Robots beating each other senseless. Isn’t that what we came to see when we plunk down our hard earn cash to see Transformers? Thankfully, we do get to see that. In fact, the last act is just a lot of robots smashing into each other and causing a tonne of damage and a huge amount of casualties. Good fun, really. Of course, there’s a lot of build-up to the final act, and there’s a fair amount within the first hour of the movie that’s not really focused on the big ol’ robots themselves. But it works. Somehow Michael Bay pulled it together and it works. Sure, it’s a fun movie and nearly everyone who watched it can attest to that, but is it a worthy addition to your collection?
From director Michael Bay and executive producer Steven Spielberg comes a thrilling battle between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. When their epic struggle comes to Earth, all that stands between the Decepticons and ultimate power is a clue held by young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). Unaware that he is mankind’s last chance for survival, Sam and Bumblebee, his robot disguised as a car, are in a heart-pounding race against an enemy unlike anything anyone has seen before. With so much at stake, can the Autobots save the day and defeat the evil Megatron and his Decepticons?
I remember the Transformers from my childhood, but I wouldn’t really call myself a huge fan. I could easily name off a few of the characters, remember the classic “transforming sound effect,” and I’m sure if I looked in the basement, there’d still be some Transformers toys kicking about. That’s really the extent of my interest in the characters. As I grew up and went onto other super-heroes and characters, I left these characters behind. All that changed, however, when the live-action Transformers film was announced. All those childhood memories came rushing back, and I could not wait to see how this would translate onto the big film.
Of course, when Michael Bay was announced as the director, I was skeptical. There’s only a handful of his films I really enjoyed, and the rest were pretty much drivel. He emphasizes style over . . . well . . . everything else, and this movie isn’t really all that different. We have big special effects, huge set pieces, and over-the-top dialogue and action sequences. And yet, for some reason, it all works here. But I also understand that, even from the get-go, this movie isn’t high-art. Even the source material for this movie isn’t high-art, either, but that’s beside the point. Now, I’m not saying everything in the film worked, but, overall, I’d have to place this movie as a success. I enjoyed it, for the most part, and will likely revisit it from time to time.
Like I said, there’s things that work and things that don’t. Right off the bat, both Bernie Mac and Anthony Anderson are at the top of the “don’t” list. I’m thankful Mac’s scene, in a ridiculous scene taking place at a car dealership, is short. He’s gone in about three to four minutes, yet it feels like it drags on and on. Not only is he just flat-out not funny here, but the scene itself is a ridiculous. I know I’m saying that in a movie with huge alien robots, but the scene is just horrible. Eye-rolling horrible. Later on, we meet his replacement in the ‘painful character’ category, Anthony Anderson, who just overdoes it in every scene he’s in. He spends the majority of the movie shouting and it gets grating. Thankfully, he seems to disappear amongst the bru-ha-ha during the finale, so that’s a plus.
The big complaint from viewers seems to be the approach the movie took for the first hour or so, which plays out much like a John Hughes film. We’re introduced to Sam Witwicky and we follow his somewhat hilarious homelife and attempts to win over the popular girl. Intermixed with this are assorted attacks on the US Military, resulting in a group of soldiers being stranded in Katar, trying to fend off an evil Decepticon. Shortly after that, we’re fully introduced to the Autobots and things get rolling from there. It takes a good hour before we’re introduced to Optimus Prime and his band of fellow do-gooder robots, but, surprisingly, the first hour seems to fly by. This is due to, mostly, the performance of LaBeouf as Witwicky.
LaBeouf has the arduous task of carrying the first hour of a bigger summer tentpole movie, and it’s a hard task. Add in the fact that Transformers fans would rather see robots than the actor, than you just have to appreciate his role in the film. Add on his likability and charisma, and you got an entertaining first hour. He has a great sense of humor and his improvisational skill really helps to move the movie along, even during the slowest or painfully unfunny scenes (and there are a few, but they thankfully skirt by thanks to LaBeouf). But it’s not all Hughes/teen drama stuff for the first half of the movie. Over the first hour, we’re given teases here and there, clues to what will start the big robot smackdown, all leading up to a rather action-packed finale. Plus, we get a couple exciting action sequences, like the attack on the military base that starts the movie, after Optimus Prime’s long voice-over, and a handful of soldiers fighting off a Decepticon.
Like I said, it takes a good hour, in a nearly 2 ½ hour film, to finally meet Optimus Prime and his introduction, in my opinion, does not disappoint. Not only does Peter Cullen reprise his role as Optimus Prime, but he brings a note of validity and leadership to his role. He is Optimus Prime, and I’m glad the producers decided to bring him in. Once the Autobots are brought in, the film really kicks into high gear, and the actual unravels from there. It takes a little bit longer until we’re introduced to the Megatron and the rest of the Decpticons, but the movie does it in such a natural pace that it didn’t bother me, personally. Of course, many fans complained about that, but, well, I didn’t mind. I’m not a die-hard fan and I was able to easily accept that this was primarily an introduction movie and that it may take just a little bit to get introduced into the characters, both good and bad.
