As I sat watching Transformers at my local cinema a strange comparison popped into my head. Michael Bay is a lot like Derek Zoolander. You see Zoolander, despite being the hero of one of the greatest comedies of all time has only one look. Blue Steel? Ferrari? Le Tigra? They're the same face!
In the last 11 years Michael Bay has made only one movie. That movie was called ‘The Rock’ and since then he has remade the same movie over and over again. In fact, he probably holds the record for most remakes of the same movie, like ever!
For those who don’t know the Transformers story, it ain’t that special. Two sets of warring robots come down to Earth to do battle. And that’s about it really. The movie is an effort to bring a big budget family action paint job to a 1980s cartoon that should have been left to be remembered fondly. Naturally there were 30 year olds who screeched with joy at the news that their childhood heroes were on the way to the big screen. I was not one of them. I’ve never understood the adult love for transformers and I doubt I ever will. Like I said, I remember it fondly, but I wouldn’t want to own the DVDs now! But hey, fandom isn’t meant to make sense and I certainly have my own OTT fandom skeletons in the wardbrode!
I think what upset me from the moment Transformers was announced was the general Hollywood trend towards delving back 20-30 years and remaking, re-imagining, updating old shows and movies. The summer will always be the place for limited plot, high octane blockbusters and long may it continue, but at least the majority of blockbusters from ten years ago had a more original ring to them.
Summer 1997 saw the release of Men in Black, The Lost World, Air Force One, My Best Friends Wedding, Face Off, Con Air, Contact and Austin Powers. Now don’t get me wrong, not all of these were solid movies. Plus 1997 also saw the release of a certain Batman & Robin, but hopefully you see my point. On the whole, original summer movies varying from action to sci fi to comedy.
What about 20 years ago? Summer 1987 saw Full Metal Jacket, Predator, The Untouchables, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Dirty Dancing, Dragnet, La Bamba, Robocop, The Living Daylights, The Witches of Eastwick, Adventures in Babysitting, Innerspace and Spaceballs.
And what has Summer 2007 brought us? Spiderman 3, Shrek 3, Pirates 3, Transformers, Harry Potter 5, Fantastic Four 2, Die Hard 4, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Oceans 13, Knocked Up, Hairspray and 28 Weeks Later. I look through this list and only the romcom Knocked Up stands out for NOT being a sequel or movie/TV remake. Again, this is not meant as an attack on all sequels and remakes. I have enjoyed some of the movies listed above, but I do feel it illustrates the general trend of unoriginality sweeping across Hollywood.
Some may disagree, but I’ll take summer 1997 or 1987 over summer 2007 any day.
Anyway, I digress.
The news that Michael Bay was attached to direct Transformers took me very much over the edge. I don’t think any other mainstream director has ever polarised viewpoints quite like he does. Nonetheless I made it clear that I can rise above my own pre-conceptions. I have been proven wrong before and left the cinema with my faith restored in summertime movies (Pirates 3 being the most recent example).
And then I went to see the film.
For 45 minutes I sat there actually enjoying myself. My initial fears about Shia LaBeouf were unfounded. He has clearly learnt to temper his annoying arsehole persona with a little more subtlety. In fact even the de facto love story starts out relatively fresh with some comical scenes in which Bumblebee plays matchmaker.
Hell, I was even able to ignore the walking cliche US army Captain fighting to get home to be with his wife and new born kid (yawn) and marvel at the cool special effects in the opening battle.
Yes, I was even able to ignore the bit were the Pentagon called on all geeks out there to help them work out what was going on and rewarded us with the usual stereotypical group of young nerdy looking boys and one hot looking blond woman who was better than all of them put together. Despite the awfulness of it, I took it with a smile.
And then Optimus Prime and his mates showed up.
The rest of the film was truly awful. Optimus Prime, the great hero from my youth was just dull and his lines so bad I actually pitied him. You see the problem was that the film had blown its wad way too early. When you break it down it is just a bunch of robots fighting with a love story tacked on. And once you’ve seen a couple of robots fight the later battles become just plain boring. Oh look it’s a cgi robot transforming again and attacking another cgi robot. Yawn.
Shia LaBeouf and Bumblebee are the only redeeming features as the movie takes us from underground lairs to the centre of LA with little or no reason and onward toward a conclusion that offers no surprises whatsoever. The love story is forgotten (except for a few closeups of hands holding when things get scary) in favour of more action and louder explosions. Everything I could get from this movie, I got in the first 45 minutes.
And then there was Jar Jar Binks!
What I hear you cry. Yes, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse Michael Bay throws in the most annoying cgi character since Jar Jar as a seemingly indestructible mobile phone/cd player/whatever wreaks havoc for our heroes throughout the movie. I think the character was supposed to be evil but also provide some comic relief. Failed to be either really.
All this brings me back to my original point that Michael Bay has only made one movie. Transformers is just The Rock with robots. Just like Armageddon was just The Rock with a big asteroid and Pearl Harbour was just The Rock with Ben "gobble gobble" Affleck!
It isn’t spoiling it to say that LaBeouf gets the girl and they make out under a beautiful setting sun at the end. Nor that the brave Army Captain gets back to his wife for a heartwarming embrace under a beautiful sunset at the end. You’d have to be a complete moron to not see it coming! Afterall, this is exactly what happens to Nic Cage in The Rock, Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbour and Ben Affleck again in Armageddon.
Michael Bay has only one movie! The Rock? Armageddon? Pearl Harbour? The Island? Transformers? They’re the same movie! Doesn't anybody notice this? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!
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