Transformers

By Shamus
on Jul 8, 2007
Filed under:
Movies

I saw Transformers this weekend. Spoler-free review follows:

I don’t have much new to add to what has already been said about this movie. Like everyone else I thought this was an overlong movie where everything (everything!) was turned up to eleven and running at 110%. All the time. The dialog was enslaved by the plot, and the stunts went from “that’s kind of hard to believe” to “I don’t believe that for a second” and finally reached the zenith of “that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Director Michael Bay is the sorcerer’s apprentice. He’s got Spielberg’s spellbook, but where Spielberg makes magic, Michael Bay just makes a mess. I can see what he’s trying to do, and I can see he’s missing by a mile. At one point the teenage protagonist needs to go into his house to get his grandfather’s eyeglasses, and then he needs to leave with the robots. It’s late at night and he’s out after curfew. The bots “hide” in the yard, and the kid goes in to get the MacGuffin. What follows is a scene of intended suspense where we’re supposed to worry that the parents will discover the bots. It was supposed to come off like the moment in E.T. where the mother opens the closet door and nearly discovers the alien. The problem with the scene in Transformers was that I didn’t believe the behavior of the characters, I didn’t care if the parents saw the bots, and the scene dragged on for about five more minutes after all the energy was played out. In more deft hands this could have been both funny and suspenseful, but instead I felt that Michel Bay was just wasting my time.

The cast of characters was small, but the cast of caricatures was huge. The movie has not one, but two Bruckheimer-style Wacky Black Guys. You can see their jokes coming from miles away, and it takes forever for them to get around to screeching their frantic, quasi-punchlines.

Note to Michel Bay: Hoooold the camera stilllllllllllll. It looks like the filmmakers met their affirmative action quota by hiring a crackhead with Parkenson’s disease and ADHD to hold the camera. The result was one frenzied action scene after another with blurry, swinging camera pans. During the final battle I could never figure out what the battlefield looked like. I never got a sense of, “Good guys over here, bad guys over there.” It was just a chain of closeups on our actors followed by blurry, seismic camera shots of robots and shooting.

The robots had the predictable and tiresome “but humans are so violent” philosophical debate. At this point we’re pretty much used to sanctimonious aliens showing up and tut-tutting at us in movies, although it was pretty irritating to hear it coming from a bunch of robots who’d had a war that destroyed their entire homeworld, to the point of making it uninhabitable for robots.

To be fair, this movie is based on an 80’s cartoon. No, this ain’t Shakespeare. The show was silly to begin with (I liked it anyway) but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to smarten it up a bit for the big screen. It wouldn’t have taken much. Instead, they had a very good try at dumbing it down, if such a thing is possible.

On the upside, the special effects were indeed great, and I fully admit that when I heard the voice of Peter Cullen reprising his role as Optimus Prime, I got a little tingle. The movie had a few moments that really worked for me, and it managed to wring a smile out of me amidst the eye rolling. The giant-robots-punching-each-other stuff was perfect. So was the transforming.

Michael Bay seems to aspire to become a Spielberg, but too often he gives in and takes the quick and easy path, which leads to the dark side and Jerry Bruckheimer. Slow down man. Take three of those dozen characters and fill them out. Dial the stunts down to “I might be able to believe that could happen under very specific conditions”. Take out the thudding jokes, posturing, witless banter, and catchphrases. In place of all of that, give us some dialog. You know. Like characters. Talking. You may have seen this done in other movies. It’s surprisingly effective. Then cut forty minutes off the movie.

And add Optimus Rhyme to the soundtrack.

EDIT: The “Like everyone else” comment above isn’t really true. It only applies to the people I’d spoken to and the reviews I’d glanced at. The movie is doing okay vs. critics, and lots of people really enjoyed it. Read the comments for some alternate takes on the movie.

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  1. Alex says:

    But keep the multiple instances of lubrication, right?

  2. Mark says:

    The thing that bothered me most was that they totally just dropped various subplots when they became inconvenient or when they’d take too long to resolve. For instance, a fairly simple one was that Bumble Bee couldn’t talk at the beginning of the movie. Optimus Prime told the kid that this was because his speech center was damaged. Later in the movie, Bumble Bee inexplicably starts talking with no explanation. There are dozens of things like that – at one point the army guy takes control and starts ordering everyone around, but how the heck did he understand what was going on? And so on.

    As you mention, the action sequences were edited to death. This, to me, just indicates how unprepared Bay was. When Spielberg did it in Saving Private Ryan, it was in a very deliberate manner and the audience immediately gets the point – war is chaotic. Lots of directors since have tried that (not that Spielberg invented it), to varying degrees of success. Bay is not one of them. The worst part about it is that it’s not like the stuntwork would have beem more complicated or anything – it’s all CGI. And quite frankly, I had trouble telling who was who, especially among the Decepticons. They were all grey and looked pretty much the same (it doesn’t help that they were given about 10 seconds of introduction).

    I like to watch the pretty explosions as much as anybody, but this movie stunk. The best part about it is the human element, and even that was nearly unbearable at times.

  3. Mordaedil says:

    I thought it was great, but then again, I kinda find Bruckheimer black dudes hilarious. For some reason.

  4. wererogue says:

    “Spoler-free review follows:”
    “At one point the teenage protagonist needs to go into his house to get his grandfather’s eyeglasses…”

    Come on Shamus, that’s just mean :(

  5. Shamus says:

    I cannot IMAGINE how that is a spoiler. I don’t talk about WHY he wants them, or what they plan to do next. It is a scene of nearly no consequence, and I don’t reveal the outcome of the scene.

    EDIT: On further reflection, I’ll obscure it with a spoiler tag anyway. I still don’t think it qualifies, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of safety.

