Fixing The Transformers FranchiseNovember 10, 2011
The Transformers were far more to me than a toy line, a cartoon, and a comic book. It was that one special thing of my childhood. We all have one; that show, movie, stuffed animal, or something else that shines apart and encompasses what it was like to be kid. My first memory is sitting down to watch the pilot for The Transformers cartoon. It aired in prime-time where we were, and I only got to see part of it because we had to leave the house. But I was hooked from the get-go. Optimus Prime was my childhood hero, and when he was killed in the 1986 animated movie I was one of those traumatized kids that cried his eyes out. It’s something that still gets me misty-eyed whenever I watch that movie. So, yeah, Transformers is important to me.
As you can imagine, I have conflicted feelings about the Michael Bay movies. On one hand, that’s the real Optimus Prime on the big screen once again; the fans wanted Peter Cullen, and the best thing Bay could have ever done was casting the original Prime in the role he pioneered. The special effects are killer, and I’ll probably never get tired of seeing how cool the transformations look. Of course, these movies are steeped in typical Michael Bay stupidity, and I think we can all agree that Revenge of the Fallen is a crime against geeks everywhere, no matter your opinion on the Transformers. Since the final movie is out on Blu-ray, I thought I’d take this time to talk about what I’d like to see from this movie franchise going forward. Michael Bay is probably done with this series, so what should be done with it now? I have some ideas…
Get Simon Furman
Who’s Simon Furman, you ask? He’s the most prolific writer of Transformers canon, period. He began writing the UK Transformers comic way back in 1985, and he came to the United States to finish out the first series starting with issue #56. Much of the current Transformers lore and history was created by Furman, going far beyond the concepts of the animated series. He has really fleshed out the Transformers universe over the years, and when IDW attained the rights to the comic book franchise, Furman took the opportunity to craft a cohesive and interesting story for the Robots In Disguise. Getting him to work as a consultant for the next movie would be a wise decision, indeed. Furman understands these characters better than just about anybody, and he is able to make the humans just as interesting as the robots.
Use the Comics
Speaking of Simon Furman, you really want to go to the comics for your movie franchise. As much as I love The Transformers, I’ll be the first to admit that the cartoon just doesn’t hold up. Beast Wars is probably the pinnacle of the storytelling for any of the animated stuff, but that’s so far removed from the core franchise that it doesn’t figure into this article. The first IDW limited series, titled “Infiltration”, is pretty much your blueprint for the perfect Transformers movie. It begins with the human characters, does a great job of explaining why the Transformers choose to disguise themselves, and both the human and Transformer characters are fleshed out well. I also like that this story holds both Megatron and Prime until almost the end, which adds weight to how important they are as characters. When Megatron shows up in Infiltration, you know that it’s hit the fan.
Let the Transformers Talk
There seemed to be this reluctance with the Michael Bay films to let the Transformers actually speak to one another. The unique thing about the Transformers is that they are sentient robots with their own personalities and can feel, think, and emote as humans do. If I’ve paid money to see a movie about talking robots, I want to see them talk and interact with each other. It’s all fine and good to have a strong human element to the story, but at the end of the day, the Autobots and Decepticons need to be more than just walking special effects. The fact that Bumblebee, Sam Witwicky’s first introduction to the Autobots couldn’t talk was a missed opportunity, and very telling. Get some good voice actors and give the Transformers some real lines of dialogue and the audience won’t be complaining.
Bring in Some Transformers Lore
At this point, the Transformers have been around longer than many popular comic book characters that have received movie adaptations. The Transformers have 30 years’ worth of lore and backstory to play with, and it should be utilized. Oh, sure, the second movie featured the Matrix of Leadership, but it was misrepresented and kind of used in a lame way. Let’s see some action on Cybertron. Bring in Alpha Trion and Vector Sigma. And how cool would it be to see Unicron in a live-action movie? “That’s no moon,” indeed!
Now that Michael Bay is done with his interpretation of The Transformers, what do you want to see from the next movie? Who would you want to see in the director’s chair? And which characters would you like to see on the big screen?