“Dude, you just gave a Michael Bay movie four stars!”
Sue me, I did.
The Transformers movie continues the surprisingly successful series of pleasant summer movies (of which the less than optimal third installments of the Spiderman and Pirates franchises have no piece).
Indeed, I’m pretty much the least optimal customer of the movie. I have no fond recollections of the toys and original cartoon-series at all (being from a satellite-dish-free home), and thus immune to the nostalgia-factor.
The film succeeds on many fronts. Of which the plot is not among the top, that must be stated immediately. But the plot is not really the main thing in a movie that concentrates on gigantic robots that can pretend to be cars, is it?
The actors are surprisingly good. And consist pretty much of unknowns. And the most familiar faces, Jon Voight and John Turturro execute their parts as members of the government well. But it’s the new crowd that kicks down the fences and refuses to go quietly. Shia LeBeouf isn’t exactly the second coming of Tom Hanks that the industry hopes, but he’s likable as the loser that ends up with a transformer in his garage. Megan Fox emulates a young Jennifer Connelly effectively, but doesn’t have that much to do in the limited role. The second string is filled with actors familiar from decent television shows (Anthony Anderson from the Shield, Tom Lenk from Buffy, Josh Duhamel from Las Vegas), none of whom vomits on the carpet in their big Hollywood debut.
The human actors actually end up being head and shoulders above their mechanical equivalents. Though a credible explanation is given for their upgraded personalities, the autobots end up on the grating side. And surprisingly the nasty variants of the transformer are left empty-handed in the personality department – the chief badass Megatron (voiced by Hugo Weaving) is the only one who has been given any dialogue. And even that is not particularly good.
The pace is quick, very quick – the two and half hours pass by painlessly, though without the speed seeming artificial. Could it indeed be that Mr. Bay has found the golden gear inbetween hectic and slack?
The plot ranges from youthful suburbian angst to military-industrial conspiracies to big robots pummeling each other to bits. And while the last element is the main attraction for viewers, the rest are not just mandatory bits inbetween the fight scenes. No, the humorous bits of dialogue are actually pretty decently written, the military set pieces in Qatar showcase hardware very well and altogether the film successfully covers a surprisingly number of spots. And the CGI on the robots doesn’t really leave anything to be desired – a lot of rendering CPU-years clearly went into constructing the frames.
Especially considering how unevent Bay’s previous work has been, I’d actually consider this to be the suprise hit of the summer. I ended up linking Transformers a lot more than I anticipated (prejudiced, definitely).
For old-skool Bay fanatics there’s still plenty of slow motion shots of people disembarking airplanes to dramatic music. And I’m sure that a lot of scenes ended up on cutting room floor, and as such at least a three-hour-plus edit will be pushed on dvd for christmas.