An Open Letter to Michael Bay

July 9th, 2007 by Potato

Dear Michael;

I recently saw your latest movie Transformers. I was a huge Transformers fan as a kid, and remain so to this day. I was really worried before the movie that you would turn this into an absolute travesty, a cheap mockery of my childhood memories all to make a quick buck. Those worries were magnified after I watched the teaser trailer, seeing how different your vision of the Transformers was, how the blocky bits of their transformed vehicle had given way to a very busy visual design full of movement and pointy bits. The last year of my life has been filled with dread over what you might do to this franchise.

I’m happy to see that you have done right by the franchise. Yes, you made a number of changes, and it is a different version of the Transformers from what I remember, but the recognizable elements are still there, and most importantly, it was good. There were of course a number of nits I could pick (excellent job on Optimus’ voice, but Megatron could have been better and Soundwave was just… well, what were you thinking? And Soundwave didn’t really need to hump the computer system, that’s just a no. The plot was, well, not expected to be there at all, and it wasn’t bad, but I think for our current times the first season’s plot of a world in an energy crisis and the fight to steal what readily available energy can be raped from our world might have worked better) but I won’t (except parenthetically).

However, I have to ask: are you hard up for cash? Or did you get your cousin (who might be a little slow or have a bad case of the ADHD) to do the camera work? If you need a tripod, ritalin, or a steady cam Michael, I’m here for you. Because this movie was really, really hurt by the insane camera movements and cuts. I play a lot of video games, so I’m usually ok with that sort of thing, even from the Blair Witch Project, but Michael, I nearly puked from your movie. That’s no exaggeration: I had to run out of the theatre and stand in the washrooms until a wave of nausea passed by me. There’s really no exuse for that sort of thing, either. In moderation, a touch of motion blur and a few rapid cuts can confer a sense of action and dynamic intensity. But, to distract myself from the urge to throw up, I started counting how long each cut ran, and for the last 25 minutes, there wasn’t a single cut that lasted more than 5 seconds. Not one solid, stable camera position lasted for more than 3 seconds (though there was one relatively stable and relatively motion blur free dolly shot that lasted 4). Like shadows that can’t exist without the light, the sense of action from those cheap camera and editing techniques is quickly lost when there’s no stability to compare them to. Furthermore, they’re passe, Michael. Blurring your CG and cutting rapidly around the scene is an old technique used to make CG seem more real; it’s a way to hide what’s going on so people don’t see how terrible it is. In your case though, you had very good CG. There were some very good still(ish) shots of the autobots near the middle, and they looked good. Don’t hide them; let them shine.

Of course, that’s what DVD re-edits are for. Work on that for the next few months Michael. Since I suspect most of that motion blur was added in post-processing, you shouldn’t have much work to do to take it out. If you do need to do a few reshoots, I’ll loan you a tripod.

You worked hard to make a Transformers movie we die-hard, old school fans could accept. Let us see it.

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