Characters based on toys have been a staple of animated shows and movies for decades, with some gaining a dedicated and passionate fan following. Today live-action movies based on the products are one of Hollywood’s latest obsessions, and they usually range from awful to should-never-have-been-made.
Hasbro’s Transformers figures were shown to be characters that were much more than meets the eye in comic books, various cartoon series and a 1986 animated movie. They arrived on-screen with a fully-formed and intriguing backstory: they were two warring factions (Autobots and Decepticons) of alien shape-shifting robots from the planet Cybertron. Many characters including Optimus Prime and Bumblebee found a place in the hearts of viewers, whilst Megatron and Starscream were villains you loved to hate.
That was until 2007 and the first entry in Michael Bay’s multi-billion dollar-earning, Razzie Award-winning Transformers franchise. These movies are loathed by anyone who doesn’t regard a series of superficial nonsensical explosions as an entertaining cinematic experience.
Bay’s Transformers franchise is well-known for its predictable and boring plot, uninteresting and emotionally vacant human characters, they-all-look-the-same Transformers, and what-the-hell-is-happening action sequence with more explosions than you thought possible. The only reason the movies exist is to make action-porn fans squeal like teenage girls once every few years.
The Transformers aren’t the only toy line to suffer at the hands of overeager Hollywood producers; Hasbro’s GI Joe toy line is another victim. Stephen Sommers’ GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra arrived in cinemas in 2009 and introduced movie to a group of paper-thin, gym-fit actors that are the physical clones of the figures, and possess as much charisma and likeability as plastic.
There is no end in sight for films based on toy lines with Barbie and Space Invaders features in the pre-production stages, which may prove to be the first critically successful movies of the genre. More than likely they’ll fail spectacularly, but at the moment there’s hope.