Sunday, March 04, 2007

Script Review - Transformers

(Warning: Spoilers)

"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

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:

Bend over.

'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.

Peace out!


wcdixon said... been taking some acting lessons, bro? Cuz we saw a whole new personality here tonigh...cous.

James said...

Was with you 100% until the death of Optimus from the original Transformers movie.

C'mon, man. That thing is a terd.

Real human experience?!?!

They killed Optimus in the first 20 minutes simply so they could release a brand new, bigger, better Optimus toy.

The entire movie is one long advertisement for brand new robot toys.

Complete with the cheesy 80s soundtrack and the completely out of left field dialogue, like "Oh, shit!" ... Umm did that guy in the plane just cuss in a kids movie? OMG, this movie is so edgy. Lol.

We all agree Michael Bay couldn't direct a feature if ... well there's no ifs ... he actually does "direct" pictures ... so I cry.

Seriously... it's Transformers. I loved the animated cartoon.

The original movie sucked. This one will suck.

But it will make bank. A whole lot of money.

P.S. I think your criticism of the script and Latino fanboys "review" are spot on.

Nick H said...

I thought Maximus's death scene in Gladiator seemed familiar! The whole thing was a rip-off! " autobot shall rise." Sound familiar?

"My name is Optimus Decimus Primidius. Father-bot to a deactivated son-bot. Husband-bot to a deactivated wife-bot. And I will have my vengeance in this film or the next!"

Shame on you Ridley Scott.

Seriously thought, the story is about toys from space. Did anyone expect William Goldman to write the script?

Carl S said...

When it comes to the Transformers, there's more than meets the eye. I mean, they're robots. In diguise.

Mystery Man said...

Yo, Dix! One can sound quite hip with the aid of a good Urban Dictionary website. Hehehe...

James - I agree with you, man. But I couldn't resist. I was actually curious to see what the old TV show looked like, because I had forgotten. I actually had the Soundwave toy. I loved his voice. It reminded me of the Cyborgs on Battlestar Galactica. Ahh, childhood.

With respect to fanboy sites, I'd respect them more if they were actually balanced in their script reviews.

In the old days before TriggerStreet and so many other screenwriting websites, there very few places online that a screenwriter could turn to. And I used to visit Screenwriter’s Utopia. I used to love reading the script reviews of Darwin Mayflower. You can see some of his later reviews here. He left and started doing reviews at the (now defunct) UGO Screenwriter's Voice. You can still read some of those reviews here. I loved reading his reaction to a script and then comparing that to the finished film.

GER! So great to hear from you. You're right as rain, of course. Gladiator was a TOTAL Transformer rip-off! Bastards. No, they shouldn't have hird William Goldman. They should've hired ME. Or you, actually. I'd love to see your take on the Transformers.

Carl - Speaking of more than meets the eye, what is that picture you use? Is that not a little transformer? Hehehe...


Mim said...

A shallow cooch? OMG, that's great, MM. I'm still gasping with laughter.

Seriously, though, we can get no better commentary on Michael Bay than what we heard in Team America about Armegeddon. Rotten tomatoes indeed.

GimmeABreak said...

People that are interested in seeing a robot movie probably don't give two hoots in hell about dialog or plot. All they want is action and destruction. Character depth or a story would be unwanted distractions. How many first person shooters have anything other than a high body count and jazzy special effects? None to my recollection.

Anonymous said...

'Cause I’m about to toss your salad, bitch.

Too funny...

Are you sure you didn't read SMOKIN' ACES by accident?


Mystery Man said...

Pat - I completely agree with you, of course. It's just... I may be young, but I'm old school. I still believe that, like the early days of Spielberg and '70s cinema, summer popcorn entertainment should still be attempts to make great 4-star films.

Unk - Hehehe... I actually tried to read Smokin' Aces when it became available on the web. I couldn't get past page 12. But, if you want to compare Smokin' Aces to Transformers... hmmm, that's a tough one.


Unknown said...

MM- Soooo you liked it?

Well based on my recent coverage, I'm writing the f'ing sequel to this. Optimus prime is resurrected with freakin kung fu grip and bad asses his way through the shanghai bot factory that makes the evil bots under the watchful eye, yes I said eye as in singular, of the evil Dr. Moo Goo Gai Pan. Unfortunately he's captured by the evil Dr. Moo and forced to drink WD-40 till he pukes lug nuts. Now that's a high concept spec that's gonna go right through the mother-f'in roof, aight????

