7 Things About Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ Movies That Don’t Suck... Thank God This List Doesn’t Go to 8

It’s hard to hate the dulcet tones of Peter Cullen
7 Things About Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ Movies That Don’t Suck... Thank God This List Doesn’t Go to 8

I gotta admit, I’m excited about the new Transformers movie. I used to watch Beast Wars as a kid before getting on the school bus every morning, and despite the cringeworthy 1994 computer-generated, PS1-looking animation, the characters were surprisingly deep. Which is to say: Beast Wars rocked, so I’m pumped to see some of those characters on the big screen. 

And while I fully recognize that Michael Bay’s Transformers movies aren’t great, they’re not all bad either. Sure there’s racist robots and some creepy stuff about Texas’ Romeo-and-Juliet laws, but there’s some good stuff in there too. Really good stuff! Really, really good stuff!

Okay, maybe two “reallys” is a bit much, but in honor of the seventh film in this franchise arriving in theaters this weekend, I found at least seven things about them that kick ass.

Peter Fucking Cullen

In an era where Chris Pratt is selected as the voice of Mario, it’s important to note that, when it comes to animated characters, Hollywood often doesn’t select the best person to voice a character, but instead chooses a famous actor of the moment. As such, immensely talented voice actors like Billy West, John DiMaggio, Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche and others are constantly overlooked for feature films. 

The Transformers franchise has been guilty of this too — Hugo Weaving was a weak choice for Megatron — but when Bay cast Optimus Prime in the 2007 Transformers film, he brought back the irreplaceable Peter Cullen, the guy who voiced the character in the 1980s cartoon. Die-hard Transformers fans rejoiced over the decision and even casual moviegoers got to appreciate Cullen’s epic, gravelly tones. He’s the only guy who could give the proper weight and authority to the leader of the Autobots.

Bernie Mac ’s Cameo

Great actors tend to do their worst work in the Transformers films. John Turturro was downright annoying as Agent Simmons in the four Transformers films he appeared in, and John Malkovich was completely forgettable in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. However, Bernie Mac’s appearance as used car salesman Bobby Bolivia in the first film was genuinely excellent. He was clearly a huckster selling garbage cars, yet he oozed charisma. When his mother flipped him off, he hilariously mumbled to himself about busting her head open with a rock. He also, for reasons unknown, owned an ostrich. Given Mac’s tragically brief filmography, his presence in Transformers is truly something to treasure.

That Mountain Dew Vending Machine Transformer

In the first movie, Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky is running around with the Allspark, which can give life to electronics. In addition to a car and an Xbox, a Mountain Dew vending machine is zapped. It then transforms into a robot that shoots soda cans, a truly inspired idea. I mean, if product placement is a necessary part of the Hollywood machine, why not have some fun with it? 

Most of the Action Sequences Are Genuinely Exciting

Many people complained that the close-up, shaky camerawork in the first movie — combined with the sameness of many of the character designs — made for confusing action sequences. This was more than fair criticism, and it seems like Bay heard it and course-corrected for the rest of the franchise, opting for brighter-colored robots and less busy camerawork. As a result, we got fights like Optimus Prime versus the Dinobots in Age of Extinction, a number of very cool car chases and the final fight in Chicago in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the best action sequence in the franchise IMHO. 

‘Bumblebee’ Rocked

While the other Transformers films have been occasionally sluggish, often over-complicated, CGI-laden extravaganzas, the semi-reboot, semi-prequel Bumblebee had a much stronger focus on story and character. It also redesigned the looks of several characters to be more in line with their classic cartoon counterparts. It was a solid reset for the series. 

The ‘Transformers’ Movies Still Fulfill the Most Basic Promise of the Franchise

Let X-Men have the subtext about civil rights; Transformers was purely designed to sell toys and only about the Autobots and Decepticons kicking each other’s metal asses as they looked for Energon. It gets no deeper than that. And the exact same can be said for Bay’s cinematic interpretation. To that end…

Bay Was Always the Man for the Job

Unlike the very self-serious Zack Snyder, a director who likes to think his work has more meaning than it does, Michael Bay knows that he’s Michael Bay. He unabashedly talks about loving explosions and the other shallow aspects of filmmaking that he’s frequently ridiculed for. And since Transformers was never about anything more than robots fighting, Bay was an excellent choice to put them on the big screen doing exactly that.

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