Transformers – A Movie Review

Before we begin, let’s just get one thing straight-this movie is based on a toy line from well over twenty years ago.


So, if you’re going into this movie expecting Citizen Kane or The Godfather, please, think again.  If there’s one thing that drives me crazy, it’s people dissecting summer blockbuster action movies like they’re art house films.  They’re not.  And Transformers is as big of a summer blockbuster action movie as you’re going to get.  And it’s based on a toy line.  Repeat: a toy line.

That said, this baby actually was much better than I anticipated.  While the plot was just the sort of thing you’d expect to keep the action going full throttle without any speed bumps (like coherence), there were actually some very strong attempts at giving each human character a very distinct personality.  I actually was surprised by the charm and charisma of Shia LaBeouf who definitely gave this film its heart and soul.  Shia’s parents were a riot, and appearances by legitimate actors like Jon Voight and John Turturro gave the film some acting credence it didn’t really need-but I like the effort.  Bernie Mac also makes a hilarious appearance. 

But, let’s get to what this movie was really about-Transformers.  They were awesome!  I have no idea what a robot turning into a car would actually look like, but what I saw in the movie seemed pretty spot on.  Moreover, I love the fact that the robots were actually to scale.  Meaning, if a robot turns into an eighteen-wheeler, when that baby stands upright it’s going to be pretty big.  Bumblebee, coupled with Shia, stole the movie by far (as I’m sure they were intended to), but nothing beat Optimus Prime voiced by Peter Cullen, the guy who did it back in the cartoon from the eighties. 

Somehow, the digital artists made these robots fit seamlessly into the scenes with the live actors.  It honest to God looked like they were really acting alongside the real folks.  That sort of stuff can drive me crazy if it looks fake and I usually have a good eye for it, but they passed with flying colors.

Now, I realize the old schoolers out there are upset about the modifications made to their favorite cartoon characters, and to them I say, “Get over it.”  It’s a movie based on a toy line.  While they didn’t resemble their former cartoon selves in the least, the upgrades were necessary for the complex age we live in.  And I have to say, those freaky robots honestly looked like they could turn into something.  There were layer-upon-layer of gizmos and parts on them that were always spinning or percolating; it was visually most impressive.  I will give the haters one inch, though, it got kind of hard to tell everybody apart except for Optimus Prime (very blue) and Bumblebee (very yellow).  All the rest, in robot form, sort of blended in with each other.  Hard to tell the good buys from the bad.

I also thought it was sort of funny that there were only three female parts in this movie, and two of them were, as the kids would say, pretty smokin’.  (The third role was Shia’s mom.)  Most of the men, though, were fairly on the nerdy side.  Funny, huh?  Do the marketers know their target audience or what?

Finally, I appreciate a subtle, disciplined, contemplative film dealing with the nuances of the human condition, but sometimes I need those big summer ka-boom action movies.  Transformers director Michael Bay is the Leonardo da Vinci of over-the-top action movies, especially the summer blockbuster variety.  I mean, this guy brought us The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys I and II.  Oscar winners?  Well, no; but they sure were fun to watch.

In summary, the Transformers looked awesome (if not always recognizable), the action was spectacular, the acting better than expected, the plot exactly-as-expected (but it kept the action going; it kept the action going), the humor surprisingly well placed, and the charisma of Shia LaBeouf proved a nice surprise (we’ll see more of him in the next installment of Indiana Jones).  If you’re into this sort of movie, you will not go disappointed.  But, for the love-try to remember: it’s based on a toy line.  A TOY LINE!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – A Movie Review

The fourth installment of the Indiana Jones mythos was adequate and entertaining, but failed to capture the charisma of earlier films.

I thought something that worked particularly really well was the pairing of Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf.  LaBeouf takes a lot of flak from the internet community, and I’m not sure why.  He’s got a charm about him that complimented and even augmented Ford’s.  I was also glad to see Ford pretty loose in this film.  He’s played a few of my all-time favorite characters, but he can at times come off fairly stiff on the big screen, especially in The Last Crusade.  As with Sean Connery, LaBeouf helps to add another dimension to Indiana Jones that gives Ford a little something more to work with and enriches his performance.

Furthermore, I appreciated that while Indiana Jones is much older in this movie, he’s also much wiser and has a sense of confidence and aptitude about him that really resonated.  Though always a professor, it wasn’t until this film that he really came across as a mentor as well, especially to Mutt Williams, LaBeouf’s character.  (Very funny that both characters named themselves after some aspect of a dog.  Remember, Indiana was the name of Jones’ dog when he was a boy.  Mutt … well, that speaks for itself.)

The dialogue in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull also wasn’t quite as rigid as in previous films.  While I loved The Last Crusade because of Connery, some of Ford’s dialogue really grated on my nerves.  This film had a sense of wit and fun about it that really helped the actors with their delivery.

The addition of communists as Ford’s antagonists seemed totally appropriate.  They acknowledged so much of the time period, from atomic bomb testing to the King, it really felt like a logical progression from where Indiana Jones was last film.  I loved that they peppered some of what he’s been up to over the last few decades into the story as well.  That was a very nice touch.

So while the acting and chemistry between LaBeouf and Ford was a positive, and the dialogue was a bit more organic, and the story had some enjoyable nuggets of times past, there were a few negatives.

First and foremost, it really bothered me how they took Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood, a tough, spunky character from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and basically made her into an ogling space cadet.  Nearly every time they had her on screen she had a goofy grin on her face like she’d been hit on the head too many times.  Marion was a character that was almost tougher than Jones, and they didn’t stick to that blueprint in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  It takes more than a flighty grin to win the heart of Indiana Jones.   

Also, I can appreciate that this is a family film trying to lighten things up for a broader audience, but there were moments in this movie that had me rolling my eyes.  I can handle mainstream appeal, but it had some really blatant lunacy that I couldn’t get past.


For example, Jones escaping a nuclear explosion by climbing into a lead-lined refrigerator and luckily getting blasted clear was a bit hard to swallow, but I managed.  Later, though, they had LaBeouf swinging from tree vines with a troop of simians in the jungle like he was Tarzan.  That … was impossible to overlook.  Finally, the mystery of the crystal skulls is revealed to be a race of inter-dimensional beings that we had previously believed aliens.  Now, I can handle aliens, no big whoop.  But, when it comes to Indiana Jones, I like him chasing down religious artifacts or some other mystic collectibles.  Seeing him face-to-face with an alien, it just didn’t completely work for me.


But even with all those issues, the overall movie was fun to watch and greatly entertained.  I felt like I wouldn’t be “wowed” by it and I wasn’t, but I enjoyed the evolution of the Jones character, his world, and the dynamic of his supporting characters. 

On a side note, I really hope they’ll continue on with the Indiana Jones movies, especially considering Jones’ new role.  I think they’ve left the future wide open for some potentially fun movies.

So while I wouldn’t say you MUST go see this movie in the theatre, it is definitely one to rent and if you’re willing to put up with a little silliness, I think you’ll find yourself entertained.