A half hour. Not even that.
Tonight I was going to review the fourth installment of Michael Bay’s Transformer movie, Age Of Extinction. Until The Last Knight hits theaters (and a movie that wants to sell itself to me by having Optimus Prime attack the Autobots is not doing a good job of it) it’s the only Transformers movie I have yet to see.
I didn’t even make it through the first half-hour of the FX Movies broadcast.
Why, you may ask? Well, it’s not like I didn’t know it was about humans treating Autobots as the bad guys. But there’s a scene in there that just made me realize it was dumber than that. I’m pretty sure I know where the story is headed because it’s been done before. But it’s also an extension of a problem I see in the adult-targeted side of the Transformers multiverse. See, I grew up at a time when the Autobots were allied with the humans. (Except in the comic but I’ll come back to that.) In the cartoon humans and Autobots joined forces against the Decepticons. The humans knew their own planet and energy sources while the Autobots protected them from the Decepticons. It was a good showing.
That’s hard to find now. Of the currently active series, the web series is set on Cybertron so we won’t count that, and four are on Earth; two of them are shows for kids and two of them, one a comic and the other a movie, are targeted for grown-ups and the heck with the target audience for the series. Yes, Hasbro throws a bone to the adult collectors but this started as a product for kids. Not 80s kids, but kids who are not yet adults. And apparently adults don’t like heroes or something.
Like I said, I knew what was coming in Age Of Extinction. Once again the humans want to exploit Cybertronian tech but kick out the Autobots. I wasn’t prepared for how stupid this was going to be. First of all, humanity is now fully-aware of the existence of the Transformers. The huge battle in Monument City wasn’t enough to alert them. The giant Decepticon in Shanghai was somehow explained away. The Fallen broadcasting a signal around the world to threaten humanity to give up Sam wasn’t even enough to arouse suspicion. But the fight in Chicago, the one that could have been avoided had the Autobots and NEST teamed up instead of the Autobots pretending to leave in order to save our sorry butts from our own bureaucratic morons, told everyone the Transformers exist. I wonder if they also know all of our technology came from reverse-engineering one of them (because we need aliens to give us advanced technology from the smartphone to Velcro–a rant for another time, perhaps), something they continued to attempt even after forming an alliance with the Autobots, and how many time the Autobots protected us from the Decepticons. I’m guessing no.
(Speaking of rants for another time, the entertainment industry does not know how to write heroic heroes anymore, and when they somehow figure it out, they still mess it up, and nobody cheers for heroes. There’s a Vietnam reference in there somewhere, but I’m not sure for which side of the debate. Maybe both.)
Oh, but that’s not what set me off. I sat through obligatory d-bag, obligatory government man who hates the Transformers (although the scene with Kelsey Grammar happened after this scene), and the obligatory barely-legal hot chick. No, we have a scene where Ratchet, presumably one of the Autobots given sanctuary on Earth, being hunted by a military group run by the CIA (just in case you thought RATT in the Marvel books being run by the US government’s propaganda group wasn’t dumb enough–sorry, Bob, but it’s true) which includes Lockdown, who is traditionally a DECEPTICON!!!!!!!, working with the group, including someone who is mad at the AUTOBOT because his sister died in the Chicago incident. I know what’s going to happen because it’s the same thing that LED to the Chicago incident. Humans chase off Autobots, Decepticons attack, Autobots save the ungrateful human jackasses, everyone is friends until the next movie when they aren’t again. Lather, rinse, repeat! I could be wrong but I bet I’m not.
It’s an annoying trend in Transformers media lately. When I was a kid there were two Transformers continuities. One was the cartoon, where the grateful human race (with one or two exceptions but they were evil) volunteered to help the Autobots stop the Decepticons from decimating Earth. The other was the Marvel comic, where humans feared both sides…and frankly that was Optimus Prime’s fault. (Yeah, I keep hearing how “perfect” Optimus is supposed to be in the G1 days, but I don’t see it.) It was Jazz, while Optimus was still a head in Shockwave’s display case, who made friends with G.B. Blackrock, a really good ally for the Autobots to have, and Prowl who actually worked with him. As soon as Op was back, he was gone aside from a couple of occasions early on. Also gone where the Witwickys, whom they chased off but the only times they sought their help was after they screwed things up. And Optimus never attempted to find other allies among the humans. Megatron made sure of that, but he didn’t have to damage the Autobots reputations with any real difficulty thanks to Optimus’ own action.
