Ten Minutes of Transformers Transforming
February 4, 2014 3:31 AM   Subscribe

Watching Ten Minutes of Transformers Transforming did make me a little dizzy. Three movies worth of transformations in 1080p.
posted by tarpin (68 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I dunno, I see a lot of motion, but there's no real coherence to the transformations. Just car-swirly-swirly-swirly-big robot. Go back two decades and you'll see ILM doing much better--and more coherent--work with Jurassic Park, among others. As frenetic and headache-inducing as Michael Bay's movies are, I'll give him this: his cinematography is pretty damn slick. If only any shot lasted longer than four seconds.
posted by zardoz at 4:04 AM on February 4 [10 favorites]


The worst thing about the new movies was despite their absolutely colossal budget devoted to these effects and potential scope, they didn't even manage to have the same heart that the (frankly shitty) cartoon movie of the 80s had.
posted by modernnomad at 4:04 AM on February 4 [11 favorites]


I see a lot of motion, but there's no real coherence to the transformations. Just car-swirly-swirly-swirly-big robot.

This is exactly what makes the Transformers movies so unwatchable for me. These colossal machines made of bajillions of teeny, tiny parts, each constantly moving independently of each other and of the robot itself. It's CG overkill, and my eyes hurt from the strain.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:22 AM on February 4 [13 favorites]


Yeah, the transformations don't make a damn bit of visual sense. The car turns into a blob, and then the blob turns into a robot. The flaws of the '80s cartoon were legion, but they at least had a "the head comes out of there, and those bits turn into arms" logic.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:51 AM on February 4 [16 favorites]


The flaws of the '80s cartoon were legion, but they at least had a "the head comes out of there, and those bits turn into arms" logic.

This is entirely my problem with the movies. They could take the same shitty Michael Bay movies, change the CGI to look more like the Transformers I know and love, and I'd watch them and eat popcorn with a big stupid grin on my face.

These things look like a truck carrying Snap-on Tools getting hit by a train.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:58 AM on February 4 [25 favorites]


Style without substance.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:00 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Technically all very impressive but otherwise a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:02 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "the transformations don't make a damn bit of visual sense."

*Clink clink clank clink clank*... they don't make a damn bit of aural sense, either.
posted by tybeet at 5:14 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Man, that looked awesome. Huge robots! Changing into stuff! Smashing things! I need to watch the other two movies.

Although to be honest I thought the absolutely coolest stuff in the first movie was the US military hardware, which was astonishing. [Googles] Ah, apparently Bay works closely with the military to get kit, and some of it was brand-new. Anyway, very cool.
posted by alasdair at 5:14 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I see a lot of motion, but there's no real coherence to the transformations.

I was thinking the exact same thing, even from the opening. Little whirring gears that don't make any sense.

Robot aliens from a distant planet that can transform into Volkswagen Beetles for no particular reason demand a logical coherence!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:15 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's the whir and blur of nonsense that makes it unwatchable.

I remember watching this video c. 2006, apparently made by some dude in his basement, prior to the Bay movies. It's STILL better than anything Bay came up with, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by modernnomad at 5:17 AM on February 4 [12 favorites]


That was great and gave me new appreciation for what Bay did with the films. His Transformers are not metal as we know it, but some sort of organic metal which can change shape. Think Mystique from the X-Men movies.

The design of them is overkill, but there's a lovely beauty there also, one Bay clearly intended. I have to respect him for that, though it's not the route I would take or prefer.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:25 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


So much teal and orange.
posted by killdevil at 5:28 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


Check the trailer for the new film Optimus riding a Dinobot!

Michael Bay knows just what whisper in my ear!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:30 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I mean, it makes sense because they are alien robot things, and why would an alien robot thing have evolved into a shape that can exactly fold into an Earth vehicle. Whereas if it's kind of made of nanobots/tiny components/organic metal that that form any shape they want, forming arbitrary Earth vehicle shapes makes more sense.

