Today is September 22nd and it is my 27th birthday. Longtime readers will know that every year for my birthday I rewatch a movie that has been a bane in my movie critiquing existence. These are movies that make me groan with absolute frustration – the ones that make me go “Why? Just … why?” I break down just why it was so bad and why it remains bad to this day. This year I’m out of town for my birthday, but I felt compelled to keep the tradition going. And what movie could I possibly go with this year? Well, how about a franchise? That’s right, arguably one of the worst financially successful movie franchises of the modern era … Michael Bay’s Transformers.
At the time the first movie was a paint-by-numbers sci-fi action flick. There was the ordinary teen who got roped into this interplanetary war and the girl of his dreams who never noticed him before but falls for him during this whole journey. There was the team of quirky scientists with the hot but also very smart lady scientist who figures out what the aliens are doing but no one believes her. There were the asshole government agents that throw their weight around and hinder the heroes instead of helping them. And there’s of course the over-the-top ending fight in the middle of a metropolis that culminates in the good guys winning. Huzzah.
But the sad thing about the first of Bay’s Transformers movies is that compared to the other two, this one’s badness is practically tame. I mean, the first one was criticized for Jazz (the arguably black stereotype robot) getting killed off and for having the black computer genius be a sputtering coward, but that’s nothing to the Rise of the Fallen‘s jive-talking twin bots who quarrel and call people pussies and oh right, can’t read. And Megan Fox’s lean over Bumblebee’s engine isn’t nearly as bad as the two ass shots in Rise of the Fallen (one from Fox over a motorcycle for no reason and the other from a Decepticon who is only in human form so Micheal Bay could get a panty shot). Oh right, and there’s the love interest in Dark of the Moon that is actually introduced by pantless ass shot.
There’s also something to be said for how unlikable Bay has managed to make our hero Sam in the sequels. The kid was always a cardboard cut-out unlikely hero in the first movie (teenage boys could see themselves in his shoes as the awkward guy who can’t get the girl). And yet by the 2nd movie he’s complaining that his robot car (the car he wanted so badly in the first one) won’t leave him alone and he’s no hero and he just wants a normal life. And then in the 3rd movie he’s complaining that no one treats him like the hero and why isn’t his robot car hanging out with him and why is everything so haaaaard. We’ve gone from boring protagonist to want-to-punch-him-in-the-face protagonist. Not good, people.
Should I go on? John Turturro getting motor oil “peed” on him compared to him in a thong in Rise of the Fallen. Mom talks about Sam masturbating compared to Mom being portrayed as the least convincing high person in recorded cinema (and that includes Reefer Madness). How about his parents’ pretty annoying personalities in the first one compared to every single scene they’re a part of in Dark of the Moon? And more than anything, the action scenes in 2 and 3 just become an orgy of dust, cgi metal scales, gear-grinding sound effects.
So, is Transformers a good movie? Oh hell no. But before we knew what this movie would bring, Transformers was at least a watchable sophomoric action movie. It only slightly assaults the senses. Little did we know this would spawn the unholy demon children that gave us such horrifying lines as “I am directly beneath enemy scrotum.”
Happy birthday to me.