*Warning: Thar be spoilers here!*
Transformers the movie came to theatres like an event, not just a film. As a fan of the Hasbro toys during my youth, and the cartoon I knew I would go to experience it. I have always thought director Michael Bay was on the cutting edge of action film technology and after Bad Boys 2 thought his work was just plain cool. However, Transformers failed to recapture the fun I previously enjoyed with the concept and ruined any fun I may have gotten from just visiting the theatre; disappointing.
The movie kicks into gear mixing action with comedy. Shia LaBeouf does a fine job in the lead role, however the jokes start to run thin before the middle of the film. Eventually they went from humorous to just plain corny and the moments were as awkward as seeing a stand up comedian bomb on stage. The jokes and action began to seem diluted down to a kids movie, which the film could very well have easily been made to cater exclusively to such, however, what it does is try to walk a tight rope between adults and children; teetering and falling off. Comedic performance by man and machine just grew annoying.
The action, aside from big computer robots, is standard Bay. Several time as one watches fancy new cars come driving through smoke and racing around to rock music, they surely pause and think: this is a car commercial! Product placement was heavy in this film and quite apparent, with close ups on name brands on computer chips, to cell phone brand names being called out, to a soda machine turning into a Transformer.
Michael Bay has directed some awesome action scenes in the past and with this new film he basically revisited each of them like some sort of film cannibal. The shoot out from Bad Boys 2 where they are in the house of the Jamaican pirates is basically done again only with a robot in a bunker room. When the Transformers fall to Earth he makes sure to make a joke about how it is cooler than Armageddon and near the end when Shia runs into a large building the camera shot looks awful close to one of the destructive ones used in that Bruce Willis film as well. The car chase scenes fell flat when compared to his work in the Bad Boys franchise, The Rock, or even The Island; even with the giant robots who apparently ice skate on pavement. The other similarity to other films that stuck out to me was a battle sequence where the army men are trying to call for help, but the operator on the other end of the phone will not connect the call without a credit card. This comedy bit is not from an old Michael Bay film and was popular for a laugh from the audience. However, it was a scene from the Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge, where Eastwood and his army men get stuck in a building, try to call out, and Mario Van Peebles has to bring out the plastic. Different on some levels, but basically the same gag.
The dialog is stiff with Optimus Prime’s speech about humans being completely sappy and stupid. Optimus Prime is the leader of the good guy faction of Transformers. However, being the big strong robot that he is he is a poor leader in this film and basically is used to narrate and look all weepy eyed. In the grand finale of things, the mega-ultra final showdown between Optimus Prime and Megatron, the bad guy leader, Optimus Prime is absent for a long time. I guess since he is a diesel he drove slow and was the last one to the fight? Then, on top of his tardiness, he is a complete wimp! Megatron wipes the city with him! Optimus Prime is tossed and beaten around like a doll and doesn’t even stand a chance; not one lick. It is fine and dandy to make the person to overcome the greatest obstacle a human to show that the race wants to save itself and not just rely on robots, but Optimus Prime was fairly useless and hell-bent on committing suicide actually to destroy a cube.
Furthermore, concerning dialog and the writing of the film here is one of my biggest gripes: I was bored! I saw Live Free or Die Hard a few days earlier and it was non-stop exciting and with Transformers I was squirming in my seat right around the half way mark. The opening narration of the film explains to us the backstory of what the Transformers are doing, then when Shia’s character meets them they tell the story again so that he understands, and then when Shia teams up with the army he tells them and thus the audience just sat through 3 tellings of the same information with people standing around doing nothing! On top of that the army has secrets of its own and stories and they stand around and tell us how they found a giant robot in the arctic. This crap made the film too long and dull which was poor set-up between sections of action which often times were less action and more gag comedy.
The conclusion of the film made zero logical sense. The robots have a huge fight, destroying the city and then when it is all over the government has apparently covered it up and dropped the robot bodies in the ocean to hide them. Um…hello, they were fighting in the city with thousands of witnesses! How the heck was everything going to just be slid under the rug like nothing happened? Buildings exploded and people were thrown all around on massive scale, and yet they say it was all wrapped up nice and neat and no one realizes that the Transformers even exist. Along with that is the fact that the government states they developed all of our present technology from the bodies of one of the Transformers, why would they now just toss them into the ocean without further study if they have up until then felt it necessary to keep one of the bodies that they found in the 1930’s? A couple of small details were sort of passed by as well. A soda machine and some computer hardware were brought to life and turned into bad fighting machines during the final battle. After showing Mountain Dew being altered into a robot the camera goes away and basically nothing becomes of those two shooting robots. Where did they go? They did not get shown fighting against the soldiers or being destroyed, they shot at people and then poof we are supposed to forget about them.
Also, the good guy robots learned English from the internet before landing. Why did the robot who crashed in the arctic and was frozen in his tomb lifeless automatically know the English language? He snaps alive and speaks freely, but from what I recall they did not have the internet in the 30’s. When the robot laters yells out “I smell you human!, I swear it is like you are transported to some lame Jack and the Beanstalk cartoon.
Just like any film one could point out goofs, like Shia’s character has his pants torn off and then they magically come back on him without him picking them up or getting them, however those sort of things are forgivable to me. Transformers on the other hand was a bad movie just all the way around and Michale Bay was outdone by the folks behind Die Hard 4.