Transformers (review)

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Toy Story

You know how movies are always front-loaded with the little ads and announcements for all the production companies that had a hand in making them? “A Monster Movie Production of a Visual Popcorn Film — In Partnership With La Brea Studios and Megarich Partners LLC”? Well, this one, the opening credits inform us, was created “in association with Hasbro.” And you have to laugh. There it is, right out in the open, no beating around the corporate teat hoping to feed your consumerist greed: this is a two-and-a-half-hour cartoon advertisement for toys. We knew it would be — what else could it have been, since the original material was the same?

How perfectly appropriate, then, that Michael Bay should be tapped to direct this. All his movies look like advertisements already, usually like Air Force recruitment propaganda fetishizing hardware. He’s the perfect guy, isn’t he, to make a $150 million cartoon?
Turns out he is: this is the movie Michael Bay was born to make. And I say this in all seriousness and with all due respect, particularly as a longtime hater of Bay’s superficiality and inability not to put a glossy plastic sheen on the most profound of subjects (like patriotism, as in Pearl Harbor, and justice, as in Bad Boys II). But here? Why, glossy plastic sheen is exactly what’s called for. No, really. It’s giant robots stomping around and beating the crap out of one another. We must thank the gods of cinema that Bay — and screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who both wrote Mission: Impossible III and The Island) — didn’t feel the need to inject anything meaningful or complicated into this giant Erector set of a movie. There’s absolutely nothing smart, deep, or subtle to be found in Transformers. Which is precisely the way it should be.

I never thought I’d ever say such a thing, but we must admire Bay for being resolute in his inconsequence. Transformers works only because it is gloriously, emphatically meaningless and cheerfully, genially brainless. It’s like a big dumb dog — you just can’t hate it.

The story is completely beyond the point, but basically, there are two opposing factions of alien robot things that come to Earth to wage their war. Don’t ask why — it doesn’t matter; it’s just totally freakin’ cool, okay? They can make over backward human technology to their own purposes, so that a giant alien robot, like the one hilariously named “Bumblebee,” can suddenly look like a beat-up (but still cool) old Camaro, and then later decide that it wants to look like a waaay cooler late-model Camaro. Also, giant alien robots — at least the “good” ones who want to protect humanity from the “evil” ones — are totally into helping a guy get laid. Like Sam Witwicky (the ever charming Shia LeBeouf: Surf’s Up, Disturbia), who acquires the Bumblebee Camaro and soon finds it helping him woo the lovely Mikaela (Megan Fox), who is ridiculously unbelievable as a high school junior, but didn’t I say this was wildly brainless? (She actually gets to do some cool action-movie stuff later on, and generally fares much better than the standard action babe sidekick usually does.)

I suppose if you wanted to look for something accidentally intelligent and/or substantial here, you could possibly frame an argument for this being something of an ode to the competence of the American military, on the grunt level, as long as they’re divorced from and out of communication with a thoroughly ineffectual leadership. Like how the cutie American army sergeant, Lennox (Josh Duhamel: Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!), and his ragtag team manages to kill a buttload of evil alien robots, but the minute the bungling Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight: National Treasure, SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2) gets involved in the mess, things go straight to hell… until Lennox saves the day again. But I’m probably reading too much into that: it’s harder to fetishize an old guy in a suit leading a meeting of other old guys in suits than it is to fetishize a handsome young man in military fatigues wielding some kickass firepower. The one comical aside about the U.S. president — he’s apparently a Ding Dong-eating moron — is probably just a coincidence.

Last week I wondered whether the tediousness of Live Free or Die Hard didn’t signal the end of the action movie; now I’m thinking that probably, yes, the slam-bang toy box of hardware and wiseassery that has dominated at the multiplex for the last two decades may be over. Because Transformers feels like the pinnacle of the genre: I’m not sure there’s anywhere to go from here. When a giant alien robot can tell a horny American teenage boy, in all earnestness, “Sam, you hold the key to Earth’s survival,” I think it means we’re done.

But at least we went out on a bang.

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Rob Vaux
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 2:32pm

The eternal paradox of Michael Bay. My review for this film is very similar to M-A’s in tone and content – I think we’re basically coming from the exact same place – and yet her review is positive and mine is negative. The same observatons and conclusions produce opposite responses – both (I would like to think) from rational and observant people. Is this perhaps the true purpose of Michael Bay? Is he the Schrodinger’s Cat of auteurs – his work at once wretched and transcendent, kicking ass and sucking balls in equal measure? I don’t know any other director whose work can prove so confounding. Maybe M-A is right: if Transformers totally demolishes any sense of rational observation and critical application, where can the action movie possibly go from there?

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 3:42pm

if Transformers totally demolishes any sense of rational observation and critical application

I didn’t say it does that. It just needs to be appreciated on its own level — unlike some of Bay’s other movies, this one is not trying to be anything more than what it is.

LVJeff
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 5:11pm

“There’s absolutely nothing smart, deep, or subtle to be found in Transformers. Which is precisely the way it should be.”

