Transformers (the movie)
by Erick Von Erich
I legitimately had no interest in seeing this movie. I'm usually a good little mindless drone and easily influenced by advertising, yet even after a good YEAR of hype for this movie, I had no desire to see it. I mean, I was into the Transformers toys in fifth grade, but the line seriously ticked me off. They were fun to switch around once or twice, but they were different scales and it was maddening. A regular sized tape recorder and pistol, plus cars the size of Hot Wheels, then more cars that were roughly three times the sizes of the others. Plus dinosaurs and goofy looking insects. Didn't help that I could buy 3 or 4 GI Joe guys for the price of ONE Transformer. So I let the franchise pass me by and I never got into the whole "mythology" of the Transformers world.
But hey, I'll go see just about any movie with my buddy. So it was that we went to see Transformers last night. The premise revolves around robotic/organic aliens coming to Earth to find their missing "Allspark Cube". One part Cosmic Cube, one part Red Bull Energy Drink and one part Genesis Device, it's basically an infinite power source. Of course, the bad aliens want it for bad stuff, while the good aliens want to keep them away from it. This also ties into a 19th Century Arctic explorer.
Three separate stories are sprouted. In what initially seems like the primary story, a Marine unit in Qatar is violently attacked by a transforming helicopter. Another storyline features three computer hackers who are recruited by the NSA and called in to analyze the attack. The third story, which gets most of the spotlight, revolves around quick-witted, motormouthed teenager Sam Witwicky and his purchase of an unusual beat-to-shit Chevy Camaro. Sort of like Herbie the Lovebug on steroids, the car literally has a mind of its own. If you didn't notice that it was a CHEVY make and model... well, that's okay, because there will more product placement from General Motors throughout the movie.
Through Sam, the audience is brought into the world of the Autobots, Decepticons and the Allspark Cube. Sam's Camaro is actually the Autobot Bumbleee, sort of an advance scout in the search for the Cube. After a wild chase from an evil Decepticon Cop Car, Sam and his new girlfriend are sucked into the "War" (actually, I see it as more of a "search" or a "quest" than a "WAR", but what do I know?). Believe it or not, but a crucial plot element actually revolves around eBay (just like GM, eBay has been doing a tremendous amount of marketing for this flick). The Qatar Marines are soon brought state-side to join up with the plot, along with the three hackers. Well, make that just one hacker-- the cutest female one with an Australian accent-- the other two camera-uglies are soon discarded for a motormouthed black kid.
Despite the serious introduction, the movie soon hops the border into comedy. A scene where Sam is trying to hide both the Autobots and his new girlfriend from his parents completely ruins the mood. Enter a government agent who is like a cross between Al Bundy and Al Pacino and you've got more "wacky" slapstick moments. There's also a Decepticon spy who rambles around and chirps in fluent EWOK. But depsite all this goofiness, the movie keeps trying to assure that the fate of the world depends on this chicanery.
From there, the movie shifts into its final arc, with a big ol' fight. Lots of crumbling buildings, bullets and explosions. Typical "summer movie blockbuster" action fare. Of course, the world is saved and the door is left open for a sequel.
I'm sure this movie was a delight for longtime Transformers fans, but it had too many problems for me to enjoy it. First, the aforementioned mood shifts. Jon Voigt plays the Secrtary of Defense as an ultra-serious leader in a suit and tie. Doesn't work when he has to team up with the boisterous Anthony Anderson in his Clinton Portis Redskins jersey. It's an action movie! No, it's a comedy! No, it's action again! Sure, all action movies have little zingers and visual gags nowadays (call it the "Curse of Arnold" or "Curse of Die Hard"), but this was too over-the-top. Even for a movie based on a frickin' toy line.
Even though I drive and love a GM vehicle, I was sick of the constant product placement. It's important, because it ties into another issue I had with the movie's visuals. While in their robot form, the Autobots and Decepticons are virtually indistinguishable. They all look like an animated set of flatware rather than a re-configured vehicle. So instead of saying "Ironhide was that big robot with the shoulderpads and red boots", the message is: "Ironhide was that big GMC SUV!!"
The other issue I had was with the director Michael Bay. If you've seen his movies you know how he LOVES spotlights and smoke. Every action sequence in this flick is punctuated with, yup, spotlights and smoke! It's quite unbearable when Sam is seen running through a junkyard that is lit up like a rock concert.
To top off my misery, the credits rolled over a frickin' Linkin Park song. With that dénouement there can be no doubt in my head that this movie was a wreck. A lot of Transformer fans in the audience were hooping and hollering during each fight scene. When Linkin Park played, they all creamed their britches and shrieked like teenagers in the prime of Beatle-mania. "Yes!! Yessss!"" Awesome!" Throughout the flick, I noticed several kids were texting their friends, errr... peeps. Some even took cellphone pictures as the credits rolled. Thus, I expect to see several MySpace and Blogger sites filled with "Xlusive Pics of mi and my BFF at Tranfromers. Awesome! (sic)
This movie scares me. Walking out, I wondered "how long until the SMURFS movie?!" My buddy countered with: "they'll probably do M.A.S.K next". As a GI Joe fanboy, I know it's only a matter of time until I'm embarassed with a big-screen adaptation of that particular franchise. I was emabrassed that I bought a ticket to "Transformers". To paraphrase another popular cartoon dealing with shape-changers: "Form of-- a Steaming Pile!!"