|By Zach Patterson||Tuesday, 17 Jul 2007|
Really, I don’t know how to even go about reviewing this. I mean, it’s a live-action movie based on a cartoon that was created to sell toys to children about transforming robots. The fact that it even exists is mind-boggling enough. Regardless, I must soldier on with the review.
My original statement was that if this movie wasn’t a miserable embarrassment, it would be a success, because it’s lined up to fail. I mean, look at the director. Michael Bay isn’t exactly Scorcese. But on that note, the movie isn’t particularly bad at all, surprisingly. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a good movie either, but it’s entertaining. This movie really just had to have transforming robots fighting and make it look cool, and mission accomplished there.
The parts in between that though are pretty hit and miss. The plot is about as weak as can be, and most every character in the movie is paper thin aside from the main two characters, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox. They are at least interesting to watch, though even their dialogue is pretty painful in parts (The nervousness and outcast nature of LaBeouf’s character is played up to such an extent that its completely unrealistic and you begin to wonder who let some of this script go to the big screen). But there’s tons of human characters that are in this movie either to move a piece of the plot along or to come in to say a few lines, but aside from that, they have nothing to do and their connections between each other seem tenuous at best. There’s the government trying to sort out this whole Transformer mess, the young kids brought in to crack the Transformers infiltrating government databases, the Sector 7 guys, LaBeouf’s family, Anthony Anderson’s complete miscast hacker (who the hell cast him as a genius hacker? uggghh), and then the Transformers themselves. Tons of characters in this movie, not a lot of room for characterization.
To the movie’s credit, however, they don’t ignore the Transformers and their origins. An abbreviated version of the history of Cybertron is told, the war between Autobots and Decepticons is obviously there, and things like the All Spark fit in the Transformers universe well. I was seriously afraid they were going to put no dialogue in for them and give no explanation to their origins. In ways, it felt like Generation 1 Transformers stuff. It’s not explained well, but enough so you know what’s up. These guys are good, these are bad, that’s Optimus Prime, that’s Megatron, etc. In fact, if I have one big complaint, it is that we don’t get more of the robots in disguise. Long parts of the movie are almost completely humans reacting to the Transformer threat or LaBeouf’s high school drama sidestory. We do get a lot of the Transformers too, but with all the other plot threads, the movie ends up being nearly 2.5 hours. That’s waaay too long for a Michael Bay movie and waaaay too long for a summer popcorn flick with a weak plot. Ever since Lord of the Rings, these big corporate movies have been getting longer and longer…and it’s just not necessary. A half hour of this movie could have been trimmed and no one would have missed it.
But again, the movie is paced decently enough that it never feels extremely long. It’s pretty ridiculous that it is as long as it is, but at least you don’t notice it too much. Lots of things blow up and hit each other, so that’s always entertaining. The end fight scene in particular was a very long and (what looked like a) very expensive sequence of the Decepticons and Autobots battling in the middle of a city. However, it was your typical Bay “turn your mind off and just watch the pretty things” type thing so it didn’t feel like it dragged.
If there’s one thing that really, really bothered me, it is the excessive product placement. Now, I’m not a stupid man. Or at least, I like to think I am not. I realize that if I see a Pepsi can in a movie, no matter how nonchalant it is presented, it was probably paid to be there, and I’m okay with that. And, I realize that this movie is essentially one big new Transformers toy commercial for Hasbro. But that doesn’t excuse the points in the movie where it becomes a blatant advertisement for other products. When the autobots race down the highway, it looks like a Chevy/GM commercial, right down to the way the cars are shot. The SD cards in the movie are given a close up and modeled, as if to show the name and type and make you notice they are 2GB (wow!). An Xbox 360 at one point happens to be transformed into a robot as you see some satisfied customer buying one. A Mountain Dew machine has the same fate, and it shoots cans. eBay is mentioned like 30 times. The list goes on and on. It’s pretty obnoxious, and one of the more annoying parts of the movie. I already know they are trying to sell toys to me, I don’t need it to be like a QVC fucking special too.
Aside from that, the movie certainly isn’t perfect, and has some definite flaws that could have been fixed with a better, tighter script. On the other hand, they pulled off a Transformers movie and it wasn’t a disaster. Amazing. The robots all look good and have certain touches people will remember from the cartoons while being completely new, alien-looking beings. The human parts are serviceable, if mostly lackluster, and the effects impress by feeling realistic and not completely fake.