Can someone please get me my prozac??

Mystery Man said...

Hehehe... That's hysterical, Bob. I actually like your ideas better!

Well, I AM going to see this film for the action and special effects and... that's about it. Some of it will be fun. I'm hoping they'll keep the scene with Sam searching through his room while the bots stand outside of his house. That was fun.

But like many summer movies, I will probably never see it again.

It is possible that many complaints I leveled against the story have been fixed, too.

But it's not likely.


Anonymous said...

The original Transformers movie is probably my all-time childhood favorite. I recently bought the remastered DVD release and for what it is it holds up extremely well.

Lest we forget, Transformers is built as a toy commercial, but a lot was added to flesh the characters out to make them seem more human. Even though they killed Optimus Prime to rebuild him in a bigger box, to kill the main character in an unflinching death scene early in the film was extremely gutsy, and a move that would not fly in most animated features.

I knew the Michael Bay version was going to be awful the moment I heard they were making it. What a mistake.

Mim said...

You can always count on Michael Bay to give you great action sequences, awesome special effects, and very little in the way of story or characters.

Should be an E-ticket ride.

Mystery Man said...

Mim - You're right! Hehehe... that was great.

Hey Ignatius - You're absolutely right, too. It most certainly WAS a toy commercial, but at the same time, it was also cool (for me, at least) to watch Optimus be a great leader, ya know? Except I only bought the Decepticon 'bots. I don't know why. I'm a bad boy, I guess. Hehehe...


Mickey Lee said...


I'm not going to try to guess anyone's ages here, but for individuals of my generation, Transformers was, in the parlance of our times, the BOMB-DIGGITY. It was a year after Return of the Jedi and young boys (and girls) needed a new set of heroes to fill our mythological void. And that void was filled by robots from Japan.

Sure, it's a toy commercial, and weren't we all dumb? But there were other toy lines, other mythologies -- they all sucked. He-Man? Please. Thundercats? Not on your life. Even GI Joe paled in comparison to Transformers.

Why? Story. Plain and simple. The Americans at Hasbro that created the mythology of the Transformers knew how to tell a good story and fill it with interesting characters. Sure they were robots, but they were a heck of a lot more interesting than Rambo or the A-Team.

Shiiiiit -- kids CRIED when Optimus Prime bit it in the 1986 movie. Shouldn't that tell you something? (Personally, I cried when Starscream died, but I always did love the bad guys more).

Spielberg has been quoted as saying he "got" the mythology. He understood it. I felt assured.

Then I found out Michael Bay was directing. A moment's hesitation.

Then I looked up the credits on IMDB and saw a large number of human characters listed. Then I started getting worried.

Clearly, the powers that be DON'T get it. We come to see the robots. My least favorite character on the show was Spike -- Christ, now yer tellin' me that he's the MAIN frickin' character??

We come to see the ROBOTS.

Mystery Man said...

Yeah, I've been looking forward to Mickey Lee's comment!

Preach it, brother!


I'm not sure we can actually pinpoint who's to blame for this mess, because there were so many hands in the pot. To John Rogers' credit, I read that his draft had kept the story fairly contained within just a few characters but Orci and Kurtzman was brought onboard and they added a whole slew of new storylines. Were they doing it because the producers wanted it or because THEY wanted it? Who knows... You needed a strong arm in Bay or the producers to stand up and say, "Let's keep it simple." To a certain degree you HAVE to blame the writers. Or the people who hired them. They should've known better - we're talking the Catwoman and The Island.


Thanks for the comment, Mickey.


Unknown said...

Damn, I totally did not get that invitation.

And I didn't write CATWOMAN. I was just standing next to it went it went off, and got it's foul goo all over my credit list.

Good review. I laughed twice. Groovy.


Mystery Man said...

Well, I appreciate your very kind reaction.

And in the future, I won't hold the Catwoman against you.



Unknown said...

Are you kidding? My entire payment was that I got to hold Catwoman agasint me. Tightly against me. And powder her ass before she got into the suit.

Probalby reason #134 why they fired me. Oh, and when I told them that their changes would make the movie suck. But there you go.

James said...


A whole new respect for you.

I don't think I could say no to those terms either.

Mystery Man said...