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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Transformers » User review

Not Bad... and That's Saying A LOT for Michael Bay

  • Sep 27, 2009
Rating:
+3
Now, if you know me here on Lunch then there's one thing you probably learned about me early on... I love to hate Michael Bay.  Yet I couldn't stay away from Transformers the first time.  I began hearing from some of my friends that it was actually good.  They're not big on Michael Bay either.  In short, part of the reason I saw it was because I wanted to tell my friends that Michael Bay probably just made a movie with no plot and just put together a bunch of action scenes.  For the most part, I was right, but the movie wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.  Nor was it anywhere near as good as everyone kept saying.  But to be fair, this is Michael Bay we're talking about.  The man who's whole career has been based off of showing his cast and crew a screenshot of  fireball and says, "THIS is what we're making."  

The whole story arc of Transformers is pretty simple.  By now most everyone knows it, but it's never too late to recap some details.  In 1897 Sam's grandfather (I won't even try to spell their last name) stumbled upon a frozen robot in the ice that turned out to be Megatron.  The incident leaves his glasses marked with a small map that will lead the Decepticons to the All Spark.  Enter Optimus Prime and the Autobots who are also looking for the All Spark which was found by President Hoover and taken in by the US Government.  Years later in 2007, Sam is trying to sell the glasses on ebay so that he can get enough money to buy a car.  What Sam doesn't know is those glasses contain the secrets of the whereabouts of the All Spark.  In the end it's simple.  There's the All Spark... and the Autobots have to get to it before the Decepticons do.

It's at least good to see that Michael Bay is trying for a plot.  And he even tries to get it to make sense.  There's a lot of story an exposition for a Michael Bay film.  It's not filled to the brim with a lot of crappy sappy moments like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor... but it is filled with an unusual amount of action like those Bad Boys movies (especially near the end).  Despite trying, Michael Bay still has a lot of stuff to work out, even with Transformers.  The sad part is that Transformers actually is one of Michael Bay's best films... but when your resume has Pearl Harbor on it anything else you put out there seems good (except for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen).  

The biggest complaint most Transformers fans have about the film is that it isn't really about the Transformers.  And it's not.  One theory suggests that Michael Bay wasn't really interested in the show as a whole.  He was just interested in the toys.  He doesn't do too much to make references to the classic show in 80's, but he makes sure you can recognize some of your favorite robots in disguise.  If you look at it from the standpoint that he was only looking at the toys, however, then it seems forgiveable.  After all, if it's just the toys there's not much he can work with in that case.  It would be like making a movie based on LEGOs... or Tetris.  What can you do?  On the other hand, Transformers fans have a different theory.  Sure the movie is based on the toys but even then there's a lot out there Michael Bay could've drawn inspiration from.  Not just the television show, but also several comics and other films.  And if you actually look at these things the humans don't do much. 

This is where discussing Transformers becomes a point of contention.  It's about the humans.  It isn't about the robots.  That's why so many fans are upset over what Bay has done.  For all the time Michael Bay spends developing Sam (Shia Lebouf) he never dedicates much time at all to the Autobots or Decepticons. 

There are also other characters thrown in, but they're not really important.  Megan Fox stars as the love interest but Megan Fox is just there doing what she does best... looking good.  But is she really all that important to the story as a whole?  Well, no.  As I like to say, Michael Bay seems more about directing teenage boy fantasies than about making movies.  Megan Fox plays a character that would be almost any teenage boys dream.  She's pretty, knows about cars and even makes nerds feel like they have a shot.  But in terms of pushing anything for the movie she doesn't do much.  She doesn't even serve to develop the main character much.  That's great for the guys in the audience and those who actually like Megan Fox (she at least does more here than she does in the sequel). 