That genuinely hurt to read, MaryAnn. I was more in the position of hoping that there would be something more than that in this movie (though in Bay’s hands, there was no hope for it), but this is the pitfall of being a longtime Transformers fan — how can I hope that a Transformers story might convey meaning and still be taken seriously?

Still, a statement like the one you’ve written genuinely stings. I don’t know what’s worse, right now — having my childhood attacked on screen, or attacked by reviewers who claim the TF universe isn’t even worthy of better treatment than to hand it over to Michael f—ing Bay.

Tim G.
Tim G.
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 6:04pm

I have to admit MaryAnn, ever since slamming your review of Knocked Up I’ve been coming back to see your thoughts on other recent movies. I’m not sure what else needs to be said about Transformers. Your review pretty much nails my expectations for the movie and I can go into the theater tonight knowing I’m in for a good time.

I have no pretenses that Transformers is anything but a dumb, fun and frivolous action franchise about giant robots blowing stuff up. Unfortunately many 80s fanboys don’t get this (I myself am a child from the 80s). Giant robots blowing stuff up isn’t the platform one would use to discuss serious issues. There are plenty of other ways to tell those stories, and for every Waitress or Children of Men, I’m just as happy to watch some Smokin’ Aces, Grindhouse or the sublime Hot Fuzz.

All these fanboys like LVJeff here remind me of the hilarious Transformers debate from Kevin Smith’s Clerks 2. Thankfully you’re the Randall to his Elias. I offer my humble apologies and admiration for your recent reviews.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 6:09pm

I think LVJeff was being sarcastic. At least, I hope he was…

LVJeff
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 6:52pm

I’d like to think of myself as a fanboy with some common sense — to compare where I’m coming from to dopey nearsighted stubbornness like what was presented in Clerks 2 is dismissive. At the very least, one could broaden one’s ideas to understand the difference between “fanboy” and discerning fan. Realisitically, yes, we are talking about a toy commercial. But any story, given a chance, could be crafted into something worthwhile.

But this is what I mean by an uphill battle. Say Lord of the Rings is just some dumb fantasy, and fans will be up in arms, but they have ammo — LOTR is written by Tolkien, a respected author. TF isn’t written by anyone, but just the same there were those of us who believed it could be more than the big dumb toy commercial.

Let’s just say I don’t believe every story is doomed to be tied to their roots. That would be a very limiting point-of-view.

And my previous post had a little attempt at humor in it, but my sentiment is sincere — just because I was once really into TF doesn’t mean I didn’t have the right to hope that it could be better than the throwaway trash that was given to us.

amanohyo
amanohyo
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 8:08pm

As sappy and stupid and corny and silly as it was, when I watched the original Transformers Movie at the ripe age of 11, I cried when Optimus Prime died. I’ve actually managed to get a few other people to admit that they did the same.

Expensive, watered-down, over-the-top summer special effects thrillrides have their place, but I’m pretty sure that no kid is going to cry when they watch this movie (unless they spill their soda or wet their pants).

I understand and share LV Jeff’s sentiments. It’s sad for a Transformers fan to see moviemakers take the Batman and Robin approach instead of something a little more serious and respectful like Batman Begins. Pardon my fanboyishness, but we’re not talking about The Power Rangers here.

To be fair, it’s not as if I expected anything else from Bay, and I’m glad he managed to make the movie fun. But ultimately I would still prefer seeing a movie that reaches and fails than an unambitious cookie-cutter success, even if the story is based on something as silly as little toy robots. (I’m probably alone in that opinion, as this movie’s inevitable success will no likely prove).

P.S. I still cry every single time I watch The Iron Giant. Something about dying cartoon robots really gets to me I guess…

Tim G.
Tim G.
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 11:15pm

For the record, I think LotR is trash. Heh.

JSW
JSW
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 11:30pm

I’m with LVJeff on this one. Sure, Transformers started out as a simple advertisement for a toy line, but it’s grown into a hell of a lot more like that and writers like Simon Furman, Bob Forward and Larry DiTillo have crafted a universe around these transforming robots that put many more well-respected sci-fi works to shame. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I do know that Transformers deserves to be a hell of a lot more than just a mindless display of special effects, which appears to be what we ended up with.

Doa766
Doa766
Mon, Jul 02, 2007 11:38pm

I used to go to the theater 3 or 4 times a month, but now with dvd and lcd and 5.1 I hardly ever go anymore, maybe 4 or 5 times a year, but I guess this one is for the big screen and your review convinced me

I hate Bay with all my heart but I guess everyone should get a chance for redemption, I mean if Uwe Boll ever makes a really good movie we’d be sorta pruod of him, after ripping on his “movies” so much

but the only summer films we should be looking foward are the simspsons movie and the bourne ultimatum

Shadowen
Shadowen
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 12:36am

Huge TransFan, and while the movie rocked balls–it actually got an ovation in the theater–I wish it might have tried for something more than a MacGuffin. I think the energy crisis the original Transformers faced back in 1983 would be a useful metaphor this day ‘n’ age, neh?

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 1:00am

Say Lord of the Rings is just some dumb fantasy, and fans will be up in arms, but they have ammo — LOTR is written by Tolkien, a respected author.

