This series focuses on the one and only Michael Bay. Attempting to deconstruct his filmography, one film at a time. The ideas explored here may or may not end up in my Dissertation about Michael Bay and Post-Cinema.
And to answer the question: Does it ever rain in a Michael Bay movie?
After THE ISLAND, Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks set about tackling a live action adaptation of a beloved animated 80s TV series and movie. TRANSFORMERS was released in 2007, and promptly spawned 4 sequels and one spin-off (so-far).
But why is the series so derided? They made ALL the money, surely they have to be successful at something.
The opening set-piece in the Middle-East, specifically Qatar, is an attempt to anchor this fantastical story into the real world. What better way to have the threat of the Decipticons depicted than an attack on a US Army base. America in the mid-00s, coming up at the end of the Bush era, was still reeling and recovering from their exploits in the Middle-East, and American audiences were drawn to storys about serviceman and women.
The appealing to Middle-America is consitent throughout. The tone is family-friendly and juvenile, capturing what would appeal to American audiences in the mid-00s. The reveal of Bumblebee, and the subsequent reveal of the Autobots is very Spielbergian, but with a massive helping of Bay commercialism. There are spotlights throughout, navy blue drenching the screen. American audiences grew up with Spielberg in the 80s and 90s, and naturally Bay is the next step in the family-friendly Blockbuster chain.
The action set-pieces towards the first half of the film are a lot more traditional. The editing is a lot less erratic, the shot types and lengths are more composed and less chaotic. There are even wide shots and long(ish) takes. However, the attack on Mission City and the fight between the Autobots and Decipticons devolves/evolves into Bay’s style. The geography is unknown and typical understanding of what is happening is almost impossible, it becomes chaos. Slow motion shots and fast cutting is interserped with explosions and random exposition (there’s even a Smashing Pumpkins song).
The CGI effects have a ‘realness’, a tactilitity. The explosions and collisions are tangible, but there doesn’t seem to be any weight to the fight sequences between the robots. To compare with Guillermo del Toro’s PACIFIC RIM (2013), the fights between the Jaegers and Kaiju have ‘weight’, the audience feels the impact of every collision. It is odd to think that a filmmaker that likes having real explosions, and tangible effects on screen, can’t make these CGI robots have weight.
The first half of the film is a Spielbergian Dreamworks feature, that just so happens to have a polished and commercial sheen to it. The second half, i.e. everything after the awakening of Megatron, is Bay being the filmmaker that mainstream audiences have grown to recognise in his TRANSFORMERS films.
A fast wrap-up of the dangling threads, an Optimus Prime rousing speech, and a Linkin Park song. 2007 is the point when Bay embraced his family-friendly side.
Does it rain? Nnoooooo…….
Next up: More TRANSFORMERS