I wrote the above when it came out, which makes me chuckle. Revisiting it, I ended up really enjoying it. Its fun, campy and never takes itself seriously. The characters are all enjoyable and Shia does a great job being as interesting as robot warriors. Good times.
However, I started hearing movie reviews about what an amazing film this was. "The greatest film of all time!" people proclaimed. So I came to terms with and accepted that these weren't the robots I grew up with, this was a "new" version, and I'd at least find interest in robots transforming into cars and beating each other up. I'd even go see this even though I don't like Michael Bay films.
How was it? Transformers is a disgustingly bloated and self-indulgent piece of crap. I understand that I'll get rated down for my review, but I'm prepared to accept that. Sadly, my theater must not have gotten the euphoria inducing gas that apparently other theaters got, causing me to gush over this film like other people.
Even the 1986 Transformers film wasn't perfect. It was basically one fight scene after another, and was a means to replace the old toys for a new line, but the action was good, showed the consequences of war, and featured the death of a beloved character. It kept true to the mythos, even though it was different. This movie makes reference to so many other films that it feels like a mishmash of 30 films you've seen before.
Bumblebee sends up an "Autobat Symbol" to summon the other Autobots like Batman. There's a scene in an underground bunker which felt totally pulled from Terminator 3 (and a few scenes later, uses the exact drumbeat from the "Terminator Theme"). The fight scenes with their out of focus cameras and "shaky cam" style seems like they are trying to treat the battles as if they were "Saving Private Ryan" caliber. When Bumblebee gets captured during a scene, the music swells up so mournfully and overdramatically, that it makes the tragedies found in "Schindler's List" seem modest.
The biggest problem in character design lies in the fact that they all really do look alike. The worst offender was the Decepticon Frenzy, which looked like a 3D rendered pencil scribble, and acted like the Zuni Fetish Doll from "Trilogy of Terror". During the final battle, I was having problems telling who was who, and when the robots collided, it was hard to see where one began and the other ended. The car forms were presented as blatant product showcases, ripped straight from a commercial. Then again, there was so much product placement in the film. eBay must have made a fortune.
The slow set-up to the action or even any real glimpses of the title characters felt like "The Hulk". I pay for a movie about transforming robots, that's what I want to see.
Why would they keep a deadly robot under Hoover Dam, a major water source and tourist attraction? Why would they bring this "All-Spark" out of the desert and into a heavily-populated city where property damage and civilian casualties could run their full course. The dialogue was painful, sounded like it was written for teenagers, by teenagers in a really bad fanfic like what they thought people would say. What really irked me is how the Autobots couldn't seem to kill a Decepticon, but a lone soldier skidding on his back could dispatch one with a single shot. Why were the Autobots even there if the humans could do it better? How is it that they can save Bumblebee, but they can't repair Jazz? What was the difference? The government/military/robot/anyone dialogue was totally unrealistic, with officials willing to "bet their ridiculously high government paychecks" on hunches. Every line smacked on bad puns, clichés, or just sounded stupid. There was an extended conversation about masturbation between Sam and his parents that felt really awkward and extended far too long.
The personalities were also way underdeveloped. Transformers has over two decades of history that wasn't touched upon. The Starscream and Megatron rivalry, where Starscream tried to usurp Megatron for leadership was not mentioned or covered at all. Jazz was cool and fun-loving with a sense of style, while in the film he sounds like a ghetto thug. His first line is profanity, and I felt insulted. Not because of the language, but the fact that this was apparently the best the writers could do. Decepticons were introduced and blown away within minutes. The Autobots weren't much better. Did the people who wrote the story know anything about the subject material besides the fact that robots changed to vehicles? And then Optimus Prime. Obviously, Bay's madness knew better than to totally ruin this character, as he was the only robot who looked even remotely familiar to any previous version. And the personality was fairly accurate... up to the backyard scene, where Prime's personality suddenly shifts, breaks character, and he becomes a clumsy comedian. The next scene, he shifts back into a "leader" personality.
The saving grace outside of Prime was Sam Witwicky (played by Shia LaBeouf), who brought a credible "gee whiz" performance to the film, and yet I felt sorry for him using such ham-fisted dialogue.
Summer 2007 has been really mediocre for "blockbuster" films, as we're apparently supposed to lower our standards, "sit back, not think and enjoy" with these types of films, but how is one supposed to do that with with film devoid of heart, personality or no focus on the main characters? As a stand-alone film, this is a really bad movie. As a Transformers-licensed film, it's a God awful embarrassment. I'm avoiding the sequels unless they drastically overhaul the franchise and get a script not limited to high-school level online fanfic.This deafeningly loud, obnoxious, usually stagnant and glorified epic disaster of a film was presented with too many opportunities to be one of the all-time greatest summer flicks ever. However, despite the advancements in today's special effects, it being inspired from the highly popular 1980's Hasbro toys and cartoon, with Steven Spielberg overseeing the production as an Executive producer, Michael Bay and his writers were still guilty of making this a "steaming pile." I can effortlessly breakdown at every level why this film didn't work for me.
The story was about a teenager name Sam (Shia LaBeouf) who purchases a car that happens to be a robot in disguise from another world. Sam is then caught in the middle of an ancient battle between two groups of these alien robots, the heroic Autobots and the Evil Decepticons. Both are seeking a mysterious cube known as the "Allspark" that contains their "life source." This central plot intertwines with the story of a special ops team being attacked by one of the Decepticons in the beginning, the pentagon enlisting teams of computer hackers to decode a signal they detected that ultimately came from the Decepticons and a hokey love story between Sam and Mikaela, the gorgeous bombshell in his class.