Yeah, but Tolkien is respected for a reason… that reason being that he wrote some transcendent fiction.

Let’s just say I don’t believe every story is doomed to be tied to their roots. That would be a very limiting point-of-view.

I don’t think anyone is saying that. *Any* material has the *potential* to be great — as another commenter pointed out, the big-robot-from-outer-space idea became a tremedously moving film in *The Iron Giant.* But it’s enormously different to start out with a novel that is a work of transcendent genius and expect that the movie version of it might be the same, and to start out with a piece of throwaway corporate marketing and expect it to become a work of transcendent genius when it is adapted to film.

There’s also a world of difference between something that moved you as a child, and something with the capability of moving you as an adult. I point everyone to this.

JT
JT
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 1:17am

This movie gave me a massive headache.

All the action was ultra zoomed-in motion blurs of stuff breaking or blowing up. What is so great about that? I thought the CGI was terrible, because if it doesn’t immerse me in the movie, it becomes a distraction. And not for a moment did I get a sense of ‘end of the world’ dread such as in movies like War of the Worlds or even Children of Men.

I didn’t expect Transformers to be written as well as those movies, but if the writing sucked (which it did), there were ways Michael Bay could have engendered suspense/tension/dread by actually showing us damage on a large scale. Instead, when the jets are flying above the city towards the end, everything looks fine. What kind of shitty apocalypse is this?

The ominous music they used throughout was very very annoying, and they couldn’t even turn it down when characters had dialogue! Couldn’t understand a lot of what they were saying. The ‘good’ robots were so adamant about not killing humans, yet at the end, Optimus Prime was scraping buildings like crazy and probably killing hundreds of people in the process.

I don’t even know what happened at the end. Sam shoved a cube into Optimus Prime and Megatron died? WTF? Idiotic fucking nonsense that’s not so bad, it’s good. It’s so bad, it’s fucking terrible. What an enormous piece of shit.

There were just two good things about watching this in the theater:

1. Shia LeBeouf. Love seeing this kid act.

2. The teaser for the untitled JJ Abrams project. This 1 minute teaser was more enjoyable than the entire Transformers movie. The whole theater went ‘What the fuck…?’ and laughed when it ended without revealing the title. JJ is god.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 1:21am

And not for a moment did I get a sense of ‘end of the world’ dread such as in movies like War of the Worlds or even Children of Men.

You weren’t meant to. It’s not that kind of movie.

The teaser for the untitled JJ Abrams project

What was this? They didn’t show this at the press screening I attended…

JT
JT
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 1:42am

I don’t want to ruin it for you or anyone else who reads the comments. It was a short teaser shot on a hand-held camera – incredibly realistic and definitely piqued my interest. The trailer ended with the words ‘Produced by J.J. Abrams’ and then a release date of January 2008. There was no title.

There’s more information here.

BZero
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 10:12am

I’m one of those geeky Transformers fans, and while I’ve seen it be something more (in the comics, Simon Furman did a lot more with the material, and later writers did some really cool shit as well), as long as I’m going into it knowing that’s it just going to be cool popcorn ‘splosions and kick ass special effects, I’ll be fine. As other commenters have pointed out, we Transfans are used to different universes with different takes on beloved characters from our youth, some cool, some sucky, and some with an interesting mixture of both.

Rob Vaux
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 10:37am

An article in Slate magazine about the “original” Transformers animated movie which, bizarrely enough, was Orson Welles’ last film.

http://www.slate.com/id/2169619/nav/tap3/

I should also state for the record that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Transformers fan. I think the article aptly sums up what some of the hard-core fans see in the old cartoons, though.

LVJeff
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 11:11am

“But it’s enormously different to start out with a novel that is a work of transcendent genius and expect that the movie version of it might be the same, and to start out with a piece of throwaway corporate marketing and expect it to become a work of transcendent genius when it is adapted to film.”

I think you’re misreading me a bit. The comparison was made just for the sake of comparison — I could’ve easily used Batman in place of LOTR. My point was that it’s harder to defend the potential of the Transformers because of its origins, and this discussion is further proving my point. And why am I saying this? Maybe I’m just asking to be thrown a bone here. Would I ever have expected “transcendent genius”? No way. Something decent? Sure. Like amanohyo said, we could always take the Batman Begins approach over the Batman and Robin approach.

“There’s also a world of difference between something that moved you as a child, and something with the capability of moving you as an adult. I point everyone to this.”

I remember finding that comic and posting it on OFCS :-) It’s a great comic, but again, I’m not defending TF as something artistic. I’m just saying that I’m saddened to hear the dismissive notion in the sentences you wrote: “There’s absolutely nothing smart, deep, or subtle to be found in Transformers. Which is precisely the way it should be.” Because I don’t believe either sentence is true. I myself might’ve said “generally little” as opposed to “absolutely nothing,” and I definitely don’t think it’s “precisely the way it should be.”

