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Transformers (2007)

Transformers
"Oh my god, I think I'm gonna pee my pants - listen to this - when I transform I turn into a butterfly. A freakin' gorgeous butterfly, could you just die?"

Directed By:

Michael Bay

Starring:

Shia LaBeouf
Megan Fox
Jon Voight
Josh Duhamel

Released By:

Dreamworks

Released In:

2007

Rated:

PG-13

Reviewed By:

Adam Mast

Reviewed On:

Tue Jul 3rd, 2007

Grade:

C+

zBoneman on Rotten Tomatoes

Transformers is already being hailed by many as the most entertaining movie of the summer. Upon walking out of the theater, I found myself picking apart what I had just witnessed. Several folks in the lobby jumped down my throat telling me that I was being too critical. "It's a fun summer movie" they said. "Stop being a critic and enjoy the damn thing!" The thing is, most of these people fell in love with this flick before they even saw it. Transformers is the cinematic equivalent of a Double Cheeseburger combo meal.

Based on the Hasbro toy line, and cartoon of the same name, Transformers is essentially a big, bloated science fiction epic about robots that transform into vehicles. Some of these alien sent life forms (such as the heroic Optimus Prime) have come to Earth to live among us peacefully, while others (such as the villainous Megatron) have come with world domination in mind. At the heart of the story is an unpopular teenager named Sam Witwicky (played by the always engaging Shia LaBeouf). Like most kids his age, he's excited at the prospect of buying his first car and impressing the hot girl on campus (in this case, it's the gorgeous but slightly dull Megan Fox). After driving his new Camaro off the used car lot, Sam is immediately thrust into adventure when, quite to his amazement, his Camaro turns out to be a Transformer.

Transformers is what most are calling it. A big, loud, stupid, special effects extravaganza. But while so many audiences are simply going along with it, the dumb factor was a little too much for me to willingly accept/and or overlook. I'm all for big, loud, and stupid (hell, I enjoyed Live Free or Die Hard) but of the list of attributes that began this paragraph the one that should be underlined, capitalized, italicized and surrounded with exclamation marks is !!!STUPID!!! Michael Bay has once again delivered his special brand of stupendously stupefying stupidity.

Bay is a visual showman, but he isn't much of a storyteller. There's so much destruction and visual splendor here, that it's easy to forget that there's virtually no plot or character. That's what separates a guy like Bay from someone like Steven Spielberg. Spielberg uses effects the way they should be used; as a storytelling tool.

There are certainly elements of Transformers that I love, most notably the special effects. These robots are spectacular and as I watched them transform from vehicles to their true mechanical forms, it was truly awe inspiring. It reminded of seeing dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park. I also dig Shia LaBeouf - whom, in a very short time, is shaping up to be one of the most exciting actors of his generation. Even with minimal quality dialogue and a severe lack of character depth, LaBeouf manages to fashion a charming, likeable hero out of Sam. I wish the film would have focused more on him and less on the dull military sub plot. But then, the military stuff is in there so that Bay has an excuse to do what he loves most. Blow shit up.

The plot is as inscrutable as it is paper thin, and we the audience are pretty much thrust into the midst of the action before we really even know what the hell is going on. Say what you will about director Michael Bay (he's never been one of my favorites) but I'll be damned if his movies don't look good. He's made a career out of dumb, loud, testosterone laden action films (see Bad Boys, The Rock, and Armageddon). Ironically, my favorite Bay picture is probably his biggest departure (and biggest box office failure), the futuristic clones-on-the-run thriller The Island. The reason I liked that film was because there was a little more emphasis on character. Since The Island pretty much tanked, I suppose Bay jumped at the chance of doing something big, loud, and stupid again.

Now it could be argued that Bay gets away with the dumb factor here because the cartoon and Hasbro toy line aren't exactly the stuff of Shakespeare. Furthermore, Transformers never takes itself seriously, which, by and large, is a good thing. But that doesn't change the fact that this film is missing beats. The rhythm is all over the place (aside from the slam bang climax). And on top of all this, the tone of Transformers is truly weird. Throughout, it gives you the feeling you're watching an extended car commercial, festooned with enough slapstick humor to make it play like a broad comedy - and not a particularly funny one, believe me. There are several silly one liners, and Bay even throws in some lame self referential humor (including an ode to his own Armageddon). Some gags work but most of the jokes fall flat (including a painfully unfunny cheap shot at the expense of George Bush). Even the smallest of characters feel compelled to bring the funny to a film that doesn't need it. Guys like Bernie Mac (he appears as a sleazy used car salesman), Anthony Anderson (he shows up as some kind of computer expert), and a sorely miscast John Turturro as an inept special agent. Ugh.

