- Directed by Michael Bay
- June 10, 2007 (N Seoul Tower) / July 3, 2007 (US)
- Based on Hasbro’s Transformers toy line
Two factions of transforming machines come to Earth and fight over a powerful object that will either save their planet or create an army to conquer the Earth.
There is no denying that this live action Transformers film is far from a cinematic masterpiece. With a screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and a story by John Rogers, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman (because twice the Kurtzman means twice the quality), you know it will aim for the lowest common denominator and keep getting lower only stopping just shy of B Movie territory. Despite a distinct lack of well-developed characters and a focus on style over substance, it remains watchable.
My first beef with this movie is that humans played too big of a part in the story. It’s one thing to have a human supporting character, but Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), Captain William Lennox (Josh Duhamel), and professional eye candy Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes are all main characters. Their use makes the Transformers characters into supporting characters. Humans should be the excuse for the viewer to be watching the story and not the ones propelling the narrative.
Sam is the largest part in the movie yet his actions contribute nothing to the story other than in the finale. And that feelings like a last minute switch. Other human characters like Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor), Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson), Agent Major Seymour Simmons (John Turturro), and John Keller (Jon Voight) all do more to move things forward than Sam ever does. At least Sam in the cartoon did something! As the default hero of this film, Sam is all fumbling and stammering and just seems to scream “Optimus!” a lot.
Our romance of the film involves Sam and Mikaela. LaBeouf and Fox have virtually no chemistry. What makes this worse is that Mikaela is barely aware of Sam’s existence and I dare say if he was not involved with giant robots she would have forgotten him quickly. Let’s face it. Megan Fox was there for eye candy. I’m not sure what exactly her character brought to the story.
I have a strong preference for the concept as executed in the classic TV show. And I know part of that is nostalgia, but part of it also that there is a lot less of what I term ‘space magic’ the show. While it does have its fair share of comic book super powered elements that show was never reliant upon them as the narrative often is here.
When first introduced, the Transformers had to have work done on them in order to change what their alternate mode (what the changed into) was and even in some cases their external look. Now when they see something like they just change. There were rules that governed them and limited them, which creates problems that have to be worked around. This ability to alter on a whim makes you question how damage can be fatal or why repairs are ever necessary. Just shift to fix.
The character designs were far too busy. Optimus Prime’s (Peter Cullen) face looks like a puckering cat butt and not a robot leader. The simplicity of the animated shows would’ve been inappropriate, but what they did here was just over too much. Something in the middle with detail but not too much was advisable.
The product placement was pretty heavy. It cuts costs but also when done poorly pulls you out of the story. They spent a lot of time with close-ups on that Pentium chip. General Motors, Burger King, and eBay also forked over some cash. I’m guessing eBay was the biggest cash giver as they were a driving element in the plot. The irony being that a complaint against G1 was that each episode was a 30 minute commercial for the toy line. Now this was a two hour commercial for so many more things.
I felt the humor in Transformers was excessive. Admittedly this was about alien transforming robots but fighting an eons long war but there was a level of silliness that made it not an action movie but a bad comedy. That element with Bumblebee (Mark Ryan) not being able to talk extending throughout the entire film was just annoying. It started out cute, but it went on for far too long and quickly wore out its welcome.
Perhaps cut some jokes and shorten most scenes. Even jettison a max of three human characters. You could shorten this movie by 30 or 40 minutes and have a lighter in tone movie that is much tighter movie overall.
The logic is inconsistent here. One thing that has bothered me since watching this is how exactly does the cold of the Arctic or the cold of the Laurentian Abyss keep any Transformer in stasis? They fly through space under their own power and space is significantly colder than the Arctic or a trench in our ocean. Can someone explain that to me? And how does Jazz get ripped in two and die but Bumblebee loses everything below the waste and makes it out okay?
This movie’s saving grace? Giant robots beating each other up. That’s basically what it is. That bit of spectacle gets you past any kind of flaw this movie has. That with Bay’s stylizing makes this junk go down easy. It’s just giant robots fighting and that’s all a Transformers live action movie really needs to be. At least to hold your attention. Lots of explosions and lots of robots.
Is Transformers good? No, but it isn’t bad either. It is one of those movies that is pure guilty pleasure from start to finish. You’ll watch it but feel bad about it, but you’ll enjoy yourself.
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