Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Transformers Are Really Quite a Bit More Than Meets the Eye

The Transformers, of course, that I'm talking about is the recently released, Michael Bay directed, live-action movie. And not the devices used to transfer electric energy from one circuit to another, along with a change in voltage. In any case, The Mill highly recommends this film. That is, I recommend it only if you were a fan of the cartoon series from the 1980's of the same name. Of which I was a big, big fan. The bigger a fan you were of the Transformers former animated incarnation, the more you'll enjoy this movie. The basic story is the same as before, and focuses on the battle between the nice robot Autobots and the mean robot Decepticons. If I didn't tell you which were nice and which were mean, would you be able to tell just from the names? Me neither, but I've watched the cartoons so I already knew who was who. Anyway, both sides end up on Earth, and the humans get caught in the middle of it all. Simple story, classically clean lines, and tastefully done.
The special effects are magnificent, arresting, and downright brilliant. Without a doubt, this movie contains the best special effects I've ever seen. I've seen some astonishing things in the New York City subway and Grand Central Station bathrooms. But I've never, in reality, witnessed robots turn into vehicles or vice versa. After seeing this movie, I would no longer be surprised to see it in real life. I know exactly what to expect. The panels on the car simply fold back in an accordion fasion, the wheels fold under, the robot head pops out from under the hood, etc. etc.. And voila! Maybe I used to wonder what that would look like. But now I know. And it looks really really cool.
I do have a few criticisms, however. For example, the film's plot is basically nonsensical. Beyond what we already knew (which is that these autonomous robot beings from outer space have come to Earth in order to duke it out) there's not much else worth mentioning plot-wise. Something about a cube from another planet that does something to human technology that turns everything into robots. Or something. It's completely irrational, and lacking in any scientific merit or laboratory data. Robots that turn into cars, planes and tape recorders, okay. I can suspend disbelief for a while. Not a problem. But you expect me to believe some stupid big-ass cube is gonna do some crazy stuff to turn all this other stuff into robots and stuff? I just don't buy it. Anyway, I don't want to give too much away. You'll have to see the movie to have any clue of what I'm talking about regarding this cube thing.
Also, the acting is marginal at best. Optimus Prime certainly gives the most melodramatic and emotional performance by far. And he spends half the film as an 18-wheeler. Whether the Autobot leader's deep soulful baritone comes out of a metallic grate in the middle of his robot face, or the metallic grille of a Mack truck, the effect is the same: authoritarian. He's the boss. That voice could speak out of a Strawberry Shortcake doll, and you'd be absolutely compelled to obey him.

All Hail Optimus Prime
The special effects are super-intense. Those humans better watch out! Ha! Just kidding. This Optimus is clearly computer-generated.

Speaking of dolls, the film was based on a set of action figures from Hasbro. It actually states that on the film's official website: http://www.transformersmovie.com
I can't think of too many other movies, whose story was created years AFTER the toys were introduced. This is the best of that type of film, I think. If they had an Academy Award for best picture based upon a story that was written because the pre-existing toys were extremely popular 20 years ago, then Transformers would be nominated, and maybe even win this year. There's no doubt that a big part of the allure is the chance to return to your childhood and mentally play with those toys, if only for 157 minutes.
And the movie's length does make it feel a bit bloated. That would be my final criticism. The story twists and turns but doesn't move forward quickly enough. And there's not enough robot-on-robot beatdowns to keep the action at a lofty enough level. So wait, there's another criticism. In fact, that's really my one main criticism. I paid 11 bucks to see robots kick each other's asses. No holds barred, laser guns ablaze, pro-wrestling moves, kicking and punching, robot limb torn from robot limb. That's all I asked for. That's all I've EVER asked for. There's nothing quite as satisfying as two massive robots fiercely engaged in mortal combat, crashing into an old brick warehouse full of fruit and blasting out the other side as one of the robots turns into a plane and fires a missile into another building causing it to collapse on a third robot who was about to fire a sonic blaster at a helicopter which was actually a fourth robot (in disguise). Then a fifth robot turns into a tank and fires an incendiary shell at a sixth robot who is able to catch the shell before it explodes and throws it back at the tank. And so on and so forth. Preferably for 150 more minutes or so.
Bottom line is, I give Transformers 7.25 stars out of 11. It could have gotten 8.33 stars if the film's creators had added a few more scenes of intense robot battle. The film could have also gotten another .25 stars or so if the writers had eased up on the overt sexual tension between Bumblebee (Autobot who turns into a yellow Camaro) and Sam (human, main character). I guess we'll have to wait for the sequel to see if they end up together.

1 comment:

Dennis said...

For my first official read in what the Mill is thinking, I LOVE IT!

I love the line about Optimus Prime's voice coming out of a Strawberry Shortcake doll!!

PRICELESS...I'm going to read some more now!