As you read this, Transformers: The Last Knight is careening into theaters to deliver another heaping pile of noise, clanging CGI gears, chiseled hunks, hot babes, and brand recognition to audiences around the globe. Michael Bay’s megahit franchise has managed the uncommon feat of becoming a film industry juggernaut while simultaneously turning into a punchline, an easy shorthand for intellectually bankrupt blockbuster filmmaking in the modern era.
It’s easy to turn up one’s nose at the Transformers movies; from the casual racism and sexism to the borderline-erotic obsession with shiny cars, Bay’s five movies in 10 years are basically everything a film critic hates in one easily mockable package. But each film has also become a billion-dollar industry unto itself, and like it or not, this makes them a series of films worth interrogating at greater length. Even if they’re not connecting with a lot of people at this point, they’re still connecting with a great deal more.
One of the more common refrains in talking about Bay’s exercises in bombast centers around the director’s signature penchant for flagrant advertising in his movies. Particularly in the years since The Island, Bay has become a friendly face to every brand that could possibly fold itself into one of his movies, a means of generating public recognition in one of the biggest international film franchises currently going. But it got us thinking: how bad is it, really? Is Bay’s ad placement any worse than David Fincher stuffing a garage full of Sony products in Gone Girl or any other obvious attempt to work synergy into a Hollywood film?
In short: yes. God, yes. Where other filmmakers at least attempt to slip ads past an audience, Bay prefers the method of grabbing you by the back of your head and drowning you in corporate synergy. In this spirit, we’ve decided to go ahead and catalog the most notable examples in all four previously released Transformers movies. As far as our rubric was concerned, a car on the street alone does not make a sales pitch, but anything with several consecutive seconds of screen time and a visual emphasis most certainly does. (There are a few exceptions, of course; as you’ll soon see, Bay loves few things more than subliminal advertising.)
(And before you show up in our Facebook comments all riled up: no, this isn’t a sponsored post or a stealth-sponsored post. To be as clear as can be, we’re not supporting any of this.)