Meanwhile, this is how you make a proper film based on toys.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:35 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Fifty-Two Minutes of Transformers Transforming!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:35 AM on February 4 [12 favorites]


I bet in 5 years, even romantic comedies will be all jump-cut edited
posted by thelonius at 5:39 AM on February 4


Why not save yourself 10 dollars and bang two garbage can lids together for 2 hours? The plot makes more sense and is way tighter too.
posted by Renoroc at 5:43 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Garbage can lids don't leer at women's butts or portray horrifying racist stereotypes, though. You need Bay to go that extra mile.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 AM on February 4 [10 favorites]


The jumpy editing is an issue, but so is the ridiculously tight framing. So we see the hood of a car that starts to buckle and unfold, a bunch of gears and stuff, then the hood pieces closing to form -- what? Um, yellow? Finally the pull out to show a robot chest. And it's like why did you show me a car-sized robot transforming in extreme close-up? I have no reference!
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:56 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Just car-swirly-swirly-swirly-big robot.

Have you played with the toys? Tried to transform them? Tried with the instructions?

That is the darkest timeline.
posted by Mezentian at 5:59 AM on February 4


Also, I think Fantasy and SF films need more internal coherence than more mundane films. We live in the mundane world, and we know how it works. We can fill in the gaps. For an imaginary world, you can't just go "it's a bunch of giant transforming robots! What do you want?" I want to know enough about how they work so I can expect something. Otherwise, they will just pull out their Plot Hole Filler (in grand Bat Shark Repellent fashion) in the nick of time, and all I am left with is CGI exhaustion and a vague longing for cheesy practical effects. At least in Krull, you knew what the damn starfish was supposed to do....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:00 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


I need to watch the other two movies.
There are not enough drugs or alcohol.
Trust me.
posted by Mezentian at 6:00 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


For an imaginary world, you can't just go "it's a bunch of giant transforming robots! What do you want?"

I don't see why not. Trying to explain things can bog a movie down. It really depends on how it's done.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:12 AM on February 4


Needs more chick-chack-check-chock-chuck.
posted by grouse at 6:12 AM on February 4 [11 favorites]


Seventy-Seven Minutes of Transformers Transforming!
posted by this is a thing at 6:16 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, Transformers blowing up!
posted by octobersurprise at 6:18 AM on February 4


Needs more balls clanging, and grills.
Possibly amusing racial stereotypes.

Yes, more.
posted by Mezentian at 6:19 AM on February 4


The transformer movies gave me the most annoying ringtones of the whole ashram. Sounds like next level yoga shit, right?
posted by ouke at 6:27 AM on February 4


I don't see why not. Trying to explain things can bog a movie down. It really depends on how it's done.

I'm not saying that you have to have someone standing around expositing, but there needs to be a sense of internal coherence and possibility. Otherwise, it's way to easy to fudge, and the entire film feels like it was scripted by 6-year-olds shouting "And then this happened, and then that happened, and... oh yeah, that happened too!" Which is more or less how I think the script process went for Transformers III, so I may be onto something....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:30 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Not. Sexy.
posted by Theta States at 6:33 AM on February 4


scripted by 6-year-olds shouting "And then this happened, and then that happened, and... oh yeah, that happened too!"

This sounds like a fun movie, can I see a rough draft?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a fun movie, can I see a rough draft?

Transformers III
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:02 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Less rough.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:15 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


Ok, that looks good, how about the finished product?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:16 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


They've definitely made some improvements for the next movie. *SPOILER*
posted by orme at 7:31 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Ok, that looks good, how about the finished product?

It's a Michael Bay movie. There is nothing that could be considered a finished product. It's always a rough draft with the cracks plastered over with explosions.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:37 AM on February 4


It's a Michael Bay movie.

