Michael Bay is ruining Transformers. There’s no beating around the bush on that point, he’s tarnishing my childhood and doing a great disservice to some wonderful, if slightly cliche characters. True, you could argue that they were never all that well developed in the first place, that the stories were simply 20 minute toy commercials, that they were never intended to be high art. I agree with all of that, but at the same time how difficult can it be to get a film adaptation of a toy line so horribly wrong? Perhaps the clue there is in the question…
Back in 2005-2006, I was as excited as anyone when I discovered that a live action Transformers movie was on its way. During my university years I took on something of a minor obsession with collecting the Robots in Disguise, absorbing the comics, the DVD box sets, the new cartoon series on TV, even collecting the toys. Admittedly this last area of my Transformers obsession was mostly limited to the Armada toy line and buying reissues of classic G1 (fandom’s name for the very first series from 1984, Generation One) toys such as Starscream, Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus and, my personal favourite, Sixshot, who still retains pride of place on my bookcase.
But then with each passing film – reaching a nadir with Transformers: Age of Extinction – Bay has taken all that is wonderful about the characters and stripped it away. In the case of the Dinobots he didn’t even bother to put it there in the first place. Those characters are fan favourites, yet they get no dialogue and are just near-mindless creatures in the film universe? No. Just… no. The closest any of the films got to being moderately close to the spirit of the characters was the very first film in 2007, and even then the Decepticons were poorly served (and badly designed), the camera was set too close to the action, and the focus on the human characters made the Transformers themselves almost irrelevant.
My obsession with the franchise still exists, but nowadays it’s been tucked away into a recess of my mind – case in point, I’m yet to see much of the last four cartoon series. I don’t like to think that my interest has waned as a result of Michael Bay’s films, but there appears to be a direct correlation between the two that upsets me. I can put it down mostly to the fact I have a lot going on in my every day life, so inevitably something has to give way. Right now it’s video games and a few older hobbies like Transformers. I have the comics backed up and ready to go, and the TV series lined up so I can binge on them eventually, but at the same time I have grown weary of Michael Bay’s cinematic efforts to the point where I would almost – only almost – consider giving the inevitable Transformers 5 a miss. Michael Bay, for the sake of my sanity and for the sake of the characters I have loved since I was but a child – please go away and do something that is as good as The Rock.
Meanwhile, I’ll go back and re-watch Beast Wars. There is a perfect example of balancing action, characterisation and respect to the fan base. None of this nonsense about Shia LeBeouf (generally), Megan Fox’s body/posterior, terrible storytelling and dangling construction balls, thank you very much.