Transformers
Don’t worry citizens of Earth, General Motors is here to save the day! (and they color tinted the film to match my site … how thoughtful!)


Golden Mug

NOMINEE:
Visual Effects (Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl, John Frazier)
Sound (Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell, Peter J. Devlin)

Theatrical Release Date: 07/03/2007
Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, John Turturro

Audrey Hess’ Rating

Ian Forbes’ Rating:


The film that has been haunting me for the last two years has finally arrived. Michael Bay’s “Transformers” is blasting its way into thousands of theaters nationwide, and even more worldwide, in a blitzkriegian fashion.

As a self-proclaimed nerd, geek and dork, it should come as no surprise to my loyal readers that I owned and played with a multitude of Transformers toys as a kid and watched the cartoon religiously.

With the Autobots and Decepticons dominating so much of my childhood, my skepticism about the quality of a live action film being directed by Michael “my movies are like long, patriotic Ralph Lauren ads” Bay was so high as to almost make me woozy.

But in what could be the most fortuitous cinematic instance of the milennium, I think “Transformers” is a good movie.

Wow … I can’t believe I was able to write that sentence but it’s true.

To no surprise, the film looks fantastic. Bay has always been able to create beautiful, epic shots that give the subject a sense of grandeur. It’s been his ability to create convincing drama that has been lacking.

That’s not to say the film has great drama. The acting is somewhat better than I had expected but there really isn’t much said or done inbetween a giant robot firing a cannon or smashing through a building … and that’s the way it should be.

When you have the premise of huge, intelligent robots waging war on Earth, there shouldn’t be any scenes of some goofus eating animal crackers off the leading lady’s stomach. (ooh, burn Affleck … sick burn.)

What is on screen are crisply transforming robots launching salvo after salvo of ordinance at people and other robots. This isn’t necessarily the friendly cartoon many of us grew up watching, the action is both fast and furious (I amuse myself way too much with film references.)

Without spoiling things too much, let me just say that there are some transformers that die … not get damaged or knocked out of commission … they’re dead.

And I like that. I’m all for a more adult set of transformers. However, in an effort to pander to the widest audience possible, there are some elements brought into the film that I could have lived without.

For instance, at one point the Autobots are at our hero’s house (LaBeouf) and he doesn’t want his parents to find out about it so they try to discreetly move their multi-ton frames around the backyard to find hiding spots. While it’s comic relief for many, I think hearing Optimus friggin’ Prime utter “my bad” when he steps on something in the yard is akin to hearing the Terminator say “ow” when he’s punched in the face. It’s just sad.

While I’m on my nerdy high-horse, I also have a big problem with the terrible paint job on Optimus (purple with red flames?) and that just because General Motors was the sponsor, they made Bumblebee a freakin’ Camero … there wasn’t a way to convince GM to agree to one vehicle being from another company? Bumblebee’s a Volkswagon bug! Even an updated model would have at least been respectful to the source material. Geez.

Yes, I’m a huge nerd.

Now, I thought going in that I would be rolling my eyes at the idea of Bernie Mac being the one to sell Bumblebee to LaBeouf but I thought the scene worked well enough, in a Herbie the Love Bug kind of way … Dammit, another bug … can you tell I’m annoyed?

Another major complaint I have is that while the action is grand in scale and looks great, too often the fighting between transformers was done too closely, creating a claustrophobic feel. I wish Bay had decided to move the camera/CG back another 20 yards so we could more easily see what was going on and more fully appreciate the scale of the whole thing.

I do love though that during one of Optimus’ transformations, Bay used his trademark Hero Shot, revolving the camera full circle (not once but twice for this moment). It’s cheesy but it works to put a smile on my face.

Also cheesy was that on the way to the theater, I remarked to Audrey that I would put money that there was a Linkin Park song somewhere in the film. And sure enough, 30 minutes in, we hear one on the radio. I thought that would be the extent of it, allowing the inclusion of the song on the film’s soundtrack but right at the end, BAM! Another segment of the song starts up and I’m again bemused.

Just a few last complaints and they would both be considered SPOILERS so if you’re interested, drag your mouse to highlight the blank space between this and the last few paragraphs if you want to read it now.

First, Megatron is a jet? While I’m not surprised they’d want to update him for the film, I was expecting a cannon of some sort, even though that would be more Galvatron than Megatron (yes, I’m a huge nerd … I think I’ve gone over this).

Second, the Decepticons want to find LeBeouf to further their plans and hack their way into computer systems to find him. But the Autobots don’t do any of that and they find him first. The logic of how they knew who or where he was never gets explained. Annoying.

All that aside, while I will give Bay and his pals kudos for getting the original voice of Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to lend his legendary dulcet tone, I have to wonder at the people they chose to fill out the rest of the transformers.

I realize many of the original voices have passed on to that great Cybertron in the sky – Chris Latta (Starscream and G.I. Joe’s Cobra Commander), Scatman Crothers (Jazz) – but Frank Welker (Megatron) is still alive and Peter Cullen did Ironhide as well as Optimus Prime.

Only in this film, Ironhide is Jess Harnell who also did Barricade for the film (why does he get to do two voices?), Hugo Weaving is the voice of Megatron (did a good job though) and in order to replace Scatman Crothers for Jazz, they got Darius “Family Matters” McCrary? WTF?

All whining aside, I admit that this film was better than I had expected and I’m actually hoping for sequels so I can see more of my favorite childhood toys come to life. “Transformers” gets a 3 out of 5 and I’ll probably pop back into the theaters another time or two to keep getting my fix.