  6. I enjoyed it a lot, but I’ve already become resigned to the fact that I have extremely weird taste.

  7. Sarcastic Elf says:

    I did like it but mostly for the giant robots. I disliked most of the human cast (the boy was so annoying). I would have prefered they focused on the title characters more instead of on the humans, which, as you pointed out, were mostly caricatures.

  8. AJ says:

    I enjoyed it as well. But then again, I went in with expectations that it would be no better than the animated movie, which I still love but many people find unbearable. I suppose I just liked getting to see Optimus Prime and his boys, even if Ironhide wasn’t a cheesy van…I always liked that he talked a huge game but road around like a soccer Mom :-)

  9. Sdev says:

    I find it pretty odd that you would expect so much out of Transformers. Do you even remember the show? Not exactly full of depth. If you didn’t enjoy this movie, chances are the kid in you has long been dead, replaced by a bitter old nerd.

  10. Shamus says:

    “I find it pretty odd that you would expect so much out of Transformers. Do you even remember the show? Not exactly full of depth. If you didn’t enjoy this movie, chances are the kid in you has long been dead, replaced by a bitter old nerd.”

    Nice. If you’d bothered to read the article, you’d see I covered exactly this subject. But chances are the adult in you is long dead, replaced by an infantile troller.

  11. gedece says:

    I still remember with great emotion one of the final episodes of Beast Wars Tranformers first season, where Dinobot is debating once more with himself, trying to decide if the world is lead by free will or fate decrees every move, and upon observing the future being changed by an action in the present, but knowing that he alone could help prevent the future to be completely rewritten says “The question that once haunted my being has been answered. The future is NOT fixed, and my choices are my own. And yet, how ironic… For now I find that I have no choice at all.”

    A little bit of this could have added a lot to a Transformers movie.

  12. Aaron M says:

    I saw the movie with my father, who is, like me, a big geek. When the glasses showed up in the second scene of the movie, I leaned over to him and said “oh look, it’s Chekov’s glasses.

    The big visual problem for me was the combat, particularly the final battle scene. The effects look fantastic, but the new look of the bots means they lack distinct visual cues for their body parts, or even which robot you’re looking at from moment to moment. Combine that with Bay’s ADHD editing and camera work, and the fight is just unfollowable.

  13. rockjianrock says:

    I’ve been stalking the blog since the last year, never leaving a comment, but here’s my two cents about Michael Bay’s Transformers. Well, the whole battle-in-the-city main action sequence was pretty much messy, but I was sitting in the third row from the front. Coupled with the camera work, I decided to postpone my judgement of the action work since I didn’t have the best seat in the house to watch the film.

    What I really liked about the film was when Optimus rolled in with the rest of the Transformers. I nearly shed a tear.

    What I really really hated was the “searching-for-the-MacGuffin” scene in the house. It was tremendously tedious to sit through. Especially the mom. I hate her character so much. If the movie needed a 20-minute cut, that would be prime real estate for shearing. I also hate that they made Optimus Prime really really preachy.

    I felt that the Decepticons deserve more varied characters and better introduction that a mere “This is the enemy, this is what it is called, this is what it looks like, it will try to kill you later.”

    That kinda contributes to the film feeling rather one-offish and a poor addition to the epic myth of the Transformers.

  14. Marmot says:

    Hmph. I saw the movie yesterday and, even if I never watched or read Transformers before, I found it allright and entertaining. It didn’t have a deep plot but what it had was executed fine, they didn’t overload it with sex-puns… what the movies has about said puns is something I usually frown upon but the makers didn’t push it so I think it’s fine. If it had more I would have not liked it, for certain.

    Where was I?
    Oh right. It doesn’t have much of a story but is okay in what it does. The battle sequences are amazing, even if a bit chaotic and it’s hard to see who is on who’s side, but it still looks awesome. Overall I found it entertaining and a nice experience, much better than I expected to see when sitting down in the cinema :)

  15. Shamus says:

    “What I really liked about the film was when Optimus rolled in with the rest of the Transformers. I nearly shed a tear.”

    I agree with you there. That scene worked really well. The final scene and the narration worked for me too.

  16. Senator says:

    you talk too much…make a movie and let’s see how you do it…I can’t understand why there are people who know nothing but criticize…are you a perfectionist? if you are then why don’t you divert your attention to paperworks and documents? cause art never wants people like you…ask all the people around the world and count how many people share the same opinion with you…gather them and make a movie of your own…I’ll be waiting…That should be the most promising movie that would surpass all legendary directors…

  17. Grant says:

    “Like everyone else, I thought … ”

    You should probably stay away from phrases like these. That opening invites people to disagree with you as loudly and rudely as possible. Maybe it was intended as a joke?

    I haven’t seen the movie, but my friends all loved it so I’ll go when I find time.

    Grant

  18. Veloxyll says:

    I can agree with most of the points
    Especially that house scene omg. Just because Peter Jackson can get away with shooting the same shot 50 times DOES NOT MEAN IT’S A GOOD IDEA. that entire scene should’ve taken about 5 minutes. Including the talk!

    The Transformers themselves were poorly fleshed out in general. Bumble Bee’s voice box, as previously mentioned, the rest of the Autobots and all the Decepticons too hardly got a mention.

    Bonus points however from quoting EXACTLY from the movie for the Prime-Megatron fight. All it was missing was ripped out Optics.
    Some way to make them more easily identifiable would’ve been nice (eg: the decepticons could’ve been all grey while the autobots were all colourful)

    I’d still say it’s a fun movie to watch, but it definately could’ve easily been improved.

  19. Jeremiah says:

    Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I do agree about the whole “find the mcguffin” scene; could’ve done without that, it was a cumbersome way to try and create some extra suspense for getting it.

    Other than that, I enjoyed it a lot (by enjoyed, I mean I felt entertained throughout the majority of the movie). It’s hard for me to think about stunts that are easy to believe, when most of the stunts are involving giant transforming robots. I think once my belief is suspended concerning that, then everything else just sort of falls into place.

