There’s a new Transformers movie out. Joy of joys.
I really don’t want to talk about it for very long, much less see it. If you’ve poked around this blog before, then you may be aware that one viewing of Dark of the Moon pretty much shaved thirty years off my life. I’m not in the mood to lose any more, whether it’s by way of seeing Age of Extinction on TV years after release, or by plopping down in a theater to subject myself to the torture. In all fairness, though, I’ve heard from a few people -- MovieBob, surprisingly -- that the latest is the best yet. That’s not saying much, and even his review seemed to make the praise relative to complaints, but I guess it’s something.
The Tuesday after MovieBob’s review, a video went up where he suggested that we need to (as per the title) “Leave Michael Bay Alone”. That’s…actually pretty fair. He’s a person who’s very easy to rage at, obviously, but setting aside the fact that he didn’t make the Transformers movies alone -- let alone turn them into a runaway hit -- hating what he’s put out and hating the man itself skirts a very thin line. And people just might play double-dutch with that line thanks to the fodder provided by the trilogy. Er…quadrilogy.
But talking about Bay and the Transformers movies is as good a point to start as any. See, there’s something I think might be worth talking about -- which you might have guessed if you read the title. If you didn’t, then don’t go back and read it. You’ll spoil the surprise.
The common phrase thrown around when it comes to Michael Bay, his movies, and the like is something along the lines of “He’s ruining movies!” Or “Everything is ruined thanks to Transformers!” Or something that implies that everything we know and love is going to suddenly stop existing. If you ask me, that’s some pretty strong hyperbole. It’s something made in the throes of passion. So if the question here is “Is it possible to ruin a medium”, then my basic answer would be “no.”
The Bay cadre and the Transformers movies aren’t the be-all and end-all. They aren’t the only movie-makers, and they aren’t the only movies. They’re problematic, sure, but you can’t put all the blame on them. Beyond that, you can’t blame them just because they’re “the big guys” who swing around money like they’re trying to bust open a piñata. Remember, that money can be put to good use if the right people are handling it. Just look at the Marvel movies; I’m pretty freaking sure that they cost hundreds of millions each time out. And while they’re at a point where they’ll make their money back (and more, probably), they can reliably come out because they’ve earned the loyalty and respect of fans -- loyalty and respect gained through quality products. The way it should be.
But let’s step away from movies. These days, gamers have every reason to be…shall we say, concerned about the state of the video game industry. It seems like day after day, there’s some new controversy popping up, or some sign of trouble, or some broken promise on release day, or some company treating the player like hamsters that launch golden eggs if you abuse them long enough.
But as I’ve said, even in the face of an industry enamored with Call of Duty, halfhearted power fantasies, and “the same, but less” mentality, there are glimmers of hope all around. Call of Duty is another problematic series, but even that sluggish leviathan ends up getting overturned by a tidal wave of releases -- past, present, and future. Variety and quality abound, even if they don’t get as much love or attention as they deserve.
Now, you may remember me saying that my basic answer to the question at hand is “no”. And I stand by that. But that’s the basic answer. Going even one word further turns that simple “no” into a “no, but”. And that’s where the issue lies.
I don’t think it’s possible to ruin a medium outright…but I do think it’s possible to degrade it. The problem lies in imitation; I have a gut feeling that a movie like Battleship wouldn’t have been an honest-to-God theatrical release if Transformers hadn’t shown the marketability of a simple toy franchise turned into hours of noise wrapped in an orange and blue taco. (You could argue the same about the deluge of nostalgia-mining properties rebooted into oblivion, but that’s seedy territory best left for another time.) Call of Duty not only begat plenty of posers and pushed others to adopt several of its aesthetics and particulars -- including Final Fantasy, of all things! -- but opened the door for developer after developer to try and “appeal to a wider audience”…and fail because of it.
Video games and movies are hardly the only examples out there, I bet (someone more well-versed in the cultural impact of Twilight could probably make an argument or two), but I think you get my point here. One bad apple can make things harder for others for creators, as well as for the audience. From vicious cycles trapping content-producers in steel-framed templates, or fans force-fed disappointment fresh from the trough, the troublemakers that manage to gain power use it to bring everyone down…the troublemakers included. One would think that with a fourth movie and infinity dollars, Michael Bay would push for a better, tighter movie -- one that’s definitively good instead of the faintest praise imaginable. Apparently, that wasn’t part of the plan.
But that’s enough out of me. This is your chance to weigh in on the subject, and answer the question for yourself: is it possible to ruin a medium? If so, then how? If not, then how…not? How did things end up this way? And perhaps most importantly, what do we do about it?
If you’ve got the will, go ahead and divulge. Unleash your opinion with the rage of a storm. Or something slightly more poetic. Ready? Set…comment!
Or, you know, don’t. You can go check out this post instead. I made a video for it, and for your pleasure. It’s barely three minutes long, if that, so I hope you’ll go check it out. I put in, like, ALL OF THE HOURS to make it, so I’d prefer if that effort didn’t go to waste.
If you do (and look past the okay-ish art and questionable sound), then you’ll officially be a Cool Guy. In my book, at least.