But you can’t change your writing style, so I’m just saying ouch. It’s insult to the injury that was the movie. Again, you know, not asking for much, just throw me a bone here :-P

Jesse
Jesse
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 11:14am

I’ll agree that Transformers started out as the 80s version of Pokemon, a fairly shameless way to indoctrinate children into buying their merchandise. However, Transformers quickly became something much more than that, not just in terms of a pop culture icon.

I grew up on the second generation Transformers: Beast Wars and Beast Machines, which were pretty exemplary. I hear that Beast Machines wasn’t received too well by veteran fans, however I strongly suggest it to anyone who likes some deep, meaningful action. If you’re not going to commit to the whole series, I strongly suggest The Weakest Link from season 1, which I’d nominate as one of the best episodes of anything in Saturday Morning history.

Transformers evolved as a story. Even the later seasons of the classic cartoon were getting into more serious territory. Now in recent years, I’ll argue, with Transformers: Armada and Super Link, they’ve taken a serious dive, actually becoming more like Pokemon than they ever were before. Transformers being directed by Michael Bay and churned out as an empty piece of Hollywood action is sort of the clincher, in my eyes, that they’ve abandoned all the work they did in the 90s.

mjk333
mjk333
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 4:51pm

Recently watching the original cartoon was a more painful nostalgia trip than some other shows from my childhood (the gems in the series are pretty spread out), and as someone who generally prefers that variations on the original be as minimal as possible, I don’t really expect much from this movie other than giant robots beating up on each other (particularly with Bay in charge).

However, I’ll point out that Bumblebee’s name made a lot more sense when the original vehicle form was basically a VW bug.

I agree with Shadowen that the energy-crisis theme of the original storyline would have had a lot of potential today, too. Oh well, I suppose I’m still more likely to go see this movie (as a matinee) now than I was when it was first announced. So long as I can stay in the proper “giant robots beating each other up” mindframe. :)

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 5:14pm

it’s harder to defend the potential of the Transformers because of its origins

Not for me. I think I’ve more than demonstrated (over the years and in the aggregate, if not necessarily in this review on its own) I understand and appreciated and LIKE that things that appear to be silly and meaningless — like comic books and cartoons — can be much more important and much deeper than people give them credit for. What I’m saying here, though, is that I did not come into *Transformers* with any appreciation that it COULD be anything more than a cartoon for toys. Maybe that’s not fair, but I have no exposure to these deep and meaningful examples of *Transformers* some of you seem to be talking about. So this is me being, as I always am, honest, at least about my own prejudices.

I would have been delighted to see this franchise have something meaningful to say. But surely no one can be surprised that a Michael Bay version of *Transformers* is not the place to find this. What IS surprising is that Bay did NOT attempt to say something meaningful here, as he has with some of his other films. What is surprising here is that Bay does not seem to be trying to turn this into something that it is not, at least in this script.

“There’s absolutely nothing smart, deep, or subtle to be found in Transformers. Which is precisely the way it should be.” Because I don’t believe either sentence is true.

I can appreciate that for other values of *Transformers,* this may be true. But as the characters and situations are represented in this script, it is not true. And Bay does not attempt to inject something into the movie via the visuals that is not there in the script.

What I said doesn’t necessarily need to be about *Transformers* on the whole, just *Transformers* as it is represented by this silly, overblown, brainless script.

LVJeff
Tue, Jul 03, 2007 9:47pm

“What I said doesn’t necessarily need to be about *Transformers* on the whole, just *Transformers* as it is represented by this silly, overblown, brainless script.”

There I’m in complete concurrence. I stated in my own review that Bay’s direction bothered me less than the script. In fact, I got the idea that Bay was doing what felt like an honest job with it — I’ll at least give him that.

But after seeing the movie, the bad script stuck out pretty strongly to me. Whatever better potential was in the source material evaporated when that thing got the go-ahead.

Hasimir Fenring
Wed, Jul 04, 2007 10:30am

There’s absolutely nothing smart, deep, or subtle to be found in Transformers….What I said doesn’t necessarily need to be about *Transformers* on the whole, just *Transformers* as it is represented by this silly, overblown, brainless script.

I’m glad you cleared that up, because I don’t think LVJeff and I were alone in reading what you wrote as applying to the entire Transformers concept. The ‘original’ film, mentioned above, deals with maturing and assuming adult responsibilities (Hot Rod), respect for one’s elders (Kupp), personal sacrifice (Ultra Magnus), and other themes that might be considered ‘deep’. I have seen that film again as an adult, and while my reactions were certainly different and my enthusiasm much muted, it still made me care when Prime died. Which is more than I can say about this film, in which I cared about nothing but the end credits arriving as soon as possible. Okay, I loved that they got Prime’s original voice, which I recognised immediately, but that’s honestly the only good thing I can say about it.

I must confess my bias of utter loathing for M*ch**l B*y and everything he has touched with his cursed hand of suck. I disagree that he was the right person for this material. B*y didn’t want to make this movie. He wanted to make the same movie he always makes, as you pointed out: military fetish porn, with long loving shots of weapons and the destruction they wreak and much film expended on the comrades-in-arms aspect. Now I love a good military movie, and the hardware is a big part of it, isn’t this movie about giant robots fighting?

