How to fix Transformers: Dark of the Moon in a few easy steps.
While I marvel at the eye candy on the screen (go ILM!), and the moralizing wisdom of Optimus Prime is always acceptable, and the Apollo 11 opening was a brilliant and well orchestrated prologue, the third Transformers movie really suffered and could have been much more cohesive than it was. It wasn’t enough to ruin the movie, but it did make you conscious of the movie in a way that hurts the experience. The movie wasn’t bad. It just didn’t try to bring things together. The movie was also “long” at 154 minutes. Fixing some of the issues would also streamline the film so you don’t feel the over two hour length as badly.
That said, here are a few things that they could have fixed but didn’t. Were they lazy? Did they run out of money after pre budgeting for all the special effects? Did half the crew get so despondent over loosing the hotness that is Megan Fox that they just stopped caring? I don’t know. What I know is that the movie did not have to be as bad as it was. If you haven’t seen it, there will be spoilers.
Hire a script doctor. Script doctors have worked up until the day of shooting, or heck, the hour of shooting, a bane of actors everywhere. I firmly believe that there was enough time between Megan Fox’s leaving (the major reason for change) and the shooting of the film to doctor up seven little things without resorting to last minute changes or heavy pick-ups. The doctor’s tasks should have been:
1. Fix the girl.
Megan Fox, our hero’s love interest for the last two movies, left the movie after disagreements with the director, Michael Bay. Namely, she compared working with him to working with Hitler. Reps from Paramount said Bay chose not to renew the role. Bay said that the order to fire her came down from producer Steven Spielberg. Whatever the nuances, she was out and the script was barely revised to cover for it. The love interest role was clearly made for Megan Fox, but we have a blonde newcomer Rosie Huntington Whitley playing Sam’s new girlfriend Carly.
Oh, Carly. You are a sad substitute:
First, she works for a race car driver and car collector (played by Dr. Mc Dreamy), a job fitting for Megan’s character Mikaela. She’s as in love with the cars as Mikaela was. Sam tells his parents (and others) that Carly is “the one” and displays a closeness to her that is really awkward for a new character, especially at the end when Bumblebee tries to cough up some rings hoping that Sam will propose to her (Which he doesn’t. Good boy.) She has feisty words for the Decepticons in ways that fit Mikaela, but then she screams like a girly girl. She stands up to Sam’s boss. She wears heels. She and Sam meet with awkward moments in the White House.
So in the story line, we have another hot chick falling for Sam – possibly with haste – and he falls for her, a girl who is eerily similar in attitudes and interests as Mikaela. A psychiatrist could read a lot into this, but we can lean on the advice of others: Sam should leave “before she dumps you like the last girl.”
And we’re not given a reason as to why. But it does show how little the script was changed for a post-Fox movie. Add in a line about breaking up, toss in a flashback to meeting Carly (why is she in the White House anyways? She was diplomatic staff that Mc Dreamy was able to lure away!), and then when you run into old friends, add in these two lines:
Person from previous movie: Who is she, Sam?
Sam: My girlfriend.
Apparently that was enough in their books to fix the script. The problem is that her character – a feisty car loving hottie – is so utterly Mikaela that it bends the suspension of disbelief. There are a few ways to fix this and give resolution to the previous totally in love relationship Sam had:
1. Cut Carly from the first third of the movie.
2. Have Sam meet her at his new job. Make Dempsey both of their bosses. (this solves other issues too)
3. They fall in love and grow together as Sam fights to be heard.
4. Boy and girl save the world as scripted for the other two thirds of the film.
This let’s Sam be mopey and on his own in the first part, really struggling, and then his new job – with the perks from the boss – are eerily good fortune, thus setting up Dempsey’s sudden but inevitable betrayal. This connects with issue number two:
2. Cut down on Sam’s post college Millenial job hunt struggle
We get it, we get it, already. Many of the viewers are Gen X, Y and Millenials too. Trust us, we GET THE NOT HAVING A JOB THING. But, if he doesn’t have a girlfriend to complain to as much, half of it would be cut down right there. He needs a job, his car – a poor substitute for Bumblebee- sucks, and he should now be mopey over the loss of Mikaela AND the government won’t listen to him. That sets him up nicely. We don’t need to dwell on it. This can be solved with the use of montage, perhaps if the job interview montage was expanded. A skilled script doctor could pare it down further, but I’m assuming all the money went to ILM so this is cheap work.
