There are filmmakers we love and cherish and then there’s Michael Bay. Whether you like his movies and think he’s a genius (lol), hate him, or even sympathize for him (gag), there are still some valuable lessons about storytelling we can learn from this franchise artist.
In the fifth Transformers movie, humans are at war with the intergalactic robot species, and Optimus Prime is nowhere to be found. Saving the future means digging up medieval secrets, including the little-known history of robots on Earth. The fate of all humans lies in the hands of Cade Yeager (Cashin’ Out Mark Wahlberg), Bumblebee, an English lord (Anthony Hopkins), and a beautiful Oxford professor played by Laura Haddock (because she’s British, duh).
The Last Knight certainly won’t be topping Dark of the Moon or Age of Extinction, anytime soon, but with box office estimates suggesting nearly $70 million domestic, the film will still need to do extraordinarily well overseas if it hopes to match the worth of its predecessors.
Upon purchasing tickets to a Michael Bay film, one thing we anticipate is the idea that “bigger is better” which gives us a feeling that there’s more to the universe outside of our typical day-to-day perceptions. However, the tastelessness of the film’s campaign, looming stench of a franchise, and merch sales that’ll never go away, are just a few of the reasons why we’re totally over it. And with this latest incarnation of Transformers, it’s actually kind of difficult to tell whether Michael Bay was going for “another overpriced summer fiasco for the child in all of us” or “Chevy totally helped pay for my movie.”
In any case, we’re hoping that his new film, Transformers: The Last Knight, will be his last film. Running two and a half hours and covering several plots which range from the Middle Ages to the depths of outer space, and everywhere in between, there’s one thing we know (or should know) better: we’ve seen it all before.
There will be spoilers!
15. Been There, Blew That
If you think rehashings of old films is redundant, just wait until you see Transformers 1-17! Understanding the appeal of giant intergalactic robots derives directly from the comics, needless to say. BumbleBee, Megatron, and Optimus Prime. Give the people what they want: big action heroes. Marvel does it, DC does too. They’re just characters we’ve seen before, updated for modern audiences, no?
What distinguishes those heroes from Bay’s Transformers is that they didn’t simply refurbish their exterior, they also added more breadth and emotional depth to characters’ personas which is something that tends to be missing from the Transformers films over and over again. Even though the Autobots do different things, we still don’t get insight as to why or the heart of the matter. They simply continue moving along through time and space like some kind of mindless robots.
14. Creativity Is Lost
Another element we’ve seen with a lot of remakes lately, is bringing forth creativity in ways we might not have expected before. Whether or not it worked is irrelevant. They say that creativity is the mother of invention and there isn’t really much, if anything, that is new or inventive about the Transformers movies.
The DCEU brought Wonder Woman to the big screen in her own solo feature for the first time ever, and it was a massive success. Dark Universe unveiled an evil princess Mummy which didn’t exactly work for it’s eager yet weary audiences. That being said, why not introduce something new to the Transformers world, something that audiences will actually root for, rather than a forgettable sorceress-bot (Quintessa) who makes insane demands with watery resolutions? Another idea could be to revive a lesser-known character from the comics, if there is any way to eloquently do so at this point.
13. Human Sentimentality (Or The Lack Of)
At this point, Siri has more human appeal than any Autobots in the Transformers movies. The comics we grew up on? Toss that sh*t out the window! Michael Bay is here to force feed you futuristic robots as we might have expected them to be back in the days of black and white television: cold, heartless, and incapable of any human appeal whatsoever. Aside of their elementary dialogue, the bots also aren’t very distinctive from one another in aesthetic other than color. They tend to all have the same faces when it comes down to it, and no features that would make us emotionally attached to them, especially their eyes.
What we would love to see from Transformers is some kind of bond or capacity for deeper emotion, derived from dialogue and context where in which the humans’ interaction with them would be validated.
Robots, by definition, are programmed machines incapable of sentient life, but for the sake of all that is holy, could we at least see them attempt some kind of deeper feeling? When it comes down to it, the robots don’t even appear to be trying when it comes to helping humans understand them. Conversely, the humans sort of just accept them as they are, overall setting the tone for an unrealistic, and kind of boring relationship dynamic.
12. Too Much Of A Good Thing
Yes, there is a line in films when there can be, in fact, “too much” of a good thing. Let’s face it. The Transformers movies are just entirely too busy, so much so that viewers have dubbed this phenomenon “Bayhem” meaning Michael Bay has injected his own brand so often and to such a great degree, that it has become redundant.
We know that Michael is best known for his extravagant use of camera angles, but some of the other blatant examples of Bayhem include (but certainly are not limited to): circular camera moves, expansion of time, layered frames, explosions, making everything seem larger than life, and basically anything to give you the feeling that “bigger is better” but that isn’t always necessarily so. When it comes down to brass tax, there’s just entirely TOO MUCH going on in these films, even if you are there to see the spectacle.
