There hasn’t been a Generation-1 Transformers animated movie since Transformers: The Movie (discussed in depth on my podcast) in 1986. As excited as many folks my age were that the Transformers were coming to live-action film in 2007, despite the return of Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime, the Michael Bay versions clearly aren’t quite what a true fan was hoping for.
But why? Aside from terrible writing, which even the best iterations of Transformers were always plagued by, what about the Bay Transformers movies doesn’t work? Too many humans, for one. Sorry, but Spike never will be interesting enough to carry a movie.
But I think the biggest problem is that in the live action movies, the Transformers don’t look like Transformers. Now, the bots never sported svelte, Jony Ive-approved designs, and much to my disappointment, as the years passed, newer versions of Prime and other characters had so many guns, blades, spikes, and other protrusions glommed onto them, that they looked like big mechanical jumbles.
The Michael Bay movies take that into the stratosphere, and make the Transformers all so busy-looking, so, well, messy, that they no longer resembled the robots we used to know. They were now robots in disguise in disguise as, well, junkyards? If shape-shifting robots were to emerge from Saruman’s forges, I think they’d look a lot like Michael Bay’s Transformers.
This is part of what makes this video so great. Harris Loureiro of Malaysia has taken what look to be the “masterpiece” versions of Generation-1 Transformers toys (so-called because they are built to mimic their platonic ideals from the cartoons and comics, articulating and transforming just as they would), and using stop-motion animation to create his own short Transformers films.
He’s using sound and music from the 1986 animated film for this, a battle between some latter-day version of Optimus Prime and the Constructicons, which of course form Devastator. (They apparently have different names in different parts of the world, but it’s them.)
But it’s tremendous. There’s nuance, there are graceful moves, suspense and surprises, and yes, they look like Transformers. Loureiro’s done an excellent job with this. He has some others on his YouTube channel, which seem more like experiments and expositions of what he’s able to do, but they’re worth checking out too. But this is the one with an actual conflict, and it’s rather bad-ass. Hollywood may need to hire this man.
Many thanks to Len Sanook for pointing me to this.