REVIEW: Transformers

Michael Bay delivers!
Circa 1983-1984 Hasbro Toy Company came up with an idea for a new product. It wasn’t a toy car, nor was it a toy robot, but a marriage of the two; a robot that could transform into a car and back again. With any new product the biggest problem is trying to figure out how to market it; how to sell it. Some genius market executive came up with a brilliant idea. Instead of inputting a 30 second spot during the commercial break of some Saturday morning cartoon, Hasbro decided to turn these new toys into its own cartoon that would allow for a 30 minute commercial 5 days a week. Thus “Transformers” was born. Due to the work of some inventive writers and an excellent voice cast, this 30 minute commercial led to two outcomes; one expected and one unexpected. The expected outcome was that the toys would sell. Unexpectedly, this cartoon resulted in a cult phenomenon that consumed a generation. Now, after four seasons, a series of spin-offs, one feature length cartoon movie, and 23 years later, the Transformers are given life again. The Steven Spielberg produced and Michael Bay directed summer blockbuster is part re-make, part update, and all homage to the original series. Headed up by the original voice of Optimus Prime himself, Peter Cullen, and up and coming star, Shia LaBeouf, this movie satisfies, entertains, and does not disappoint.

With the help of a creative writing and the thrilling direction of Michael Bay, the movie keeps from feeling like a cartoon while at the same time honoring the source material. The movie maintains the basic “Transformers” plot requirements but with a twist; the Autobots and Decepticons no longer fight over energon cubes but a single all powerful cube, called the Allspark, that has the power to turn electrical devices into sentient, transforming robots. Megatron wants the allspark to help build an army to enslave humanity and destroy the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime. Prime wants to destroy the cube to keep it from falling into Megatron’s hands; even if that means sacrificing his hopes of rebuilding his home world. Caught in the middle of this race between good and evil is the U.S. military, the U.S. government, and a boy named Sam (Shia LaBeouf), who holds the key to finding the Allspark and saving humanity. Thrown in are some thrilling action sequences, incredible visuals, and innovative storytelling that keeps the movie feeling fresh and original while at the same time tugging at your sense of nostalgia.

The opening narration from the memorable baritone of Optimus Prime marks the first time in 20 years that the leader of the Autobots has something new to say. Then to hear the names of memorable characters like “Ironhide”, “Bumblebee”, “Megatron”, and “Starscream,” only stirs up your inner child and reminds you why you fell in love with all these characters in the first place (as if you could ever truly forget). Animators have also managed, with the aid of a fantastic voice cast, to truly give the CGI character life. Each robot has its own personality, individual and distinct from all the others. This is not just because they physically look different but they are each given different traits and mannerisms that set them apart from one another, and harkens back to character we remember from the 80’s. It’s as if you’ve unexpectedly bumped into an old friend that you were afraid would only live on in your memory.

Much to the devoted fans chagrin, the robots themselves have been given a bit of an overhaul. Bumblebee who fans remember was a VW Bug in the cartoon is now a Camaro. Jazz, the one time Porsche, is now a Pontiac Solstice. Even the robot forms of these characters, both autobots and decepticons, are completely different from the way they looked 20 years ago. The movie is all the better for it. The altered appearance of these beloved characters only helps in the effort to ground the film in a sense of reality. The complex designs surpass the boxy look from the 80’s and gets you to almost believe that the robots could conceivably transform into all these different things. The mechanics of the transformations has also been well thought out through what is sure to be an extremely expensive and time consuming process; where one frame of animation takes almost 36 hours to render. (I can’t wait to watch the DVD special features on this movie.) Not only do the characters look different, they look incredible. The visuals are beyond compare and easily the most sophisticated and realistic looking CGI from a movie to date. The effects are so good in fact that the robots look more real in the daylight than they do at night. It’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off the screen (and you certainly wont want to make any trips to the bathroom) because each time any robot is on screen it’s a feast for the eyes.

Despite initial lamentation by fans at the choice of Michael Bay to direct, after watching the film it hard to believe that any other director could have given the film such life. Michael Bay has established himself as one of the best directors of car chases and excels at visceral explosive action. He is the perfect man for the job, and is able to give the audience both incredible humor and intense action while holding their attention for a full 2 hours and 33 minutes. Aside from his expert direction of the CGI characters, Bays greatest asset is Shia LaBeouf.

Shia LaBeouf, who’s “Disturbia” held to top spot for over a month earlier this year and is slated to star in Indiana Jones 4, is establishing himself as the best actor of his generation. He is able to hold the screen, take the screen, and carry the movie when the wants to. LaBeouf brings humor to the film while at the same serving as its emotion anchor. His interaction with the CGI characters has you believing that he really is hanging out with 25 foot tall alien robots. Opposite Shia is relative newcomer Megan Fox as tough (hot) chick Mikaela, Sam’s love interest, who settles well into her character and the environment she’s been thrown into. Fox too reacts well opposite the CGI, although she doesn’t appear to be as engaged as Shia. Assisting these two stars, is an incredible voice cast led by Peter Cullen, Optimus Prime from the original series, and Hugo Weaving, replacing Frank Welker as Megatron, and a fantastic supporting cast of actors led by Jon Voigt, Kevin Dunn, Josh Duhamel and, expert character actor, John Turturro.

Transformers is everything a Transformers movie, and a summer action blockbuster, should be, with its only problem being that it isn’t long enough. As the first non-sequel action film of the summer it meets and exceeds expectations and should be place it in the top 3 of best movies of the year so far. The only sad thing when the credits roll and the fantasy end, I realize is that my car isn’t really an alien transforming robot.
0 Yes
0 No
Movie Reviews from the Movie Man