Why the Transformers movie is terrible (no, it's not because Michael Bay is directing)
As the editor of this here blog, I thought perhaps there's some green angle to the movie that we could mention and get in on the Transformers hype. I emailed the production company a few months back, and they called back saying this film doesn't really have any green car connections. I forgot about it and moved on.
Then, with the increased coverage in the media - the latest issue of WIRED devotes a few pages to Transformers and our friends over at Autoblog can't seem to get enough - and after watching a few trailers for the film, I realized that Transformers, as exciting as it might be, will suck. I've got my reasons why after the jump.
First, let me make it clear that I haven't seen the movie. I'm basing this column on a.) what the movie company told me and b.) what we can all guess from the previews and the press.
OK, the reason Transformers will be a terrible movie is that it gives zero credibility to alternative fuel cars. If there's one movie where a hydrogen or hybrid car could have saved the world, this is the one. Now, I'm not asking for a Prius Transformer (but you can go ahead and admit that you'd like to know what a Tesla Roadster would look like in robot form), but I think that with all the creativity used to give Optimus Prime flames, he could also burn ULSD or biodiesel? These green car messages wouldn't have to be delivered in a PSA format (i.e., Optimus turns to the camera and says, "this burns cleaner and is better for the environment, kids"), but there could be a sign in the background. I've seen enough Industrial Light & Magic films to know that those folks could have easily come up with a clever way to tell everyone what's going on.
Or how about this: Bay and team could have used the silent movement capability of an EV to great effect in a tense, quiet scene. Bay is totally in love with the U.S. military, and it's surprising that his Armed Forces partners didn't suggest the plot to him. The Army's Shadow (a Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Targeting Vehicle (RST-V), pictured), for example, would have fit perfectly with Bay's ideology and given electric cars a new look in the public eye.
You can ask James Woolsey, who used to head the CIA and is now a vocal advocate for alternative fuel vehicles, about how our oil supply and our freedom go hand-in-hand. If the Autobots are really here to fight for our freedom, then what we have here is a story that writes itself.
From what I've read, this film makes a lot of changes from the old animated Transformers TV series. You know most of them, I'm sure. The biggest is that Bumblebee is no longer a VW Bug but a Chevy Camaro. So perhaps the one to blame for the lack of green thinking in the film is General Motors.
Bay is no stranger to product placement (just watch The Island. Actually, don't. It's terrible) and his big deal for Transformers is a partnership with GM. With all the work GM has been putting into giving their brand a green shine in the last few months, what cars are they pushing in the big July 4 blockbuster? A GMC TopKick (Ironside), the Camaro, the Pontiac Solstice (Jazz) and the Hummer (Ratchet). Perhaps they is someone at GM kicking themselves for not forcing a Volt transformer into the movie. At the very least, shame on GM for not adding a hybrid badge to Jazz. Sure, there's no actual Solstice hybrid, but there's no Solstice that turns into a freaking robot, either.
I always seem to ask for more from my entertainment than it can deliver, and I suppose a lot of my criticism of the Transformers film could just as easily be applied to a gazillion other movies or TV shows, but this just seems like a perfect opportunity squandered by everyone involved. Oh well, I guess we can always hope for a new attitude in the sequels.
UPDATE: Just to be clear, this is all meant in the spirit of fun, ya know...
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