***SPOILERS AHEAD*** The ‘high-tech’ hacking plot isn’t connected to the rest of the movie. Why do the human ‘characters’ get so much more screen time than the title characters? Why, when the second (first?) Decepticon (the bad guys, in case the movie put you in a coma before they mentioned that) went roboto-a-roboto with the first Autobot (the good guys), does Bay IMMEDIATELY CUT AWAY to the two human ‘characters’ fighting that godawfully-annoying mini-robot? I sat back agape as the first battle royale erupts and the director loses interest in the the title characters to show us the cardboard humans he’s created for himself. People were walking out during the ‘Bumblebee uses ’80s hits to help B*y’s alter-ego get some nookie’ scene. And Optimus Prime didn’t even get to vanquish Megatron. Oh no, that gets in the way of Bay’s teen-age fantasy. Who vanquishes the evil menace? Why, Bay’s stand-in, of course, the real hero of the film. It’s like Episode III ending with C3PO showing up and defeating Anakin because Obi-Wan wasn’t up to the task. I definitely didn’t pay to see Optimus Prime be proved inadequate next to Shia LeBeouf, no matter how appealing the latter was in Constantine.

Jason CabriAszi
Jason CabriAszi
Wed, Jul 04, 2007 4:19pm

1. It’s a movie based on a cartoon created by a toy company

2. It’s a movie

3. It’s a special effects summer blockbuster

Why don’t you idiots go critique pans labryinth or something. God you should all commit suicide.

Mike
Mike
Wed, Jul 04, 2007 9:37pm

Wow this generated a lot of comments. I guess fanboy movies always do. I pretty much agree with Jason’s post directly above me. It was summer popcorn movie, I had low expectations because I have a special place in my childhood for the super-cool transformers.
I thought the movie was great – way better than my expectations. The human characters were on screen too long, but they were at least entertaining, and I was suprised and happy that the robot war was as violent and exciting as it was. I mean, several transformers DIED, they had kick ass (realistic?) weaponry, and lots of people were mowed down in the process. I may be too much of a violence fan, but at least they didn’t cartoon it up with no one getting hurt, which is what I was expecting.

Mike
Mike
Wed, Jul 04, 2007 9:40pm

Oh yeah one more thing – MaryAnn got it right too – this was Mike Bay’s finest hour. Until he directs “The Ledgend of GI Joe”, I don’t see how he can top this.

Mike, Again
Mike, Again
Wed, Jul 04, 2007 9:44pm

and another thing…. as summer blockbusters go, Die Hard 4 was much sillier and way more unrealistic. Basically a couple of computer nerds, and eventually, just one nerd with a laptop take over the ENTIRE gov’t and commercial infrastructure of the united states. They even hack into an encrypted secure voice comm on an F-35 within seconds! At least Transformers had the alien techmo-thingys to explain their godlike computer powers.

Count Shrimpula
Thu, Jul 05, 2007 3:57am

I personally liked the super subtle product placement in the movie. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a Hummer H3, a Camaro, an X-Box 360, a Panasonic SD memory card, an Apple computer, and I’m going to drink some Mountain Dew while I purchase all of the above.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Thu, Jul 05, 2007 10:02am

Why don’t you idiots go critique pans labryinth or something. God you should all commit suicide.

This kind of “commentary” is not at all welcome here, Jason. If you’re not interested in discussing movies, then there’s no reason to come around here.

Die Hard 4 was much sillier and way more unrealistic

No, it isn’t.

Bryan
Bryan
Thu, Jul 05, 2007 3:46pm

I honestly can’t believe you people. This movie had everything you could ask for. There was plenty of great action. There was plenty of good popcorn comedy, the robots stomping around the yard and the car with the radio stations. The kid was phenomenal. He is us, the ones who grew up with Transformers and he gave the movie the human element and kept it grounded and from being just a special effects extravaganze. The GI Joe guy and the girl were also good too. The story didn’t get too deep. Sacrifice, heroism, government conspiracies. But not too much. And the robots were everything I could have hoped them to be. Optimus was perfect. Megatron was perfectly evil, ripping a robot in half and while chasing the kid around. How could you not feel for Bumblebee when he lost his legs?

Compare this movie to Spiderman 3 and Pirates 3, which were total let downs. People comparing Transformers to Batman and Robin? Did any of you actually watch Spiderman 3? Sandman was the only redeeming part of the movie. Pirates 3 did nothing to redeem Pirates 2 which totally destroyed the franchise. The first movie was an amazing fun popcorn movie. I don’t see much difference between the first Pirates and Transformers.

Bryan
Bryan
Thu, Jul 05, 2007 5:26pm

I just read your comment on the front page how the actor Shia Lebeouf reminded you of a young John Cusack. My gf and I said the same thing as we were watching the movie. Kudos.

Devestator
Devestator
Thu, Jul 05, 2007 10:11pm

This movie reminded me of the Power Rangers, except less action and more stupidity.

WCG
WCG
Fri, Jul 06, 2007 1:58am

MaryAnn

First off, I have just discovered your reviews and find them helpful and pretty insightful (with the exception of 300, a film I found crushingly disinteresting–but let’s agree to disagree). In any case, three cheers for Flick Filosopher.

