Movie Series Review: Transformers
Director: Micheal Bay
Writers: Roberto Orci (screenplay), Alex Kurtzman (screenplay)
Stars: Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel
Synopsis: An ancient struggle between two Cybertronian races, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, comes to Earth, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a teenager.
Let me begin this by saying that Transformers was a huge part of my childhood and that I’m fully aware that I’m one of 4 people that like this franchise. That being said, these reviews aren’t about fandom and I will be fair to them.
Michael Bay, love him or hate him, is good at making popcorn movies that are fun. Sure, his films never have any depth to them, but that’s never his goal either. Transformers fits snugly into that category as well. Bay, as always, is excellent with action set pieces and creating an aesthetic that is intense, fun and nostalgic for those that were fans of the original series. He also wastes no time getting into it. It’s not even three minutes into the story before we see our first Transformer transform and create chaos, which was well handled. However, Bay’s comedic timing throughout the film is terrible and it doesn’t blend well into the narrative or action. And while the action is great, the shaky cam effect is troubling at times and can lose some people. All in all, Bay delivers a fun action movie that is arguably the best of the trilogy.
While Bay get’s a lot of crap over the script for these films, tis not forget this was written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. The film opens with a group of soldiers in Afghanistan who are soon visited by an unidentified aircraft, which turns out to be the Decepticon Blackout. He soon wreaks havoc and the world is introduced to a new threat they’ve never seen before. Back in the U.S., we meet Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), a high school teenager who’s looking to buy a new car so he can meet the girl of his dreams, Mikaela (Megan Fox). Well, the car he buys happens to be the Autobot Bumblebee, who’s been looking after Sam, who unknowingly has an ancient artifact that will help save mankind. The story is rather simple and easy to follow, however, hardcore lovers of original Transformers mythology will probably struggle. Some of the narrative takes goofy turns with unfocused results, but when the attention is on the Autobots and the action around them, it’s more than serviceable. The human characters are mostly terrible and needed a lot of re-writes, but hey, who watches Transformers for human characters? Am I right?
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Peter Cullen is the man. There is only one voice for Optimus Prime and it’s Cullen. He was perfect and everytime he spoke, nostalgia hit me like a semi-truck (see what I did there?). Shia LaBeouf, like Bay, gets a lot of negative criticism for these films as well. However, Sam represents the main human character of the original series, which was a little kid, and LaBeouf personifies that really well. People may not like him, but given how Sam was written, he was a great casting choice for the role. Megan Fox, in her first big role, is very hit or miss. She has some good moments but it doesn’t take a prominent movie critic to tell that she has some very amateur moments. Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson aren’t terrible and have some pretty good chemistry together as well. Their characters are pretty one dimensional but they suffice in the roles. If you like over-the-top characters, then you’ll love John Turturro, who really goes for it as Agent Simmons. Rachael Taylor needs to do more work and who doesn’t like Anthony Anderson? Both were pretty fun on screen. All that said, the person that steals every scene she’s in is Julie White. She is absolutely perfect for that character. Her comedic gags are one of the few that works really well.
Where do I even begin? Steve Jablonsky’s score for Transformers is absolutely gorgeous. For me, this is easily the best score since Jurassic Park. The main theme is beautiful as Jablonsky orchestrates his strings flawlessly. The vocal work is impeccable and blends so well with the rest of the elements. The entire score is perfect and extremely fun to listen to outside of the movie, especially for those that liked the film. The track Arrival to Earth perhaps elevate that scene in the film to the best in the entire trilogy. It’s absolutely wonderful and criminally underrated.
Transformers fits well into the category of “fun action movie with a lot of flaws.” The rivalry between Bumblebee and Barricade is fun as well as the big fight sequences at the end. The final monologue from Optimus Prime is beautifully written and you got to love Cullen’s voice performance. The film does have a lot of issues, but if you can get past them, it’s a good time.