Luke Owen is not a fan of Michael Bay and his Transformers movies…
Last night I was unfortunate enough to stumble upon a film I’ve not seen in nearly a decade. It’s an epic failure of a movie, an odious mess of horribly-shot action, gross depictions of women, bizarrely-placed racism and woefully bad writing. The movie was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and I would argue to this day that it’s the worst movie ever made.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is on TV at the moment and is STILL THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE.
— Luke Owen ? (@ThisisLukeOwen) June 22, 2017
I watched more of it than I wanted to, really, but only because watching it in 2017 took me back to that fateful night I saw it in theatres in 2009. I wasn’t overly keen on the first Bayformers because – childishly – it wasn’t “my Transformers”, it wasn’t the same robots in disguise that I loved so dearly as a child. Instead it was a typical Bayhem blockbuster, complete with overt sexism and hilariously bad product placement. But Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a whole new level of awful. It was insulting, incoherent and down-right unpleasant. In my review at the time I called Transformers: Age of Extinction a “three hour headache”, but on reflection Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was way worse.
What struck me this time around was just how distasteful and reprehensible the film was when it came to its approach of female characters. I was aware of it back in 2009 – how could you not be – but I’d almost forgotten just how bad it was. Bay films Megan Fox the same way he sexualises the vehicles the Transformers transform into; objects to make small-minded, primitive male audience members salivate. It’s frankly vulgar. In an age where we’re praising Wonder Woman for a great portrayal of women on screen, it’s easy to forget that less than ten years ago this is what we had.
People took Marvel and Scott Derrickson to task – quite rightly so – for more-or-less forgetting that Rachel McAdams was in Doctor Strange, but Bay’s treatment of Megan Fox and co-star Isabel Lucas in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is something else. Fox’s character is draped over a motorcycle with a tight vest and tighter shorts, and Bay makes sure we get a full view of her ass before her face. In a scene where Isabel’s Decepticon shape-shifter tries to seduce Shia LeBeouf’s bumbling Sam, Bay places the camera so we can see her panties. One would imagine this would be the reveal that she’s actually a robot, but the camera is more interested in the colour of her underwear than her character.
While promoting the film Fox let it slip to Jason Soloman at The Guardian that her audition wasn’t your usual affair. “She told me she went to director Michael Bay’s house to audition and he made her wash his Ferrari while he filmed her,” Soloman wrote. “She said she didn’t know what had happened to that footage. When I put it to Bay himself, he looked suitably abashed. ‘Er, I don’t know where it is either.'” She also compared Bay to Hitler, an interview that got her in so much hot water several crew members posted an open letter to Fox calling her, “dumb as rocks” among other things. “When facing the press, Megan is the queen of talking trailer trash and posing like a porn star,” the loathsome note stated. “And yes we’ve had the unbearable time of watching her try to act on set, and yes, it’s very cringe-able. So maybe, being a porn star in the future might be a good career option. But make-up beware, she has a paragraph tattooed to her backside (probably due her rotten childhood) easily another 45 minutes in the chair!'” Well doesn’t that sound like a nice crew to be around? I wonder who could breed this kind of contempt for their female co-workers?
“Megan developed this Spice Girl strength, this woman-empowerment stuff that made her feel awkward about her involvement with Michael, who some people think is a very lascivious filmmaker, the way he films women,’ LeBeouf told the Los Angeles Times in 2011.”Mike films women in a way that appeals to a 16-year-old sexuality. It’s summer. It’s Michael’s style. And I think she never got comfortable with it. This is is a girl who was taken from complete obscurity and placed in a sex-driven role in front of the whole world and told she was the sexiest woman in America. And she had a hard time accepting it. When Mike would ask her to do specific things, there was no time for fluffy talk. We’re on the run. And the one thing Mike lacks is tact.”
So Michael Bay objectifies women, what else is new? We all knew he was like this and we’ve oddly just let it slide while his idiotic movies make billions of dollars around the world. But what makes me so sad about all this, what upsets me the most, is that these are movies targeted at kids.
The Transformers are, and always will be, glorified toy commercials. The original 1986 movie was made simply to take out the old toyline and bring in a new one. Paramount and Hasbro penned the deal for a live-action Transformers movie to make and sell more playthings to kids. And, to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that. Star Wars is the most toyetic movie ever made, but it features rich, deep, loveable characters who go on wonderful adventures. Bay’s Transformers movies feature none of that, and instead paints a picture that women are there to be ogled and drooled over. The producers can claim they’re aiming the Transformers movie series at the teenage market (as if that was a good excuse), but the figures sure as hell aren’t. They’re sold to small, impressionable children.
As a comparison, let’s compare Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to the 1986’s The Transformers: The Movie. One features a song which features the lyrics, “dare to be all that you can be” while the other has a woman dry-humping a motorcycle for teenage boys to jack off to. Both are marketed to kids. Just think about that.
Bay putting this sort of nonsense in Bad Boys II is one thing, but a movie designed to make children pester their parents for action figures is something entirely different. And that’s why Michael Bay is a disgusting, deplorable director – and he should be ashamed of himself.
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of the Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made (which you can pre-order from Amazon UK and Amazon US). You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.