Transformers is far too long and so chalk full of unnecessary characters, that it makes the recent Live Free Or Die Hard feel like a Robert Altman ensemble. During the film's two hour and twenty minute running time, we do get cool shots of massive robots doing destructive things, but the thrill of it all is undermined by a goofy tone and truly awful humor. The movie doesn't really come alive until the final twenty minutes in which we're finally treated to what we came for. A massive, kick ass, street brawl between Optimus Prime and Megatron. It's a battle on par with the best sequences in Terminator 2, only about fifty times the size and with half the heart.

Is Transformers more than meets the eye? It is amazing to look at – there's no doubt about that. While bristling with state of the art special effects and enough destruction to keep action hounds happy, Transformers will also coast along on the nostalgia factor. There are plenty of folks who adore the toys and the cartoons, and they will undoubtedly accept the movie with open arms. Personally, I've been more impressed by the smaller films this summer season (i.e. Once, Knocked Up, 1408, etc.). Still, I'm giving Michael Bay's latest epic two a C because visually, it is a technical marvel.

:: zBoneman.com Reader Comments ::

ty

ty

i saw this thing the other day and was utterly horrified. remember that Bay movie called the Island? remember the big chase scene in an abandoned building when the two clone's are together at the end of the gun and the real dude gets shot instead of the clone? well that building was also used in this movie which is also a Bay shit dick. some of the dialogue makes me want to punch myself in the face. i was bummed on this movie adam. is that the pederass from big lebowski?

atomicmonkey

atomicmonkey

"Transformers is far too long and so chalk full of unnecessary characters"....

Chock...c-h-o-c-k, not chalk. Right there with ya on the film though. Bless you and Vern.

E.G.Howe

E.G.Howe

While I was disappointed, I didn't find it as bad as you did. This is a good movie that stops just short of being a great movie.

First the pluses...

Awesome Computer Graphics: The scenes with the transformers are amazing. This is a quantum leap from all previous special effects movies.

Casting: The actors were all good. Shia LaBeouf was an excellent choice and the supporting cast with Josh Duhamel and Jon Voight really showed their chops. IMHO the standout performance was John Turturro as Agent Simmons.

Now the minuses...

Editing: There are so many bad cuts in this movie that only one conclusion can be reached. This movie was actually 20 to 40 minutes longer and to shorten it for theatres it was edited at the last minute with a chainsaw. Hopefully when the "extra special sixteen disc directors cut" edition of the DVD hits the shelves two years from now we will see a better edited film.

Direction: Michael Bay directed this film with the special effects in mind and it shows. Several scenes were awkwardly shot in order to draw ones attention to the effects in the frame at the expense of the live action elements. I'm wondering how many times did Bay view the dailies and say, "Don't worry we'll fix it in post."

Reused film: Come on Michael... did you think you could slip in that shot from "Pearl Harbor" and not have millions of people notice. Hell... I haven't even seen the entire movie of "Pearl Harbor" and I recognized that shot. Granted the shot in Pearl Harbor was heavily CGed and here we see it without the CG attempt to make the carrier look like WWII vintage. Check out the frigate just to the right of the carrier. The one that looks like it's a slightly different colour than the others. That's HMCS Regina, a Canadian Warship. I have friends who served on her and they remember when the shot was taken for "Pearl Harbor".

To Sum Up...

"Transformers" is a good movie. In the hands of a better director, one whose paradigm is "CG is used to enhance a movie, not create one," it would have been a GREAT movie. My suggestion to Michael Bay is to start making films for Disney as his strength is in the hokey scenes like when Shia's character says to the girl, "There's more to you than meets the eye." Pure cheese and that's where Disney (and Michael Bay) excels.

***½ out of Five.

CasaJones

CasaJones

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