Transformers: A Warning To Michael Bay


25th August 2006

It's been at least year since George Lucas finished Raping My Childhood™, so it's about time someone dug up another cherished memory and manoeuvred it into the anal-entry position. While the prospect of a live-action Transformers movie does indeed kick insane amounts of ass, the execution looks like leaving a lot to be desired at this point in production. "It's almost a year until its release!" you say? Well, disembodied internet voice, you're not wrong, but let's not forget that this is a project under the supervision of one Michael Bay, a man who emits so much testosterone, oestrogen levels of passing women have been known to drop to dangerous levels when in his presence. It should be an easy sell, right? Two armies of big fucking robots, kicking seven shades of metallic crap out of each other, complete with big guns, badass trucks, snarky villains and fast cars. Sounds like the kind of thing Bay jerks off about, right? Just to make sure he doesn't fuck it up, here are ten guidelines Mike needs to stick to if he wants to stay the right side of an group even more dangerous than the Decepticons: internet geeks. (Warning: this article is dangerous nerdy. If you are likely to be offended by a man freaking out over the minutiae of a childrens' cartoon, then this isn't the article for you.)

Dude, not a good start. The tagline for Transformers is 'Robots In Disguise', not 'Pimp My Truck'. Optimus Prime is not a Hot Wheels car. He is not a promotional vehicle for a Texas radio station or a Pop Idol tour bus. The first leaked images released showed everyone's favourite semi in both forms; robot and truck. Prime's robot form looked to be fairly spot on - faceplate, spiky ear things and the classic red and blue colour scheme. Except for one small detail... flames. Prime's vehicular incarnation is covered in red and blue flames, the kind of decal only a seven year-old boy would consider cool. The only person that would drive this truck without shame is Kevin Federline. It was pretty obvious right from the get-go that us nerds would pick up on the smallest inconsistency and run it into the ground, but even the most nonchalant of movie-goers will be heard to exclaim "Man, that truck looks pretty gay" come July 2007 unless it's changed pronto.

Okay, so we are kinda geeking out over a film about giant robots, but please try and treat us fans with some respect. This does not mean releasing insignificant news snippets every few weeks in an attempt to keep the hype machine from flagging. First came the teaser poster: an admittedly cool shot of a giant War Of The Worlds-esque eye looming over Earth. Then came the teaser trailer, which showed us precisely nothing (and actually managed to be less than insignificant in referencing Mars, when Mars doesn't even feature in the film). Next, teaser posters of the Autobot and Decepticon logos, which haven't changed a jot. Then an announcement of an announcement, followed a few days later by the announcement itself, which was in fact, just a list of the transformers included and didn't include any casting information. Jesus, it's a wonder they didn't reveal Optimus Prime bolt by bolt. "Ironhide's clutch revealed - click here!"

The only member of the robot voice cast to be announced is Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, the guy who voiced him in the TV series and the original movie. This is definitely A Good Thing; hearing George Clooney's voice coming from a truck would be odd, to say the least. In fact, Bay would do well to bring back most if not all of the original voice cast, including Frank Welker, a dude who has a résumé that would make even the Voiceover Man bow down in adoration - he was Uni from Dungeons & Dragons, people, we're talking about a living legend here! Hearing celebrity voices coming out of helicopters and tanks just won't do: no one wants to see Megatron voiced by Jude Law or Starscream voiced by Jack Black. He'd probably insist on an air guitar solo or something, and that's not cool.

The designs of the original transformers were, quite simply, awesome. As a kid, I used to sit in awe and watch as the characters effortlessly switched from road-churning vehicles to butt-stomping robot overlords without even breaking a sweat, loving the simplicity of the concept and the sleek and different designs of each different character. The designs leaked for the movie transformers just don't have the same essence as the 80's ones did: they're all gears, cogs, shafts and machinations. Simply, they're too busy, too real. We don't need to see the inner workings of the characters, or how part A transforms into part B: leave a bit of mystery intact. Optimus Prime looks a little weedy round the mid-section as a result, Starscream looks like he'd fall over in a high wind and the less said about the hastily-removed Work In Progress images of Megatron the better (to quote one of the less rabid Ain't It Cool talkbackers: "He looks like a fucking chandelier!").

