Some trailers and info have started to emerge about next summer's Michael Bay over-sensationalized Transformers movie, and while they're often far too vague to really be judged, I'm going to take a stab at it anyway. I was a little aghast at first at the idea of Optimus Prime becoming a longnose cab, but I withdrew some of my loathing and spite when I realized something. We're now staring down the barrel of 20+ years of Transformers evolution. Just look at this:
That doesn't even include the original Generation One iterations, and already there are so many crazy redesigns and configurations there, I don't think the guy has an identity of his own anymore, not to mention that in Transformers canon, he's already died and been resurrected at least twice.
The problem is, the hardest of the hardcore fanbase (like me) are the people who were there from the beginning. However, those people are all grownups and parents and are having mid-life crises by now. So who's going to love this movie? The recent fans are kids, possibly the kids of the original fans who as kids themselves scoffed at Generation Two and the Minicons and all the other stuff that the purists scoff at. If the flick can actually find a happy medium and bridge the gap between the generations of fans without alienating either one, that'd be impressive, but is also a tall task for any writer/director.
Just look at the PlayStation 2 Transformers game in which Prime is a longnose cab. I didn't even bat an eye when I saw that, in part because the rest of the game was so well designed and gorgeous to look at. The character has evolved and that's just what he's become.
Frankly, if they tried to go back and make a movie solely of Generation One characters and designs, they would make a cupful of hardcore TransFans orgasm repeatedly, but no one else would get it. The newer Transformers fans would say "That's not what Prime looks like," or "I thought Megatron was a tank not a piddly Walther handgun with, of all things, a SILENCER on it." This new generation would make the same complaints that we purists from the olden days are making about the new stuff.
And I have to admit, whether I like the redesigns or not, the Dreamwave series of Transformers comics that came out in the last few years–at least artistically speaking–was incredible. Everything down to the last scratch, glint, and rivet was in every frame. I just stared at each panel and drooled. I didn't get enough of the issues to really evaluate the story ($3 per issue? Yeah right…I remember when they were $0.25 or $0.50 apiece!), but there might be something good there story-wise to base the upcoming movie on. In any case, the care and attention to detail made these comics worth a look.
This flies in drastic contrast to the Alien Vs. Predator movie, where the idea of using one or more storylines from the many novels and comic series was considered for inspiration, but instead they decided to slap together a cheap, meaningless brand-loyalty cash-in that did nothing for fans, or to advance the overall universe's story. Paul W.S. Anderson is the American equivalent of Uwe Boll as far as I'm concerned. He had one group/generation of fans to cater to and ignored that responsibility, which is a much simpler problem than the one Michael Bay faces with Transformers.
So I'm not going to grill Transformers to death just yet. Bay is known for making movies with pretty explosions and effects and minimal story, and if any movie could rely on that formula and still please its fanbase, it's one involving giant robots waging war on one another.
If Bay can somehow bring together two generations of fans and please them all to some degree, I'd consider that a relatively successful endeavor. You can please some of the people some of the time, and none of the people all of the time. Let's hope Bay doesn't strive for the latter.