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