There are a few other inconsistencies and plot holes in this movie that stick to me, namely how will the government try to conceal these robots after such a public smackdown in a heavily populated city. And are you telling me there were no casualties to be found during this big city brawl? Un-hunh.
And, as great as it was to see the Transformers in live-action, albeit in CGI, I found their designs were needlessly complex. I understand the creative team was striving for realism, but I don’t think, in a movie such as this, the Transformers didn’t really need to be so real, and their transformation so complex. I found it a bit unnecessary and, sometimes, ugly.
And yes, the scene with Bumblebee “peeing” on John Turturro’s character was just . . . bad.
Despite whatever problems I listed above, and there were a couple more in the movie, I actually really enjoyed the film. Yes, there were a few instances where I was pulled out of the film for one reason or another, but I still enjoyed it. Whether it was the strength of LaBeouf’s acting that carried the first half of the movie, or the awesome action sequences in the last half, I enjoyed the movie from start to finish. And those action scenes . . . wow. While I found a few to be hard to make out on the big screen, they seem to be surprisingly comprehensible on DVD. The extreme close-ups of some of the transformations look better, and the onscreen tussles, sometimes hid among close-ups and blur effects, actually look better here. This made the big brawl more enjoyable to watch. I wasn’t struggling to see what was happening, as it seemed, remarkably, as plain as day here.
The special effects are just excellent and are pretty much to-notch across the board. Usually an effects heavy movie suffers from a few weak spots, and sometimes it is painful to see such weak special effects back to back with the great effects. Here? I couldn’t find a weak moment during the entire movie. The effects were great across the board. Not only did the live-action and CGI appear to work seamless together, but it actually seemed like the characters were interacting with these CGI creations.
The movie is your classic summer tentpole movie, and it doesn’t disappoint. Yes, the hardcore (and sometimes scary) hard-core Transformers fans will no doubt be disappointed by the film, but I thought it was well done and a great kick-off to a new franchise. It’s your typical Michael Bay movie, but he makes it work. Yes, there’s some painful moments spread about the film, but once the action kicks up, all that seems to vanish. It’s a fun, brainless popcorn feature where you have to chuck your sense of reality out the door, but Bay manages makes it work. As the movie kicks into it’s chaotic finale, you’ll find yourself just glued to the screen and enjoying big robots beating each other senseless. I mean, that’s what we came here to see, right?
As you can expect, Paramount has released this film in a host of different formats. There’s the standard one-disc edition, two-disc Special Edition, and the HD-DVD release. The standard edition looks and sounds amazing, so I can only wonder how the HD-DVD version fares. Transformers has a demo-quality transfer, with nary a problem to be found.
With the two-disc release, the extras are spread over both discs, naturally. The only extra on the first disc is a feature-length audio commentary by Bay. Nothin’ else. We then move on the second disc where we find a huge helping of extras. The extras are split into three different sub-groups. The first, “Our World” is broken into four segments and can be view separately or in one 49-minute chunk. As expected this segment deals with the earth-bound characters and assorted stories of the cast and crew. Next up is “Their War”, which focuses on the robots that populate the film. It’s all here. They talk about the roots of the characters, how they came to be, and the assorted special effects that brought them to life. Last up is “More Than Meets the Eye,” which basically collects everything else, in terms of extras. Included are storyboards, concept art, and a trailer gallery. All in all, a great collection of extras touching upon nearly every aspect of the movie’s history and production. On top of those, there are four Easter Eggs to be found on the disc, which include things like deleted scenes and audition footage.
While not a perfect movie by any means, I still really enjoyed Transformers. It’s a fun action flick with plenty of great eye candy, in terms of both actors and special effects, and I would easily Recommend it to anyone. On top of a fun movie, the two-disc special edition release is simply packed with extras. If you want to own Transformers on DVD, this is the DVD edition you want to pick up. While I suppose the more casual movie-goer is fine with the one-disc release, the two-disc Special Edition is where it’s at. If anything, to please the hardcore fans, it does provide some of the backstory on these much-beloved characters. It’s definitely worth adding to any collection.
Transformers hits DVD, in both single-disc and two-disc Special Edition, as well as Special Edition HD-DVD, on October 16th, 2007.
Special Promotion: As October 16th approaches, be sure to join the fun and show your support for some of your favorite robots with the Suit Yourself website, where you can transform yourself into Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, or Blackout just by uploading a photo of yourself. You can then download your photo as a desktop wallpaper, portrait, or IM icon, send it to your friends, or even embed the photo in your website or blog. So be sure to check out the Suit Yourself website and join the war yourself as an Autobot or a Decepticon! Also, if you want Optimus Prime to give a friend a call, head over to Personalized Message from Optimus Prime!