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Surprisingly watchable!

  • Oct 19, 2007
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Throughout the mid-1980's, I always made it a point to get home from school as quickly as possible to watch channel 11, KSTW, as they showed Transformers - First Season Collector's Edition. It was one of my favorite shows, though I owned hardly any of the toys.

I largely forgot about my favorite robots until 1999 when a friend of mine turned me on to Beast Wars Transformers - The Complete First Season, which had mildly good animation and incredibly good plots (gotta love that Dinobot! And Waspinator? One of my favorites. Plus the return of Ravage, Starscream (more or less), and shots of the inside of the Autobot ark! What's not to like?). When some of the other Transformers spin-offs came along, I lost interest, but I did buy, and enjoy, several of the toys. At one point I owned about 120 different Transformers toys and liked 'em all!

So you can imagine how pleased I was when I heard about a live action Transformers movie from Steven Speilberg and how horrified I was when I heard Michael Bay would be directing.

I am, as people who have read my reviews of Armageddon and Pearl Harbor (Two-Disc 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition) are aware, no great fan of Michael Bay. I consider him, in fact, to be one of the worst directors of the last 20 years or so. I'm sure there are people who are worse than him, but they seldom get the budgets he does, and thus aren't able to inflict their horror on the wider world.

In a recent "South Park" episode, there were some people talking to Michael Bay about his ideas of a plot of a movie. He kept talking about great special effects and things blowing up, and they kept trying to explain to him that he was talking about SFX and not plot. He said he didn't know the difference. Sighing, one of the men said, "We know, Mister Bay. We know." That sums up what might be called the "Michael Bay School of Filmmaking".

"Transformers" combines all the best aspects of a Michael Bay film (things getting blowed up real good), with all the worst aspects of a Michael Bay film (paper-thin plot, horrible characterization, idiodic attempts at KOMEDY! (consult my review of Cheaper by the Dozen for an explaination of the difference between "comedy" and "KOMEDY!") and, by my count, at least FIVE shots of an aircraft in flight with an orange filter shot against the sun. This is apparently Michael Bay's signature shot, and it's very, very annoying). The fact that the film succeeds as much as it does is, I feel, something it does in spite of everything Michael Bay could do to drag it down.

This movie is at its best when it concentrates on either a: the Transformers, or b: the relationship between Sam and his girlfriend (or, at least in my mind, the other guy, Miles, who seemed to want to be Sam's boyfriend... I could just be reading into it, however). The robots are incredibly well-rendered and hearing Peter Cullen do the voice of Optimus Prime is something to make every fan-boy cheer!

The film fails badly, however, when it explores what we shall laughingly call sub-plots (much more sub than plot). There are so many pointless, useless, tacked on characters. Off the top of my head, the black hacker, the "Section Seven" guy and, sadly, Jazz, who, *** SPOILER ALERT! ***, seemed to exist only to be killed off, thus making this YET ANOTHER film where the black character dies first.

I was also confused by how close Hoover Dam appears to be to Los Angeles, how a government organization founded in the 1920's gets a very modern name like "Section Seven" and how Sam's parents are apparently so deaf, blind and stupid as to not see/hear the Autobots in their backyard (Dad thought it was an earthquake?! Come on, now. I've lived in So Cali. When an earthquake happens, it doesn't feel like anything else). I was also very, very annoyed by the whole "The government knew about this all along and covered it up!" idea because that's, you know, stupid.

My only other complaints are that the fight in Los Angles, when I saw it on the big screen, actually left me feeling vaguely overwhelmed and slightly hypnotised. My brain could not process everything that I was seeing. I'm not the sort of person who has seizures caused by strobe lights, but too many more viewings of the film on a big screen might change that.

Lastly I was miffed about Megatron. He had very, very little screen time, almost no characterization and was not voiced by Frank Welker. Yes, Hugo Weaving did a fine job, though I wouldn't have known it was him if I wasn't told, but it's just not the same. Plus he didn't really DO anything much, other than break stuff. Megatron should be more than that.

Despite the flaws, this is a very entertaining film and, as the headline says, surprisingly watchable. I am very much looking forward to the sequel (let's get Soundwave, Shockwave and Grimlock onto the screen!), but I really hope Michael Bay gets kept far, far away from it. I don't think my brain can handle another of his movies.

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C R Swanson ()
Ranked #59
   I'm an aspiring writer and reviewer. I run a blog, I'm working on a novel and spend my free time reading and playing video games. I also spend waaaaay too much time and money on movies. … 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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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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