Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Peter Cullen, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel
I was always a huge fan of the original Transformers cartoon, as well as the subsequent spin-offs like Beast Wars (read my top 25 TV Shows for proof!), so when I heard they were making a live action movie out of the franchise, I was pretty damn excited. When I heard Michael Bay had signed on as a director, I was notably less excited. I didn’t write it off completely, because while I find Bay a bit hack-ish and a director who panders to the audience, the blame of his work can’t be placed entirely upon his shoulders. I was hoping beyond hope that things would turn out great, after all, it’s giant robots fighting each other, how could you mess that up?
For starters, you could have the giant robots become mere side characters, and focus on the humans and their reactions to the giant robots. That is the center of this story. Steven Spielberg (exec. producer) pitched it as a story about ‘a boy and his car’ and I can’t stress enough how big of a mistake that was. The story takes much too long to get to the meat of the film, the Transformers. That’s what people have come to see. We don’t want to see Shia LaBeouf awkwardly trying to pick up generic film hottie #7. Especially when she is making a ‘durr’ face every two seconds (if you’ve seen the movie you should know what I’m talking about). I am also not interested in seeing how amazing the AMERICAN MILITARY can be, nor do I care what new cars are coming out next year and which Transformer I can one day own if I was a millionaire. I want to see ROBOTS KICKING THE CRAP OUT OF EACH OTHER. That’s what Transformers are about. Granted there are some cool moments with the robots, but ultimately the camera pans back to Sam running and screaming, while the stuff I really want to see happens off-camera.
As I mentioned, some of the robot fighting is fucking awesome. The CGI in the film is great, so great that it just seemed…standard. It didn’t look bad, but in this day and age, with the advancement of CGI technology, not to mention the fact that this is a BIG BUDGET film, would anyone really expect it to look bad? But the problem was, as I said, they didn’t show enough of the fighting. The showdown between Optimus Prime and Megatron was completely done as background noise. So really, this category gets points for the excellent CGI and that’s about it.
As for the actors, well, I personally love Shia LaBeouf ever since Even Stevens, and he did great with what he was given. He has great comedic timing, and of all the live actors he did the best job. Megan Fox, however, was so bland and boring that I didn’t think she was the main heroine for a long time. I thought she was going to be some random generic girl at the beginning and Sam’s real love interest would come forth a bit later on. Of course she had to follow him on her stupid little scooter and get tied into the story, so I had to listen to her lame attempts at character development and watch her stupid durr face for far too long.
The other big name actors here, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, etc, were all pretty dull. There was no development here either, unless you count ‘has wife and baby at home’ as development. They weren’t bad or anything, but there was nothing special about them.
I went into this movie with mixed expectations. On one hand, my gut and everything I’d seen about the movie had led me to believe it was going to suck hard. On the other, a lot of people I knew and reviews from the general public were saying it was one of the best action movies ever made. So I was really excited to be wowed by the film, and to leave happy. Unfortunately, this feeling left shortly after the opening scene.
The movie opens with an attack on Qatar Base, where the AMERICAN MILITARY were stationed. The attack is by one of the Decepticons, and it was a pretty cool opening scene, even if it was hard to tell what exactly was happening. But that was all the robot action we’d see for a while, unless you count that annoying little stringy robot who disguises himself as a boombox (a role, I found out later, that was originally Soundwave, and I can’t tell you how glad I am they changed the name) and makes ‘zany’ sounds instead of having any resemblence of a personality.
We are treated to a long setup of Sam(Shia LaBeouf) buying a car, trying to pick up a girl with said car, thinking said car is being stolen, seeing said car transforming, getting arrested, a bunch of other boring stuff, until finally the car reveals himself as a Transformer after saving Sam from the evil police car transformer (which, was a minor nuisance to me knowing that Prowl from the cartoon was the police car, not a decepticon). Then Sam’s car(Bumblebee for those that didn’t know) summons four other transformers from outer space to come to earth and disguise themselves as GM approved cars which are totally awesome and you should totally buy one when they come out next year. But if that didn’t convince you enough, Bumblebee gets all pissy when Boring Girl calls his disguise as lame (he was an older style Camaro) and quickly finds the NEW 2008 CAMARO and takes that as his disguise instead and is accompanied by intense rock music and slow motion. So the lesson here is if you feel lame it just means you need to stop being so ugly and upgrade! Bumblebee is finally accepted by the other transformers with his new look! Optimus Prime and the others introduce themselves and basically we get Optimus=leader, Jazz=token black transformer, Ironhide=psycho weapon ‘specialist’ and Ratchet=medic who really doesn’t talk ever again. Then Optimus gives some exposition on the Autobot/Decepticon war and Sam has to get some glasses from his house because they have a map to the all-spark embedded on the glass.