    As far as the shaken camera and chaotic battle scenes, especially the climax, I actually like battles to be done that way; I don’t really expect battles to be extremely clear-cut and easy to follow. I don’t have any real experience being in a situation like that, but I expect things are quite chaotic.

    Oh, and I agree with rockjianrock about the Decepticons needing a little more screentime. I barely had time to find out all their names (yeah, I watched transformers as a kid, but I don’t remember all that much).

  20. ~fat-gevs says:

    I really think Bay and the gang did a very good job overall.

    the “glasses” scene may be a little dragging but looking at the succeeding scenes, this is the only chance to show a more casual, non-breathtaking, interaction between the giants and the protagonists. with this in mind, I think that was cool.

    regarding the camera movements, I think it was superb. That time I thought, If I were on the exact same place where the fight is happening, I probably won’t see a damn thing. I will not see the battle scene clearly for I am running for my life. I won’t even see the scene in a “still” camera point of view because of the fact that I’m running.

    bottomline is, I think Spielberg won’t get himself involve with crappy movies. He got a reputation to keep. He will make sure that whenever his name appers on the credits, the movie always be a slobberknocker!

    Cheers!

  21. Shamus says:

    Senator says: “You talk to much”

    Imagine that. It’s my website.

    I don’t need to be a moviemaker to have the qualifications to know if I like a movie or not.

    A further note: Love the movie as much as you like, but you really need to disagree without insulting me personally. If you can’t manage that, then head on to another website. You won’t enjoy yourself here at all. I’m not here to babysit anklebiters.

  22. Shamus says:

    Grant: Point taken. This is what I’d been hearing about the movie so far. I probably should have said, “Like a lot of people I know think…”, which would have been more accurate.

  23. Sledge says:

    I loved this movie personally! I was stuck in the front row and had no problems with the camera work. The scene in the house was great for me as well. Without that scene there is very little to establish the transformers as actual people.
    That said two people with me (also in the annoying front row) did have trouble watching the battle scenes. Their theory is that on DVD it will be much clearer.

  24. Katy says:

    …Wow. There’s a lot of tension in the comments despite this being just a movie.

    Too many “action-cam” shots. Hold the damned camera still. I came to this movie to see the robots at the very least, not a blur.

    Trim the annoying parts (AKA, Witwicky’s parents), trim the action (I mean, they destroyed downtown), trim the number of human characters (did not need the hacker, the strangely attractive code breaker chick, nor even the army dudes in Qatar), and flesh out the ones that are integral to the plot (Sam, his love interest, and the robots).

    Even so, I loved Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, the whole gang. Hugo Weaving did an excellent job as Megatron despite his few lines. I wish the Decepticons had been given a little more introduction, at the very least. I had no idea what a few of their names were, such as Barricade or Starscream.

    More than a better director, it needed a better script. Even so, I finished the movie somehow happy. That’s what counts.

  25. Dev Null says:

    Note to Michel Bay: Hoooold the camera stilllllllllllll.

    Alas, Hollywoods answer to the fight scene still appears to be to place the actors next to each other with their fists out, and then flail the camera around on a tetherball string for a minute or two. Wish theyd hire a few fight choreographers from Hong Kong more often; when they do they get fight scenes instead of fight blurs.

  26. H3adlin3 says:

    [Italics]”you talk too much…make a movie and let’s see how you do it…I can’t understand why there are people who know nothing but criticize…are you a perfectionist? if you are then why don’t you divert your attention to paperworks and documents? cause art never wants people like you…ask all the people around the world and count how many people share the same opinion with you…gather them and make a movie of your own…I’ll be waiting…That should be the most promising movie that would surpass all legendary directors…”[/Italics]

    Damn! I didn’t know Michael Bay trolled this board!

    But seriously folks!

    Senator, maybe you should check out Shamus’ comic before throwing down the ‘art’ gauntlet, (not to mention your implied association of the ‘Transformers’ movie with the world of art? Seriously?) and, of course, you hopefully recognize that your post is also a form of criticism. I personally am tired of the ‘until you make a movie, you can’t criticize mine/them’ logical falicy. I believe people have a right to their opinions, and the right to share them in a manner they see fit. (Intellegent criticism like Shamus’ being appreciated over the ‘It sucked!’ variety) And the right to criticize a movie they shelled out $10 to see and spent an hour-and-a-half to two hours-and-change watching (the time being the more precious of the two costs.)

    The Transformers movie is not on my list of movies to see this summer. It doesn’t even come close. I enjoyed playing with the toys, but I vaguely remember the cartoon, and certainly do not carry the emotional attachment to the story? world? that others seem to (I’m looking at you ‘Senator’) ;) But I did appreciate Shamus’ criticism of the movie.

    I am curious as to how long we the movie going audience will continue to shell out our cash and waste our time watching what is basically re-hashed formula crap over and over again. We do it to ourselves (and I am not speaking from a high horse, I sat through Shrek 3 this year (my daughter wanted to see it), and will check out the Speed Racer movie next year (A story? world? I DO have an emotional attachment to)), and until we tire of this self-induced flagelation, we will continue to get what Hollywood thinks we want.

  27. Templar says:

    yeeeeah i disagree. a lot. (and man, don’t say “like everyone else”… sheesh. you’re the second person i’ve actually seen say they DIDN’T like it. i’d argue strongly that you’re in the minority camp there buddy, it’s just that negative-nellies tend to speak up ;D)

    i thought the movie was fan-freaking-tastic! i was giggling like a maniac through the majority and cramming my face with popcorn nonstop.