Hands up all of you who can remember the human characters from the cartoon series. Anyone? Yeah, that's right: there was that dude who may or may not have been in a wheelchair (or was that in Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors? Man, there's a concept ripe for an update) and was probably called Spike or something. Point in fact: no one gave a shit about the humans in the cartoon, and I'm pretty sure the only people going to see next year's movie because of Shia LaBeouf will be Shia LaBeouf, and possibly his close friends and family. I expect metal-on-metal carnage, vehicular violence and the almighty din caused by jets, tanks, huge cannons and trucks all waging a bloody war-fest on each other. I do not expect scenes of light relief featuring fleshy bipeds like Dane Cook, or fresh-faced MTV-raised teens teaching robots how to love and cry. Bay could easily move up a notch in my book if he's willing to have a scene in which Optimus Prime repeatedly runs over Tyrese Gibson while honking his horn in jubilation. You wouldn't even have to do it in CGI.

A pretty simple one, this: keep the classic transforming noise. You know the one: koo-koo-ka-kaa. Or maybe it's khoo-khoo-kah-kah. You know the one I mean: it sounds like a vomiting robot. Judging from the teaser trailer, they've dropped it and gone with a rather dull whirring and clunking, which has precisely zero charm. If you want to impress us twentysomething nerds, you need to cater to our basic needs: we want to be leaving the cinema making the noise in the back of our throats while secretly wishing our Ford Focus would change into a giant shit-kicking robot. Coo-cooh-ka-kaagh. Damn it, a Welshman would know how to spell it.

I'm throwing this one open to the forum here, because I simply can't be bothered to find out for myself: what the fuck does an executive producer actually do? Because in my mind, an executive producer is the guy who nods his head, watches his bank balance rise by several million dollars, then falls back asleep in his reclining leather chair. One Steven Spielberg is the executive producer on this picture, yet I doubt he'll have any physical input whatsoever, other than milking Megatron's metallic nipples for dimes. If director Michael Bay was a smart man (which I think we can all assume he is not), then he'd step aside and let the Berg take control of a few scenes. Remember that awesome reveal scene from War of the Worlds, where the Tripods rise up from under ground? Imagine the transformers making their entrance on Earth in a similar style, shot subtly, suspensefully and masterfully by Spielberg. Unfortunately, with Bay behind the camera, it'll be all flashy camera moves and a heavy rock soundtrack with at least four exploding helicopters per scene.

I'm fully aware of the studios need to make money and to pitch films at a wider audience in their pursuit of the almighty dollar, but don't forget who Transformers' target market is: sweaty males in their mid-twenties with no girlfriend and a hard-on for robot porn. Us, in other words. Forget about updating it for a modern audience (Megatron should have a mullet, fashion be damned) and don't bother with any of that Armada or Beast Wars crap: as a child of the 80's, I want characters I know and love. Reading through a bewildering array of information on the Transformers Wikipedia entry, I've become aware of about a billion different storylines from a million different mediums, but I'll wager dollars for donuts, most people want to see old-school trannies getting pissy about Energon Cubes than some shit about a Constructicons trade embargo.

Like the massive spazmos we all are, we waited with baited breath to see which transformers made the final cut and got drafted into the movie. But when our eyes darted down the cast list, once, twice, three times, it was clear there were some serious omissions from the register. Prime and Megatron are a given, Starscream, Ironhide and Ratchet are all quite welcome and Bumblebee can go fuck himself. But where the hell is Soundwave? What's with all the new generation baddies? I do not know who Blackout is. Barricade does not get me hard. I keep stopping people in the street and asking them who the hell Scorponok is and they look just as confused as me. Is it that much to ask for a gigantic robot dinosaur or two? I mean... fucking Scorponok. He's the Theo Walcott of the Transformers squad.

Nobody can deny a long-running Transformers movie series is indeed a prospect that could pop even the laziest of semi-ons into boners. What we do not want is it turning into a 'franchise'. Movies aren't planned these days on how exciting they'll be or how much enjoyment the audience will gain from them; they're meticulously plotted so as to leave us wanting more, to force us to buy accompanying materials to fill in the gaps the movie doesn't show and to cram our living rooms with Transformers toys come Christmas time. This being the first movie of the proposed series, studio bigwigs will intentionally hold back on the good stuff and keep it back for the sequels, meaning we'll quite probably get short changed on quite a few counts if we're expecting the complete Transformers experience. We're quite used to getting shafted when it comes to big summer movies like this, but I for one can still remember a day when movies had a beginning, a middle and an end, and didn't require you to sit on your nuts for two years while the studios raised the effects budget for the sequel, "where the real story begins..."

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