As intriguing as all of this may sound, besides the many battle scenes, car chases, attempts on Sam's life and Decepticon attacks, nothing happens to move the story along. Whatever layers of stories that were suppose to be happening beneath the unimpressive action sequences were uneventful and slow. So, all you're left with is the action, which by the end was boring and tedious to watch.
The characters were flat and moronic. The humans were one-note, soulless caricatures. They were also more than capable of damaging the robots, which took away from the extraordinary antagonism the original cartoon presented for our human heroes. The humans were helpless against the Decepticons and this made the Autobots necessary. In this absurd film, the humans didn't really need the Autobots to take out the Decepticons.
And whatever happened to characters like Jorge "Fig" Figueroa and Maggie? They sort or left this film halfway to the end to join the film playing in the theater next door.
Also, part of the cartoon's success was the personalities of the Transformers. They were emotional beings that were capable of treacherous, loyal, courageous, cowardice, morose and optimistic behavior. They weren't just giant piles of junk destroying an American metropolis. Whatever happened to the ongoing struggle for power over the Decepticons between Starscream and Megatron? This would've added some real complexity to this paper-thin story. Instead, Bay and the writers settled for hinting at it with a laughable one-liner from Megatron that rang falser than the action. Wasn't Bumblebee the kindest, frailest of them all? He was essential for his undying compassion for the humans in the cartoons. Not in this film, where he obviously fought in many battles and, when annoyed, can urinate on a human being at any given time. Now going from the true character to the characterizations of the robots, the looks of the original were more engaging and attractive to the eye. In this film, they looked like metal scraps of junk.
Then the films auteur had to take it there by making Jazz the Transformer with the Black-American soul, screaming, "What up, b****es?" Ironically, he was the only Autobot that easily gets killed as well. Now, a lesser minded person would pull the race card for this. I would just blame it on lazy, unimaginative, sloppy, hack writing and directing. In the end, I couldn't care less about any of the characters, human or Transformer.
The original Transformers could be chastised for wooden dialogue. However, when the characters weren't trying to be funny in this film, the dialogue was ten times worse than that of the cheesy words spoken in the cartoon. It was absolutely ridiculous, with zero subtext. The quality of the dialogue was lessoned in scenes where exposition was inappropriately forced in, like the ineptly written scene when Agent Simmons (John Turturro) was questioning Sam and Mikael in the backseat of the SUV, revealing Mikaelas' weak back story. And how many times did Optimus Prime have to tell us his name? At one point, I thought he was forgetting the many times he said his name previously. Besides, the whole introducing-yourself-thing from the Transformers, especially the Decepticons, was extra cheddar cheesy to me: "I am Megatron!" Yeah, and?! The monologues underscored by the sappy music could've gotten the collective "heave-hove" from this film as well.
The special effects were cool but could've been better. Most of the time, the Transformers looked animated instead of real in my opinion. And the confusing, unorthodox way they transformed, not to mention detailing that made them look like piles of scrap metal, revealed most of the flaws in the cartoon like computer generated images. As a director, I wouldn't be satisfied with the end result.
The most entertaining thing about sitting through a screening of this film was the hordes of people that were going ballistic over it. They laughed at anything and applauded for everything. From Bumblebee shattering all the glass in and around the car dealership to the Autobots skidding in unison on a U-Turn, these people thought every little thing deserved a standing ovation. Okay, maybe they were not standing. But it was all so laughable to me.
In my opinion, Bay, Spielberg and the writers massacred what could've been one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made. The only thing amazing about this experience was my girl sleeping through most of it with me nodding off right along side her. Bay has proved himself to be one of the worst, overpaid film directors in the history of Hollywood.Transformers is a very mixed bag. There are great things about it and there are some not-so-great things about it...
- The visual effects. Perhaps the best special effects I've ever seen in a movie. The transformations are amazing not to mention super-awesome. The CGI fits in seamlessly with the live action and it's easy to forget how logistically difficult a lot of it would have been to film.
- The sound design. The sound effects complement the action perfectly making everything twice as exciting. Probably less acknowledged is the alien atmosphere created by some of the score which heightens the tension very effectively and probably without the majority of the audience noticing.
- Shia LeBeouf. Without him the movie wouldn't be nearly as engaging. He has natural comic timing and is probably second to none in expressing disbelief of the "holy crap, there's a giant alien robot transforming in front of me" variety.
- The humour. Transformers is funnier than most good comedies which I was not expecting in the least. The transformers themselves are often funnier than they are impressive.
- The Decepticons. Man are they cool. The opening scene is particularly kick-arse.
- Megan Fox. If hot means "can't act and doesn't weigh much" then yes, she's very hot. It's not a good sign if you want one of the main characters to die or at least get out of the way and stop trying to act. Her performance just seemed very shallow and probably wasn't helped by her dialogue.
- The script. Although the overall storyline is good, some of the dialogue is terrible. Too much of the film is spent on mumbo jumbo technical explanations the audience just doesn't care about. The less serious parts of the script work very well though.
- Michael Bay. Although some of the action scenes are very well put together and the humorous parts are timed very well, Bay can't help but ruin some of the scenes with unnecessarily flashy editing and over the top drama accompanied by none-too-subtle dramatic music. It's not that Michael Bay's style is too loud, it's that it's too clichéd.
- The music. Nothing new here (other than the alien sounding parts). Practically rips of Batman Begins and is otherwise forgettable. The music should enhance the film by bringing out interesting themes or emotions, not force feeding us the drama we can plainly see on the screen in super slow motion.
- Megatron. He's ugly. And super cool.
So, my verdict? The good outweighs the bad pretty comfortably. If you took out the bad you might even have a classic on your hands. Instead you get revolutionary action scenes and some great comedy with Michael Bay's unique brand of mediocre directing sprinkled throughout.