    It’s Transformers, it’s a popcorn stuffer… it’s brain candy. *shrug*

    even the scene at Sam’s (hell of an actor that kid, he did the fast-talking nervous-nerd bit VERY well.) parent’s house with the glasses had some pretty strong roots in the old series, showing interaction between the autobots and the human characters. Now, i understand a lot of people feel that Transformers doesn’t NEED human characters… and i say they’re wrong. (also, i thought the masturbation bit of dialog was hilarious… his dad, dumbfounded; “stop talking!”, very funny)

    I have a hard time with the idea that you had such a problem with the stunt sequences, and yet your a fantasy RPG geek… these two things just… refuse to connect in my mind at all. We play games where we make up what’s plausible and what’s not… how is it that someone else deciding what’s plausible (or not) bothers you so much? (also: note i said “plausible” not “realistic”… if we wanted “realistic” i doubt we’d be discussing a movie with giant transforming robots from space)

    Your whole review smacks of having made up your mind before you even walked into the theater, like you were disappointed with the film before you even sat down. And i sortof understand that mindset… there’ve been a few movies that i was prepared to dislike well before i saw them… but i’m just sayin’; let’s call a spade a spade here. I’d put money on the idea that you were more worried and concerned that you wouldn’t like it, than you were excited and pumped to see giant robots fighting… am i wrong?

    Additionally… i don’t think you’re remembering the old Transformers cartoon accurately. you SAY you “liked it anyway” but i think you’ve got some nostalgia getting in the way of how genuinely ridiculous and bad that cartoon actually was. go find a youtube video of some of the early episodes… they hold up about as well as Thundercats (i can’t believe i used to WATCH that crap! lol) the animation is terrible, and the dialog was worse. I’ve learned that 90% of the time, when people are waxing nostalgic about transformers, they’re thinking of the animated movie… which was great, but a far cry from the old TV show.

    The point is… how can you nitpick an Action movie, based off an old cartoon… which was itself based purely (and plotlessly) on some toys?

    and finally, let’s not forget that the movie is marketed to kids. if you were a KID i’m sure you’d find a dog peeing on Ironhide, or Prime stepping in the flowerbed to be way funnier. Yeah we grew up with’em… it appeals to adults too, but it’s not FOR us. This is for the next batch of proto-people… who will grow up, get nostalgic for this film, and bitch about the remake they do thirty years from now. ;)

    i realize it sounds like i’m kinda jumpin’ on your case for saying something negative about the movie… and by and large, i’m mostly just givin’ you a hard time. But i feel it’s important for people reading this, to understand that your review… is… uh… a little one-sided.

    there’s a lot of people who totally loved this film. there’s a lot of people who are going ape over this thing, and seeing it repeatedly.

    i mean… Prime even says “one shall stand… one, shall fall!”. I went berserk at that bit. brilliant!

  28. phlux says:

    I think it’s kind of weird. I have the same complaints as pretty much everyone else. Some of the character arcs were really weak (anthony anderson’s in particular), there was no backstory for the decepticons. Not enough speaking lines for the robots. Couldn’t tell the decepticons apart, especially from Ironhide (would it have been so hard to make him a RED pickup?).

    But I thought it played great. The action scenes really worked for me. The scene with Megatron vs the tiniest autobot was gutwrenching (trying to avoid spoilers), and it was only seconds long, and the character in question had about 20 seconds of screen time.

    I’m not sure why it played better for me than it did for many others. I guess I was such a huge transformers fan as a kid that any excuse to see them again works for me. The animated movie is still better, in my opinion, but I went into this movie with no other expectation than to be wow-ed by giant robots beating the ever-loving snot out of one another, and in that Michael Bay did not disappoint.

  29. HeatherRae says:

    I really loved this movie.

    Okay, I’ve gotten it out there. I disagree with you, Shamus, completely. :) Sorries! I mean, you’re entitled to your opinion (especially on your own blog), but I disagree.

    I loved Shia LaBeouf. OMG, I thought he was great. Then again, I’ve loved this actor since I saw him in Holes. I loved the human element in the movie – you may disagree with me that so many humans were necessary, but I was so thrilled to see humans fighting back – adapting and succeeding in some cases. While the women were admittedly eye-candy, I was very happy to see the main female characters were portrayed as intelligent, capable adults. Eye-candy or not, they could out-think half the other characters.

    I have my own theories on what happened with that one autobot’s voice, and why he got it back, and they go back to a certain room with a large cubelike object. Two robots encounter it, and what happens to one is very obvious, but what happens to the other is not.

    The scene where Sam is going to get the MacGuffin was, in my opinion, hilarious. I didn’t see it as intended to be uber suspensful. Having seen the care and obsession Sam’s parents lavished on that lawn and garden earlier in the movie, I just died when the autobots started stepping all over the lawn. The scene with Sam’s parents was just…the look on poor Sam’s face was like, “Please, may the ground open up and swallow me right now?!” “We can call it ‘Sam’s Happy Time!'” I just lost it. Absolutely hilarious.

    There were a few things that I wish were better developed, such as some of the subplots, some of the individual autobots (as only two of them were really fleshed out), but overall I really, really, really enjoyed the movie.

  30. Farrell says:

    My girlfriend and I are with HeatherRae on this one. :-) A little background, she is only vaguely familiar with the Transformers (“they’re based on a cartoon in the 80’s, yeah?”), whereas I loved the cartoon, the animated movie, and even have the soundtrack to said movie. :-D

    We both loved this movie. :-) I do agree it was kinda hard to keep up with some of the action scenes, but it worked for both of us. It obviously wasn’t too hard distinguishing between friend/foe in most of the sequences (such as lone decepticon vs. humans, be it either in the desert, or onboard AirForce One).

