Joe’s Blog

Transformers (2007)

January 5, 2009 7:31 am

Transformers poster

I fucking hate Michael Bay. The same way I hate Girls Aloud. Half the time they produce fast food shite that makes me want to stab my eyes (or ears) out with the bluntest instrument I can find.

Then the other half of the time they do stuff that I actually enjoy (guiltily) which makes me hate them even more.

Bay made a cracking start to his film career with two extremely, ridiculously enjoyable movies in Bad Boys and The Rock. Both showed promise, but also the guiding hand of super producer Jerry Brukheimer. In Bay it seemed Bruckheimer had found a natural successor to Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder).

After this double whammy though, things took a downturn. Armageddon was more of the same, but showed a shift from ridiculously entertaining to just ridiculous. And then came Pearl Harbor (sic), a shameless attempt to recreate the ‘magic’ of Titanic. They succeeded only in the sense that it’s only worth watching for about twenty minutes when the SFX kick in.

So, when it turned out Mr Bay was to take the reigns of Transformers, one of the most anticipated films of all time for a certain generation of people, my heart sank lower than a certain cruise liner.

18 months on from its release, I finally caved in and in full cynic mode, I watched it. And bugger me if they didn’t do a fairly good job with it.

After a cracking opening sequence where the first Transformer is revealed (complete with the original ‘transform’ sound effect sadly lacking from the rest of the film) things settle down into a very cheesy, predictable story of Shia la Beouf playing a high school loser (yeah, right) and his attempts to buy his first car to get the girl of his dreams. (Surely, if she’s only interested in him because of his car, she’s a bit of a cow and not worth bothering with…?)

Anyhow, wouldn’t you know, the car he buys turns out to be Bumblebee, the Scrappy Doo of Cybertron, except here he’s a sexy, classic Camero, rather than a VW Beetle. This is the first of many ‘character’ changes, but on the whole they don’t really matter. Bumblebee’s new appearance is at least acknowledged, as the car next to him is a rusty old Beetle.

Many of the characters have changed since their cartoon incarnations, but for the most part it’s not a problem. I did spend the first 45 minutes thinking Bumblebee was Hotrod, and got very confused when one of the Decepticons appeared as a police car, since cars were all Autobots originally.

The transformation effects are simple stunning, with seemingly every gear and rachet seperately animated and a wonderful sense of wonder and awe when the robots true identities are revealed.

As is usual for films like this, the ‘human’ side is a bit of a let down. Le Beouf, a very likeable lad with good comic timing, is clearly on auto-pilot. Megan Fox is your typical sexy teenager, despite clearly being well into her twenties, whilst the far more attractive and talented Rachael Taylor is relegated to a supporting geek role and, along with half the cast, is completely forgotten about half an hour before the end of the film.

Then there’s the two heavyweight names in the cast: Jon Voight and John Tuturro. Voight is now an old hand at playing, well, the old hand in action adventures. Here he turns up as the defence secretary, recruiting a bunch of young trendy IT geek types to work out what’s going on… just like he did in Enemy of the State.

Tuturro is an odd one though. Clearly in it for the money, he turns up half way through as an FBI agent, clearly taking his cue from Jeffrey Coombs in The Frighteners. As if playing the paedophile, Jesus, in The Big Lebowski wasn’t an indignity enough, here he gets reduced to his underpants for no apparent reason.

There’s also a Michael Biehn-a-like soldier just back from the Middle East (and witness to the first Decepticon attack), and eventually, as usual, our rag-tag gang of characters find themselves pulled together, in this case in a secret bunker in the Hoover Dam, where the mighty Megatron has been kept in cold storage since he crash landed to Earth 100 years or so previously, searching for some cube thingy which has the ability to create new Transformers (or something… but for some unexplained reason the ones that we see it create are all evil).

After some further contrivances it’s decided the best thing to do is NOT to take the cube to the nearby Nevada desert, but a much better idea to take it into ‘The City’ where a balls to the wall CGI-fest finale can take place. And here’s where everything starts to fall apart.

One of the problems with the film is that when the Transformers are in robot form it’s nigh on impossible to tell them apart. This makes the climax a frustrating experience since you don’t know who’s winning each battle.

I won’t spoil thiongs by saying who does eventually triumph (if you can’t guess), but there are casualties on both side.

It’s a thoroughly enjoyable waste of a saturday night, but I won’t be first in the queue for the inevitable sequel later this year.

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