PerseveranceJuly 6th, 2011 |
This past weekend, Transformers: Dark of the Moon opened up to a staggering worldwide gross of $440 million. A couple of people wanted to know my opinion of the movie, since I’m one of those people who openly liked the second movie, Revenge of the Fallen. (For those that weren’t aware of that, go HERE and read my reasons why before bitching to me about it.) Well, my general assumption is that I liked it. It was far better than RotF but not as good as the first one. Did it have it’s flaws? Oh yeah, and it did drag a bit toward the end. I mean, generally… The Transformers movies are like the Twilight movies, in that if you don’t want to like them, then nothing in the world will change your mind. But this was Michael Bay’s last Transformers movie, so this will be good news for the critics, and the films can only go uphill, right? Right?
Oooooooooh no. If history repeats itself here, as it has for other franchises like this one… This is where it gets BAD. And for those of you who really didn’t like the Bay-helmed movies? You’re not going to like what’s coming. But if it makes you feel better, neither will anyone else. You see, with Transformers, a lot of the complaints I’m hearing about it today, I’ve heard before. First time I heard it was in 1988 and then in 1992. With Batman. Complaints of the character being changed, the visuals not being right, Batman being more brutal than he is supposed to be, sexualization of Catwoman (seriously!), deforming Penguin into whatever he was in Returns, making Harvey Dent black, stupid jokes like the penguin army, and what not. You see, Transformers is a franchise, much like Batman, X-Men and even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Those of you who were around back then, remember that the average person who didn’t read comics still thought of Batman as pudgy Adam West, trying to get rid of a bomb. When it was announced that they were going to make a live action movie of Batman, the big question wasn’t “Can they make a faithful movie?” No, the question was “Can they make a movie that wasn’t a laughing joke?”
Now, you and I know the answer is yes. You can really take any concept, no matter how silly, and make it work. Like a story about a corporate espionage spy who dives into dreams to get information. Put the right twist on it, and make sure it’s explained clearly and well enough… You got Inception. Or Dreamscape. (Both wonderful films.) However, here’s the thing. Hollywood is spending a hundred million dollars (or more) on a movie, and they need to have some guarantees. (This is one of the reasons why there’s so many sequels and remakes these days. It’s a safer bet.) And really, comics only recently (within the last decade) have been taken seriously as a form of entertainment and not some throwaway joke. (sorta) If you ever read some of the previous attempts at making a Batman movie, where was some really oddball stuff. (Including some campy elements, stuff like Batman being a super spy, like James Bond and some odder things yet.) Whether you liked Tim Burton’s take on Batman or not (and I did, but I understand why others did not), what they WERE going to do was an even bigger departure from Batman than the movie we got was. And that’s the thing about the Bay-helmed Transformers movies. They’re not great, but compared to what we probably would have gotten, it’s an improvement. Put aside your anger for a moment, and realized what it could have been… And I don‘t mean that positively. It could have been far worse. Don’t believe me? Yer gonna find out!
Now here’s the thing. Whether, you liked Transformers, X-Men, Spider-Man or Batman… Those movies worked for the mass movie audience because the directors Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer ect. were able to look past the stigma of it being a silly superhero comic or a toy commercial or a cartoon and see what we, the fans, see in it. They saw that there was something in it that was more than just a big paycheck. Maybe their vision for it wasn’t what we liked or wanted, maybe they needed to be more immersed in the mythos to iron out the flaws the movies had… But they liked it and respected what they were doing. (And I’m willing to argue that with Michael Bay. I’m willing to believe he respected the franchise, even if it’s not the way we were hoping he would.) Eventually, all these guys left or got forced out. And guess what?
The sucking began. You see, the first director at least has a vision. We may not like it, but it’s at least somewhat gelled with the franchises mythos. The second director, all they go on is what’s established in the movies. The next guy who comes on board to direct, he’s not going to care about the source material. You think that the creators of Ninja Turtles 3 even knew or cared about Baxter Stockman, Krang or the Triceratons? You believe that Joel Schumacher even gave two craps that Bane was Batman’s intellectual equal and physical superior? You think Brett Ratner cared that Juggernaut was Xavier’s step-brother, and that he wasn’t really a mutant? Hell no! All he cared about was that there was a “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” joke, and that’s it. You think Michael Bay’s bad? Wait until the next guy takes over! At least Michael has a idea what it was that people liked in Transformers. The next guy isn’t going to care about such ideas like the Unicron, Rodimus, or the Quintessons. No. He’s probably going to give us the live action movie equivalent of a bastardized Masterforce. For those non-TF initiated, Masterforce was a Japanese Transformers series where all but one or two of the characters in there was human controlled mecha, or human sized Pretender robots. It’s basically a Transformerized Power Rangers. It’s as dumb as it sounds and only works because it’s Japanese. And for those of you who are aware what Masterforce is…
Close your eyes and image a white guy, who’s basically supposed to be Ginrai, played by someone who looks like Robert Pattinson, performing opposite of Minerva, played by that ‘blank eyed’ blonde from that Red Riding Hood movie.
Yeeeeaaaah, Bay looks pretty good now, don’t he?
See, that’s the thing. It’s not just for movies here, but also for cartoons, comics, book series, ect. After the first director/writer leaves, the second one usually just tries to follow what worked the first time, without understanding what it was that made it work. And you end up with bat-nipples. This ALWAYS happens. Sure, there are some exceptions, but they’re certainly in the minority. It’s like when you read a Harry Potter fanfic. They don’t remember that he’s a generally well-liked, friendly guy who’s loyal and loving to his friends. They always focus on the dark past, with magical powers with him being the chosen one, ignoring the rest. So basically, franchises will seem to invariably take a downward spiral when the original creative force behind it leaves, because the new guy didn’t share the same vision. To the new guy, this is JUST a big paycheck. So yeah, that generally sucks all around. But is there anything good to look forward from these franchises? Is there any reward for being loyal, and having to sit through garbage like ‘Batman and Robin’ and ‘X-Men 3’?
Totally, and it’s the moral of the story here. Sometimes, we fly right out of the nest, but we’re not perfect and we’re eventually going to crash. You plan for it. See, we first have to learn it can be a success. Then we have to fail a bit to realize what doesn’t work. Then we can improve. It’s all trial and error. You keep at it, and eventually you get The Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class.
Sometimes they’re going to screw up, and sometimes they’re going to get things right. If there is truly any value or merit in the franchise… They’ll eventually get it right.
You just don’t give up. Besides, even if the movies don’t get any better, the cartoons seem to always do.