    I think the sequence at Sam’s home was great. I think the intent of the moviemaker was comedy and character development. I think it would have particularly resonated with teenage boys in the audience, too. :-D Imagine the embarrassment factor of having your parents accuse you of “that activity” while the girl you have a huge crush on is listening in? :-D

    I also enjoyed how they broke with a lot of cheesy stereotypes — toward the end of the movie, when Sam is about to run to the rendezvous point with the second MacGuffin, Mikaela stops him, but instead of the cheesy “let’s kiss because we may be about to die”, she tells him she didn’t regret “getting in the car”. Too cool!

    We really enjoyed this movie, and are planning to go back and see it again before it leaves the theaters. :-D

  31. Kris says:

    And now it doesn’t matter that you covered it, because I read it once I got to the comments. Hah! I still have no idea why it matters though.

  32. andy says:

    Shamus, in principal I agree with every thing you say, but I still reckon the movie rocked.

    The premise of the movie seems to be that evil robots come to earth to find a mystical cube that will allow them to enslave the earth, and subsequently the universe (perhaps just the galaxy?) and some good robots come to stop them, and caught in the cross fire is a kid with a crush on a girl, and a squad of special forces soldiers, who seem to like winning. Oh, and the robots can transform into ‘stuff’ – cars, trucks, planes, helicopters, stereos, tanks, and so on, to ‘hide in plain sight’ from humans. Also, said robots are bipedal when not hiding.

    So far, some alarm bells are ringing…

    At the end of the day, it’s transformers. And deceptacons. Transformers! Robots, that transform! Army guys shooting them, robots fighting, so on and so forth! Transformers!

    So, whilst I concede all the points you raise, I still reckon the film rocked. And may I say, it was a finely written review that pretty much has made my morning, as I have come to expect from this blog. (I am an aussie, it’s like 11 am here)

  33. mike says:

    I thought it was okay as a summer action flick goes. The action was exciting, the CGI fantastic, and the few Transformers they fleshed out were great. The plot was about what you can realistically expect, and the comedy scattered throughout was a bit odd, but understandable.

    (minor spoilers follow, I guess?)

    The camera work was shoddy and crazy, but when you combine it with the lackluster character designs (Virtually all of them were at least 50% bland, grey metal), it makes it so freaking hard to tell who’s who, or if that rocket just came out of someone’s chest, foot, or ear.

    But the PERSONALITIES. Where were the personalities! This isn’t a movie about two teenage kids in love, with a minor subplot involving some alien robots. It’s about freaking LIVING ROBOTS! I personally loathed Frenzy, the boombox (too Jar Jar / evil Ewok for me) BUT he had a great, distinct character, and I know many people loved it as much as I hated it.

    But the others? Ratchet did literally nothing important. Bonecrusher (who rams the bus in every single trailer for this movie) had about 60 seconds of screen time. Blackout, who don’t forget was THE “holy crap, we’re dead” Decepticon, had…zero lines. Starscream had TWO LINES. Come on, Michael Bay. Bernie Mac should not have more lines than Megatron’s second in command.

  34. andy says:

    Having read a few of the other comments, and posted above that I disagreed with the review, I have to add that in my experience there have definitely been mixed reviews… Some (like me) thought it was awesome, some have hated it (nearly walking out), and others are still unsure. Not sure what the ratios are though.

    Like everyone else, I thought this was an overlong movie where everything (everything!) was turned up to eleven and running at 110%.”

    Your first line may be a little ‘strong’, but I think most reasonable people, even if they liked it, would find it difficult to disagree. But thats just my opinion, based on my experience, so perhaps I am wrong.

    BUT, as previously stated, I thought your review (especially having seen the movie) was well written and amusing.

  35. supermank17 says:

    Heh, I have to say that, flaws and all, I still enjoyed the film. There was a lot wrong with it; I have to join the chorus about the action sequences, where it was at times nearly impossible to follow what was going on (at the same time, big robots and explosions!). And of course, I had to lock up the computer scientist in me, kicking and screaming, at the computer “tech talk” (female computer expert: “This is way beyond Fourier transforms, we have to consider quantum mechanics!” schwaaa???)
    But all in all, it was a fun movie. Mindless, yes. About as deep as a bird bath. But it closely followed the formula from the cartoon series, and that was enough for me.

  36. Liam B says:

    I havn’t seen the movie and I wasn’t a fan of the original series SO this MAY be a spoiler…..

    ……..this is a movie review quote from an Australian Parents magazine –

    “One of the good action figures volunteers to blow himself up to prevent the bad guys winning – so, presumably, he’s one of those ‘good’ suicide-bombers”

    Do I need to add that she was quite unimpressed?

    Mind you, nearly ALL the 18-21 Yr old staff I work with ( i’m in my mid-30s) were all “OMG. the Transformers! I loved that show! I’m so going to see it! etc.

  37. Gus says:

    I know a guy who makes a webcomic in which the “art” is nothing but still frames taken from movies, which (I believe) are used without consent. Many people like it, but I suppose that just shows that “people” are stupid and will eat up whatever is put in front of them.

    Anybody can complain about anything. I don’t have to know how to build a car to know what a bad car is, but when I’m handed a car that is, quite frankly, well above the average effort (here I end the metaphor and reveal that I am discussing action movies), I think it says something about the people that can do nothing but find fault.

    I thought TF was really well done. It is not perfect, but it is far from terrible. This does not make me right, or any of you wrong (such are the breaks in the realm of opinion,) but I have to agree with an earlier poster in that I think you probably decided you hated it from the word “Bay.”

  38. quadir says:

    Nothing says “online nerd personality” more than a rip review at the transformers movie. Looks like a large chunk of your intended audience likes it though, and so does everyone I’ve talked to.

    You bring up a few points, that are the current hot “rip” arguments, that can be easily addressed:

    P: stunts went from “that’s kind of hard to believe” to “I don’t believe that for a second”
    A: They are robots that stand as tall as some houses. They know they can’t suspend your disbelief in this movie, so they ran with the punches.

