329 – Transformers

The good news is that this formulaic, high-octane action movie from Michael Bay is pretty entertaining stuff; the bad news is that it feels like it was directed by a semi-retarded spider monkey on crack. Jarring visuals, incomprehensible fight scenes, and overblown special effects are at least somewhat mitigated by appealing performances and, of course, state-of-the-art CGI.

In this remake of the 1985 film that was spawned by the cheesy cartoon series, evil robots have arrived on Earth to reunite with their leader, Megatron, who came to the planet a couple of millennia ago in search of the Allspark, a box of something or other that will enable Megatron and the other Decepticons to rule the universe! Only Megatron crashed into the Arctic and froze. Well, as much as a robot can freeze; he was merely paralyzed. Meanwhile, the good-guy robots from the same planet, the Autobots, have tracked Megatron to Earth, also in search of the Allspark.

Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) is an awkward teen who’s trying to earn money to buy his first car. Of course, since he’s awkward and somewhat smart, we know he’s the hero. And we know who his enemies are, too, because they’re the ones who laugh at him. They’ll all be sorry! They’re not too sorry when Sam’s first car turns out to be a beat-up yellow Camaro, although they might be a little bedeviled when they find out the car’s really an Autobot.

It’s up to Sam, his new galpal Mikaela (Megan Fox), the Secretary of Defense (Jon Voight), and the U.S. Army to somehow defeat the Decepticons, who will stop at nothing to find the Allspark, even if it means exterminating all the ant-sized humans. Luckily, Sam and company also have the Autobots on their side, and a showdown of giant robot versus giant robot is ON, brother.

One puzzling problem with the movie is that the Autobots don’t show up until a good half hour into the film. I guess this was to establish the all-important Sam-Mikaela relationship, which naturally will eventually blossom into something bigger. Because, of course, the dorky guy always gets the hot chick, even if he has to defeat giant robots to do it. But it’s true, presenting the backstory of the characters before showing us the Autobots does add a more human aspect to the film; otherwise it would be just a big, violent robot-versus-robot extended fight sequence. Wait, it was that anyway.

Michael Bay movies are not immune to cliches; they revel in them, exploiting them to complement the loud pyrotechnics. Or maybe the loud pyrotechnics are there to distract us from the inane characterizations and dopey plot. In any event, how many movies have we in which an intern/trainee/cadet is the only one, out of literally thousands of experts, to solve the problem? How many have we seen in which someone working for the forces of Good manages to sneak something secret out of an otherwise-secure facility? On the other hand, this was one movie in which the military is actually competent; where the guys with guns know what they’re doing and aren’t the shoot-first, ask-questions-later types? That was surprising, and amusing.

And I realize this will confirm me as a cranky old man, no matter my chronological age, but what was UP with all of the loud music? Every scene was shot as if it were a crappy heavy-metal video, circa 1986. Grating guitars turned up to eleven on the volume control drowned out some dialog and a lot of sound effects, such as robots doing robotic things. Add that to the hyperactive zooming, panning, and scanning, and this is certainly not a movie that an epileptic should ever watch.

Nor is it a movie that young kids should watch, in all honesty. Transformers is rated PG-13, but it’s pretty violent; the only thing that’s lacking is actual blood. People get blown up, smashed, crushed, and shot by robots, and it’s pretty intense stuff. So be careful when bringing little Timmy to this one, unless you want to put up with a week of nightmares and nocturnal enuresis. This ain’t the Transformers you grew up with.

**1/2

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One Response to “329 – Transformers”

  1. transformers Says:

    Well, i very well liked it, and will be watching transformers 2 in 2009! 🙂

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