I agree with you that the doofus approach to the story was a prudent one when it came to the robots, from the Jurassic Park-esque chases to Optimus Prime’s trite philosophizing (although I thought some of that might have been shooting for kitschy irony). The easy dichotomy underscored the conflict so we could focus on the spectacle without worrying about motivations.

However, I think in some ways the screenwriters restricted themselves to this approach by splicing a formulaic disaster movie between all the dust-ups. Unnecessary characters with little development and boring storylines took up valuable time we could have spent on getting to know the robots a bit better. We were so busy following the two teenagers (War Games and Deep Impact, anybody?) AND the interchangeable soldiers (Independence Day and Predator?) AND the two hackers (a pretty pointless Abbott and Costello routine they could have written around–by the way, was it just me or did these two just disappear at the end?) AND Jon Voight that the Autobots and Decepticons were both robbed of screen time. Also certain bits went on too long, such as John Turturro’s scenery-chewing and the Autobots moping around the back yard.

Why couldn’t this have been a bit more of the boy-and-his-machine movie? The only human story we really needed was Sam’s; Sgt. Bicep McGroinpull and his motley crew from Qatar were distracting. It could still have been a kick-ass action flick with T&A, but substitute the tired Secret Base With An Alien scene lifted straight from crapola like Independence Day and Stargate with some footage of Autobots interacting and learning about this strange new planet.

Keep up the good work!

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 06, 2007 5:57pm

Unnecessary characters with little development and boring storylines took up valuable time we could have spent on getting to know the robots a bit better.

Funniest thing I’ve heard all day!

WCG
WCG
Fri, Jul 06, 2007 8:18pm

Yeah, that does sound pretty pretty when you say it out loud. :) I liked it, but I dunno, I just thought the writing was lazy–no deep message needed, but the robots’ characters could have used a little more weight. Is giving a giant robot a rounded personality any sillier than giving one to Spider-Man or E.T.? If the movie is titled “Transformers”, shouldn’t it be more about them than recycled disaster flicks? What struck me as funny was that it reminded me so much of “Deep Impact”: as the creator of “Armageddon”, Bay aped the same bad movie twice.

The writers of the above threads seemed agitated that the movie somehow missed an opportunity to say something. Whatever. I was just bugged by the fact that I had a hard time caring what happened to anyone in the flick. I think a movie can lack a brain and still have a heart.

WCG
WCG
Fri, Jul 06, 2007 8:21pm

*pretty funny*

I suck at proofreading.

JSW
JSW
Fri, Jul 06, 2007 10:06pm

You know, I’d be interested to hear Maryann’s take on the original 1986 movie. Sure, its plot isn’t any more coherent than Bay’s flick, but it has a lot more heart and is impressive just for the sheer amound of stuff they managed to throw at the screen.

Where else can you see a movie set across six different planets, one of which is filled with armies of robot sharks under the command of five-faced aliens who enjoy carrying out mock trials for no readily-explainable reason, to a planet-wide scrapyard inhabited by robots voiced by Eric Idle who speak entirely in TV slogans and jingles and have a tendancy to spontaniously butst into song-and-dance numbers to Weird Al Yankovich songs, all leading up to a planet that eats other planets, transforms into a giant robot and is voiced by Orson Wells? Sure, none of it really makes any sense, but the sheer chaos of it all prevents you from noticing and any explanation would just diminish things anyway.

‘Till all are one!

JSW
JSW
Fri, Jul 06, 2007 10:10pm

Oh, an this is all to a soundtrack of 1980s hair metal (except for the Weird Al stuff, of course.) I just felt that needed pointing out.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Fri, Jul 06, 2007 11:07pm

Is giving a giant robot a rounded personality any sillier than giving one to Spider-Man or E.T.?

No, it isn’t. But those movies made all of their characters interested and well-rounded. None of the characters in *Transformers* are, except accidentally, as with Shia LaBeouf’s character, who is interesting only because the actor is.

You know, I’d be interested to hear Maryann’s take on the original 1986 movie.

Someone wants to send me a DVD, I’ll review it.

TTT
TTT
Sat, Jul 07, 2007 12:38am

I can’t believe some of the hackneyed, self-contradictory, would-be defenses of the 1986 Transformers movie I’m seeing on this page. So that movie “had heart”? It discussed themes such as “maturing” and “respect for elders”?

Bollocks. There is a difference between SAYING you will cover something and actually covering it. Hot Rod called Kup an “old timer,” that doesn’t actually say anything about inter-generational attitudes. It just means it was one of the relatively few lines of dialogue spoken amidst the prolonged brutal massacre of the entire 1984-85 cast so as to showcase all the 1986 product the kids were meant to want to buy (Galvatron, Ultra Magnus, Springer…) Don’t talk to me about “heart” when the story was expressly written to burn established characters on a pyre of greenbacks. Seriously, the entire point of the ’86 movie is to make kids stop wanting what they used to want, sever their emotional bonds, and instantly move on to the Next New Toy. At least Michael Bay tried to CREATE something instead of deliberately destroying it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am about as hardcore a Transfan as one can get, having followed faithfully since 1984 and *all the way through*, not like some fair-weather fans who got “too cool” for it around 1987 and only resumed paying attention to new story material once Bay’s name was announced 2 years ago. And I’m telling you, the Michael Bay movie is, by TF storytelling standards, remarkably clever, competent, and emotionally resonant.

