How Michael Bay Can Save Transformers
No, not the camera. If there's one thing Bay and his team know, it's how to compose a stylish shot. We mean in the storytelling. Just because Transformers has a rich tapestry of history to draw from, it doesn't mean you have to try and cram several stories' worth of plot and action into one film.
Since there's no longer a car-crash pile-up of writers, maybe Ehren Kruger could finally whittle down the story into something that can comfortably fit between Bay's love of exploding things.
It's surely not that hard to find an Autobots Vs Decepticons tale that can fit into two hours. How about a metal parasite afflicting both sides with a cure that must be found? Cue heroic deaths, swine flu satire and real odds.
Ditch The Ill-judged Twins
Sure, Bay wanted to appeal to the "yoof" audience with street slang-slinging wannabe "urban" characters to broaden the film's appeal. But this is not the way to go about it.
We're surprised Spike Lee didn't protest at the gold tooth-sporting, jive-chattering pair who stunk up just about every scene they wandered into with cringe-worthy actions and why-do-space-robots-need-this attitude.
The Autobots and their enemies may have been on Earth a while, and they do need to connect with their audience, but this is not the way. If they have to appear in the third film, bow to the majority opinion and have them killed off horribly within two minutes of their arrival.
Better Bad Guys
The Fallen, then. He spends the vast majority of the second film sitting in his floating throne room, trying to get the energy up to return to Earth and reclaim his rightful place.
He's like your granddad working himself up to get down to the shops and buy a new pack of PG Tips. And when he does arrive, he's just as confusing as the other bots, and Optimus Prime beats him fairly easily.
So why not pull from the likes of Unicron, the planet-sized villain of the animated film. Sure, it'll be a costly project, but the studio made piles of cash from the second movie, so we’d get Bay to have them open the coffers a little wider still this time so he can make it work.
Take A Break!
Yes, yes… we get it. The pushy studio types want to keep capitalising on the success of the first two films. And your big plan to make smaller films between the franchise behemoths hasn’t worked out yet.
But you can still pull out. Ask if it’s possible to delay Transformers 3, go off and make something quick, fun and more on the indie scale and let the ol’ batteries recharge. If not, hand the next TF film over to someone you trust.
Bay’s admittedly commendable commitment to the 'bots has so far resulted in one fun-but-flawed film and one surprisingly popular mess. He needs to step away. Become a producer. Drive a truck of money up to Neill Blomkamp’s house or something.
But please don’t let Marcus Nispel near it.
Enough With The Comedy Parents
Used properly, Sam Witwicky’s parents provide a much-needed grounding for the character, who is torn between the Transformers’ war and his own concerns.
But while they were just about bearable in the first movie, the Witwickys became beyond laughable in the second one, especially the moment that his mother unwittingly tries a pot brownie and goofily careers around campus. Whoever thought that sequence was a decent joke needs to go back to Screenwriting School.
Sam doesn’t even really need his folks to function as a character if more work was put into the relationship between him and Mikaela.
Embrace The Emotions
According to Bay in the video, “the third one doesn't have to be as big, we could go darker. It definitely has to be more emotional, it's not going to be just about action, action, action.”
Yes, exactly. We realise he’s the master of destruction and can orchestrate huge action whenever he wants, but he needs to take his foot. And though we’re sure he’d never be able to explore the truly dark side of the Transformers (got to keep that four-quadrant appeal!), he could definitely explore the characters a lot more.
With the running time you save by cutting away deadwood types (hello again, twins!), even more could be made of the relationships between our techno heroes.
A Little More Conversation
Linked to the request for more emotion is the idea that maybe our Autobot heroes (and their Decepticon enemies) could actually flesh out their personalities a little more.
We’re not asking for a Kevin Smith-esque third film where the robots stand around discussing their own pop culture value and making jokes about getting their “pipes” "cleaned", but one of the most appealing parts of the TV ‘toons was the development of the characters.
Perhaps next time, they could spare a couple of minutes to develop beyond easily categorised personalities and share more of the banter that fans have come to know and love. Star Trek managed to swing the action around the characters – surely Bay could do the same.
Make Megatron Cool Again
In Transformers: ROTFL, we got two sides of the ‘Tron – he spent the first half of the film sitting at the bottom of an oceanic trench, and the rest of the time trying to get the Fallen back to power while bowing to the elderly robot.
This is not the Megatron we really want. We demand the scheming, evil, self-obsessed, ready-to-rule baddie that we remember from the cartoons (he doesn’t have to turn into a gun, though – that was pretty silly).
Hugo Weaving’s voice is fine and there was a flicker of the classic Megatron in his bitter interactions with Starscream, so there’s definitely scope for some more satisfying developments from him next time around.
Raise The Stakes
If Bay’s feud with Megan Fox is anything but promotional guff, then here’s an easy way out of that problem – have Mikaela die in the third film.
It’ll set off a wildfire across the ‘net but even the “OMG! I will totally boycott Transformers 4EVA if Megan Fox is killed!” rantings would help spread the word.
Plus it would give the emotion a deeper well to draw from and allow Shia LaBeouf to do some acting other than shouting and running.
Fox gets a great death scene, the franchise has a excellent jumping off point for future movies (Sam, distraught at the death, swears he'll never help the Autobots again) and it's sci-fi, so she could always come back...
Snip The Running Time
ROTFL was 144 minutes long. Yes, it had a lot of complicated plot, metal-crunching robo-fights and stoned parents to cram in to its running time, even Bay has realised he overstuffed the pudding on the second film.
So why not cut back a little? Take some of our earlier suggests, narrow the focus of the film, strip the story down to something more manageable and try to make it within two hours max.
District 9 introduced its entire concept and told a rollicking action thriller tale in a comparably swift 112 minutes - Bay could certainly find a way to make that work. Cinema owners will thank him too, since it’ll mean more screenings per day.