16 11 2007

TransformersMichael Bay is not the most hated filmmaker amongst film geeks — that title goes to the hapless Uwe Boll — but it’s a close call. Bay is the man who brought us such cinematic gems as Bad Boys and The Rock, both of which are the sort of movies that are slick but empty, providing the focus group-driven ingredients for blockbusters without supplying any kind of soul or vision. In short, Bay’s style epitomises crass commercialism at its most artistically bereft.

So it’s an incredible irony that Bay seems to have redeemed himself with Transformers, a film based on a line of toys of all things. Bay’s film not only delivers on its promise of a fun popcorn movie, it revels in its frivolity; this is the film that the abysmal Independence Day wanted so desperately to be, all those years ago.

As the Transformers mythology goes, two warring factions of giant alien robots — the benevolent Autobots and the evil Decepticons — left their homeworld of Cybertron for Earth, where their eternal battle continues. Here they take the forms of ordinary vehicles and devices: leading the Autobots is Optimus Prime, a heroic figure who transforms into a truck and gets to pontificate about freedom and the virtues of humanity, while heading the Decepticons is Megatron, who used to transform into a gun but in the film appears as a jet.

Any man who was a pre-teen in the mid-to-late ’80s probably knows all of this anyway. If nothing else, we all watched the animated series and have some vague expectations for the characterisation of each Transformer, particularly Prime and Megatron, but also fan favourites such as Bumblebee and Starscream. By and large, these characters are recreated fairly faithfully, but it’s true that the humans, not the Transformers, are the focus of the film.

Having the humans dominate proceedings would perhaps have been more problematic were the script not as fun or engaging as it is. There are moments of humour and whimsy sprinkled throughout the film that only occasionally fall flat — Bernie Mac in particular has a cameo that is absolutely hilarious (though potentially offensive to some). Full credit must be given, however, to Shia LaBeouf, who essentially carries Transformers during its slower scenes through sheer charisma alone. Also always nice to see is John Turturro in a supporting role, but the appearance of Jon Voight has to be the most surreal bit of casting since Orson Welles voiced Unicron in the animated Transformers film 21 years ago.

Of course, it’s the third act where the real robot-on-robot action occurs, and this is the payoff for all the exposition of the prior 90 minutes. A kinetic energy takes hold, and suddenly you’re watching two robots destroy the entire floor of an office building, for example, causing destruction and mayhem on such a scale that you can’t help but be awestruck. One can only assume that the sequel will be even bigger.

Transformers still

Sure, there’s a plot that’s buried beneath all this, involving metallic cubes, sexy love interests and pairs of glasses on eBay, but it’s just window-dressing to introduce the premise of this new franchise. Ordinarily, I’d feel insulted by this, but it’s done with such good humour that it’s hard to fault the film for not aspiring towards high art.

Maybe Steven Spielberg (as executive producer) is responsible for Transformers‘ sense of childlike giddiness; I don’t know. All I know is, it succeeds at being a fun and entertaining movie, and that’s all it should need to be.

(star)(star)(star)(half-a-star)(no star)



6 responses

17 11 2007
Kevin Olsen

Great article, though to say Bay’s doesn’t utilize “soul or vision,” and has become artistically bereft is a tad over-judgemental.

To be honest, too many movies have ruined themselves with over-dramatic attempts at “soul.” Minority Report is a perfect example. Cruise’s character was too extreme, his depression over his son was so wrenching that it jerked the film out of proportion.

Though Bay may be more superficial than most, he’s hardly shallow.

17 11 2007

Well, I agree about Minority Report, but I don’t really mean “soul” as in sentimentality. What I’m talking about is an attempt at communicating some sort of personal artistic vision.

That said, what I’ve come to realise is that Bay is very good at what he does nonetheless. What separates Transformer from his other work is that, indeed, it doesn’t even pretend to be something greater, which makes it that much easier to accept.

22 05 2010
Star Trek « Dion at the Flicks

[…] and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who also brought us The Island (2005) and Transformers (2007)), this is obviously not going to be deep or thought-provoking. With those names behind it, […]

8 04 2014
best humidifier

I got this web site from my pal who shared with me concerning this website and at the moment this
time I am visiting this web site and reading very informative articles at this place.

13 04 2014

Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back!
LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

10 05 2014
livres mobi

I think this is one of the most significant information for me.

And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark
on some general things, The website style is perfect, the articles is really excellent : D.
Good job, cheers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: