• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

The unrealized potential of the Transformers movies

Age of extinction suffers from a problem similar to the previous one Transformers movies: it’s massively crowded, almost to the point where disguised robots are reduced to bit players in their own movie. Even Optimus Prime, brilliantly voiced by Peter Cullen, though he is, is barely recognizable from the inspiring, slightly Shatner-esque frontman he was in the 1986 comics, TV show, and film.

This version of Prime is terse and obnoxious. He solves leadership problems by hitting his usurpers in the face. He threatens to abandon Earth in the face of an alien invasion – something he has vowed never to do in Dark of the moon, to the best of our memories – and even goes on a murder mission in space at one point.

The other Transformers barely register; Bumblebee is now a goofy, practically dumb sidekick, while Hound is a bearded, pot-bellied nutcase who smokes a cigar (actually a bullet case or something) and shoots harmless caged aliens in the face because they have looks a little strange. Megatron is now Galvatron and only appears in the movie for about 15 minutes.

The writers of the Transformers films seem to have a certain lack of confidence in the ability of robots to carry a film on their own. How else to explain the constant desire to fill every film with human characters? Like its predecessors, Age of extinction is led by an extensive cast of particularly fine character actors. Leading man Mark Wahlberg is joined by Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles and Li Bingbing.

While human figures have appeared in Transformers stories since the 1980s, they have never burst into the frame in the same way as in the current series of films. When you start to compare Transformers to other recent adaptations of comics or television series, its treatment is starting to seem a little odd. Can you imagine an adaptation of the Avengers where most of the story has been told from the perspective of ordinary members of the public?

If Michael Bay was running a Avengers movie, the Avengers would be just a tiny bit in a much bigger (and difficult to understand) plot that vaguely resembles an Irwin Allen disaster flick. And even then, the heroes would look very little like the ones from the comics. The Hulk would have a beard for some reason. Black Widow was constantly posing in tiny shorts. Captain America would be a collector of ancient pistols, Thor would have mysteriously two heads, and Iron Man would spend the last 20 minutes, smash a few windows and then disappear again without uttering a word.

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