Transformers (2007)

Michael Bay

STARRINGShia LaBeouf - Sam Witwicky
Megan Fox - Mikaela Banes
Josh Duhamel - Sergeant Lennox
Tyrese Gibson - Sergeant Epps
Rachael Taylor - Maggie Madsen
Jon Voight - Defense Secretary Keller
Peter Cullen - Voice of Optimus Prime
Hugo Weaving - Voice of Megatron

Year - 2007

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

Back in the 1980s, I was a huge fan of the cartoon TRANSFORMERS. With its awesome theme song, its "More Than Meets The Eye" tagline, and cool storylines involving the Autobots vs. The Decepticons, I was mesmerized to these robots in disguise. So when I learned a live-action film was being made, I was kinda excited about it - especially with CGI pretty impressive these days. But then that wall of hope crumbled when Michael Bay was announced as director. You either love or hate this guy. He's directed some good stuff like BAD BOYS, ARMAGEDDON, and THE ROCK. He's also directed some pretty lame stuff like PEARL HARBOR and THE ISLAND. His films are cliched action to its core, bringing nothing new to the table, giving us the same exact stuff in every film. So yeah, I went to watch TRANSFORMERS with intentions to bash the film for being derivative schlock, tarnishing the TRANSFORMERS' name. So I waited for the sh*t to hit the fan.

And waited.

And waited some more.

And by the end of this two and a half hour film, I was still waiting. I couldn't believe it. This film was actually...GOOD. Michael Bay directed a pretty fun action film and did justice with TRANSFORMERS and its history. Did hell freeze over? Was I not notified? Is Michael Bay "more than meets the eye"?

It's robots fighting robots. Plus a teenage love story, the hunt for a powerful cube called the All Spark, and lots of destruction and explosions. Plus machines transforming into vehicles to either protect or destroy humanity. That's basically the thin plot. What more do you want? It's TRANSFORMERS, man!!

I walked into that theater a reviewer and walked out like the geek fanboy that I am. I really liked this film. Didn't love it, but really enjoyed it. Although I wasn't expecting Shakespeare or any Academy-Award winning screenplays, I wish there was a bit more substance to the film story-wise. Yeah, no one really cares about plot when they can watch robots beat the shit out of each other and transform into cool things. But a decent story would have helped the film more. Yeah, learning that Sam Witwicky's (Shia LaBeouf) ancestor found Megatron in the North Pole and his glasses had the coordinates for the All Spark, giving a reason for Sam to be hunted, is all fine and good. But a lot of things just seemed tacked on and forced, like the love story [cliche] ,the presence of the army to save the world [cliche], and the ignorant stupidity of the government when it comes to learning about something new [cliche]. If one is gonna make the Transformers the main attraction to the film [and they were], why not reveal more of their backstory for us? Why did the cube fall to Earth? How long were those Decepticons living on Earth unnoticed? Any more info on how the war between the Autobots and Decepticons started? I mean, I didn't expect flashbacks or the entire story to be told [you need something for a sequel or two], but a few simple explanations would have been nice.

I also didn't mind the humor injected into the film. I'm glad it didn't take itself too seriously. After all, the audience knows better. But some humor was really annoying, especially with Sam's parents. I had wished one of the Decepticons, or Ironhide, would have fried them. I mean, it was funny at first but they just began to annoy me. Especially when the Autobots are doing a really bad job hiding outside your house and you don't even notice their presence. I've seen some really stupid characters portrayed on film, but these two were borderline retarded. And in the end credits...geez. I really hope these two are not in the sequel. And what about that cop in the police station interrogating Sam? Was I watching POLICE ACADEMY or RENO 911? I wasn't really sure. At least the important characters acted like real people, thank God.

In addition, what was up with all that product placement? Taco Bell? Nokia? GMC? Geez, if I wanted to see advertisements, I'd watch television.

I can't believe I'm saying this but Michael Bay deserves credit for directing a good action film. Yeah, you get all the cliched things you expect from an action film, but the man knows how to do it in style. He's a pro at compensating action for lack of character development and plot, and boy, do we get action in spades. I'm not sure what city they were in towards the end, but that place is in serious need of a reconstruction project after what the Autobots and Decepticons did to it. And he kept up pretty well with all the chaos on screen, although there were times where the camera would move so fast to catch the fight scenes that you would miss part of the sequence. But it wasn't really a big deal and the pacing was actually well done. Plus, he gave us close-ups of Megan Fox's assets, and I wasn't complaining one damn bit. Damn she looked good! And she could act pretty okay too! You did good, Mr. Bay. Who knew you had it in you?

And I can't continue without mentioning the awesome CGI used here. I couldn't believe this was a $150 million budget film. It looks so much more expensive than that. The Transformers were incredibly realistic looking and the transformations were stunning and believable. Not once did I ever go "fake" or "too cartoonish". They looked like real robots that were humanly constructed and placed on a set just to tear it down to amuse the audience. Especially the scene where Starscream transforms back-and-forth from Decepticon to jet, taking out the air force like they were nothing. And Scorponok looked really cool too in the opening scene. Actually, they all did [although I could have used more variety between the looks of the Decepticons - couldn't really tell them apart until they transformed into vehicles]. And they all had different personalities, which really was a nice touch and a neat homage to the source this film originated from. It's pretty sad how SPIDER-MAN 3 and AT WORLD'S END had bigger budgets, yet their CGI doesn't even come close to TRANSFORMERS. This was probably the best special effects work I've seen in a film in a long time. I really don't know who to credit for that other than the SFX team who worked on this film. Excellent job. Give them a raise and an Oscar for their fine work!

As for the acting, the actors all did their respective roles well. The only stand-out is Shia LaBeouf, who has honestly become the hottest young actor today. He's the glue for the first half of the film, with his sarcastic humor and comedic timing, and his likeable geekish quality about him. You just look at Shia and root for him. Plus, he had the best fleshed out character of the entire cast, so we care about what happens to him and his relationship with Mikaela (Megan Fox) and the Autobots [specifically Bumblebee - my favorite]. He did a real good job holding the film together on the human side of the story. And the extended cameo with John Turturro as that asshole government agent was brilliant casting. What a jerk, but you had to love the guy at the same time. His exchanges with LaBeouf were excellent and his character really brought something to the film. Plus who didn't cheer when you heard Peter Cullen's voice coming out of Optimus Prime's mouth? The original voice of probably the coolest Autobot of them all - thank you fanboys for bitching. Really good voice acting as always from Mr. Cullen.

TRANSFORMERS is a surprisingly fun film that does justice to its source material. While several films have been better this summer on a storyline level, this film was the most entertaining on a brainless level. I even clapped at the end, which shows how much I enjoyed feeling like a kid again. If you don't mind a lot of action and not alot of story or characterization, this film is for you. If you love Transformers in general, you'll love this film. For those who are neither of the above, you'll probably won't enjoy it as much as fanboys will, but I'm sure you'll have a good time watching things get destroyed, hacked into, and blown up. More than meets the eye? Not quite. But it's a damn good adaptation that even Megatron would be proud of. Bring on VOLTRON and THE THUNDERCATS!

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