MasterChugs Theater: ‘Transformers’

Hey there readers. Chugs has had a ridiculously heavy week at work, and frankly, is frazzled at a creative standpoint. Truth told, that sentence may not have actually made any sense, or at least, the last part of it didn’t seem to. It doesn’t help that he’s still got stuff on his plate for the rest of the week. In the meantime, why don’t you enjoy a classic review of his? At least you can see what a good Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay is-as opposed to a more recent one.

Let the review for Transformers, the 2007 Bay-centric version, begin! By the way, there will probably be a few spoilers here and there, so heed that as the warning.

Being a child of the 80s I am certainly familiar with the Transformers, primarily through their toy line and the animated cartoon and the 1986 movie. As the promotion for this new live-action/CGI version began to ramp up I quickly began to see the differences in the cartoon I enjoyed as a kid and what Michael Bay had done to turn the “robots in disguise” into a feature film that both kids and adults would enjoy. The only question is whether or not Bay and the script by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman were successful, and for the most part it was.

Let me put emphasis on “for the most part.”

The plot isn’t any different from almost any iteration of the different series: on the planet Cybertron, two factions of super robot lifeforms, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, wage war for planetary supremacy. The Allspark, a device which can create new Transformer life, was launched into space thousands of years ago where it landed on planet Earth. Flash-forward to the present, a teenager named Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) has just gotten his first car, a rusty 1970s Camaro. As he quickly finds out, his car is in reality an Autobot named Bumblebee. Sam and his not-yet-girlfriend Mikaela (Megan Fox) are quickly caught up in the Autobot/Decepticon war which has finally reached Earth. The Decepticons intend not only to regain the Allspark, but to free their leader, Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving), from his icy tomb. Standing in their way are the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen and the original voice of Prime in the G1 series), and the U.S. military, who want all robots gone, regardless of faction.

As far as the movie goes, this is signature Bay film. It’s easy to see why he was probably the only dude alive capable of making it. The number of explosions per second in the last 20 minutes of the film easily eclipses the net total of the last five action films released combined–don’t quote me please on that figure. The point is that this is the penultimate giant robot smashy-smashy action film of our time. Don’t walk, run to see Transformers and bear witness to the next step in evolution and the rightful heir, at last, to the Star Wars legacy when it comes to the area of effects in film. These guys have taken things in an entirely new direction. It’s one thing to animate a CGI King Kong for two hours, and quite another to render these two to five-story tall robots transforming from their clandestine cars or fighter jets only to pick up and do battle in and amongst the skyscrapers of down town Los Angeles with hundreds of cars and passersby running around in the thick of things. No one has ever seen anything like this before. And without much time, these Autobots are given real personality that carries and propels the young Sam to an age of heroism where he is willing to risk his life to save them as they have traveled across the galaxy to protect human kind from certain extinction at the hands of Megatron’s Decepticons.

The effects companies behind the film, have officially thrown the hammer down, and the results are unbelievable. There was not one moment … NOT ONE … in this entire movie where I thought “hey, that’s good CGI”. Everything looks so real, and is done so well, that you just believe it. The personalities of the Autobots are surprisingly similar to their animated counterparts, and they live and breath with a personality that makes them all the more real. I have to say, though, the human element of the film really helps sell the giant robot action. Shia LaBeouf never once seems like he’s talking to a blue dot on a wall. It all works. You can tell by watching this film that you will be watching movies starring Shia for the next 30 years. He’s that good. There is a reason Spielberg is sold on this kid … it’s because the kid has “it.” He has a Tom Hanks level of “it,” and he makes the non robot filled scenes not only tolerable, but pretty damn good.

Now, the bad. The halves of the movie are very distinctly set up: you can tell the influence found from Spielberg (a large fan of the robots and also a producer of the film) in the first half (coming of age story for a boy) versus Bay’s influence on the second half (giant robots make explosion! BOOM!). It almost takes away from the film. John Turturros’ character for example (which, for those of you that don’t know was apparently based on Michael Bay) is annoying as all can be. Anthony Anderson continues to grate on my nerves with his very existence. The deaths of three Transformers are almost essentially glossed over. Given that there aren’t but a handful of giant stomping robots in the movie, that’s slightly inexcusable. However, does it all really matter in the long run, given the source material? No way José.

As of writing this review, I’ve so far seen the movie three times already. I may possibly go again this weekend. I loved it that much. Megan Fox is scaldingly hot. If you’re looking for a thought provoking, gut wrenching, tear jerker of a film–this is not your movie. Avoid it like the plague. However, if you want to see the most amazing effects in the history of cinema (and I mean that), and giant robots beating the hell out of each other … this is your film.