So, the third and final Michael Bay Transformers movie is almost upon us. As a man of a very particular age, i.e. a child of the 1980s, I look upon Bay’s two films to date and cry inside, a little. It’s not so much that he ruined the one cartoon/toy series that I held the dearest until I discovered girls; more that he tickled us gently with the first one, enough so we overlooked the significant alterations to characters (necessary, admittedly) and generally had an okay time, but then stood astride us all and took a dump on our faces come Revenge of the Fallen. Worst. Movie. Ever. (Probably.) Can Dark of the Moon make up for the solid-gold turd that was the last film? Let’s be fair, it’s unlikely. Though its trailer (watch it here, as I don’t think I can embed it) does at least make it evident that every last penny of Transformers budget in the DreamWorks coffers has been slung at it.
But what if you’ve not seen a Transformers movie before? Should you? Will it make any more sense of what’s sure to be a befuddling storyline? Here’s a few helpful Dos and Don’ts to set you straight on the previous three movies – yes, including the 1986 animated one.
Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Do: Watch for the voices – amongst the cast are at-the-time big-hitters like Robert Stack, Judd Nelson and Mr Spock, Leonard Nimoy (who also voices a character in Dark of the Moon). Enjoy the animation, which at its best is astounding for purely hand-drawn work (yet, frustratingly, can also be awful). Be amazed at the makers’ decision to kill off swathes of fan-favourite characters in the first quarter of the film: see ya, Ironhide, Rachet, Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream and more (basically: we’ve got new toys to sell). Rock out to the cheesy soundtrack. Enjoy a breathless ten-minute sequence, just ten minutes into the film, in which more action takes place than in the whole of Bay’s two films to date.
Don’t: Expect the plot to make any sense whatsoever if you never watched the 1980s cartoon series that the film was tied to. Be surprised that the plot, such as it is, steals from several other sci-fi successes to precede the film, most noticeably Star Wars. Worry if you cry when Optimus Prime snuffs it – we all did, we all did. Get into arguments with super-nerds on the internet as to whether it’s better than the Bay versions/visions: such activity is not good for anyone’s health. Make a big deal out of the fact that it was Orson Welles’ final film role – if it didn’t say so in the credits, you’d never know it was him voicing the planet-sized villain, Unicron.
Do: Enjoy the dialogue between central protagonist Sam’s parents – it’s some of the funniest, warmest material in any of Bay’s films. Marvel at the first on-screen transformation: the helicopter, Blackout, trashes a US military base in no little style. Laugh at the thing, as it’s clear that this isn’t a film that takes itself too seriously. Come away without worrying that you had no idea what was going on with Angelina Jolie’s dad and Barton Fink under the Hoover Dam – frankly, if it was action without Giant Transforming Robots involved, who cared?
Don’t: Lust after one of those Bumblebee Camaros, as the model used is a concept version (right? I have no idea about cars). Cry when Jazz dies – few even noticed. Get bogged down in trying to follow the story – what story there is gets stretched close to snapping point, and focusing on it will only reveal several holes in its fabric. Bother watching at all if the concept of alien robots that can take on the form of terrestrial vehicles is utterly ridiculous to you (I can understand that).
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
Do: Avoid, if possible. Unless drunk. Then it becomes unintentionally hilarious. Rather than simply offensive (see: The Twins).
Don’t: Worry too much. Michael Bay thought it was crap too, hence the tiniest of hopes that Dark of the Moon will be a massive improvement. And even if it’s not, at the end everything will explode so there’s no chance of a fourth installment.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon is released on June 29. It might be alright. You never know.