From Wikipedia:
Michael Benjamin Bay (born February 17, 1965)[1] is an American film director and producer. He is known for directing high-budget action films characterized by their fast edits, stylistic visuals and substantial practical special effects.[2][3] His films, which include Armageddon (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001) and the Transformers film series (2007–present), have grossed over three billion dollars world-wide.[4]
Clearly there's a strong market for Bay's style.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:47 AM on February 4


It's like those two parody movie guys that were mentioned here recently. Sometimes it's not the product as much as the fact that people keep paying to see them.

As shallow as the original 80s cartoon was, at least the characters had unique looks and personalities, and their vehicle designs were actually incorporated into the robot designs. The live action versions all seem based off the same ugly generic template.

Sigh, I'd kinda gotten my hopes up when a reboot was talked about, only to hear Bay exclaim "I'd love to be part of it!"
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:36 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Clearly there's a strong market for Bay's style.

I'm not sure that's true. I think a lot of people think Bay films are going to be cool, but end up not really liking them.

For some reason I noticed that films I want to see are usually bad. I wanted to see Superman, or Transformers, for example. After 2 hours of ridiculous special effects and Superman landing in random places and always, always bumping into Lois Lane where he landed, I would gladly have shoved piles of broken glass in both my eyes as a distraction, had it been handy.

I did not want to see Blue Is the Warmest Color, or Tokyo Story, or countless other boring-sounding films that I can't stop thinking or talking about.

Anyone know why that is?
posted by Riton at 8:38 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


I don't know, Riton, but I feel the same way. Maybe "the industry" is very good at subliminal marketing?
posted by rebent at 9:08 AM on February 4


definitely missing this transformation sound
posted by oonh at 9:18 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I think it's just that you were familiar with the Superman and Transformers franchises, and had high hopes for their latest incarnation. If it's disappointing, you remember it. If you're disappointed by something you had no familiarity with, you forget it and move on.

And to give Hollywood some credit, some big-screen adaptations turn out good, but maybe not as often as they should.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:18 AM on February 4


His Transformers are not metal as we know it, but some sort of organic metal which can change shape. Think Mystique from the X-Men movies.

Naw. Think Sandman from Lego Marvel Superheroes.

Michael Bay Transformers are basically Scrap Elementals.
posted by straight at 9:27 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Four minutes of Transformers transforming (commercial-free).
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:28 AM on February 4


I came here to make the same comment that the first 20 commenters made. Unwatchable mess of CG blur and clanking that ruined the movies for me. I was certain i wasn't alone.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:33 AM on February 4


I also came to share my unique insight that the frenetic, blurry, swirly visual effects of these transformations is not very effective. But, um, you beat me to it. Part of why it's done this way is it's profoundly lazy filmmaking, a way to hide all the fuckups in the effects. If your eye can't track it you can't see how crappy it is.

That's why I find Cuarón's work in Children of Men and Gravity so refreshing. Those films are paced and gentle and the cinematography is framed so you can see what's going on. Nothing hidden. Gravity in particular is just breath-stopping. Cuarón's not afraid to use shaky-cam and fast action occasionally to convey freneticism but he's not relying on it entirely as a substitute for art.

I also really like Blomkamp's style, that one mech scene in District 9 really blew me away when I saw it. His early short films also show a lot of confidence in his animation, even on a low budget. It's a shame Elysium didn't work out better. At least it made a big pile of money, I am hopeful he'll have some good films coming.

I'm also kind of excited to see that Cameron's finally got the go-ahead on Avatar sequels. The blu kitteh script and emphasis on 3d were awfully hokey, but there's a lot of good sci-fi fun in that movie.
posted by Nelson at 9:36 AM on February 4 [4 favorites]


40 minutes and 24 seconds of Transformer transforming.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:09 AM on February 4


Another thing I like about the way Cuaron and Blomkamp approach their SF, at least so far, is that they treat the SFnal trappings as mundane things. Not really describing this right...

I mean, if someone in a movie set in today pulls up in a Chevy Tahoe, they're not likely to make a big thing out of it -- they're not going to give us an extravagantly long look at the Tahoe and zoom and revolve around it three times so we can see just how fucking cool it is. Because it's just a truck.