Yet I'll give Michael Bay credit for trying.  The plot is a little convoluted and doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  There's a surprisingly large amount of plot and exposition for Michael Bay who usually just decides to throw metal objects in a blender and see what comes out.  So much so in fact, that we are introduced to a lot of characters.  And while Megan Fox doesn't really matter to the plot, a whole string of other characters does.  Dare I say, I was actually interested in what was going to happen to the main characters involved.  Shia Lebouf is actually charismatic on screen and looks like he's having fun.  John Turturro also does a marvelous job.  In short, Transformers isn't much for what plot it tries to have, but unlike the second film in the franchise you're at least having fun with it.  We can go along for the ride.  We come to like some of the characters and we also come to enjoy some of the humor presented throughout.  At times I was in disbelief I was watching a Michael Bay film.  Because it seemed like for once he was actually trying to make a good film. 

Trying.

That's all destroyed when we hit the last twenty minutes and Michael Bay finally realized, "Oh crap, we haven't had very many explosions or anything in this movie.  Damn, we even had a plot.  We'll fix that!"  And then he opts for complete and total implausibility as the final fight between the Autobots, Decepticons and Humans takes place on the streets in the middle of the day (and then Michael Bay prayed we would all be struck with a sudden case of amnesia so that we'd forget any of this ever happened when he made the second film).  How it is that the military can do such a bang up job fighting huge robots is beyond me.  And within this huge climatic showdown, Michael Bay makes all the huge downfalls he's often known for.  Not just implausible action but he tries to throw in all this melodrama.  Particularly between Shia's character Sam and Megan Fox's character Mikaela.  We knew they'd get together and all, but it's still this idea that it's not like Mikaela was developed much in the first place.  Again, Michael Bay quickly devolves his film into being about a teenage boy fantasy.

You might get the impression that I'm not a big fan of action films.  I am.  Just not action which opts to ignore it's characters and whatnot.  The reason action flicks like Die Hard and The Bourne Series are so remarkable is because even in the middle of the action we're hoping for their safety and even wondering how they'll get out of the situations they're in.  Who wasn't on the edge of their seat during that first Die Hard movie?  Who didn't want to discover Jason Bourne's past as much as he did?  The answer to both of these questions is very few.  Yet within Transformers final showdown you never get the sense the characters are in any real danger... even with civilization seeming to collapse all around them.  

It's also ironic because Michael Bay tries very hard to gauge emotion from the audience here.  He tries so very hard.  He kills off one of the Autobots... and we'd actually care if the film was actually about the Autobots in the first place.  What I'm saying is that the movie actually started off well and then quickly devolved into being everything Michael Bay has ever done.  As it first began I wanted to go along with the ride.  He was building up some of his characters, making sure his audience understood the situation at hand.  And despite the plot being a little convoluted took time to flesh it out.  I didn't actually mind the film being long until that final showdown.  Surely, I thought, even Michael Bay wouldn't throw his characters under the bus after taking so much time to make sure we actually got to know them.  But he does.  In part because this final showdown is among the first moments where he actually makes the move about the goddamn Transformers!  But GETTING to that moment it was all about the humans.  So yeah, the HUMAN characters mostly well developed (except Megan Fox, but Bay was more interested in her cleavage anyway), but otherwise it was actually kind of... boring.  

Most will still get a kick out of it.  There are still lots of action scenes that are fairly well done.  And it's hard to deny the fantastic CGI and the humor.  While those last twenty minutes or so are nothing special getting to that moment there's actually... well, structure of some kind.  And that's REALLY saying a lot for Michael Bay who usually litters his films with plot holes big enough to fly an airliner through.

So is it worth it?  Sure.  It's fun.  Not great, but fun.  It's really not bad.  If you're a Michael Bay hater, though, it may be hard to overlook some of the films most dire shortcomings, though.

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August 29, 2010
Well, now, this is a lot of info, Sean, and I like in-depth reviews. Good job in steering me away from this one...but then again, you say it's fun...so... perhaps??? Thx for sharing.
August 29, 2010
If it comes on TV or something then maybe it's worth checking out.  I can't say buy it, though...
 
