04
Jul
07

The Verdict

Anthony and I decided that we didn’t care if the plot sucked or if the dialogue was dumb, we just wanted to see them transform. It’s a good thing we set our expectations thus. The film is a series of clichés strung together by a shoddy story. Still, Transformers is like the fulfillment of a life’s dream. And all it cost me was $11. Thank you, Michael Bay.

It is kind of like a long car commercial for GM, but product placement is no big deal to me (Apple, eBay, etc.). The fake computer science and government-military goings-on are getting harder to get away with as more realistic representations are shown on TV shows and cable news; Transformers is no exception. The dialogue was overwrought and sappy at times and could have been toned down a smidge, but when it’s sexy Shia LaBoeuf or dreamy Josh Duhamel saying the lines, who could hold it against them? (I guess it depends on what exactly you want to hold against them.)

The filmmakers screwed with the back story and the characters a lot more than they needed to. Bumblebee is a Camaro, not a Volkswagen. Fine. (They work a Beetle into the film anyway. I am satisfied by the nod to our nostalgia.) The cop car is a Deceptacon. OK, whatever. But they invent characters (Frenzy) and completely remake others (Devestator). And of course, Megatron can’t really be a gun that fits into Starscream’s hand — but what is he? Some sort of flying cannon?

And what’s with this All Spark contrivance? A device that has the power to create worlds — and to turn a Mountain Dew vending machine into a deadly fighting robot — is, in the end, kinda dumb. I’d have been satisfied with the original story from the cartoon: The Autobots crash land on earth, chased by the Deceptacons from their war-ravaged home planet Cybertron and wake up millions of years later. They rebuild themselves to mimic modern machinery: the Deceptacons, to ravage Earth’s resources to produce Energon cubes; the Autobots, to stop them and protect all human life. Elements of this made it into the film, but the result made even less sense than the original idea.

This is not to say, however, that I have any real problems with the movie. Without the transforming robots, there would be no movie, but the actors hold their own in the non-CGI scenes. There is a fair amount of actually funny comedy and some decent character development. Never before had I been tricked into thinking an 18-wheeler could be a sentient being.

They even made some improvements, in my opinion. I like the idea that Bumblebee has armor for his head and that Optimus Prime’s mouth is not a jiggling face plate but a a set of mechanical lips (though, Lord knows why) that only get covered in battle.

Incidentally, did anyone else think Starscream looked a little bit like the rancor monster from Return of the Jedi?

The reasons I went to see it were all there: The transforming effects were breathtaking. They kept the original sound effects of the transformations. They kept Optimus Prime’s voice! My heart swelled when he called out, “Autobots, roll out!”

Things I realized while watching this movie:

  1. Even robots blink their eyes.
  2. There is always someone in a movie who knows how to hotwire a car.
  3. Don’t worry: You can get through to the Pentagon from the desert in Qatar on a cellphone while under heavy fire from an alien robot in less than two minutes.
  4. You can always find “the only man in the world who can decipher this code” just up the street.
  5. Even though there are only a handful of evil robots invading Los Angeles, it is easy to forget that one of them is never accounted for when the scrap metal is disposed of.

Thank heaven, they set us up so nicely for a sequel.

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