"THE SCRIPT ROCKS! Utter adulation! The story is dope! I heard some minor rumblings around town how the script is whack - complete bullshit! The haters can kiss my ass. I loved it and it gets my blessing! I had such fanboy glee reading it that I will geek out and read it yet again this weekend. What a pleasure. Folks, BELIEVE THE HYPE! Transformers… will own you!"
- El Mayimbe at LatinoReview
Yo-yo-yo, wassup, dogs?
MM here with the latest KICKIN' script review of THE TRANSFORMERS! Yeah, baby! We’re talkin’ big badass ‘bots, hotty-totty girly-girls, and MORE! Ya dig? 'Cause I'm all over this script like a cheap suit, man.
Yo, I heard on the clothesline that Jon Voight was MONITORED by bodyguards when he read the script because security was THAT TIGHT on the film. Pffft! Whatever… It couldn’t have been THAT TIGHT. I’ve been holding a February 28, 2006, draft since, like, February 29 or something. Maybe it was February 30. I don't know. It's hard to say. The days start to run together when you're livin' THE LIFE of a crazy screenwriter, ya know what I mean?
All right. First off, to my main man, El Mayimbe over at LatinoReview – I know you’re bustin’ a moby over there with you’re A+ review of The Transformers script and dissin’ naysayers with smack talk like “The haters can kiss my ass,” etc. Dude, I got two words for you:
'Cause I’m about to toss your salad, bitch.
First, the good - the robots’ll look cool as all get-out.
Yeah, man, we’re talkin’ BAD ASS 'BOTS right? These shiny steel boys are the bomb, y’all, frickin’ KILLER-DILLERS, ya dig what I’m sayin’? The FX will be SMOKIN’! Totally frickin’ awesome, man!
And that’s it for the good.
Now, the bad. Lookit. It’s like this, my man. The story sucks ass. BIG TIME. Let me break it down for you.
First of all, it’s poorly written. It’s like, “dude, go buy a frickin’ format book, all right?” Because, I'm sorry, call me an old fuddy-duddy, but a screenplay ought to look like A SCREENPLAY. These boys couldn’t even remember to write “FADE IN!” That’s my favorite part!
Page 1 - the first words we read: “A LEGEND appears...” DUDE – I haven’t seen the word “legend” in a script since that crappy Tom Cruise movie back in '85. And when you buy that format book, make sure it's one that’s been updated sometime AFTER 1976. What does the master domo of screenplay formatting, Dave Trottier, tell us to do? He says to simply write “SUPER.”
I mean, GEEZ, y’all. Catch up with 21st century screenwriting.
Okay, down the first page:
We hear a VOICE, powerful, noble. Though we don’t know it yet, it’s the voice of OPTIMUS PRIME:
Our planet was destroyed by the ravages of war...
It’s like – DUH.
Obviously his voice is “powerful” and “noble.” It’s Optimus frickin’ Prime, man! And we KNOW it’s Optimus because, like, the character line frickin’ SAYS “OPTIMUS.” And we know it’s a frickin’ VOICE because we can see “(V.O.).” Are ya with me? It’s like, “who else would be talkin' to us? Megatron?” I DON’T THINK SO!
Okay, the story.
First of all, the dialogue sucks. And you, Mr. El Mayimbe, can kiss MY derry ay! Hehehe... (I love ya, man, I really do.) I'll admit, the dialogue's funny AT TIMES. However (and I hate to sound all MIDTOWN and shit but) every word spoken by every character from page one all the way to page 111 was on-the-nose and/or full of exposition. That’s screenwriter lingo for “everyone’s stating the obvious.” THEIR idea of great dialogue consists of pop culture references and smart ass jokes. Who are these guys? College freshman? They needed some serious lessons in subtext. (Hey, I invited John Rogers to participate in my subtext study but no response. No hard feelings, man. It only could've HELPED YOU. You might've also saved Michael Bay's ass from getting toasted by the critics YET AGAIN. But that's okay.) You see, giving dialogue layers by having characters say one thing but mean something else in order to accomplish X is what great dialogue is all about. And yes, we SHOULD see subtext in summer popcorn flicks. Lookit these examples in Indiana Jones and James Bond. Subtext gives life to a scene, sucks an audience even further into a movie, and makes us want to experience those scenes again and again.
