If you told me back in the late 80s, playing with my metal diecast Starscream (heaven forbid you drop that bastard on your toe!), that I’d see him and his transforming brethren in a live-action motion picture, I’d call you a big stupid doo doo head. That’s impossible!
If you told me Michael Bay would make it and it would be good I’d call you a fucking idiot. That’s impossible.
Transformers really only needed to do one thing right to please me, and that’s giant robots transforming into things. Transformers is the fucking title for chrissake, and they are out-of-this-world amazing. There are certain benchmark movies for modern special effects: The Abyss, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings… Transformers is the latest and greatest, bar none. Is Transformers as GOOD as any of those movies?
FUCK no. This movie is way too goofy and overstuffed with jokes and bullshit that keeps it from being a classic like the above movies I listed. But you will believe giant robots are rampaging through downtown L.A. They look good. Better than good, I don’t know how special effects can look any better. That filmmakers, let alone Michael fucking Bay of all people, have managed to make this happen is startling. I can’t wrap my head around how ILM did it, but they did. Transformers won’t be topped for a long time. Or at least until the sequel. Or until Voltron.
The sequel must be on the fast track. And I can’t wait. Sequels don’t need the ridiculous amount of build-up this movie had. Audiences know who the Autobots and Decepticons are now, let’s roll with more outstanding destruction. Bring on Soundwave and the Constructicons! Bring on Grimlock and the Dinobots! Bring on more Starscreeeaam!!
My god, giant robots have finally happened to cinema. Could a live-action Gundam be that far behind? Maybe the vaporous Evangelion movie can, uh, I dunno, fucking have something happen to it?
That Transformers is also pretty damn funny and tells a decent little teenage coming-of-age tale is nothing short of surprising. Shia LeBeouf, who always comes off as a cocky douchebag, turns out to be charming as an exasperated, constantly sweaty teenager with a fast mouth and a love for hot babes. He’s also the luckiest boy on the planet. Not only does he befriend Optimus Prime and the Autobots he gets to make out with Megan Fox on the hood of Bumblebee. By all rights, he should be sent straight to hell but the kid does a remarkable job of sincerely believing in the ridiculous goings-on. Considering his co-stars were tennis balls on sticks, or whatever ILM used to provide stand-ins for the robots, I reluctantly applaud Shia for a job well done. Fucker.
Megan Fox is nature’s greatest practical joke, as if she was put here on Earth as a challenge to all other women, or any creature or structure of beauty – try to be as beautiful as her, with her perfect, full lips, her distractingly ultra-white smile. Ha! You can’t. You might as well just kill yourself because everyone is a horrible monster compared to her. Poetry, art… it’s all impossible after Megan Fox. She’s outrageous, poking her bare midriff around, asking guys if she’s – get this – shallow for going out with the idiot football player. The attempt to give her some sort of criminal backstory is an afterthought, another joke at best, as it provides John Turturro with some more material to lampoon. In a movie where giant robots and military hardware are filmed with porn-like attention to detail it makes absolute sense that such a manufactured jerk-off fantasy like Megan Fox would be in Transformers. That one of the highlights of the movie involves Shia’s mom asking if he was beating off in his room makes it even clearer. This is a coming-of-age tale all right, about a boy getting his first car (that turns into a wondrous giant robot) and bagging the ridiculously hot babe. I imagine this movie will be the one to go back to for a new generation of dumbstruck 11-year-olds, wondering when life will reward me with a hot stripper wife, an alien jetplane and a Jewish friend, just as Independence Day was for me more than a decade ago.
John Turturro shows up in a bizarre role to remind us how ridiculous the movie is with a ridiculous performance, bugging his eyes out and delivering outrageous exposition with such a baffling blend of incredulousness and sincerity. That he’s in the movie at all is a triumph. He even strips down to his boxers and goofy socks with straps at one point and mutters something about cell phones having the will of the samurai. Fucking crazy. I hope he shows up in the sequel.
Bernie Mac is a hoot as the deranged dealer who sells Shia his first (transforming) car, providing this year’s delectable “Whoa, he stole that guy’s pizzas!” moment. Truly something to be cherished in repeat viewings! There are several other strong mini-performances, surprisingly, from Anthony Anderson who shines in a scene where he gets to eat a plate full of donuts, and Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson do decent jobs as White Military Guy and Black Military Guy respectively. Jon Voight stands out for the mere fact he doesn’t stand out at all.
There’s another hottie, Rachel Taylor, an Australian computer programmer babe who is such a non-actress she might as well be a cloud of vapor, wafting from scene to scene. I gotta wonder if it wasn’t for her accent and beautiful golden locks would she have been cast at all? But wait a minute, who cares about humans anyway? This is TRANSFORMERS, not TIME-CONSUMING IDIOTS.
And there’s the movie’s greatest fault. Comedy and funny bullshit is all right but, really, I’d rather have that time dedicated to more robot action. The second act is really slow and it seems once all the Transformers are finally introduced there’s not a whole lot of time spent on building up who they are. They get a name, an occupation and that’s that. There are hints of the relationships between them all, but that’s all we get.
Considering the background material I suppose that’s all we need. Bumblebee gets the most amount of personality, miming his actions and talking through the radio using clips from old Paramount movies and TV shows like Star Trek and John Wayne soundbytes. A cute bit has Megan Fox insult Bumblebee’s shoddy paintjob which riles up the car enough to jettison her and Shia out. Bumblebee then drives by a newer model and copies that one, turning into a brand new 2008 model. The familiar Kill Bill tune “Battle Without Honor of Humanity” cues up for his reintroduction, a play on the yellow with black stripe design Uma Thurman’s Bride and Bumblebee share.
The other Autobots get their moments. Jazz breakdances as he transforms, a very cool touch and Ironhide, the wishy-washiest of the Autobots, has an awesome shot he shares with a gaping mawed screaming woman as he jumps over her, another fun Spider-Man 2 moment.
The real star of course is Optimus Prime. A childhood hero for many, a paradigm of nobility, sacrifice and leadership, it’s a victory for the fans how much reverence this character is treated with. He’s voiced expertly by the original voice actor Peter Cullen. He gets two camera hogging transformation sequences. His entrance is scored with the most benevolent music I’ve heard this year and his speech about the worth of humanity is the movie’s emotional centerpiece. He also opens and closes the movie. Hearing him say “My bad!” is a little goofy and a wasteful attempt to contemporize him, otherwise it’s amazing how well he was translated to the screen. I can’t thank ILM enough.
The Decepticon leader, Megatron, is appropriately fearsome – and fucking huge – although his voice by Hugo Weaving is so altered as to be barely recognizable. It works but it doesn’t quite match the iconic baritone of Peter Cullen. I really wish they stuck with Frank Weller’s raspy whisper, that would’ve been far more memorable. Starscream too, lost his characteristic whine though his high-flying action scenes are by the far among the movie’s best.
I can’t sign off of Transformers without mentioning the absurd amount of product placement though, I mean, shit, you’d have to be a reclusive idiot not to expect product placement in a movie about transforming toys. But non-vehicular products? Mountain Dew, Panasonic, Nokia, Xbox 360, Apple, DDR… yes, fucking Dance Dance Revolution, and many more get loving money shots. But hey, Transformers is the best transforming car porn I’ve ever seen in theaters and y’know what?
I can’t wait to go again.