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Transformers - What's missing from Michael Bay's vision?

The Transformers, The Element of Horror and The Story of the Film

Watching the first film from the Transformers franchise directed by Michael Bay, the most intriguing thing about the film was the element of horror. Michael Bay tried to connect the presence of Decepticons with the feeling of horror.

Look at the scene at six minutes forty seconds where the unknown helicopter landed into a military base turns out to be a Decepticon. The most effective technique that Michael used to infuse horror in this scene is that he faded away all the music down and focused solely on sounds ranging from gun fire to screams and explosions. The impact of these sounds is further heightened by the presence of this huge Transformer who is on the rampage to kill and you can genuinely feel the fear of being on the location.

Michael confidently uses the technique again at thirty nine minutes, forty 45 seconds into the movie where we witness a scorpion like Decepticon attacking yet again the soldiers who survived the first attack on their military base.

We receive a third and the final dosage of horror at one hour, forty six minutes into the movie where Megatron is finally freed. But a key difference here compared to the previous two scenes is that Michael Bay didn’t fade away the music, instead he chose to keep it at a normal level. This didn’t really diminish the effect that Michael Bay was going for, but it didn’t either have the punch that the previous two scenes had.

Filmmaking on Transformers

If you watch some of the behind the scenes for Transformers, you will come to appreciate the level of detail, love, care and time that Michael Bay and his team has invested into bringing these incredible Transformers to life so it’s no wonder that he thought very carefully about the effect that he wanted to convey to the audiences. But in all of Michael Bay’s effort to bring this incredible vision to life, there was something missing from the film which could have tied together the transformers, the element of horror and the story of this movie.

You see, Michael Bay tried to tackle a lot different themes and elements into this movie. For example, the importance of family. He used the soldier character played by Josh Duhamel to convey how important is your family and how this character can’t wait to get back to his own family and hold his newly born daughter. Michael then tried to tackle the element of well timed comedic punches and his signature elements of infusing the film with momentum and jam packed action sequences.

However, the one element that he missed to integrate effectively was the presence of a great main character. The main character here is Sam Witwicky played by Shia Labouf and Shia has given a fantastically comedic and an energetic performance. You can see with scenes like these where he adds these little comedic gestures that make you feel that yes, Shia took the role seriously and infused as much imagination as he possibly could have.

Filmmaking on Transformers

Michael Bay certainly tried to build a great character and Shia Labouf definitely tried to convey a brilliant personality with a scene in the film where Sam tries to talk his way into getting what he wants, which was an A grade on his family geology report.

But that was it, there were no further attempts made into giving us an incredible main character with whom we would like to stick around for the whole duration of the movie. So why is that Michael Bay with all his imagination gave us a good movie, but missed out to give us a memorable main character?

To figure this out, I began watching Michael Bay’s interviews about the Transformers film to find any clue as to why did he miss out on this crucial element? And after watching these interviews tirelessly again and again, the answer I got was that Michael Bay’s mind just doesn’t work that way. He is genuinely and subconsciously just not interested in delivering a great main character. The closest I came to finding out his thoughts about the lead actor was this where he doesn’t even mention Shia Labouf’s performance in this film, instead he simply mentions what a great actor Shia is.

Filmmaking on Transformers

If you take a look at these interviews yourself, you will realize that the three things that Michael genuinely cared the most about having in this movie was a huge scope, realistic visual effects and big explosions. So among all the focus that he put on these three elements, he just genuinely missed out putting focus on creating a great character.

But as I already mentioned that it was scenes like these where Sam Witwicky successfully talks his way into getting what he wants, tells us that somewhere in the back of Michael Bay’s mind, there was this genuinely incredible character that he just missed out to extract from his head onto the script and finally into the movie.

But nevertheless, even though a great main character was missing, Michael was still able to hold our attention until the final frame of the movie and give us a genuinely enjoyable experience and time at the movies. Transformers is a movie that will be studied forever due to the sheer brilliance of its scope and visual effects, so if you’re a film lover yourself, then watching this film is well worth your time again and again.

Until then, subscribe to my YouTube channel, to stay tuned for some film philosophy every Monday. In the hopes of connecting with film lovers all over the world, this is Mr. Zeecon, in the making of a great story.

Your Thoughts

I would love to hear it from you guys in the comments if Michael Bay did a good job with this one compared to his other critically bashed directorial efforts?