The Michael Bay Transformers movies sound like strange fever dreams, but were all over the moon for films that thought middle-aged women eating pot brownies might have been too difficult, yet thought Bumblebee urinating on-screen would not raise any questions? The unintelligible nature of these features means that they now, when examined in the reviewer's mirror, serve as a guideline for what big-budget movies should not do.
The Michael Bay Transformers films aren't vintage by any means, but they already appear to be replicas of a different time, like beach movies from the 1960s or star cars for Pauly Shore. However, there was a reason for their initial popularity beyond just people being drawn to see fast cars and scantily dressed ladies; there were also reasons why the series came to an end in 2017 with Transformers: The Last Knight.
To understand why Transformers became a household name, you must remember when the original Transformers film was released. In the Summer of 2007, this Michael Bay directed film opened and closed the season, respectively, while new Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean films dominated the box office.
Transformers and its links to 1980s pop culture were, in part, the norm for nostalgia-fuelled films. Goldmember, Starsky & Hutch, and I Am Legend were just a few examples of big 2000s big-screen films that were either set in the 1970s or based on source material from that era.
The first Transformers dealt with a pair of teenagers caught up in a robotic conflict, who inhabited a world that may have involved massive mechanical beings but also was decidedly modern, involving companies like eBay or the desperate pursuit of your first automobile.
To be honest, it's unclear how successful Witwicky and Banes were in making them believable human beings, despite the fact that they'd been removed from the screen as soon as Burger King's presence was apparent. Besides, the lack of prominent roles for minorities such as queer individuals or people of color meant that Transformers was only evoking a sense of realism for a segment of the movie-going public.
Transformers earned respect from the public in a way that was all too familiar in American pop culture in the 2000s. Its also got a subplot dedicated solely to a gaggle of U.S. soldiers trying to return home. Theyre always portrayed as heroic, and eventually an even greater squadron of servicemen and women is called in to assist the Decepticons in the end.
Transformers did not just halt the plot of a summer 2007 film, but it also revealed a rah-rah-rah patriotism that matched the military depiction of the United States in the 2000s.
There was also a naughty streak in these commercials that might make younger audiences feel like they were doing something while watching a 140-minute commercial for Hasbro toys. One robot responds to Witwicky's pheromone levels in an extended discussion. Adult viewers who have seen far more funnier R-rated comedies will dismiss such scenes as weird bursts of juvenilia.
The power of that initial Transformers film ensured that it was not just a smash hit, but also something that was as personally significant for many viewers. Shockingly, both the Autobots and Decepticons were not proving to be a fly-by-night success, with Dark of the Moon exceeding $1 billion worldwide. With such extraordinary financial stability, it truly seemed like the Transformers were here to stay.
But, to paraphrase Prometheus, A King has his reignand then he dies. While Transformers: Age of Extinction cleared $1.1 billion worldwide, the 2017 installment Transformers: The Last Knight made only $605.4 million. Eventually, it would be revealed that The Last Knight lost more than $100 million for Paramount Pictures.
From Age of Extinction onward, Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yeager was a middle-aged adult who was quite different from other summer 2014 blockbuster characters. Younger characters, like Yeagers daughter or Isabel Merceds scrappy orphan from The Last Knight, only appeared on-screen in one installment each and never had very prominent roles (its no surprise that Bumblebee served as a mini-recovery for the franchise with its teen girl protagonist).
The Last Knight's underwhelming performance demonstrates that pop culture was no longer searching for works that reflected the 1980s' aesthetic. Stranger Things had already premiered at this point, and even the first It film, which updated the source material to the age of leg warmers, was less than three months from its release.
The Last Knight indicated a shift in tone for the franchise that might have dispensed with whatever fan base these films had. By and large, this feature discarded sexual humor, instead focusing on developing a more general character that has been working with Transformers for decades.
It wasnt helpful that most of the major recognizable Transformers themes had been exploited by the time The Last Knight was released, since there were few other characters for the franchise to introduce to entice viewers to yet another sequel. Unicron, while absent from the marketing, was never fully revealed in the film.
The Last Knight was the fifth Transformers film released a decade earlier, just a few weeks before the historical drama Dunkirk invaded theaters. It wasnt that viewers rejected sequels that summer, although the sixth Spider-Man film made over $800 million that July.
Given Hollywood's habit of making money off of anything and everything, it shouldnt be a surprise if Paramount Pictures returns to the Transformers saga in June 2023. Only time will tell if this sequel will restore the franchise to its previous financial glory.