There’s some other stuff going on in the desert with the AMERICAN MILITARY when they’re attacked by Scorponok and have to shoot it a lot before it dies. This helps establish the key plot point that the AMERICAN MILITARY’S weapons can stop the evil Transformers!
Also, a really good computer hacker figures out that since they were hacked so quickly, it must be giant alien robots who did it. She deduces this just by clickity clackin on the keyboard, but of course Jon Voight doesn’t believe her until the super secret Sector 7 dudes capture Bumblebee and they tell everyone that they found a giant alien robot decades ago under ice, and have kept it in the Hoover dam all these years. Sam is nice enough to point out that “His name is Megatron and he’s after the all-spark.” Stupid government officials not understanding the hip hop lingo of today’s youth! Sector 7 doesn’t want to let Sam help stop the Decepticons until the AMERICA MILITARY step in and make them do it at gunpoint.
The rest of the movie is basically pure action, and really what the whole movie should have been. ROBOTS FIGHTING EACH OTHER. But also, we don’t get to see enough of it even when it does happen, and I just couldn’t help but feel cheated out of so much good robot fighting. There was a cool scene where Optimus stabs random Decepticon with his sword, and another where Starscream (who is not the crazy mutinizer from the cartoon, just another Decepticon henchman) destroys a fleet of fighter Jets who he was secretly flying with. But there was no character development on anyone except maybe Optimus, and the Decepticons didn’t even speak english (expect Megatron and one line each by Starscream/Evil Police Car). The plot was pretty terrible, if my explanation didn’t convince you, and the movie basically becomes a General Motors car commercial halfway through.
The voice acting was not really present much, aside from Optimus Prime. For that, I give it 1 point because it is indeed the original Optimus Prime from the cartoon, Peter Cullen. But it loses points for not allowing Frank Welker, the original Megatron, to play the part he made famous. They said it was too cartoony, or something, so they got Hugo Weaving to play Megatron, who did a fine job, but I honestly thought it would have been better with the original voice. I was picturing it with Welker’s voice and I didn’t see why it was ‘too cartoony,’ in fact it would have fit just fine in my opinion. The rest of the voice acting was so minimal it didn’t even matter.
Sound effects were good, but not great. They had the original ‘transforming’ sound from the cartoon for the first scene when Blackout transformed, but never again. Why was that? I was so pumped when I heard the original sound, then I never got to hear it again? And the music selection was obviously just so they could have a rockin’ soundtrack, pandering to the target audience of 14 year old males. Linkin Park? Seriously? While Peter Cullen delivers a great closing line? And then Michael Bay’s name is thrown at me again, as if the fifty times during the trailer wasn’t good enough.
The minute I left the theater, most of us agreed how terrible it was. At first it was a ‘meh’ feeling, but the more I thought about it, it grew to downright disgust. There was nothing I could get from that movie that I didn’t already get from the cartoon/80s movie, and I honestly think it was a genuinely bad movie. People are blinded by the special effects and the excitement of seeing giant robots on screen that they don’t even realize how bad it really is. I was guilty of that myself during the opening scene, before I understood what the movie was really going to be like. Fact is, the plot, characters, and flow of the movie just doesn’t work, and the things that did work, like the Transformers themselves, were so downplayed that it couldn’t stop the movie from leaving an awful taste in my mouth.
Of course, the movie made millions, and there are already 2 sequels planned, and maybe now that they’ve introduced the Transformers the second one will be much better. But I won’t hold my breath, at least not until a different director signs on for the sequel.