On the other hand, if you're a monster movie from 1989, you're going to have at least one long, lingering shot of the monster when, towards the end of the movie, you finally have its full reveal. Let's spin around the monster from all angles and show it waving its arms menacingly -- the fight between Ripley's power loader and the xenomorph queen comes to mind. Lots of HEY LOOK AT THIS BADASS SHIT WE MADE FOR YOU!

In District 9 there's a mechsuit, but not much in the way of long LOOK AT THIS COOL THING! Even when it's the only important thing in the shot, there's something about the (seeming) casualness of how it's shot that says that this suit of power armor is not really such a big deal; it's a truck that we've all seen before (because we live in a world where sometimes prawns get into power armor and start some shit).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:29 AM on February 4 [6 favorites]


Clearly there's a strong market for Bay's style.

I think it's more that there's a strong market for anything that ties into/takes inspiration from geek culture. Bay's style simply works exceedingly well within that framework.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:34 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


I think this is cool as shit and my only problem is that I don't have the means to watch it uncompressed and projected on a 30ft screen where it would look even better.
posted by dogwalker at 10:36 AM on February 4


I think it's more that there's a strong market for anything that ties into/takes inspiration from geek culture.

Also, people like explosions, and the relative lack of plot makes it easy to convert for international audiences.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:48 AM on February 4


I assume Bay's new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie will also include the title characters working closely with the US military for no reason.
posted by ckape at 11:03 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Michael Bay Transformers are basically Scrap Elementals.

That almost makes it sound cool.
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on February 4


Clearly there's a strong market for Bay's style.
I'm not sure that's true. I think a lot of people think Bay films are going to be cool, but end up not really liking them.


Also, I'm not entirely sure what the point of that line of thinking is supposed to be. Like, once something is commercially successful, we aren't supposed to be critical towards it...? So, lots of people like Michael Bay movies enough to shell out a few bucks to see them; other people in this thread don't like them, and are clearly articulating the reasons for their feelings / thoughts. What are we supposed to do instead? "Well, I didn't think I liked Michael Bay, but now the market has spoken, so I guess he's awesome!"
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:19 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Optimus riding a Dinobot!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Fuck you, Michael Bay. Fuck you.
posted by mikelieman at 11:38 AM on February 4 [2 favorites]


Like, once something is commercially successful, we aren't supposed to be critical towards it…?

No, but you'd think one would look at one something one doesn't like still manages to wildly successful, instead of adding another comment along the lines of "oh god that's awful, I can't see anything."

Bay's movies fascinate me because they're not how I would do them, nor what I think would be successful Yet they are, by any shadow of a doubt. So what's going on there, what's that crazy magic that he's using to make this shit shine?!

And it's obvious, in retrospect, that carefully done transformations just don't to a lot people. Hell, even in hand drawn animation, there's numerous shortcuts where the artist isn't drawing every part of every character in every frame.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:42 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Does anybody even anticipate upcoming Michael Bay movies? It's like the pairing is announced, then maybe a star attachment, and then nothing until the media buys start coming out.
posted by rhizome at 12:55 PM on February 4


I'm also kind of excited to see that Cameron's finally got the go-ahead on Avatar sequels.

You had me until Avatar.

Though it's... interesting, how diametrically opposed Cameron's portrayal of the military is compared to Bay's.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:20 PM on February 4


You guys are hilarious. The incomprehensible, not-mechanically logical CGI was literally the only good thing about any of this stuff. It's, what, cubist or something, a radical gesture against rational transparency in something that is nominally SF. It's Michael Bay blowing shit up good, but the explosion is rendered as a whirl of symbols for machinery.

The transformations of the Transformers in these films are literally the only meaningful aesthetic contribution to the language of cinema Michael Bay will ever make. He created a visual, metaphoric expression of his aesthetic and then a) got it on screen and b) made money doing it.

