Today marks the 31st anniversary of the airing of the original Transformers cartoon series. I was four years old at the time. From the moment the opening theme song began to roll, I was hooked. I am virtually, a lifelong Transformers fan. The first birthday present I ever remember getting was an Optimus Prime when I was five. I got the exact same Prime 25 years later from my best friend. It was awesome! In recent years, I have taken to reading the comics. I actually really like them. The artwork is terrific, and the comics have enough room to explore the mythology in some compelling ways.
And then there's the movies...
I was so excited when the first film came out. The original trailer had a great feel and I was finally seeing my childhood favorite come to life. The first film was... fun. You could actually see the hand of executive producer Steven Spielberg all over the first one. There was a sense of wonder, like a watered down feeling of the first time you saw a dinosaur in the original Jurassic Park. Then the second film came out and the wheels sort of came off. For the sake of brevity, let me give my quick ranking of the first four films:
Fun, captured my childhood in some cool ways, the humans weren't too annoying.
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
I was entertained through most of this film. I was actually a little surprised when (spoiler alert) Sentinel Prime turned on the Autobots. Leonard Nimoy added some excellent voice work. My only real issue is the overlong finale. We get it, the US military is full of badasses in flying squirrel suits. Wrap it up! Also, the unceremonious killing of ALL the major decepticons was ridiculous.
3. Transformers: Age of Extinction
Confession. I didn't see this in the theater. I live tweeted it at home with a bunch of microwave popcorn and a bottle of bourbon. (you can read the tweets - #dwtf4) I think my intoxication made this film more watchable than it actually is, but I have no desire to watch it again to be sure. I'll just say this: Transformium? Really?!!!
4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Besides the ridiculously racist characters Skids and Mudflaps, this films cardinal sin is that every time Optimus Prime is not on the screen, it is incredibly boring. Which is bad because Prime is dead for half of the film. This film also introduces some bullshit mythology, a problem the whole series has had, involving the matrix, an order of Primes, and the Fallen. The comics had time to flesh this stuff out. The movie apparently didn't and it was a disaster.
Deadline has confirmed Transformers 5 is coming out, most likely with Michael Bay back at the helm and Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. This movie will make all the money because every Transformers film has so far. Bay and Spielberg have put together a writing brain trust that included: These writers — Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk), Jeff Pinker (Lost), Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man), The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari (Ant-Man), Christina Hodson (Shut In), Lindsey Beer, Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down) , Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Steven S. DeKnight (Daredevil) — and was overseen by Akiva Goldsman (Winter’s Tale). The hope was to create a Transformers Cinematic Universe since cinematic universes are all the rage. The reports say they have enough of a story to make five films including an animated prequel by the creators of Ant-Man.
Maybe I'm the only one who cares, but I would like to see a solid TFCU if such a thing absolutely has to exist. So, here are my recommendations for how such a thing could be pulled off:
- 1. Clean up the character design.
My biggest complaint since the first film has been the clunky, over complicated character design. Go back to the look of the comics and the original animated series. Clean lines, more robot, less alien.
- 2. Less humans.
The humans are supposed to be in these films to give us a point of reference. Which would be great if the humans were likable. Give us a great voice acting cast (Kevin Conroy as Ultra Magnus?), give some Transformer not named Optimus Prime a personality, and make the humans background characters or have no humans at all. I've been dying to see a story take place on Cybertron. Which brings me to...
- 3. Origin story.
The comics have some great stories set before the Transformers get to earth: Autocracy, Primacy, Monstrosity great origin stories that can be translated to film. I hope they don't just relegate the Cybertron stuff to animation.
- 4. Bring Back Prime!
The character himself hasn't gone anywhere, but what they've done to him is a crime. He's gone from "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings" to yelling "I'll kill you!" at a bunch of humans. His cold-blooded killing of Megatron at the end of Dark of the Moon is not the Optimus Prime of my childhood. Prime should be heroic, noble, self sacrificing... he should be everything good we'd want in a leader. Bring in Rodimus at some point if you want complex leadership.
- 5. Unicron
The ultimate bad guy, voiced by Orson Freaking Welles in the '86 animated movie. A planet who eats other planets. In the comics, he is the embodiment of evil in the Transformers mythos. The yin to Primus' yang. Seeing him on a big screen threatening Cybertron and Earth would be amazing! Since "The Creators" were introduced in the last film, they could introduce the Quintessons and Unicron as part of their larger universe.
And just for fun...
- 6. Batshit Crazy Galvatron!
Galvatron was in Age of Extinction as a "clone" of Megatron. By the end, it was discovered that he maintained Megatron's consciousness. In the cartoon and comics, Galvatron is an interesting character in that he seems to absolutely off his rocker, even shooting at his own men. An insane Decepticon leader could be tons of fun, especially if he ultimately has to be wrangled to fight a larger threat.
Of course, these are just the ramblings of my inner five year old. What do you think?