With Transformers: Age of Extinction set to open in North America this week, Anthony Stokes looks at the 21 stupidest things about the Transformers franchise….
Like many American kids from the past three decades, I grew up with Transformers to some capacity. There were toys, video games, and a few different cartoons. That being said, I never saw the shows are these infallible pieces of modern Shakespeare. I’m going to go ahead and lump in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe in here as well. Fun shows but nostalgia aside, I don’t think they’re all that great. But even as someone who has little if any loyalty to the brand, I can see that the recent Transformers movies have been a spit in the face to the original series. The first Transformers, while not a “good” Transformers movie, was a little closer to what I remember from the television show, but Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon are two of the worst movies I’ve seen in theaters. While the last two were insulting, the first had its fair share of stupid moments too and with the fourth movie about to arrive, it’s time to look at the 21 stupidest things about the Transformers franchise. The criteria for this list is simple: anything that is an insult to the original series, or to good taste.
21. The All Spark revives Megatron
In the first movie, Optimus Prime tells Sam that if anything happens to shove the All Spark into his chest and it’d destroy him and the cube. Instead Sam uses it on Megatron, killing him. And then for some reason in Revenge of the Fallen the All Spark brings Megatron back to life. This completely undercuts death in this entire franchise, and if they know it has this ability, why not revive Optimus Prime with it? This was the first sign that Revenge of the Fallen was going to be bad, and it was all downhill from that point.
20. Charlotte Mearing puts on Nike Dunks
This is on here because Michael Bay is constantly building up to a punchline with the entire introduction to this character, played by Frances McDormand, and the pay off is… she puts on a pair of shoes. This is the first time I’ve been truly baffled. I just don’t understand what’s supposed to be funny about that. If somebody can explain the joke please let me know.
19. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”
Really? It’s bad enough they got Leonard Nimoy, but they had to have him repeat the iconic line from The Wrath of Khan? I don’t even like this line in Star Trek Into Darkness where it actually had context. Sentinel Prime is a robot taking over an entire planet. It would’ve been better if he said “The needs of the few , occasionally, outweigh the needs of many”. Sure it’d be stupid and clunky, but no worse then the rest of the dialogue in these movies and definitely better than what they had.
18. Sam outrunning giant robots that transform into vehicles
In every Transformers movie Shia LaBeouf somehow manages to outrun an entire squad of giant robots. It’s not as if these are slow, heavy, sloppy machines – we see these guys do very acrobatic, athletic stuff. I mean, I know it’s almost a given or else we’d have no movie, but c’mon Michael Bay – at least get Tom Cruise so it’d be more believable.
17. No continuity
The only thing that is constant with the first three Transformers movies is Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Sam, his parents, and John Turturro. The mythology changes on a whim, they have the exact same plot in each movie, and supposing you manage to grow some attachment to a character in spite of the horrible script, they’re gone in the next movie.
16. Transformers can transform into women?
Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen has an excuse that Dark of The Moon doesn’t. It was filmed during the Writer’s Strike and Michael Bay basically filmed most of the movie without a working script. So while it is bad, some of the stuff I can forgive. But how can a Transformers transform into a female? Wouldn’t she weigh a ton? Wouldn’t her skin feel fake? I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but this really just threw a wrench into this franchise’s rules, if there are any rules.
15. Coen brothers alumni reunion
By my count there have been five actors involved with this franchise that are Coen brothers regulars. John Turturro, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, John Goodman, and John Malkovich. It’s sad that this is the franchise they all attach themselves to.
14. The core concept
Okay, so even in the first Transformers I had a problem understand what was going on. Tranformers can transform into any vehicle or machine they can find. So are the little Transformers big and then get smaller when they transform into smaller machines? Are all Transformers the same size? So many questions, but an old Transformer in Revenge of the Fallen completely ruins the idea of Transformers by saying ” My Great Grandfather was the wheel. Do you know what he transformed into? Nothing.” Wait what? Your father was a wheel made of stone? And if he didn’t transform into anything how was he a Transformer? It just brings up so many questions which no sane person could find the answer to.
13. Where the hell do these new Transformers come from?
So Transformers just tend to show up from time to time for no real reason, and I believe Opimus kind of explained it by saying they came to Earth to find other Transformers, but other then that they don’t explain or give any backstory to any of the characters. You know… the titular characters of the movie. How are we supposed to grow attachment to characters when we don’t know anything about them except for their names and what they transform into?
12. Where the hell do the Transformers go?
Another big problem is that the Autobots team seems to get bigger and bigger as the movie goes on and then in the next movie the new additions are gone. I hate to keep going after this point but when you’re making a sequel it’s a good idea to have some characters to care about, especially if said movie is two and a half hours long.
11. The length
Oh my god why do these movies need to be 2 and a half hours long? Especially when they’re the exact same plot.