So that's, like, strike number one.
Second, they've got too many human characters. They’re all full of big personalities and no character depth. By the time all the human characters from all the various subplots actually get together at the bottom of page 84 inside the Hoover Dam, how many people are there in total? Like over a dozen? Are you kidding me? I wasn't paying to see the stories of over a dozen humans. I wanted killer 'bots!
And that storyline with Maggie and Glen? A total waste. Cut it.
And the soldiers? Cut them, too.
In fact, there were so many human characters that I first thought this was going to be a multi-protagonist script! But then, after about 60 pages, it finally became quite clear that the primary protag was actually Sam Witwicky, the teenage high school dweeb (played by Shia LaBeouf). It’s like, dudes, come on! We’re given NO time to experience the personalities of the Autobots or the Decepticons (or humans for that matter) in order to CARE about them before we see them in action. Let me get all “Professor Screenwriter” on your ass – having too many characters is weak screenwriting. It means that the writers are over-compensating for the fact that they can't keep an audience hooked with fewer characters that have depth. And we won't care about any of these guys because they're all paper-thin weak.
To make the emphasis ON human characters in the script was the wrong choice. Did they emphasize humans in the TV show? No. There WERE humans, but Optimus was the main protag. How can that be? How can we relate? He's not human! Hey, the show was wildly popular, wasn't it? Why? It was us recognizing the shared human qualities IN the Transformers themselves that made us care about them. Ya dig? Have we forgotten how cool it was as kids to see the personalities of the different Transformers and also the great leadership of Optimus Prime? Or the internal struggles of the Decepticons with Starscream always scheming to kill Megatron and take over? They may have been robots, but at their core, they were still very human stories.
Not a chance in Bay's film.
And thus, they never earned the payoff of the "big twist" about Optimus Prime and Megatron because they spent too much time dicking around with the human stories.
Third, the Autobots and Decepticons are fighting over this energon cube, right? We're never given a visual or some kind of reason to feel dread if the Decepticons obtain the cube. The bots arrive on earth and fight for this cube. Sam Witwicky and friends help the Autobots and there is victory. That's it. The opening scene probably should have been about how the energon cube was used by the Decepticons to destroy their home planet. THEN we'd have a reason to worry, right?
Fourth, the action in the Second Act primarily centers around Sam Witwicky who owns this pair of old spectacles passed down from his great grandfather. The spectacles had, burned into the lenses, the secret location of the energon cube. And how did the Autobots figure out that Sam, of all the people on earth, had those spectacles?
Ugh. Lame-o, brothers.
The thing is, jokes like that undermine the script. Because you have scenes early on in the Pentagon that are ALL SERIOUS and shit but then later you have "E-bay" jokes that ROB the story of its seriousness. Hey, man, that's like admitting defeat. That's like saying, "well, we started out all serious, but we know this story is shit, so just laugh along with us, okay?" You can't do that. The story has to consistently take itself seriously ALL THE WAY, baby.
So Sam’s got the hots for this really popular but superficial cheeky-momma, Mikaela Banes (the BANE of this story's existence, let me tell you), and he’s trying to look cool with his new car and impress her and shit, right? Totally contrived. Question - why would I pay $9 to watch a movie about some teenage boy crushin’ on a shallow cooch? I frickin’ paid to watch TRANSFORMERS, man! And why would we WANT him to hook up with her? She's a total bitch!
If you loved Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys II, and The Island, man, you're gonna wet yourself when you see this. If you actually care about quality filmmaking, you're gonna wish you brought some Pepto with you, ya know what I mean? Michael Bay hasn’t been able to get it up over 39% on the critics tomatometer since Armageddon (41%). And the writers - this is the guy who wrote Catwoman, and we had revisions by the boys who gave us The Island.
Of The Island, James Berardinelli wrote, “movies that aim low rarely achieve any kind of altitude.” It should come as no surprise that we'll be seeing more of the same with The Transformers.
And now I leave you with the final KILLER DEATH MATCH of Optimus Prime and Megatron pulled from the days when we still cared about the Transformers because of their shared humanity.
Yo-yo, this is MM… signing off.