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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

TRANSFORMERS (2007) - Michael Bay

A beloved 1980's franchise getting the big-screen treatment. Giant robots going at it in a major city centre. Top of the line special effects. Sounds like a sure-fire hit, doesn't it?! So how did Michael Bay 'transform' this winning combination into a steaming pile of crap? Oh yes, that's right. The man has no soul. And so he casts his tanned, grinning, soulless shadow over something I once held dear. Transformers.

Transformers begins in Qatar. A lone helicopter, which was presumed shot down, appears on the US Army's radar and proceeds to attack the army's base in the desert, after transforming into a giant robot. Meanwhile in the US, Sam Witwicky, a teenager purchases his first car. A car with a mind of it's own. Stuff happens and it is revealed that the big bad robots are searching for a cube that can transform any mechanical object into another big bad robot. They intend to use this to wipe out the population of the earth. But fear not, Sam's car summons his buddies, a bunch of big good robots, who land on earth to save the day. And so all plot points converge in a battle to save mankind.

First off, as a child I was an avid collector of all things Transformer. As I grew up, I lost interest. Transformers faded into a distant, but fond memory and I moved on. However, the thought still lingered that it would be unfathomably cool to see the big robots go at each other in live action, on the big screen. A thought that many child of the 80's had. And so it almost broke my heart when I heard that they'd given the almost sacred task of bringing the franchise to the big screen to Michael Bay. Bay's not exactly known for his in-depth, soulful or even remotely plausible films. But he can film an explosion, and after seeing the trailer, hopes were rekindled. Unjustifiably so. Bay's created yet another flat, soulless film, devoid of anything except empty flash and slow motion. You'd think that with a film like Transformers, the main goal would be to show off the huge robots in all their glory. Give them a city and let them kick the crap out of each other. Easy job. Yet Bay, in his infinite wisdom, decides to spend almost the entirety of the film trying to make the audience laugh. Okay, I know, it was a kid's show. But to hell with that. Just get to the robots fighting. And that's what I wanted to scream for most of the film.

The Decepticons are almost entirely off screen for the whole film. And when there's no bad guys, there's no fighting with the good guys. Instead we're left with almost two hours of Bay trying his hand at comedy with Sam (Shia LaBeouf) trying to win the heart of Mikaela (Megan Fox) and trying to hide a bunch of robots from his parents. Oh and then one of the robots urinates on a man. Yeah, this, apparently is comedy. By the time the fighting actually does start, my legs had started to go numb and I was getting a little peeved. However, the action begins. And then stops. And then kicks off again. And then stops. And so on for the next half an hour. Bay seems to be addicted to slow motion. So much so that you could probably cut about twenty minutes off the running time of the film by just speeding up the slow-mo. This becomes incredibly tiresome very quickly. And the camera work is nauseating. The Transformers seem to be more interested in performing acrobatics than actually hitting an enemy, so the camera is constantly moving. I wished, for just one moment that the camera would focus on two robots actually hitting each other. But no. Bay's too distracted by concentrating on where to throw in another slow motion shot.

As for the Transformers themselves, well, they do look spectacular. The special effects team should be commended for actually making the Transformers look like they belong in the world. Cant fault them for that. The designs are a little too busy, and you can lose focus on what you're looking at. But then, I just covered that. One decision that was smart more than inspired was to get Peter Cullen back in to record the voice of Optimus Prime. A big grin did appear on my face when I heard his deep tones coming from everyone's favorite blue and red truck. But then he wasn't on screen nearly enough. The rest of the cast (which includes Jon Voight and John Turturro) barely warrant a mention as they take third place to explosions and slow mo. They're just there to get shot at.

So my fears were realised. This was an empty, soulless, flashy, throw-away film. Gone are the relationships between the giant robots (Starscream's desire to usurp Megatron, Prime and Megatron's nemesis relationship). We barely get a decent battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. Instead we get comedy for almost two hours and then a half hour of slow-mo. It's a shame really. This should have been great. The special effects are spectacular, but special effects do not a good film make. If you want a decent Transformers movie, check out Transformers: The Movie. It's far, far better. I want to say Transformers is the best Michael Bay film I've seen. But a more appropriate phrase is, Transformers is the Michael Bay film I hate the least.



J Luis Rivera said...

Now I fully understand you. I would have loved the film if it had been shot in an epic style, you know, with a wide panoramic shot of the robots fighting. Other than the final image, I can't remember a scene where a Transformer was seen in its entire glory for more than 3 seconds and without constantly shaking the camera.

Peter Slattery said...

Yeah, thet's true. It's a shame. To be honest, the film felt like a first of a series film. Although an overly long one. I smell a sequel!

J Luis Rivera said...

Hopefully, Starscream will kick some ass in the sequel

Moondog said...

Highly flawed, but..... goddammit I just really enjoyed it! (scurries off before shot)