    P: “I can see what he’s trying to do…teenage protagonist needs to go into his house”
    A: See last answer about how this is some kind of E.T. moment. In fact I’d say it’s a joke on how in this case, an E.T. moment is so unbelievably impossible that it’s funny. The scene also reminds us he’s just a kid, don’t expect Indiana Jones here. And it was funny, just you weren’t the target audience.

    P: “but instead I felt that Michel Bay was just wasting my time”
    A: Just like Disney is wasting your time when it teaches you to “share”. Sorry, there IS things in the movie for you, this obviously isn’t one of them.

    Let me sidetrack for a sec, most reviews are talking how this is some kind of movie version of the 1983 tv series. True in a lot of ways, however don’t forget transformers have evolved through 13 other tv series since then. The body changes aren’t far fetched at all. And you can expect fans of transformers not to only be 30+ years old, the last tv series ended in 2006, a year ago.

    P: cast of caricatures was huge
    A: Yeah, just like Peter overplayed Gimli’s height there is a lot of caricatures and one liners in this movie “I’d bet my inflated government salary on it” (or something like that). They’re great, if you’re not uptight. If you must relate everything to the ’83 cartoon, well the bot was all rapping and breakdancing back then too. This isn’t new.

    P: Note to Michel Bay: Hoooold the camera stilllllllllllll.
    A: This is a complaint a lot of people have towards movies. Here’s a great 2 person fight where the camera work flows:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=DHwU_XdAtxI
    Go beyond 2 people in a fight though, and you’ll have to pan out, or move/cut the camera a lot more. Many people complained about it in lord of the rings. If you zoom out on transformers though, they look like miniatures on a toy city, which is crap. So no, you’re going to get cutting. I wish it wasn’t so, but your choices are not there. You didn’t get a B-movie Godzilla with guys in suits.

    P: predictable and tiresome “but humans are so violent”
    A: Wow, this looks like plot to me! Character development! And it’s Optimus, you know, the good guys, who is getting on our side!

    P: show was silly to begin with (I liked it anyway)
    A: Many of us liked it BECAUSE it was silly.

    You complained at the action for not zooming out and making the movie look like 2$ toys, you complained about the DIALOG sequences then that there wasn’t enough dialog. You complained about the humour even though this is a huge part of all the shows because these robots just ain’t making me believe we’re in kansas, sorry. It sounds to me like you want a completely different movie from a completely different franchise, I’m sorry this wasn’t Godzilla 2000 for you (which tried the things you mentioned and failed), but I feel Bay delivered to the fans.

  39. Stephen says:

    My thoughts on the movie exactly, put into words by Shamus.

  40. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Still pondering if Im going to see it or not.But I must admit,the alk here sways me towards not by the minut.Especially because of the idiotic action cam hollycrap producers are so fond of latelly.There are dozens of movies with excelent battle scenes that have still camera(just to mention spartacus),yet only a few that have action cam and good battles(saving private ryan and…..well,I guess thats it).And of course,the human element Im not so fond of.Its a show that I enjoyed because it had cool robots,not realism,or anything like that.Sure,it had humans,but they were not the focus of the series.Maybe when the tickets become really cheap,or someone buys the DVD I go and watch it,just out of curiosity.

  41. josh says:

    Maybe qadir and the other apologists can explain what is *gained* by shaking the camera around so much.

    I think the best choice for a cut would be the entire hacker subplot. They contributed nothing to the plot and didn’t even interact with any of the other characters. And 2/3 through the movie they suddenly disappeared.

  42. Damionte says:

    I liked and disliked the movie. i didn’t like not having the transforming sound.I didn’t like the way the transformers looked in robots form. or that we really don’t get interoduced to the decepticons in any meaningful way.

    The things I do like were good enough to distract me from the things I didn’t like. the girl. Good distraction.

    The Mustang cop car. Prowl. Awsome distraction. It was just great to look at.

    That Camaro concept car. That was dead sexy. It’s really the only part of the movie i can really remember. … other than the girl who’s name I can’t remember.

  43. TalrogSmash says:

    to all of those pointing to the “original” episodes and telling everyone to check them out…
    The original airings of transformers have yet to be released. There are three or four badly cut versions of each episode you can get, depending on when and in which country you get them, but the originals are still in litigation. Ask Peter Cullen, he will tell you about his fights for residuals that he cant get due to these court battles.

  44. Zaghadka says:

    Yup. We are making some very expensive comic books these days. Compare the plotting to a 50’s “Comic’s Code” periodical, and I think you’ll see how a barely literate culture moves to a non-literate one.

    The answer: Do more reading folks.

  45. Katy says:

    I notice some people defending the “action-cam”. I do like some action-cam, really. It makes the film grittier, more realistic. However, there really is a point where it’s too much. If I can’t tell what’s going on–that’s too much.

    I think there would’ve been many ways for a director and cinematographer to reduce the action-cam shots to 15 or 20% of the movie and use smoother shots instead. I’m not talking about stationary–I’m talking about zooming out just a little more and swinging the camera intead of slinging it around a maypole and putting the robots into whatever shot you get.

  46. Alex says:

    Shamus, I think you should stop having opinions. Sometimes I don’t envy you your reader base.

  47. Shamus says:

    Alex: Hm. I don’t know. I can’t say one way or the other. What do you think?

  48. Don’t worry, Shamus, we have a discussion like this on Oo.net for just about every action movie that comes out. It practically came to blows over V for Vendetta.

    Artistically, there was not much to Transformers, but the sense of life portrayed in the movie was benevolent. So, you are going to get two major, different reactions depending on whether you base your views on the movie’s artistic merit or on its sense of life.