Yes, it’s still dumb, to some extent deliberately. Transformers has always had to deal with that, even at its best. So do many other modern mythologies, including, very conspicuously, Star Wars. It ALL requires a heavy suspension of disbelief and the allowance of rampant goofiness, made possible by just liking how much fun you’re having.

MBI
MBI
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 3:52pm

It is time for me to admit, as a longtime reader of this site, that you and I share none of the same values, Flick Filosopher. We have no common ground.

Jesus Christ, I don’t remember you giving the Charlie’s Angels movies a pass. What the hell changed?

amanohyo
amanohyo
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 5:42pm

Well, I can’t speak with the authority of some of the true, hardcore TF fans here, but I can say that whatever its original marketing purposes were, the “prolonged brutal masacre” of the original movie made me care more, not less, about the old cast. And although when I take off my nostalgia goggles and watch the original movie, it’s not the gripping dramatic masterpiece it was when I was 11, I still feel swept up in an interesting and detailed world. I still feel emotionally involved at key moments in the script.

However you feel about the soulless wreck of the new movie, no one can deny that the original movie was far more ambitious in its emotional reach. At the very least, the original movie was, in fact, about the Transformers. The center of this new movie is not the Transformers, it is Sam, and his story is an extremely boring one. When the fight between Megs and Prime started I thought, “Finally! An action scene I actually care about.” I don’t want to spoil the majesty for anyone, but let’s just say that the audience isn’t given a whole lot to care about.

TTT says that this new movie is “by TF storytelling standards, remarkably clever, competent, and emotionally resonant.” Maybe we were watching different shows growing up, but I seem to remember the Transformers having actual personalities, personalities that contributed to the plot. What exactly are the remarkably clever and emotionally resonant aspects of this movie? The score certainly wants us to feel something so badly as Bumblebee crawls around and whimpers, but we don’t. The Iron Giant can make me break down in tears with a single word, and I wouldn’t bat an eye if Megatron ripped apart every Autobot in this movie with his bare hands..er claw…things.

No, the only possible defence of the movie is that Bay isn’t trying (or is incapable, or both) to make anything deep or original or emotionally involving, so it’s unfair of us to expect it from him. There’s certainly a time for stupid fun, but as it turns out, this movie isn’t even fun (unles you’re a special effects geek, then it’s short bursts of fun between vast wastelands of boredom). No, for most of us, it’s incredibly, mind-numbingly boring and forgettable. Maybe loud noises and lots of moving parts that serve no purpose wrapped around a script written by a twelve year old are enough to convince most people that they are being entertained… I guess so. But us old-fashioned movie lovers need to care about the characters (even the robots that the movie is named after) before we can find any fun in all the intricate, expensive stupidity.

Now, I do understand that many people do, in fact find the movie to be good, stupid entertainment. I guess I just think it’s sad that people have sunk to the point where they will happily give their time and money to be entertained by stupidity when so much of it is readily available, free of charge all around us.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 6:07pm

Jesus Christ, I don’t remember you giving the Charlie’s Angels movies a pass. What the hell changed?

Nothing’s changed. What does a movie about giant alien robots beating the crap out of one another have to do with idiot bimbo Barbie dolls beating the crap out of men?

MBI
MBI
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 6:48pm

If there’s a significant difference between “Charlie’s Angels” and “Transformers,” I’d like to know what it is.

MaryAnn
MaryAnn
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 6:52pm

One is about giant robots, which don’t exist. It is complete and utter fantasy. The other is an anti-feminst nightmare, PG-13 porn masquerading as “female empowerment.” That’s a hugely significant difference.

PaulW
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 9:28pm

The things I liked about the movie:
1) the small details like Bumblebee’s fuzzy air freshner labeled “Bee-otch” and Barricade’s sticker “To Punish and Enslave.” That last one got the biggest laughs at my theater.
2) John Tuturro taking his role WAAAAY too seriously.
3) Optimus Prime’s voice. Just hearing Cullen speak made me weep with joy (touched with melancholy, which is possible you know).
4) Autobots trying to hide in someone’s backyard.
5) Megan Fox looking like a younger sister to Jennifer Connelly. But maybe that’s just me…

Things I hated:
1) The final battle sequences got too hard to keep up, you couldn’t tell which robot was fighting which. When one of the robots died you couldn’t tell who it was.
2) Not enough sniping between Megatron and Starscream. Literally and figuratively.
3) The fact that the Allspark kept making ‘evil’ violent robots whenever it accidentally touched earth tech. They could have shown the Allspark healing BB’s vocal system, or spawning mini-robot kittens that purred, alongside creating destructive soda machines.
4) Megatron as airplane? Seriously? He’s either been a gun (unfeasible in the movie) or a tank (which would have made more sense).
5) When Megatron and Optimus finally threw down roboto-a-roboto, they didn’t show much of it. And the monologuing was a tad trite.

