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Sorry Optimus, you can’t save the plot!

It’s no secret, Terminator Salvation and Transformers 2 are flimsy, mind-numbing movies. So what can be learned from their storytelling failures?

Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation are perfect examples of how storytelling negligence can leave even the biggest fans feeling cheated.

What does this have to do with travel writing? Whether you’re writing about the coming robot apocalypse or riding through Mongolia, the rules are the same.

More is NOT more.

Both Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation play on the assumption that if you like clamorous robot fights then that’s all you like.

Again and again these movies return to fireballs and flying fists for plot development. The audience is eventually beaten into submission by one overblown action sequence and do-or-die explosive moment after another.

The filmmakers forgot there was a story somewhere that the audience cares about.
If every building blows up it ceases to be special, and the audience ceases to be interested or invested.

Less is more.

That is one of the oldest, most overlooked axioms of story telling. The audience needs to connect with the characters and have time to anticipate the movement of the story.

By picking out one or two events in your travels and taking your time to tease out what you experienced is better than trying to encompass too much in your writings.

Ask yourself: what explosions really matter?

The Human Spirit

People populate stories. Yet the two movies in question regard humans merely as set pieces.
Where the human element is sacrificed or discarded, even in action films (especially in action films I would argue), the story is lost.

Christian Bale plods through his abysmal lines.

Both films fail to connect the humans on screen with the humans in the chairs. And no amount of CGI sequences will bridge that gap.

Remember, if there are beating hearts in your story, you better give them something to discover, to fight over, to fear or to fall in love with.

If the culture or the experience you are attempting to convey isn’t driven by the people in the scene, then the amazing setting or the extraordinary circumstance often falls flat. It’s not what happens so much as how the characters react that makes for good storytelling.

These are but two of the storytelling crimes of Transformers 2 and Terminator Salvation.

How many can you think of?

Leave your plot/scripting critiques in the comments and let us all learn from the cliches that plague summer blockbusters!

Community Connection

Want some real movies? Check out our picks for top travel films.

How about real action? Read Brave New Travelers 8 Incredible Survival Stories.

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About The Author


Joshywashington is a Travel Media Ninja from Seattle who enjoys writing, climbing trees and strong coffee.

  • Teresa

    Ugggh, my beloved husband made me see Transformers 1 with him, and even he admitted that it was painfully boring–for exactly the reasons you point out. But I have no doubt that he’ll be begging me to see Transformers 2 with him this weekend–at least now I can avoid total boredom by checking off all the storytelling crimes!

    • Josh Johnson

      Indeed, you now have the advantage of knowing that it will suck so you can focus on the storytelling crimes.
      My problem is that i was trying to enjoy myself and really wanted to like it.
      My advise; wear earplugs!

  • Hal

    Another crime of Terminator 2, and many others: time travel. It never works! I always walk out trying to make sense of the causality of it all, and I never can. Bah!

    Let this be a lesson to you, travel writers: leave the time travel to the Hollywood wankers.

    Except for Turner’s piece on BNT. That was pretty cool:

  • Ren

    Say what you will about the human element, but I have a friend who wants his Transformers to be all robots, all the time. I have a feeling that he is not alone in his opinion, though everyone else would probably just want Megan Fox running in slo-mo.

  • Michelle

    I enjoyed the effects in both, actually- gratuitous explosions don’t bother me. But Transformers did go Jar Jar with those stupid twin ice cream truck guys. Bleh. And the story was ridiculous.

  • Body Detox Diets.

    I watched the Transformers cartoon version during my childhood days. It is nice to know that good computer graphics brought the Transformers back again. I wish to see more of the Dinobots in action perhaps on another sequel.

  • Matty

    Thank Gawd for this article…

    I was so disappointed and insulted after walking out of Terminator… and you’ve saved me $15 on wasting a ticket for TF2… will someone in Hollywood plz give the audience credit for having at least half a brain!?!

    …and to think of the millions of $$$ spent on making these duds….


  • Melatoninmg

    Transformers movie rocks. i am a fan of Transformers ever since childhood. Now i have three kids and they all like the Transformers cartoon series and the Movie.

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