REVIEW: Transformers [2007]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 144 minutes | Release Date: July 3rd, 2007 (USA)
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Director(s): Michael Bay
Writer(s): Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman / John Rogers and Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman (story)

“More than meets the eye”

Michael Bay is by no means a director for whom I hold each new film with anticipation. The man doesn’t do subtlety and he doesn’t do intelligent storytelling either. However, you cannot say he doesn’t have both artistic vision and deft skill at shooting a film. Sure the guy likes to blow things up. But being able to consistently make work with the amount of preparation and choreography his necessitates deserves some credit. When the idea of a live action Transformers movie was being bandied about with Steven Spielberg‘s name attached, I will admit I was intrigued while also perplexed by the directing choice. It was only when Spielberg went to the producing side and brought Bay on to helm the action that I finally started to get excited. I knew absolutely nothing about the mythology besides remembering that the toys were cool, but something about Bay just seemed right. And after finally experiencing the phenomenon, I will say that I don’t think anyone could have done it better even if the film itself could have been elevated a tad higher.

Truthfully, no one is going to see this movie with the hopes of watching a wonderfully written script and emotional progression leading to a top-notch conclusion that both satisfies and ignites conversation. Come on, this is a story about aliens coming to Earth for their “AllSpark” in order to take over the universe. You’ve got the Decepticons led by Megatron looking to destroy and you have Optimus Prime’s Autobots attempting to thwart their attempts. This is all about the effects and the carnage with the slight story playing second fiddle only to allow for more explosions. On this level the film is very successful and a great time at the theater. You can’t ask for better special effects or fight scenes. The “transforming” is awesome to behold and never gets tired as the film goes on, the integration of robots with humans is quite flawless, and the animation bringing the two worlds together is pop art at its best.

The real stars here are the Transformers themselves and you really can’t fault anything about them. With that said, this movie doesn’t happen without its multitude of humans to play off. For the most part they do an admirable job in keeping the audience’s interest enough to not mind waiting until the next big effects sequence happens. Shia LaBeouf uses his sarcastic, nice guy persona to good use like always. I believe he just plays himself in most things, but even if that’s true it works. Surprisingly I was impressed by Josh Duhamel, his small role effectively played as well as his army compatriot portrayed by the underrated Tyrese Gibson. Heck even Megan Fox manages to be a little more than just eye candy and Jon Voight entertains once you get past his horrid Southern accent.

Where the film fails for me is in the campy overtones and corny jokes sprinkled in everywhere. I understand the fight scenes are so big and serious that Bay and company felt they needed some levity to counteract them, but really? Some of these jokes are so bad and some of these characters are so one-dimensionally hammy that I was shaking my head hoping they would be crushed during the fights. I love both Anthony Anderson and John Turturro, but here they are utterly terrible. The facial reactions are so broad you’d think they are doing silent film and the words and actions of their characters are literally cringe-worthy. People have told me that the camp was prevalent in the original cartoons, so I will cut it some slack. I just think it was so heavy-handed and against the rest of the film that it stuck out like a sore thumb. The quips from LaBeouf worked as did the ones from Amaury Nolasco playing off the army “heavies” he is with. Bay needs to stick to explosions and realize that he doesn’t have the chops to try and make a comedy as well. His pacing in some “funny” scenes is unforgivable. When the Autobots are destroying LaBeouf’s yard, it was laughable the first five minutes. By minute twenty-five you just start yawning.

Despite this shortcoming, though, I will say that Transformers is a great experience. You will be blown away by the special effects and computer animation. There is no way you can’t be. The live action integration is effective and even the story manages to root itself in enough reality to be somewhat plausible within a world where alien invaders have come to Earth. A popcorn summer flick through and through, you won’t go wrong checking this one out for either a good time or to hop on the nostalgia train of that amazing decade of the 80’s.

[1] Mikaela Barnes (MEGAN FOX, left) and Sam Witwicky (SHIA LABEOUF, right) are hunted by an alien race in “TRANSFORMERS.” DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures Present, in Association with Hasbro, a di Bonaventura Pictures Production, a Tom DeSanto/Don Murphy Production of a Michael Bay Film, “TRANSFORMERS,” starring Shia LaBeouf, Tyrese Gibson, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Anderson, Rachael Taylor, Megan Fox, with John Turturro and Jon Voight. Directed by Michael Bay from a story by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman and John Rogers and a screenplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, the film is based on Hasbro’s TRANSFORMERS™ Action Figures. Producers are Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and Ian Bryce and Executive Producers are Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, Brian Goldner, and Mark Vahradian. This film is not yet rated. © 2007 DreamWorks LLC and Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Hasbro, TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro. ©2007 Hasbro. All rights reserved. Photo Credit: Robert Zuckerman
[2] OPTIMUS PRIME®, a member of an alien race, comes to help save the Earth in “TRANSFORMERS.” © 2007 DreamWorks LLC and Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Hasbro, TRANSFORMERS and all related characters are trademarks of Hasbro. ©2007 Hasbro. All Rights Reserved. Credit: DreamWorks LLC/Paramount

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