Transformers (2007): ***
Directed by Michael Bay
There were many things I really enjoyed in this
movie. There were also just about as many things that were completely
cringe-worthy. Ultimately, though, I enjoyed the enjoyable bits
more than I hated the cringe-worthy bits, and so I overall give
this movie a positive review. With lots of reservations.
First off, I have to say that I really liked the focus of this
movie. Spielberg got it right when he said that ultimately this
movie should be about a boy and his car. And so it is. The central
core relationship in the movie is between Spike (called "Sam"
in the film) and Bumblebee. Sam is a boy on the verge of manhood—he's
about to get his first car. That car, of course, turns out to be
Bumblebee. The relationship that grows between them throughout the
course of the film is the central emotional core of almost everything;
if it didn't work, the film wouldn't work. Thankfully it does work,
and works very well, mostly because Shia LeBouf plays Sam in such
an enjoyable, self-effacing, charismatic way that Sam was instantly
likable, instantly identifiable, and instantly believable. LeBouf
grounds the movie. And he's frikkin' hilarious.
Optimus Prime, when he's eventually introduced into the film, is
also one of the highlights, especially with the relationship he
develops with Sam. Towards the end of the film when Optimus calls
Sam "Son," it's surprisingly gratifying. Also being voiced
by Peter Cullen, the original cartoon voice actor, helped immensely.
I really liked the way you got to see the effect of the Transformers
on the world. One of my biggest complaints with the Matrix sequels
was that we stopped seeing the world of the Matrix through the eyes
of the average Joe. But by focusing on the human element the film
actually has an epic feel to it. All the military and governmental
stuff also feels rather accurate (could be because they actually
filmed inside the actual real-life Pentagon) and helps ground this
outlandish, fantastic story with a sense of realism, a sense that
it actually takes place in the real world (as opposed to the Pirates
of the Caribbean trilogy, which as it goes on gradually distances
itself further and further from the real world).
I liked the "mythology" they invented for the movie.
I found the idea of "The Cube" interesting—like
a combination of the Matrix of Leadership from the animated movie
and the Allspark from the Beast Wars cartoons (it is, in fact, referred
to as the "Allspark" in this movie). I enjoyed the backstory
with Megatron and Sam's grandfather and an important pair of antique
glasses. Good stuff.
And, so help me, I really enjoyed John Turturro's character. I
just thought he was fall-down funny. I really liked Sam's parents
as well. And I thought that Megan Fox did a very commendable job
of putting some actual, three-dimensional personality into the thankless,
sexpot character of Mikaela (Carly in the cartoon). Her relationship
with Sam and Bumblebee plays out very well, and in the end you actually
come to sympathize with and root for her. Plus she looked at times
remarkably like a young Jennifer Connelly, which is never a bad
There were several mark-out moments as well, such as an important
story section taking place at Hoover Dam (where Prime & Megatron
fought each other in the pilot miniseries of the cartoon). That
was cool to see. There are also some great old-school lines of dialogue,
such as when Megs says, "You disappoint me yet again, Starscream."
And when during the final climax Ops says to Megs, "One shall
stand and one shall fall," I and my movie-going cohort said
it out loud with him. Also both Megs and Ops transform their hands
into energy weapons that were similar to the ones used during that
fateful fight on top of Hoover Dam in the cartoon.
So all good stuff, yeah? Yeah. Well...
Any scene with the portable CD boom-box (credited as being "Frenzy")
was difficult to watch without retching. And there were a LOT of
them. Ungodly, unfunny humor came pouring out of that character
in an unceasing stream of cinematic bile. Just awful. And why does
the Cybertronian language sound like a cross between Jawa and Ewok?
That really bugged me.
That blond Australian hacker lady was just bad. What purpose did
she serve in the movie? All she did was introduce Anthony Anderson's
hacker character (who I thought was actually very funny, but I've
always been a fan of Anderson). Every line of dialogue that woman
utters just fails absolutely. She is not in the least bit believable
at any point during the film. Speaking of bad dialogue, the opening
scene of the soldiers on their transport was goddawful. Cliché
upon cliché upon cliché. And those characters don't
really improve all that much as the movie goes on. They're very
cardboard and wooden. And there was a very strange, sudden, and
unexplained shifting of alliances at the beginning of the third
act, where they just all of a sudden all simultaneously decide (without
even discussing it) that they're going to throw their lot in with
Sam and Bumblebee and all point their guns at their superiors. Very
poorly done scene.
Also, I recommend that you cover your ears and close your eyes
for the first minute or so of the film. Like Dark City,
an unnecessary opening monologue was added to this film that gives
away a ton of plot material that is organically all brought up again
later in the film. Like Dark City, this film is much better
The biggest failure of the movie, though, was the Transformers
themselves. There's the fact that, apart from Bumblebee and Optimus
Prime, none of the other transformers really have differentiable
personalities. What, honestly can you say are the differences between
Ratchet, Ironhide, and Jazz, OTHER than Ironhide is British and
Jazz is a deep-voiced black man (Darius McCrary)? They're all, even
Ratchet, just vaguely "aggressive." And Jazz can breakdance
and says "bitches." This has a lot to do with the fact
that they're not even introduced into the film until the half-way
mark, and then most of the focus is on Prime. But, still, it isn't
that hard to write different, distinct personality types. The Decepticons
suffer even worse from this lack of differentness, but this is mostly
because they have even less screen time than their Autobot cousins.
Some of them only have one or two lines of dialogue in the entire
The film is generally well directed until the action scenes start,
and then we're thrust head-first into Michael Bay's patented "confuse-o-vision"
technique of directing action sequences. The action was very poorly
plotted out, for the most part don't flow well, and usually had
very little actual purpose in the movie. They might as well have
just cut to a black screen with the word "ACTION" written
on it for five or six minutes, and then cut back to the movie; it
would have been just about as effective as having to actually watch
the mostly-pointless action scenes. And the character design of
the robots did not help matters at all. Most of the action sequences
consisted of two confusingly-designed robots running at each other,
then there's a big, shaky, incomprehensible tangle of automobile
parts and what looked like metal spaghetti, and then somehow one
of the robots would come out the victor. Anyone who wants to direct
action scenes should just sit down and watch The Incredibles
over and over again. That movie had very intricate action scenes,
and there were no parts where it was at all confusing as to what
was going on, where characters were, or what they were doing (even
when they were moving at 90 miles an hour). Inexcusable.
Also, an Autobot pees on a man. He pees on a man!
I find it very strange that I saw a movie called Transformers,
the worst thing about the movie was the Transformers themselves,
and yet I'm still giving it a positive review. It's only because
the human element in the film, especially Shia LeBouf, are so very,
very good. Seriously, Shia is phenomenal.
Best single line of dialogue in the movie: when Barricade has Sam
pinned against another car and screams at him, "Where is the
A couple of interesting implications in the movie: Transformers
can change what they transform into at will (both Bumblebee and
Frenzy change their "vehicle" mode). Also, being evil
seems to be the natural state of the Transformers—when the Allspark
brings to life a cell phone, a car, and a vending machine, they
all instantly start acting completely evil. If this is the case,
then the Autobots would seem to be the real renegades of the Transformer