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Movie Review: Transformers

Directed by Michael Bay
Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman based on a story by Orci, Kurtzman, and John Rogers

I used to watch the Transformers cartoons back in the day, and I loved the 1986 animated film, but I can’t really say that I remember much about them.  Still, I was excited to see that special effects had taken us so far that a live-action Transformers was being made and it looked so cool it couldn’t possibly be bad, but there was always a part of the trailer that bothered me (and this will come as no surprise to those who know me): A Michael Bay Film.

A wizard with camerawork, testosterone-heavy action, and MTV editing, Michael Bay splits the average moviegoers with the critics for the most part; occasionally he’ll win over some people who would normally despise his style.  I’ve always felt like Bay has never been able to create an action scene from beginning to end that heightened suspense, gave you a clear picture of what is going on and where everybody is, and fully meshed his skills as an action director to deliver something that makes you forget to breathe, not just sit there dumbly and say, “Gee whiz, look at all that there on that big screen.”  Popcorn munch.

With Bay teaming up with Steven Spielberg, it looked like this might happen.  But the results are mixed.

In Transformers, bad alien robots that can change into vehicles or miscellaneous other objects known as the Decepticons are coming down ripping up Earth and its inhabitants and hacking into military software to find a top secret “Iceman” that had been unearthed many decades ago and stored in a safe place.  In addition, they would find a cube that brought them life and destroy the universe, as bad alien robots are inclined to do.  The good alien robots, the Autobots, come down to save Earth and ensure the cube and the Iceman are dealt with properly.  The Autobots are led by Optimus Prime (voiced by old-school OP, Peter Cullen).

In the middle of the action is Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), whose great-grandfather stumbled on the Iceman long ago and left behind some artifacts from the expedition.  He’s going through geek teenager mode and wants to knock boots with Mikaela Banes (Rockwood, TN-born beauty Megan Fox), who gets mixed up in all of this when she starts taking the slightest bit of a shine towards Sam.  His dad (Kevin Dunn) has just bought him a beat-up Camaro that is actually a robot in disguise, and in some (even humorous) ways, it helps him start winning her over.

Also in the story: hot computer whiz Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor) and her friend Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson), who figure out what the Decepticons are doing, the Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight), “Section 7″ government agent Simmons (John Turturro), and a military unit that includes Sergeant Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and USAF Tech Sergeant Epps (Tyrese Gibson), who are the first to encounter the Decepticons and run for their lives, taking ineffective potshots at them anytime they can.

So, it’s a bit Independence Day and The Terminator, and when Bay unleashes the first scene, I thought he had taken some notes from Spielberg because it is awesome.  There’s actual suspense, and good action technique, and I actually started caring when things blew up, rather than just getting visual overload on the screen with rapid editing and random things exploding.

But then Bay and Alias veteran screenwriters Orci and Kurtman take us through all the storylines and it gets bogged down.  Characters are forgotten about and then return out of the blue, and with a story so simple you would think it would take less than two and a half hours to tell.  Transformers gives you some humor and good action here and there, but it loses its momentum from the first scene, and when the Autobots and Decepticons start rumbling, it’s a little bit of a letdown.  That final action scene is a confusing mix of robots and humans all fighting a war on some street in L.A.

And, yeah, this is going to be A-OK for most, because it delivers what it promises. But you guys know me; the approach is just as important as the product, and I felt like something more kick-ass than this was lost in translation with all the unnecessary storylines and some unfocused action.  So, a mixed bag for me; I’ll live with it.

Next: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen


Comment from sbohn
Time: July 3, 2007, 11:30 pm

Having great love for Transformers since I was a little kid, I felt betrayed and crushed when “A Micheal Bay Film” appeared in the trailer. However, after watching the movie I was not let down at all. The action was fast and plentiful, story was what was expected, and I had an all around excellent movie going experience. This was the first time in a while that I was on the edge of my seat.

My only two complaints were the shameless cross advertising and the scenes with Anthony Anderson were not needed.

I have plans to watch it again this Friday.

Comment from The Projectionist
Time: July 6, 2007, 1:37 pm

Yeah, I’m in the minority on this one. I just expected better, despite Michael Bay.

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