Yes, I am aware Transformers: The Last Knight came out last year, but I only got around to finally watching it this week. SHUT UP. As such, I came away positively enraged over a decision involving a Citroën DS and a Lamborghini Centenario. It was a seemingly small decision, but it means THE WORLD.
It’s a decision that passed up what would have been the perfect opportunity to expose the general population to some automotive content of some substance.
In case you haven’t seen TTLK, you aren’t missing much. It’s between two and 17 hours long, filled from title screen to credits with alien robots shooting the piss out of each other, lots of flying and falling stuff, yet also somehow manages to be astoundingly boring at the same time.
As with most problems I come across in life, I blame Mark Wahlberg for this.
The highlight of the film, of course, is the stunning, black Citroën DS that Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) drives, which turns out to be an Autobot named Hot Rod.
Yes, a Citroën DS named Hot Rod. Which we can all agree is an extremely appropriate name for a Citroën DS.
Y’all, I was thrilled when I saw that there was a Citroën DS Autobot in TTLK. The first Transformers movie reeked of bad, bailout-era General Motors money and the rest of them just defaulted to using flashy, hyper-American consumer SUVs and supercars like the Aston Martin DB11, Mercedes-AMG GT R, Bugatti Veyron and Pagani Huayra.
Part of that is probably because GM paid a lot of money to be in the franchise (the Atlantic called Transformers II “the most expensive GM ad ever”) and that supercars are fun and exciting to look at for people who don’t know any better.
While seeing them all of suddenly split open to become gun-toting alien robots is admittedly cool, I’d argue that you don’t actually need a supercar to make a Transformer interesting. Supercars are the cheap and easy way to make cars exciting onscreen and this is something that exhaustingly does not let up through all five films.
If the Transformers rolled around in less flashy disguises, they’d probably blend in better. All you need to do when you’re looking for one is figure out where the shrieking Bugatti is ripping through downtown. But a speeding Citroën? Nobody except you nerds would pay any mind. This idea will be further explored in a future blog.
Anyway, that’s is why that Citroën DS makes so much sense. It’s a gorgeous but understated car. A perfect Transformer that runs around, yelling in a French accent. Historically, it’s significant because it was the first mass produced car to have disc brakes and used a hydro-pneumatic suspension system that could auto-level and had variable ground clearance. All very useful things when navigating a war zone, where Transformers all inevitably find themselves.
Of course, as soon as Hot Rod lays eyes on a Lamborghini Centenario, this shit happens:
Welp, there goes the culture.
He scans the passing Lamborghini and changes his appearance to match. (And, I might add, with the help of some very lazy editing. Why don’t we get to see the whole transformation from Citroën to Lamborghini?) What was once a quirky and unique-looking Transformer just became a Lamborghini—a car that is interesting, sure, but also gets plenty of exposure already. It doesn’t need more.
Everyone knows what a Lamborghini is. Show ‘em something different! Bewilder them! And then make an impression through that bewilderment. Do it for the children. Won’t anyone think of the poor, Citroën DS-deprived children of the world?
Look, the vain-ass Transformer can do what its vain-ass heart desires, but I’m going straight to the top with this one. I’m pinning it on Michael Bay, a man who knows how to direct good movies but staunchly refuses to. Like Hot Rod, clearly Bay knows a good car when he sees one, but won’t to elevate it to heroic levels like he does for the supercars.
It’s unclear if Volkswagen AG and Lamborghini paid for the Centenario to be in the movie, but as the company put out a press release about TTLK back in 2017, I think you can basically infer from that.
TTLK made $605 million at the U.S. box office, so I can assume that a good amount of people saw it. Because that’s what’s powerful about movies—their reach is incredible. They are a perfect way to expose the public to new ideas, actors, foods, representation and, in this case, cars.
A Citroën DS is not a very well-known car outside of car communities, so this would have been the ideal scenario to show the audience exactly how cool and important it is. Instead, the DS’s screen time only included crashing into some bicycles and weaving maniacally through London traffic (great fun for the stunt driver, I’m sure) before turning itself into a boring Lamborghini that everyone has already seen and heard of.
A tragically missed opportunity. C’est triste.