Saturday, July 4

The (belated) Friday Random Ten+5 writes an open letter to Michael Bay.

Dear Mr. Bay,

I'll start this off bluntly: I'm not the hugest fan of your work. "The Rock" was pretty entertaining, with a stellar cast of actors, but "Armageddon" and "Bad Boys II" might be the two worst movies I've ever seen in my life. In fact, my favorite entry on your extensive and varied résumé might just be the "I Touch Myself" video. So when I heard that you'd be directing a series of "Transformers" movies, I was conflicted: Worried that you'd turn them into a "Bad Boys"-esque farce, but at the same time admiring that you'd have the stones to take on the task of creating live-action films around my absolute favorite toy/TV show from when I was a little kid.

I liked the first "Transformers" a lot. It wasn't deep, it didn't give any sort of greater insights into the human condition, but the robots were absolutely fucking beautiful, and overall I felt like it was $9.25 well spent. The second one, though . . . not so much. Perhaps I shouldn't have seen it from the second row of an IMAX theatre, a vantage point which, combined with your usual frenetic editing and blizzards of explosions and crashing metal, made me feel like my brain's occipital love had just gone ten rounds with Tyson. I didn't even have the chance to appreciate the majesty of the beautiful CGI robots you put in there because they were all -- remember that YouTube video some guys did of putting an iPhone in a blender? That's what that whole movie looked like to me. (Except for the slower parts with Shia LaBeouf and his family or Megan Fox, and we'll get to that in a minute.)

I know there's a third "Transformers" movie already in the works, and Michael, you've got some redeeming to do with that one. My sister, in her usual take-no-prisoners manner, has told you what you've done wrong; now I'm going to tell you how to do it right. Mike, I'm devoting an entire +5 to you, and I don't do this for just anyone, so pay attention while I give you Five Ways To Make The Final Movie In The "Transformers" Trilogy Not Suck.

Make the Transformers do more actual, you know, transforming.
Without the ability to turn into cars or airplanes or household appliances or whatever, Transformers wouldn't be Transformers; they'd just be big-ass robots. Yet that central gimmick was largely lacking from this movie. The actual act of a Chevrolet Camaro rising up and turning into a huge robot is, in my opinion at least, way more fascinating than two huge robots simply beating the shit out of one another, so if you're spending all that money on CGI, maybe you should try dialing the balance back in favor of the former. I'm just saying.

Stop making Megan Fox's character so needy.
The central conflict in the romantic subplot in "Revenge of the Fallen" is Megan Fox's character's desire to hear Shia LaBeouf's character say "I love you" and his inability or unwillingness to do so. Sorry, but I'm calling shenanigans on that. It is impossible for me to willfully suspend disbelief there, because if all this were actually happening, Megan Fox's character would eventually look into a mirror at some point and say, "You know what? I look like Megan Fox," and realize that if her current boyfriend isn't willing to say "I love you," she can just go out and select from any of the millions of adult males who would be willing to do that. And no offense to Shia LaBeouf, but if a guy who looks like that is dating a girl who looks like Megan Fox, he's playing with house money. In real life, he'd not only be telling her "I love you" (and whatever else she wanted him to say), he'd be walking her dog, changing her oil, and cooking her a three-course meal while he did so.

Leave Sam's family out of it. Completely.
I've met many of my friends' parents, from parents I thought were unbelievably cool to people I wouldn't want to be seen in the same room with, and Shia LeBeouf's

Animated Gifs

Simplify and differentiate the robots.
The animation of the original Transformers cartoon series might have been somewhat primitive even by mid-1980s standards, but the benefit to that is that you never had trouble telling who was who. Bumblebee was yellow, had little Viking horns on his head, and his feet were the front fenders of a VW Beetle. Megatron had that big cannon on his right arm because he was a gun. And so on and so forth. The robots you've created for the live-action films are gorgeous to look at, and almost frighteningly realistic, but there's just one problem: They're so complex I can barely tell which one is which. Megatron and Starscream, in particular, have practically been interchangeable from the get-go. Especially during the fight scenes, I pretty much have to resign myself to a blur of metal parts from which somebody is eventually going to emerge victorious, and that leads me to my last suggestion:

Before signing off on any of the action scenes, give them one last viewing and ask yourself, "Do I have any idea what the fuck is going on here?"
If the answer is no -- and if this third film ends up anything like "Revenge of the Fallen," it will be, frequently -- go back and change it. If you've created what you think is this awesome sequence of two gigantic robots kicking the crap out of each other, but you go back and watch it and the robots actually look more like that iPhone-vs.-blender video, you need to spend some more time in the editing bay. For all our sakes.

Thanks for listening, best wishes on the third movie, and happy 4th. Hope you're treated to a fireworks show befitting your status as American cinema's foremost connoisseur of Shit Blowing Up.

Doug Gillett

P.S. Here's the Ten:

1. Elton John, "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting"
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Losing My Mind" (Disco mix)
3. Max Graham vs. Yes, "Owner of a Lonely Heart"
4. Pet Shop Boys, "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" (Grandballroom mix)
5. David Holmes, "69 Police"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Miracles" (Eric Prydz remix)
7. David Bowie, "Space Oddity"
8. The Streets, "Don't Mug Yourself"
9. Elton John, "Tiny Dancer"
10. Ween, "Hey There Fancy Pants"

If you're even reading this on the 4th of July -- and why on earth would you be? seriously -- go ahead and put your own Random Tens, and your thoughts on basically anything, be it "Transformers" or whatever, in the comments.


JasonC said...

Excellent call on differentiating the robots. It is so freaking hard to tell who is who. About the only 2 you can tell are Optimus and Bumblebee. The rest are a mess, especially in the fight scenes.

Josh M. said...

The first one burned me so bad I won't be seeing this until DVD (if then). Any chance of me saying "screw it, I'll go" was killed by the 2.5 hour running time.

Universal Remonster said...

Hey Doug, quick question...

Did you not find the film to be completely offensive at certain points? I mean, those two robots with all the slang, the goold teeth, who conveniently dissapeared in every single battle scene save one... Bay might have just as well called them "niggabots." They were there for nothing but distasteful comic relief, and while I'm not AL:WAYS against that, the other problem is that none of it was funny.

And the battles were a mess, you are correct. The one fight in the forest was pretty awesome because I could tell who was who, but seriously, how do they go from being inside the Smithsonian, walk outside through the "hanger" area, and all of a sudden they are in an airfield in the pacific northwest? I mean, seriously. It's the most fucking idiotic film I think I've ever seen, and that says a lot coming from me.