11. Lame Dialogue
When we’re talking about lame dialogue, we’re referencing words exchanged in a scene that go nowhere and fill up space, inevitably making the movie a lot longer than it needs to be. To play Devil’s advocate (and credit the writers), there’s also a decent amount of important dialogue that, regardless of its value in the film, is always overshadowed by Michael Bay’s distracting cinematography. At the same time, these films get away with entirely too much repetitive and unnecessary talk such as, “What did I say? Did you hear what I said? I heard what I said…” which comes off as elementary gibberish.
When we hear the characters saying something, even if to themselves, they ought to be saying something relevant to the story. Also, if absolutely necessary for whatever personal reason the director might have, at least do us a favor and keep the nonsense to a minimum. We want to see the story progress, not falter. Also, most of us don’t want to spend $20 on a movie ticket so that we can take a nap.
10. Megan Fox And Her Clones
Pretty brunettes. Gotta love ’em. Who doesn’t swoon over the hot chick who not only looks like a badass, but is also fodder for the bigger, badder, tougher male protagonist? We’ve seen this character in nearly every Michael Bay Transformers film, and he continues to beat this character archetype into the ground – although this time, she’s British.
In previous Transformers films, we’ve learned that there is very little (if anything), to gain for film culture as a whole except for cool explosions, manly-dude stuff, and an amount of cleavage that would make your grandma break a sweat. Whatever happened to the good ol’ days of kicking ass to save the planet, overcoming great odds, making friends, and just maybe getting the girl along the way? These days, it’s all about instant gratification and getting the babe (who the production most likely underpaid). It’s too easy.
9. Cashin’ (And Selling) Out
Michael Bay has said himself that he wouldn’t make another Transformers film after the release of Transformers 4, but unsurprisingly, Michael Bay went back on his word and made yet another Transformers movie. If you’re wondering why, too, the answer is probably a lot simpler than you think. In addition to making boatloads of cash, Bay is also able to incorporate cutting-edge special effects alongside IMAX and 3D, including more advanced technology overall. Whether or not the story is interesting doesn’t matter, it just means more outlandish bot battles nobody wanted or asked for. Except maybe Hasbro.
Long ago in the Transformers universe, robots and characters with storylines did exist, and to no fault of their own, they too have since sold out. Michael Bay makes little-to-no effort in trying to capture our hearts or expand our minds during our film-going experience. He’s just showing off for his own sake at this point, with studios behind him who are betting anyone with a credit card will be entertained by loud booms and lots of exposition.
8. His Flimsy Formula Is Getting Old
With Transformers: The Last Knight we not only had Mark Wahlberg as the lead, but the beloved Sir Anthony Hopkins in an important role as well, only for absolutely nothing to get accomplished. Going to the movies is a family tradition. Certainly we can all agree that uncomplicated movies which don’t force us to overthink can actually be pretty damn enjoyable, but Bay has taken it too far.
Film is an art, yes, but it is also a business and a science. The seemingly digestible concepts that Michael Bay’s films provide are not only drawn out, boring, and redundant, but hardly begin to scratch the surface of, you know, an actually meaningful story. There’s no method to the Bayhem, just franchise and dollar signs. On top of the aforementioned clusterf*ck of tropes we’ve seen a million times, nauseating camera moves, and dead-end storylines, Transformers lacks depth and, more importantly, the “it” factor that keeps audiences coming back for more.
7. His Films Are Getting Stale
In addition to re-hashing the same old junk, we’re also being fed the same bullsh*t dialogue that not only doesn’t move the story along, but doesn’t really make much sense at all.
If you’ve never seen a Michael Bay film (particularly Transformers), here’s what it looks like on paper so you can save yourself some time, money, and frustration: we open with tacky, suped-up muscle car as we follow dangerously close, swooping in on the rugged yet GQ cover-worthy male hero. As he picks up speed, we rapidly zoom in and out on regular everyday citizens who are minding their own business, buying groceries or stuck in traffic. Those people will have absolutely no purpose or function later on in the film whatsoever. But cool shot, right? So. Much. Action. Whoa! Another douche in a flashy car starts chasing him. Oh no! From a sweeping drone angle intercut with close-ups that were obviously done on green-screen in post, gunshots are fired. Boom! A building explodes, burning to the ground in the distance, even though there isn’t any fire in its proximity. Director’s note: that building was coincidentally surrounded by highly flammable chemicals! (The audience will get it.) A freeway that took years to build now looks like the remains of the Roman Colosseum. Still no robots, give it 20 more minutes or so.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention booooobs? Along the way our hero picks up a Victoria’s Secret model because he’s just that cool. Fire, explosion, product placement, characters that seem like they’ll be important but are tossed away right before their storylines are completed. Anyway, forget all that stuff. Cool shot, bro.
6. Where Is The Storyline?
Seriously, what the hell was going on with that storyline? Was there even a storyline at all? Am I being trolled?