    I base my views more on sense of life for two reasons: I don’t know enough about the technical side of art to be a snob, and it’s very hard to find art that doesn’t project a malevolent sense of life any more. I will take a crude crayon drawing of a hero over a technically adept painting of a sewer any day.

  49. CJG says:

    “Like everyone else…”

    Wow, this is actually kind of different from what everyone else I’ve talked to has to say about the movie. I was starting to wonder if I should maybe actually go see it.

  50. Margaret says:

    I loved it! That was the cheesiest thing I have seen since the first Austin Powers Movie. We laughed til we cried throughout the entire movie. I especially liked how when our heroes are in the car for the first time, Bay doesn’t even bother with background scenery. They are driving through an incredibly intense light that blurs everything in the background.

    The great part was that you could see every movie that he lifted the scene from and quote from it directly into the scene. Which for us, just made it that much more hilarious.

    There is no way I could go on without spoilers so I’ll just leave it at that. Great points that you made Shamus. I especially like the description of the camera shooting.

  51. Ben says:

    Well I haven’t seen the movie. But I can say that I relate to a lot of what Shamus is saying – eg I’ve experienced the nauseating feeling of watching a movie where they move the camera around way too much in the action scenes, to the poiont where you can’t actually tell what’s going on, and watching a good set of characters from a pre-existing story dealt with so superficially that they may as well not be in the movie at all.

    I wasn’t planning on watching the movie anyway, and now I’m sure I’ll wait for the video. So thanks Shamus – I appreciated your review and am fairly sure it describes how I would react to watching it. I notice that your review was appreciated by those who agree with you (hey, that is like the “identity” statement!?) I guess that’s the nature of opinions.

    I’m not altogether surprised about Transformers – action movies lately are so far down the path of rehashing old themes (Spiderman, Superman, Batman twice, X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles again, a whole bunch of Marvel characters I’ve never even heard of, and Garfield!?) that it was only a matter of time before they got around to Transformers. Problem is that they’re motivated by digging themselves out of the hole of low box office dollars, rather than making good movies. You’d think that making a good movie would bring in the dollars, but they also have to worry about actually getting our attention in the first place. Advertising-friendly gimmicks, artificial jerky plot twists, carefully orchestrated “poignant moments” and exploding fight scenes are the order of the day. You end up with a laundry list of stuff that happens rather than a good story.

    A muse: were older movies really “better” than this? Is it just that we’ve seen everything and we are really running out of good movie-design space? Or do older movies seem better than they really were long after the fact?

  52. Karobka says:

    Well I was really quite surprised by the movie, I went in expecting a load of remade transforming crap and came out smiling.

    Yes if you’re expecting a fabulous story, real character development, the same Transformers you think you grew up with, or “Please hold the cheese on this one Mr. Bay.” you’ll probably not enjoy it.

    I didn’t think the action was too over the top really, I’ve seen much worse. Oh except that one part with the guy and the motorcycle and the whole sliding thing, that was pretty lame. The shaking camera was annoying to me, as were the shots where the action was half off the screen.

    I don’t think the film tried to take itself too seriously, they knew the film was only really about cool robots transforming and blowing the crap out of stuff. I mean thats the only reason we watched it as kids, bought the toys as kids, and went to see it as adults right?

    Anyway, I recommend it, its was FUN.

  53. Ben said: “[W]ere older movies really “better” than this?”

    No. To demonstrate this, do this quick exercise: think about Star Wars. Now try and remember an action movie that came out the same year as Star Wars. Any movie at all. I can’t do it, but Star Wars is older than I am so I have an excuse.

    Action movies are a relatively new sub-genre because they are dependent on technology. The movies are actually getting better and more sophisticated, the problem is that we’re getting smarter faster than they are. If you want to check out an interesting book that addresses this problem, I recommend reading this: http://literatrix.blogspot.com/2006/06/everything-bad-is-good-for-you.html

  54. Nanja Kang says:

    I thought it was a great movie. BUT. I also want to mention that I (as a person) never understood what or why people said what they did about Michael Bay movies… until I saw Transformers. The Saving graces of the movie were THE TRANSFORMERS, and Shia Labouf. That’s all.
    FINAL THOUGHT = Me no likey Mike Bay now.

  55. Dangerous_Jade says:

    Thanks for the review, Shamus! I just saw it last night and was still in my “OOOOOOO, Transformers!” state, but reading your review made me realize that subconsciously I noticed some of these things too, but was just too awe-struck by giant robots at the time to admit it. =D

    Honestly, I was excited about it, but I really did expect it to be bad. And considering some of the other nostalgia-films that have come out lately, I think this one was probably one of the better ones. Yeah, I am definatly in the camp of “please hold the camera still for 5 seconds for the love of pete”, but again, I was also totally starstruck by Optimus, so I was able to forgive that easily.

    I think that is what divides the two camps here. Those that call the movie on what was bad, and those (like me) who know on some level it was bad but loved it anyway. I mean, think about the cartoon for a minute. It was based on a line of toys, and they said they were going to make a cartoon out of said toy. When we asked “what about” they pretty much said “okay, here are the good robots, here are the bad robots. They are from outer space, and they are fighting.” And that was a good enough plot for us, lol.

    Nostalgia is a funny thing, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t eat it up, because I do. What freaks me out is the thought that our generation is now making enough money that movie-makers are targeting us for their major blockbusters, so I don’t think this revisiting-of-our-childhood movie thing is over yet. Yeesh, I feel more then a little ancient now…

    On a side note: Don’t let the jerky posters who are unable to have an adult conversation get you down. Personally I usually just ignore their posts, since they make me feel embarrassed for the human race. =P

  56. Vulpin says:

    Chalk another anti-fan of the unsteady-cam. I see it as the lazy director’s way of increasing the tension of an action scene. Throw in playing around with film speed (speeding up and slowing down especially in the middle of shots) and you really run the risk of losing me.