10. Einstein Transformer
There’s a Transformer in Dark of The Moon that looks identical to Albert Einstein. It is horribly animated and is one of the most irritating characters I’ve seen in a Transformers movie, which is a huge accomplishment for such a throw away character.
9. No distinction between Autobots and Decepticons
Whenever anybody says something like “the action in Transformers is great”, I’m always a little baffled. Don’t get me wrong. There are some incredible action moments in Transformers. Moments as in solitary parts of action that are fleeting. Overall, I can’t tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. If an Autobot or Decepticon has a distinctive look and isn’t Megatron, Optimus Prime, or Bumblebee, they’ll be gone in the next movie. With Transformers: Dark of The Moon I think Bay got a lot better at handling the direction of the action, but in the first Transformers it was almost unwatchable.
8. Transformers: Dark of The Moon turns into Watchmen
I like the idea of Transformers using historical events as a background to tell a story because that means there is in fact a story, but only when it makes sense. Furthermore for some reason Michael Bay uses stock footage of JFK on a monitor and then shows him while he’s being filmed. Except the Kennedy they created for the movie looks nothing like JFK. It might have have worked had they not shown the actual footage in the same shot. Took me completely out of the movie.
Always needlessly overlong, stupid, and contradictory to what follows and comes before.
6. One of the oldest Transformers in the world can teleport
Revenge of The Fallen had a really cool concept for a character in Jetfire. He’s an old Decepticon who has been around for years and is wary of fighting. But he transform into a WWII fighter, which isn’t that old. My grandfather was around for World War II. And if Megatron has been there for years so shouldn’t he and Optimus be older? How old is this Jetfire character? Do Transformers age? And furthermore, out of nowhere, Jetfire just teleports the human characters to Egypt. There’s no explanation, it just happens. Much like everything else in this movie.
5. Deception Testicles
Words don’t describe how stupid this is. Anything for a joke right, Michael Bay?
4. Deep Wang
Ken Jeong has become to Asian people what blackface was to black culture. Even at his best on Community he’s playing up Asian stereotypes. I was actually relieved in Pain & Gain when his race had nothing to do with his comedy. But here it’s just insulting. The name, the acting, everything just makes me want to headbutt a brick wall. It’s the low point in comedy for Dark of the Moon, which is saying a lot for a movie that John Malkovich having a tickle fight with Bumblebee.
None of the original Autobots can be identified by race in the first Transformers. They all seem to be either American, or maybe British. Except for Jazz. Jazz is clearly black, from his lingo to his voice, and even his posture. And yet the only Autobot to die in the final battle is Jazz. If you’re going to make a black character be self aware about it like Tropic Thunder, or make him a badass. But even Jazz is a huge step up from the most racist caricatures I’ve seen in a mainstream movie…
2. Skids and Mudflap
Wow. You know the worst part about these characters is that they made me a laugh a few times. Yeah, honest to god, the delivery on some of their dialogue was so fast and so well delivered I chuckled. Once I fully grasped what they said I was insulted and regretted it. They’re loud, they can’t read, they’re the only Autobots that are unintelligent, and they have gold teeth. Who conceived of these characters? Donald Sterling? And what’s worse is these guys are the biggest part of Revenge of Fallen. They’re so easily identifiable as black characters that even if you wanted to you can’t deny how racist they are. I don’t think Michael Bay is racist, but good god he rides the line.
1. Wasted Potential
Above all, the most frustrating thing about this franchise is the potential. It has great, accomplished actors, a director who is pretty good at filming action, and some genuine moments of pure spectacle. If you take out the buffoonery and immature humor and get a real story, there’s a real chance of making a good movie. Transformers: Dark of the Moon has a climax that I couldn’t help but compare to Saving Private Ryan. Yet the rest of the movie is so insultingly bad that the ending can’t save it from being a piece of sh*t. It’s impossible for me to “turn my brain off”, because even if I don’t come for story or character development the comedy will drive me away. Michael Bay is masterful at telling a joke on screen. The problem is the jokes he’s given are terrible. I have no doubt that if given a good script, Bay can make a hilarious movie. It’s already happened with Pain & Gain. Michael Bay has never been in the top tier of directors, but he’s better than this.
Ultimately these movies are dreadful pieces of garbage. I just can’t ignore the sheer stupidity for the few parts that are actually engaging. I’m glad that we’ve got a fresh start with Mark Wahlberg is in the lead, as he can actually be pretty funny given good dialogue. From the trailer for Transformers: Age of Extinction it looks like they’ve thrown away a lot of the goofy, stupid gags and given it a bit of a darker tone. At this point all I want from a Transformers movie is for it to be under two hours (which this isn’t – it’s closer to three), with a coherent story, some clear, well-shot action, and jokes that are actually funny. If I get that I’ll be a happy camper.
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.