For the sake of just getting the damn thing over with, we truly wanted to believe that the storylines would coalesce and come together, only for our hopes to be dashed to pieces just like the everything else in sight at the end of the film. Come to think of it, the robots were intact. It was just everything else that was ruined. The entire point of The Last Knight, which was to demonstrate a historical bit that would give perspective of how long humans have been in contact with Transformers, was quickly brushed over. The only piece tying that in at the end was a cheesy robot sword stack.
As we know, Michael Bay films just have entirely too much stuff: visual effects, go-nowhere dialogue interfused with actually important dialogue that is inevitably missed, phoned-in acting, and convoluted action sequences. If there’s any storyline at all, it’s lost in the shuffle and overshadowed by the aforementioned Bay-isms.
5. A Spectacle That Is Less Than Spectacular
Ever heard of a Russian Montage? When we think of Russian montages, Tarantino films come to mind. It’s a set of images that seem unrelated but inevitably tell us a story. Wanna know the difference between a Russian Montage and Bayhem? A STORY! Michael Bay is the filmmaker who is most notorious for eye-catching visuals and loaded cinematography. We’re talking layers on layers, here: dust, dirt, explosions, bodies, and action that is so insane, it’s underwhelming. Look, if you haven’t figured it out it by now, Megan Fox and her shimmering bod are the reason why you are here.
In the case of The Last Knight, there was a severe lack of eye candy if you compare it to the former Transformers. Instead, you’re getting two and half long hours of Bayhem to the max. Just when you thought the crashes were over and the fires had been put out, you were wrong. What’s worse is that the spectacle of lights and smoke doesn’t amount to much in the end. Thanks for your money. No need to clue you into a sequel that might happen, you fools already know there’s one coming. See you in another year or so. Oh, and next time, buy popcorn.
4. No Match For The Comics
It’s common knowledge that the book is usually always better than the film, and the comics are usually more inclusive and original than the movies. That being said, the setting we see all too often in the Transformers movies is some decrepit junkyard, not the nostalgic 80s urban feel we know and love. Not to mention there’s no interest in reviving Grimlock or any of the other Transformers Dinobots from comics or animated TV shows. Who wouldn’t want to see Optimus Prime riding in on a giant metal T-Rex? It seems completely in line with Bay’s philosophy.
As we are all aware, Autobots have enemies: the Decepticons. In The Last Knight, the Decepticons are led by Megatron and this time they’re pimping out Optimus Prime. Their objective is to channel the Earth’s core, thus wiping out all of humanity. Somewhere along the lines it seems as if they’re also trying to say that all planets in the universe are, in fact, robotic.
3. Botched Humor
When we say botched humor, what we mean is murdered. Sloppily murdered. Most likely due to Michael Bay’s insufferable cinematography, there’s actually quite a bit of humor written into the script that goes unnoticed due to other elements that overpower or take away from the moment. In comedy terms, it’s called “corpsing” – in other words, when a comedian or performer ruins their own moment intended for laughter by talking or distracting the audience in another direction. Sensationalism would be one way to put it, but we prefer to keep it simple: it was a mess.
While many may disagree due to the obvious fact that the humor was skipped over or ruined altogether, there was humor in Transformers. Did it translate? No. Did we laugh? Also no. Ultimately, any humor that was carefully crafted into the script was lost, which also contributed to the lackluster, sleepy feel of The Last Knight.
2. No End In Sight
Michael Bay’s sense of timing and speed are primarily suspect in working against him as a filmmaker, overall. We gotta hand it to him though, what he lacks in storytelling he kind of makes up for in his sense of grandiosity. Or does he? The most awesome moments of film, few and far between as they are, are nothing but image – there is no symbolism, not to mention they’re brief and underdeveloped. In fact, going back to our Russian montage example, it appears that Bay’s highest ideals are just as similar to an experimental piece made by a first year student filmmaker. Only, rather than being kept to 10 minutes, we’re forced to watch nearly three hours of it.
By the time the end credits of Transformers: The Last Knight finally rolled, there were still zero satisfying conclusions as to why any of those ridiculous and unrelated events took place. From the trailers of The Last Knight, there were expectations that Optimus Prime would be the bad guy only to effortlessly relieve the audience of any tension whatsoever, and admit he was wrong so that all hope could be restored. Seriously?! I sat through three hours of foggy-goggled, mega-screen, in your face action… for THAT? Come on!
1. Overstaying His Welcome
Sure we all can appreciate a classic rock ’em, sock ’em action movie from time to time, decorated with state-of-the-art special effects and IMAX 3D with Dolby Digital surround sound, but nearly three hours of it can and will make your head spin…and not in a good way. Not to mention this is already Bay’s sixth Transformers film.
To add salt to that wound, Bay recently announced that to add to his monopoly, there will be – wait for it – 14 more Transformers movies nobody asked for. With Transformers 7 already listed as in pre-production on IMDb, it isn’t too hard to believe that Bayhem will continue for a whole lot longer.
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