July 28, 2010
Wow - am I the only one who actually loved this movie!!?? Maybe it was because I was expecting NOT to like it all; transformers were toys my son used to play with, and had no appeal to me until my hubby wanted to see it and I loved it. I agree with Woo that the battles were chaotic at times, I couldn't tell who was who, but I did fall for Bumblebee (who in their right mind gets tears when you see a car being demolished and think he's dead?!?!?) LOL but I thought it was highly entertaining. I did not like sequel as well though. Great review, although I am glad I didn't read it before I watched it!!
 
September 29, 2009
I agree with everything you've said about this movie. This was fun...the characters were really weak and caricaturish, the robot battles were too chaotic that it was hard to tell who was who. My fave Bay film is "The Rock", but then again, I think Bruckheimer had a lot to do with it.
 
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #6
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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A long time ago, far away on the planet of Cybertron, a war was being waged between the noble Autobots (led by the wise Optimus Prime) and the devious Decepticons (commanded by the dreaded Megatron) for control over the Allspark, a mystical talisman that would grant unlimited power to whoever possessed it. The Autobots managed to smuggle the Allspark off the planet, but Megatron blasted off in search of it. He eventually tracked it to the planet of Earth (circa 1850), but his reckless desire for power sent him right into the Arctic Ocean, and the sheer cold forced him into a paralyzed state. His body was later found by Captain Archibald Witwicky, and before going into a comatose state Megatron used the last of his energy to engrave a map, showing the location of the Allspark, into the Captain's glasses, and send a transmission to Cybertron. He is then carted away by the Captain's ship. A century later, Sam Witwicky, nicknamed Spike by his friends, buys his first car. To his shock, he discovers it to be Bumblebee, an Autobot in disguise who is to protect Spike, as he bears the Captain's glasses and the map carved on them. But Bumblebee is not the only Transformer to have arrived on Earth - in the desert of Qatar, the Decepticons Blackout and Scorponok attack a U.S. military base, causing the Pentagon to send their special Sector Seven agents to capture all "specimens of this alien race," and Spike and his girlfriend Mikaela find themselves in the middle...
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Details

Cast: Colin Fickes, Michael O'Neill, Anthony Anderson, Robert Foxworth, Glenn Morshower, Jon Voight, Bob Stephenson, Rachael Taylor, Bernie Mac, J.P. Manoux, John Robinson, John Turturro, Rick Gomez, Hugo Weaving, Darius McCrary, Tyrese Gibson, Amaury Nolasco, Chris Ellis, Jess Harnell, Steven Ford, Craig Barnett, Kevin Dunn, Shia LaBeouf, Andy Milder, Travis Van Winkle, Samantha Smith, Zack Ward, Odette Yustman, Johnny Sanchez, Tom Lenk, Michael Shamus Wiles, Charlie Adler, Peter Cullen, Colleen Porch, Mike Fisher, Wiley M. Pickett, Julie White, Jason White, Peter Jacobson, Sean Smith, Brian Stepanek, Esther Scott, Carlos Moreno, Jr., Reno Wilson, Mark Ryan, W. Morgan Sheppard, Rizwan Manji, Josh Duhamel, Ronnie Sperling, Jamison Yang, Megan Fox, Luis Echagarruga, Patrick Mulderrig, Brian Shehan, Michael Trisler, Ashkan Kashanchi, Jimmie Wood, C.J. Thomason, Lt. Frederic Doss, Charlie Bodin, Josh Feinman, Brian Prescott, Scott Peat, Jamie McBride, Brian Reece, Ravi Patel, Andy Dominguez, Madison Mason, Jeremy Jojola, Jessica Kartalija, Andrew Altonji, Andrew Caldwell, Pete Gardner, Sophie Bobal, Laurel Garner, Chip Hormess, Ray Toth, Dan Ferris, Michael Adams, Ron Henry, Benjamin Hoffman, Michael McNabb, Adam Ratajczak, Maya Klayn, Michelle Pierce, Jim Wood
Director: Michael Bay
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: July 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman
DVD Release Date: October 16th 2007/September 2nd 2008 (Blu-ray)
Runtime: 2hrs 20min
Studio: Dreamworks PIctures, Paramount Pictures
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