Overall, I liked the movie. I didn’t love it, but at least it didn’t rape my childhood.

Now, if they can make Arcee out as a PT Cruiser for the sequel. ;)

PaulW
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 9:33pm

Getting a copy of the animated Transformers movie from 1986? Well, I checked the NY Public Library catalog and… wait they don’t have it?! Nertz. Well maybe you can request a copy via ILL…

MBI
MBI
Sun, Jul 08, 2007 10:53pm

Okay, I’ll grant you that Charlie’s Angels is much higher on the sexism scale. But I think that Transformers more than makes up for it in blatant racism. Even without the racism and sexism, both are unfuckingwatchable. I mean, I like dumb movies too, but there are degrees of dumb, not all dumb is created equal. This is unjustifiable. I can’t believe people are defending this movie. It has an 8.2 on IMDB. Don’t people believe in anything anymore?

I want to scream.

I need a drink.

Philidor
Philidor
Mon, Jul 09, 2007 2:03am

After a good beginning – an approaching aircraft worked well in Carpenter’s The Thing, and it worked again here even without shooting at a dog – the movie bogged down in nonsense.

The opening establishes a killer robot which has destroyed an army base effortlessly, shooting rays like the Tripods in War of the Worlds. The next robot smashes glass in a car dealership to encourage purchase by the lead kid. The anti-Christine?

Why is the robot interested in the kid’s love life? And how does it already know the kid’s importance to the plot when, as it happens, the evil robots have to use a nasty little gremlin with R2D2’s computer skills to find the information?

That little robot is like something else I’ve seen in a movie, but that hasn’t come to me yet. I’m pleased I caught the empty building from Blade Runner, even without the dripping water, but…

This movie was a quiz for recollection of other movies.

The only very clever idea was throwing open a rusty old gate, walking in, and shortly finding a new, huge, well-lit, fully-staffed building with no visible parking lots.

And the robot battles. What robot battles? Much approach, instantaneous contact, and then pieces or whole combatatants flying off destructively. That’s not a battle; that’s Superman 2 with fewer grimaces.

The movie was over after the mistake of having the mechanical scorpion out of Ray Harryhausen stand in the open to be shot by the arriving planes instead of following through on its intent to charge among the buildings and make its long-delayed capture of escapees from the destroyed base.

I wanted that movie to be what it thought it was, a lot of action with a few humans. But under the end credits were the true stars of the movie, the characters who insisted on showing their personalities, the ones whose reactions were the real emotional center. The kid’s parents, of course.

Uhm… I was disappointed.

Kyfas
Kyfas
Wed, Jul 11, 2007 1:13pm

(This comment is also based on reviews i’ve seen in other sites)

Well, for a start, i must say that i’m 18, a so i saw very litle of transformers when i was a kid (but yes, i still remember a few images). I’m therefore not comparing this movie with the cartoons. I just see it for what it is. And i absolutely LOVED it!

I understand if someone doesn’t like it. No movie pleases everyone in the world, but it rather anoyed me some arguments used by people who didn’t like it.

Most of people who didn’t like it, seem to be desapointed with the lack of action, saying it was death boring, and that it was not an inteligent movie..

Well, by ‘action’ you must meen meaningless violence. In other words, you wanted to see te transformers figth each other from the begining to the end, as i get the impression from this quotes:

“If only they could cut everything else out but the scenes involving the transformers fighting and maybe I’d watch it again…”

and

“The plot should have been simple.. Transformers crashland on earth. Megatron sees potential in this planet and tries to enslave everybody. Human armies are crushed, cities are destroyed. The autobots are earths final hope. Theres a big clash between autobots and decepticons. The autobots are initially defeated. Then Starscream backstabs Megatron and the decepticons are weakened and Prime comes and saves the day. And the only humans in the movie are the ones who are stepped upon or the ones who get blown away.”

(what a nice picture of the human kind…)

Sorry, but that wouldn’t have worked at all. A good movie must have balance. And too much figthing scenes CAN be boring (LOTR- Two Towers: figthing sequence -> most boring part of the film. Too long, too tiring.)

In fact, i enjoied seing the transformers most when they were not figthing. Figthing scenes in this movie can get a bit blury. I hope they make it beter in the next one.

As for the humans, i thougth great to give them a litke more credit, because this is OUR planet, and there’s milions of us around here, and we are NOT defenceless. It was great that in this movie they showed that we cat make serious damage to the decepticons.

You shouldn’t get too tied to the past and to the cartoons. Some times, a movie works better (or at last, works well enough) if its not too similar to the original series. (Some remakes, like The Count of Monte Cristo, worked quite well.) And i don’t remember such a negative reaction to the fact that Final Fantasy had nothing to do with the computer games that gave it it’s name…

But back to Transformers. The humor! Whatever you say, this movie is FUNNY! End of story.

Well, for those of you who didn’t like it, and say that the ones that liked it don’t give good arguments, i hope i did. If not, feel free to criticize.