3. Cut out Sam’s parents
The Witwicki family is amusing in an awkward sort of way; if you think Sam is awkward, wait to you see his parents in matching pajamas! Yeah, like that. Truth is, they are there for three real moments:
1. To enforce Sam’s lack of job and drive him to the interviews.
2. To get Sam to say aloud that Carly is the one and encourage him to go back for her.
3. For Sam to tell someone to get out of the city when all hell breaks loose.
Scenes 1 and 3 are superfluous. They are there in a traveling RV, a vehicle to get them in the film. Literally. Scene two can be accomplished over the telephone. Again, a skilled script doctor could have someone else be a part of that tender moment, but truth is, he can make up his mind on his own. Chuck them out of the film, we have enough comic relief from Sam’s refugee machine housemates or Seymore Simmons, or… let the rest of the film just run as scripted.
4. Suitably shift Dempsey’s character
Since Carly shouldn’t be a car girl and, well, comes in as a diplomatic staffer, let her keep the job and its awkward but fateful first encounter with Sam Witwicky. Have the international and jet set boss of hers Dylan Gould be… oh don’t be shy.. a diplomat or politician. Or politically active businessman. Makes sense with his father’s history in the character’s backstory. Heck, he can keep the car collection. He offers Sam a job, which puts him close to Carly. Sparks fly. Meanwhile he lends Sam a better car (or Carly) to shuttle around important people as they are his lackeys. Let the rest of the film run as scripted.
Yeah, basically, the doctoring is only in the first third… and then you let the film run as scripted. Very few line changes necessary in the second half, and you get to the good fun Autobot-Decepticon action.
Now, if they went to the trouble of altering the script for a few lines, why not make those changes matter?
A few edits for the rest of the film:
5. Revisit the E-Ring
The second half is hurt from various special forces running in and out of the film and really, the audience doesn’t have a COuncil of Elrond scene explaining what the second half of the film is about or where everyone is coming for. Solution?
Remember the short lived television series called the E-Ring, referring to the Pentagon? To get anything done there was a great 20-30 second montage of someone having to go get signatures from all the important people, the Joint Chiefs, etc, and then it would cut to the action happening (deploying troops, inserting SEALs, etc). Add an E-Ring sequence into the film to explain why we have jets and SEALs and missiles and random dudes crawling over the place and wht it is exactly they are trying to accomplish. What was it again?
6. Optimus Prime should acknowledge Sam’s betrayal.
Why did we go through that whole forced betrayal thing? Dr. Mc Evil has sam ask for the autobots’ plans. Why? So Optimus Prime could give the Decepticons false intel, of course! Sam keys him in on this saying “no human” will know of Optimus’ plans. When Optimus returns to everyone’s amazement, he says it was necessary for humans to know the true intentions of the Decepticons and it gave them a way to be unexpected again. But what about Sam’s hints and his forced betrayal? THey are never acknowledged, so that whole encounter was for… nothing.
Solution: Have Optimus tell Sam he saw the conflict in his friend and knew. OR cut it out of the film. I prefer the first option since Dempsey was doing evil quite well in the movie, and I’d like to keep that going. He’d make an excellent villain.
7. Edit the second half.
Who shot the missile to the cupola?
Please clear this up. We have tomahawks incoming and yet there’s a named character on the ground with a missile launcher and the heros have almost died trying to get him to a firing position. It leads to the awesomesauce of the “Driller,” a giant snake-hydra-decepticon thing of epic rendering proportions. Also really of epic proportions as it takes down a skyscraper. Give the man with the missile his due.
There is no sense of space in the second half. How far away are the autobots to the decepticons? How far away is our Lt. Col and his troops? Sam? Carly and Dr Mc Evil? There is no true establishing shot to get the positioning of what’s going on, which leads to the confusion for our missile man, who is literally lost in the sheer number of things going on. Some careful editing and a proper establishing shot would help the audience a ton… and help the coherency of a film that took on several tons of action and effects. A little sleeker guys, and you’d polish up the film just fine.
So bottom line:
Fix the girl, take out a few scenes, let Dempsey be evil, and polish your editing.
Why wasn’t this done?