Yes, I know the UK story where the Autobots tried to make contact with the President and Megatron messed that up somehow, but he never tried again? Even after the alliance with G.I. Joe against the Decepticons the government didn’t trust the Autobots. Or return to their base in force with RATT so that crossover only served to give Bumblebee a new body and name on the Transformers front. This is typical for the comics, however.
- Dreamwave: The first story of the Dreamwave run involved a rift between the Autobots and humans despite having fought together against the Decepticons. And it wasn’t even the Autobots getting mad at the humans because General Halo tried to turn them into mindless automatons. No, the HUMANS get mad at the Autobots for one instance years after their disappearance and immediately assume they’re bad. Buster appears to blame the Autobots for his father’s death instead of, you know, the guy responsible for the destruction of the Ark II and the rest of the Cybertron Seven, including Sparkplug! He runs the EDC, a group designed to hunt down all Transformers, and scolds Marissa Fairborn for not thinking the Autobots are evil.
- IDW: While initially starting the “shadow war” plot, when they’re finally revealed after the events of All Hail Megatron, the humans immediately mistrust the Autobots. “But that’s realistic” you say? First of all, no that’s “cynical”; we have no way of truly knowing how humans would react to the Autobots, and that’s just assuming fear and hate would be the first call. And second, THIS ISN’T REAL LIFE! IT IS A WORK OF FICTION AND FICTION IS NOT REAL! Heck, at the end of AHM it looked like Spike would support the Autobots, but as soon as someone else writes him he not only mistrusts the Autobots as much as every other human, but murders a Decepticon in a hissy fit instead of having him captured as a prisoner of war, which what a good soldier SHOULD do!
Compare this and Michael Bay’s take on humans/Autobots relations to the TV shows set on human-time Earth (meaning not the Beast shows or the current Combiner Wars webseries):
- The Transformers: Autobots, including Optimus surprisingly, take on human allies who know Earth better than they do. Alliance continues through season three and the Japanese shows.
- Transformers: Car Robots (aka the first Robots In Disguise: In the Japanese versions the Autobots worked in secret but still maintain human friends, and when revealed nobody attacks them while accusing them of being as bad as the Decepticons for no good reason, but cheers them on.
- The Unicron Trilogy: Oh yes, I’m going there. While the war somehow remained in secret until the end of Cybertron, the Autobots did make human friends (which somehow included Fred and Billy) in Armada and secretly worked with the governments of the world in Energon to protect Earth and use Energon for the benefits of both Earth and Cybertron. Forgotten by Cybertron but you can blame Japan for that.
- The Prime Universe: Made up of Transformers Prime, the current Robots In Disguise (or would be if Cartoon Network didn’t treat it like a skeleton in the closet), and supposedly Rescue Bots, we have three different alliances with humans. In Prime, which was headed by the writers of the first and part of the second Bay movie (before Bay took over during the writer’s strike), humans still don’t know about the war going on, except for the US government, who work with the Autobots to keep things under wraps. They even have a liaison who isn’t completely against the alliance and warms up to them as the series goes, while Bay’s liaisons seem to be actively trying to end the alliance in the second and third movies. (They must love how things are during the fourth.) In the new RID it’s a secret again that they’re back, even from the government, but make new human allies and even befriend a lone monk making pretzels in a monastery.
- Rescue Bots: That was going long so I gave them their own entry, plus their ties to the other shows leave plotholes on occasion. On Rescue Bots, the team pretends to be ordinary transforming rescue vehicles, which works since Griffin Rock, Maine is this super-ultra-high-tech playground, which is usually the source of the island city’s problems. When events force the Rescue Bots to reveal they’re actually living robots from another planet to save them from an alien attack, the citizens hold a vote to decide what to do with them, and only the conspiracy theorist wants to get rid of them. Then they eventually decide to not only allow the Rescue Bots to stay and keep helping the Burns family protect them but agree to keep their secret (even the news reporter looking to become a big name) and help to build a secret training center on the mainland. And any human who learned their secret before the island-wide reveal (except for one villain–there are no Decepticons on this show) also kept their secret and helped them in protecting Griffin Rock.
This is why I prefer kids shows. The humans and Autobots work together instead of against each other, and focus their attention on the real bad guys, the Decepticons. I like my heroes to be treated like heroes. Maybe someday the adults will get to have heroes too. Until then, kids shows are still better. They get to see how heroes should be treated…and hopefully how to choose the right heroes.
Oh right, G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers. Tim Seeley’s two miniseries were my favorite of the crossover, even with Bumblebee’s death, although the others were pretty good too. Plus Eject and Firewall were the best friends ever. Sorry, Miko and Bulkhead, but they didn’t annoy me.