That's anybody's definition of A-list auterist filmmaking, man. Anybody's. Sure, the films are terrible and let down the fanbase for the franchise. But Michael Bay transcended, er, transformed himself into what he always was, but moreso.
posted by mwhybark at 1:42 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


I haven't seen any of the Transformers movies, aside from when my animation school roomie showed me the 80s one. I have no intent of ever seeing them, really.

But goddamn those were some pretty transformation sequences. Watching everything shatter into a million little parts, all designed with an aesthetic of "trying to look like plausible machinery", that then twist and pirouette and change into a big robot... SO COOL.

And the one halfway through with a zillion ball bearings that open up into little spiky robots, that then all combine into these impossibly thin arcs of blades... it's pretty much saying "fuck you" to anyone who thinks there should be any real pretense of 'reality'. And it's gorgeous. Fuck it, you might as well just say they're "metal golems" that can change their shape via magic. I'm sure the explanation in the movies involves nanomachines, which is pretty much the same as magic in plot terms.
posted by egypturnash at 1:45 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


The transformations of the Transformers in these films are literally the only meaningful aesthetic contribution to the language of cinema Michael Bay will ever make. He created a visual, metaphoric expression of his aesthetic and then a) got it on screen and b) made money doing it.

I guess a contribution to the language of cinema would require that someone else use it to deserve the name 'contribution', no?

Also, it seems highly unlikely that Bay himself designed the transformation animation - a bunch of people worked on a few different ones and he said 'hey, that one's the coolest!' - so I guess I wouldn't categorize him as 'auterist', either?

And the transformation animation is restricted to the 'Transformers' movies. You're not gonna see anything like that in any other Bay movie.

HOWEVER, for example, if you see a female character in a position of manifest inferiority suddenly and surprisingly completely turn the tables on her assailants and reveals herself to be the one in the position of control, well, yeah, we all know who wrote that. And that guy's an 'a-list auteur', all right.
posted by Riton at 2:27 PM on February 4


I do agree that as a generic sort of shapeshifting effect, the whole blades-and-gears thing is pretty neat. It's more that it's a bad fit for Transformers, because there's no continuity between the original shape and the robot you get at the end of it. Other than the color scheme and the occasional ridiculous wrecking-ball testicles, you can't see any signature elements of the one in the other -- as opposed to the comic/cartoon/toy designs, where they're very clearly robots made of cars or planes or dinosaurs, and specific cars or planes or dinosaurs, at that.

Another "how it should look" example.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:39 PM on February 4 [5 favorites]


That's anybody's definition of A-list auterist filmmaking, man. Anybody's

Well, anybody with a sufficiently broad definition of "A-list auterism," anyway.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:47 PM on February 4


I like your defense of Bay's animation, mwhybark, particularly pointing out how the metal shard whirl is a logical extension of Bay's general love of big explosions. But I'm going to have to go with Zarquon on this, that it isn't a good match for the Transformers lore. Particularly given the action figure toys that made it so mechanically apparent how the truck turned into a robot or whatever. Scrap golems are a cool idea but they're not Transformers.

I went looking for some video clips of the cartoon animations to prove my point about how awesome the original material was but, um, failed. Honestly the examples I found like this or this are pretty awful. Lots of faked-out scale, very few moving pieces, and in some cases the same extreme closeup bullshit hiding the animator's failure. Is my memory really about childhood nostalgia? Or maybe I'm looking at the wrong incarnation of Transformers cartoons.
posted by Nelson at 2:49 PM on February 4


Is my memory really about childhood nostalgia?

Mostly, yeah. Even the 1986 animated movie had similar shitty animation. The CGI of the modern movies is a step up in many (but not all) ways.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:57 PM on February 4


Nelson, your first video is actually from a much later cartoon that, while heavily stylized, did have toys surprisingly similar to its TV characters.

In general, though, your point absolutely stands. I've found the original cartoon pretty hard to watch as an adult. (Though not as hard to watch as Michael Bay's movies.)
posted by anbaric_gareot at 1:44 AM on February 5


Where do the hoods go in the final robots?
posted by panaceanot at 1:43 PM on February 5


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