With the release of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, it felt appropriate to look at the multiple reactions that the live-action film series has inspired over the past few years. As many of us film geeks know, the Transformers franchise tends to cause many a debate to be had between lovers of cinema.
The level of passion generated by fans and detractors of the series can get overwhelming. The comment sections of many sites are often burnt to the ground once Optimus Prime and his fellow Autobots’ latest adventure premieres in theatres. Less than amicable words are exchanged between the two groups, as both sides dig in to defend or deride the latest film.
Before I go into detail, I have to admit that my knowledge of Transformers is limited. I like to think of myself as somewhat of an outsider to the fervor that exists on both sides. I have only seen the first two live-action films and watched only a handful of episodes from the original animated series. The films and cartoon just don’t particularly appeal to me. I don’t direct any hatred towards the property, but I also don’t show any love towards it either.
Despite my general ambivalence towards the series, I will attempt to take a balanced look at both the fans and detractors of the recent movies, and why they hold their respective views of Bay’s Transformers.
Does nostalgia play a role in the fans unabashed love for these explosion heavy blockbusters? Absolutely. If someone’s particular childhood cartoon, show or toy is turned into a film, it’s hard for them not be almost universally giddy about the prospect of seeing a big screen adaptation of their beloved property. We’ve all fallen prey to nostalgia. I certainly have. We tend to ignore or deny the existence of flaws that others may have with a particular product because we love it so much. In many ways, the Transformers series is critic proof not only due to the nostalgia inducing history of the characters, but because the fan base is predisposed to love them anyway. You can’t take away their love for the films if they already know that they love them to begin with.
The idea that one’s brain just needs to be shut off to enjoy Transformers has often been stated by fans of the movies as the proper way one needs to enjoy them. It’s a statement that has been used by many people to describe watching movies with less of a focus on plot and characters. Is it a fair statement to make? Honestly, it probably depends on the person you’re talking to and the context of the conversation. An individual at one time may say that they shouldn’t have to “turn off their brain” to enjoy something, and yet, they’ll turn around and make that statement to defend a film that they love that they know isn’t exactly the Academy-Award winning type. Fans of the films feel the need to provide a reason to justify why they enjoy them so much.
The detractors, much like the fans of Transformers, have been very adamant about letting their voices be heard. Two of the most criticized aspects of Bay’s Transformers has been the sexism and racism featured in each film. Yes, while the movies have often been criticized for their storytelling and presentation of characters, the regular complaints of sexism and racism have managed to even make Bay react to some of the criticism.
The objectification of women, particularly scenes featuring Megan Fox, has frequently been criticized by audiences and feminist groups alike. While I have not seen Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the presentation of Rosie-Huntington Whiteley’s character has often been criticized by others in a similar fashion. Fox and Whiteley are two very beautiful young women; no one can deny that, but the way in which their filmed leaves little up to the imagination on Bay’s view of the opposite sex. Camera shots focusing on the actresses bodies resemble the same shots that focus on the bodies of cars.
The inclusion of racist characters in Revenge of the Fallen was met with much disdain from those who did not enjoy the movie. Mudflap and Skids, two Autobots created for the film, might of have been initially envisioned as humorous characters by the filmmakers, but they instead came off as the mechanical counterparts of Amos ‘n Andy. It’s not at all surprising that they were seemingly erased from the series when they were nowhere to be found in Dark of the Moon.
In the end, is such an ardent defense that the fans provide for Transformers absolutely necessary? These people are obviously very determined, and will go great lengths to defend these movies in an attempt to prove the product they like deserves recognition. Personally, I don’t think they even have to do that. If they like the movies, just let them like them. At the same time, those who do not like them shouldn’t be forced into enjoying them either, and should be free to criticize them at their leisure. Both groups need to understand that they are perfectly free to love or hate these films at their own discretion.
What about you reader? Are people required to defend something they love to others who don’t share the same opinion? Let us know in the comments below.