    As far as I can tell, the best action shots seem to be coming out of Hong Kong and Japan, though they’re starting to get infected with gratuitous speed-shifts.

    -Vulpin

  57. icekatze says:

    hi hi

    (this review will contain spoilers)

    My views on the new Transformers movie are mixed. It felt like I was watching two different movies at the same time. One movie was Transformers, which I enjoy. It has big living robots that turn into vehicles and have neat fight sequences. The other movie was American Pie, which I did not enjoy. I can understand that some people like that kind of thing, fine, but I find it annoying at best. I was glad to be rid of teen drama when I graduated highschool and I have no desire whatsoever to revisit it.

    As far as plot goes, the plot arch wasn’t bad. The McGuffens were sufficiently McGuffeny. The plot points weren’t so hot, and a lot of the things that happened in the movie seemed to happen inexplicably for no apparent reason. There were a lot of little scenes which tried to evoke an emotional response, but were metaphorically taped together with duct tape.

    The characters were alright, but the caricatures were annoying as all get out. The borderline racist portrayals of the car salesman and the civilian hacker that was brought in for no reason other then to have a few lines where he freaks out and then goes into the background again. The section 7 dude, always wide eyed and yelling about something, I never thought someone could get so worked up about a dusty radio transceiver, but apparently the lack of a microphone shattered his little world.

    I was glad that they incorporated people into an important role in the film, the relationship between humans and the Transformers was an important theme, but it seemed like every other time anyone opened their mouth I was facepalming as hard as I could.

    “You’re a soldier now!” – join the army national guard!
    “When I took the picture (dramatic pause) I think it saw me!” – of course it saw you, it tried to shoot you!
    “Have you seen 40 year old virgin? This is like 50 year old virgin.” – no actually I haven’t seen it, and I don’t want to, thanks for the shameless advertising though.

    Speaking of shameless advertising. It was kinda sad that some of the transformers had fewer lines then product placement. Its a chihuahua, not a taco bell dog. Nokia samurai have little to do with Transformers as far as I can tell. Mountaindewtron and Xbox360mus prime were kinda over the edge of decency.

    People say the original was not much different, but they certainly didn’t name drop other movies in the animated movie. Speaking of the differences between the cartoon and the live action movie. The animated movie actually had plot, character development, drama, cool fight scenes and comedy relief that didn’t feel awkward. The first season of the animated series was pretty bad. It was cheesy to be sure, but after the first season’s success they turned up their effort a notch and produced some quality television. When a character died in the animated feature it certainly had a lot more weight behind it then when one died in the live action film. Probably because its just hard to get one’s self to care about a caricature.

    Another thing, when did the autobots become perverts, seriously? I suppose if their only knowledge of human culture comes from the world wide web, then it could make sense if it werent for the fact that the autobots were supposed to have standards of their own that they followed.

    As for the hand-camitis. I’m generally not as effected by it as some, I guess I just have quick eyes and can follow it. However, I still think some balance is preferable. Battlestar Galactica got that kind of balance down well. Close up action shots can work if you know how to pull back and give the audience some breathing room. Give us some establishing shots or something.

    Still the action scenes were good, and made me feel that I had gotten my money’s worth. Though the Transformer’s strength seemed to wane as the movie went on. They went from devastating an army base single handedly to not being able to even injure a handful of ragtag troops using brick curtain walls for cover. At least the autobots didn’t have one of their ranks mysteriously disappear mid scene.

    Here’s to you Barricade, wherever you went.

  58. Jimmie says:

    Heck with the movie, man! Did they show that crazy J.J. Abrams trailer before the movie?

  59. Namfoodle says:

    Wow, some of these comments are long. I haven’t had time to read them all yet, so the answers to my questions might be up above somewhere. So forgive me if I missed it.

    1. Shamus and other parents: Do you think this movie is appropriate for a 9-year old boy? My wife has her doubts, but my son wants to see it. I want to see it too.

    2. How about a live action Star Blazers movie? “Fire the Wave Motion Gun!”

    3. I’m sure that everyone has sufficiently pummeled that troll Senator, but I wanted to say this: “If you didn’t know how to cook, and I served you a sh#t sandwich, would you eat it without complaint?”

  60. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Ben Says:

    “A muse: were older movies really “better” than this? Is it just that we’ve seen everything and we are really running out of good movie-design space? Or do older movies seem better than they really were long after the fact?”

    Not really.I myself thought that we had much better movies in the past,but I was wrong.The ratio of good/bad movies remained the same.However,there are more movies being made today then before,and that translates into much,much more junk.And thats a bad thing.

  61. Rebecca says:

    Hey, Shamus, you have kids. I offered to take my siblings (age 5-11) to see the movie. Do you think it’s okay for kids? I guess it doesn’t have anything really objectionable in it, but I’m worried it might be too long/scary, and not make sense to people who’ve don’t have any memories of watching the Transformers series.

  62. DaveJ says:

    I give Transformers THREE out of TEN. It is a bad movie.

  63. acorn says:

    I think my opinions on the movie have pretty much been said already: I enjoyed it, but I went in to be entertained, and wasn’t expecting anything deep. Shamus has valid points and I noticed most of them, but chose to ignore them.
    My question is where can I get a little more information about the Tranformers ‘verse? I had a few interesting ponders after the movie regarding the timeline and background destruction of (Cybertron? I can’t remember the planet’s name). Did these plot lines relate to the comic book/television series at all? I tried wiki but that wasn’t too helpful . . .
    Did anyone else wonder why the Decepticons came for Megatron 400 (ish)years after he crashed? There’s gotta be some interesting plot in that. . .
    Hoping I don’t look too stupid in my first post. :-)

  64. TalrogSmash says:

    after you know it is a living sentient being, do you really want to make out on the hood of a tranformer? would that make you a technophile?

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