how Transformers CGI should have looked in the movie, pt. 2

I just updated “how Transformers CGI should have looked in the movie” because the video link had changed.  It’s been a popular post, with over 1,000 pageviews.  I also added a remixed version of the video to it, featuring music from the original series, which makes it even better.

Who is this?

While finding the video, I found a fan-made video of Generation 1 (G1) Transformers using CGI that was well done.  It’s not movie-quality, because I’m sure he didn’t have a $200 million budget.  But it gives an idea how the characters could have looked in CGI while still resembling their original design.  (Why does that matter?  You should be able to easily tell who is who.  Not only did Michael Bay remove most of their personalities, but he removed most of their unique external features, too.  They look very similar in the movies, which should not be.)  FYI, consider the video rated PG because of a couple of words and some stuff gets blown up.

I had hoped that the fourth Transformer movie would be rebooted with the new director, to have more story along with the action, but it appears that won’t happen.  Sure, the first 3 movies did well financially, but they could be so much better if the story of the Transformers was actually told instead of it being about mankind versus an alien invasion (which has been done so many times).

Let's hope not!

The Autobots and Decepticons are in a civil war, and there’s a deep story behind that which is being ignored in the movies.  The movies can (and should) keep the action sequences and big explosions, but let’s hear the story with real character development.

The reason Transformers are still around is because it has a great story with great characters.  That’s why the franchise is still going strong and we’re not getting movies about GoBots (which had some cool toys, but no story).  Some of you may not remember this, but when Optimus Prime was killed in the original cartoon movie, there was a huge outcry from fans.  (The company executives didn’t get it then, either.)  Optimus was like the John Wayne of Transformers.  In fact, the fan response was so great that the upcoming G.I. Joe cartoon movie was rewritten during production, because in it Duke was going to be killed, so they made him go into a coma instead.  Why am I saying all this?  To show that fans care about characters with personality.

watching Transformers 3 with different expectations

I saw Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (the third CGI movie) in theaters recently, because I heard it had good 3D effects.  Also, I was curious to see what I’d think of it now that my expectations were much lower after being so disappointed with the first one.  (I skipped the second one, because I heard it was turrible.  Even director Michael Bay said it was crap.)

I had recently read a quote about watching a movie with the proper perspective:

If you watch a movie with a mindset that does not match the theme, you will always hate it. If it’s a kid’s movie …, watch it with a kid’s eye. If it’s a slapstick comedy that is supposed to be goofy, don’t look for intelligent humor. It may not always work, but it sometimes does. Give it a try. You may find yourself liking a movie that you didn’t before. ~ Dave Nelson

When the first Transformers movie was announced, I had such high hopes that it would build upon the backstory, update and modernize (only as necessary), and tell a great philosophical story of a civil war between sentient robots.  (There really is a great sci-fi background story, as well as philosophical topics.  The origins of Optimus Prime and Megatron can be compared to Xavier and Magneto in X-Men.  See “The War Within” for a great example.)  Obviously director Michael Bay tossed all that aside and made the story more about humans and explosions.

So with Michael Bay directing this one also, I expected:
* the humans to play the biggest role in the movie;
* the Transformers wouldn’t have much personality;
* character development of Transformers wouldn’t happen much;
* story would take a back seat to action scenes;
* lots of explosions;
* a number of action scenes zoomed in too close where you can hardly tell what’s going on.

So was I disappointed?  For those expectations, it was a good movie.  Compared to what could’ve been, it was disappointing again.  The 3D effect was well-done — not over-used or cheesy like many 3D movies have been.

The bulk of the story was between humans, which is missing the whole point. Transformers is about a civil war going on between intelligent robots.

There were some unexpected twists in the story, which is good and bad.  It made it less predictable and somewhat more suspenseful, but it was done by changing the backstory of some of the Transformers.  There are also a few plot points that are completely unbelievable.  I could go on and on about that, but you can read some on this page (with spoilers).

Afterward, one of the guys with me said all three movies had the same basic plot.  Sure some details changed, but it was basically the same thing.  He also noted that he had recently watched the G1 (original) cartoon episode that showed the Transformers leaving Cybertron, and that the cartoon actually explained that part of the story better than all the movies have.  That doesn’t surprise me at all!

Maybe the next movie will have a better story, since it will have a new director… He can keep the great action scenes and special effects and explosions, but just develop the personality of the Transformers and let them drive the story.  That way the new fans and G1 fans might all enjoy it more.

how Transformers should look in the next movie

I’m a big fan of Transformers — the original series (G1).  I’ve ranted before at how disappointed I was with Michael Bay’s Transformer movies.   I’m not totally against modernizing it (it could’ve looked like this), but he took away the characters and personalities, which is what made them great.  Anyway, I won’t get started on all that again.

There’s a new Transformers game coming out June 22, called War for Cybertron.  Let me say this: if you like sci-fi / action movies but don’t play video games, you should still watch the videos below.  This is how the Transformer movies should have looked! The designs are modernized, but they’re still recognizable.  (And it should be expected that they look different — this is on Cybertron before they came to earth and were transformed for disguise here.)   And the graphics look incredible!  The story is of the civil war that began between Decepticons and Autobots.  There is a big story there from the original ’80s cartoon and the comics.  (I recommend reading the comic series “The War Within” if you want to know how it all started.  Really interesting and philosophical.)

The game director said, “I wanna make the game I’ve been waiting 25 years to play.”  And it only gets more awesome from there.   Imagine playing as some of the characters shown: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, Soundwave, Omega Supreme.  And they brought back the original voice actor for Optimus Prime, which is great.

The first video is the interview with the people making the game, the 2nd video is the full trailer, and the 3rd video is the gameplay trailer.  They’re all good.  FYI, be sure to watch in HD, for the full effect.  (If the embedded videos won’t show HD, here’s the links to them: interview, full trailer, gameplay trailer.)

That makes me excited!  I will definitely have to try this game!  Hopefully the developers can pull it off and make it as fun as it looks to be.

If this had been a movie trailer, I’d be pre-ordering the DVD right now!  To whoever is making the next Transformers live-action movies, they need to look at this for an example of how it should be done.

how Transformers CGI should have looked in the movie

If you’re a Transformers fan like me, you might’ve been disappointed by the redesign of the characters in the 2007 movie.  I very much was.  I was willing to accept some redesign, to be more modern, and in a few cases, to be more practical (like with Megatron and Soundwave).  But the movie took it way too far.

To give you a taste of how it could’ve looked, I present this video clip.  It’s the fight scene between Megatron and Optimus Prime, the one with the famous quote of “One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall”.  This starts as the original cartoon and switches into 3D CGI.

CGI rendering of G1 Transformers clip

[Update: 7/8/11]

Apparently Hasbro took the video down off their site, for whatever reasons.  But it’s still on YouTube:

A fan took this video and replace the audio with music from the original G1 cartoon series, which makes it even better:

It’s not the highest of CGI quality (due to budget and time, I’m sure), but it shows that the characters in the live-action movie could’ve been made closer to the originals and still looked good, especially with a high-dollar budget.  So why did Michael Bay and crew decide to totally change the design?  The new look for the Transformers in the movie didn’t have much personality, as they all looked too similar and generic.

Until someone does a live-action Transformers movie RIGHT, I’ll always wonder what might’ve been…