free to comment below.
And for more nostalgic movie posts you can follow me via e-mail or on Twitter https://mobile.twitter.com/suprememango012.
Got your back like a chiropractor. L8rs