Going into Transformers I had very mixed emotions. Every geek part of me wanted to scream “giant robots are awesome!” but every fiber of my movie going bias was saying “oh shit, it’s a Michael Bay film”. I had high geek pride and low movie expectations. I’m happy to report that Bay didn’t completely fuck this one up. Actually it was good, really good. He hit it out of the friggin’ park.
Walking out of the theater I had a gigantic smile on my face. The kind of smile a 12 year old has when he opens a shiny new toy for the first time. Giant transformable robots are something that as a child, playing with the toys, you were left to imagine in your head. What if this thing was real? What if my parents car in the drive-way was really a 50ft ass kicking machine? When you’re a kid you love to imagine things like that. Before seeing this movie I pulled up every memory of what I thought giant walking, talking, fighting robots would be like and the effects team in this movie pulled it off perfectly. That’s not surprising, especially considering it’s ILM we’re talking about.
The story itself is slightly off from the cartoon, but is a non-issue. Instead of trying to collect multiple “Energon Cubes“, the movie focuses around the fight over a single”god cube” from which all life sprung. 6 of one, half dozen of the other. It’s a cube and they’re fighting over it, that’s good enough for me. I was also not really bothered by the paltry acting from the human aspect of the movie. In reality, they’re just there for backstory. The real movie is hot robot on robot action, and man does it deliver.
The action sequences in the movie are almost too awesome. When you finish seeing one, you brain doesn’t have enough time to digest it before the next one starts. A great example, and I’m trying not to give anything away, is the awesome highway fight scene you see in the trailers, which when completed, flows immediately into a city wide brawl. The former is so compelling that by the time more carnage has started you’re only part way through saying “holy crap, did you see that?” There are a few kinks in the armor, I won’t lie to you. It’s far from a perfect movie. There is a heavy amount of “shaky cam”, so shaky that you’re often confused. Coupled with that is the fact that the robots themselves are far more complex than simple cartoon versions. So complex in fact that when things start to get intense and robots are tangled up in high-speed wrestling matches, it’s hard to tell which part is whose. There are pieces flying every which way and if it weren’t for the occasional blur of color you’d have no idea if Optimus Prime was fighting Megatron or if a building was coming down… or both. Basically, they went from this to this.
That said, the real only distraction was the human acting. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy as an actor, but casting John Turturro as some sort of special agent is just silly. The special-ops guys did a good job, and so did John Voight, but the kids got on my nerves a little. In the end, they did a good job and I think it worked well. Personally it would have made a little more sense to make Sam the mechanic (as in the cartoon) and not the girl, but whatever. I was actually very happy with the way this movie turned out. The CG was really top notch, the action scenes were well put together, the pacing was good (read: non-stop). It was a great experience and a great “popcorn flick” as people say. It’s a really fun movie to see, especially when you grew you in the 80’s. It’s all those good geek memories brought to life.
Way to go Bay, I’ve almost forgiven you for Pearl Harbor… almost.