I gave myself a few hours time before writing any sort of review for this movie, because the initial reaction typically isn’t the same as your view in retrospect, but in this case it’s pretty much the same: distaste and an overall resentment toward Michael Bay and the entire team behind the movie. And, before I go on, if you’re just going to present me with some pointless, irrelevant argument about how Michael Bay is good for his other movies, skip it. Ditto that if you’re going to tell me it was good for what it was (a robot action movie), because my opinion of this movie covers that point of view. The shortest review I can give it this: failure. But in case you’re interested, here is the longer version.
If you followed the production of the movie, it’s clear that Bay had a very hard time with the film. If you haven’t followed it, but have seen the movie, it’s clear that Bay had a very hard time with the film. From the start of the film it’s clear that it’s going to be very typical in terms of what Bay is comfortable with, which is clichés. There are many under plots all throughout the film that seem very irrelevant, in the way, and only really added to give the film a deeper feel, which it doesn’t do. It instead leaves you wanting more Transformers, which is a word I don’t think applied fairly to the robots we see. After a collection of totally useless characters all quipping silly jokes and offbeat reactions to serious situations, we’re presenting with a love story. A love story? Isn’t this Transformers? It’s hard to tell, but I think the title could have been Shia LaBeouf and His Robot Friends.
The love story takes up more time, gets more screenplay, and seems, at times, a little more important than what the movie should be about: Transformers. It seems weird that it even has to be said, but it does. The movie takes nearly an hour and a half to get going, and by then you’re either bored or angry. If you’re someone that watched the cartoon, you’re both. Despite this, most people sat there like saps and let the film continue and yes I do include myself in that generalization.
The story (not the love story, the “real” story) is so vague, and so untouched, it seems totally secondary, as do the Transformers themselves. It isn’t that it has plot holes per se, it’s just got a lazy feel to it. The biggest mistake was making the movie like a summer blockbuster, and not like a movie for Transformer fans. But even as a summer action film it falls very short. The real action isn’t until the end of the movie, and clocking it at around two and a half hours, it doesn’t seem worth the wait. I won’t give away what the story is about, but not out of consideration for those yet to see it. I’m not going into it because it won’t ruin it, or enhance it. It’s so irrelevant to the movie I could tell you every single scene and it wouldn’t matter. Going in with knowledge or going in fresh, it’s all the same boring, cloudy experience.
Now, on to the Transformers themselves. I knew they would look different, but wow. I took a screen shot of Megatron and sent it to a friend of mine who grew up watching the show, and she wasn’t able to identify who it was. Had I not told her it was a Transformer, I’m sure she wouldn’t have known, and that should never be the case. You should know them by sight, without any aid. Granted, they all don’t look nearly as bad as he does, but they certainly don’t look much better. You don’t see them very often, and when you do get lucky enough to see them, it’s hard to tell what they’re doing. They so bulky, and skeletal at the same time, it’s a real challenge to make out what’s what on their body. Throw in a second or third figure, jumping and fighting, with a shaky camera and it becomes nearly impossible to even know what you’re looking at. Even worse is when they’re in car form. Not being a car enthusiast, I normally couldn’t have told you what car was what in terms of make and model. But I can now that I’ve seen this film, and that’s all thanks to the awkward sequences that seem to be straight out of a commercial. It really makes the pace of the movie noticeably slow, and set to the insanely generic and thoughtless rock music, the “action” scenes that take place in car form and less than exciting. They seem dated and lazy, like every other aspect of the movie that doesn’t involve some huge stunt.
Now, I wish I could say “at least it had good action scenes”…but no. It didn’t. They had plenty of potential, but since I couldn’t tell who was who and what was going on, and the camera was positioned extremely low, you’re essentially just watched a bunch of shapes and colors roll and mangle to noises, eventually ending it one robot standing in victory. This becomes even more annoying due to a constant lighting situation that Bay must have insisted on. All throughout the movie there are unnecessary light sources shining toward the camera, giving it that, what would be, nice silhouette look. But it’s almost every scene. Sam (Shia) could have been eating a Butterfinger bar in his room and they would have made the sun setting in a window behind him. If it isn’t the sun, it’s some completely random light. It’s to the point where if the scene isn’t a panning camera with a fixed light shining at you, it’s out of place. I understand that sometimes it works, but Bay overuses this is all of his movies, and goes completely overboard with it in Transformers. My head hurt after a while.
Some of the move trivial problems I have with the movie deal solely with Bay and the decisions he made. I’m not a whore for source material, and I typically welcome change, despite my love for the original content. But that welcome is only warm if you’re changes make sense and aren’t obviously out of disrespect for the content you’re changing. Bay decided to redesign all the Transformers and make them more alien looking, and that’s fine to some extent, but once you actually see them you’ll understand the complaint. They looks like skeletons with car parts hooked on them. It’s hard to tell who is who without the color, which makes the Decepticons a whole new challenge. They’re all colored the same. Plus, there aren’t any real scenes with them talking, or not fighting, so they just seem like nameless evil robots that seemingly appear.
Another problem with Bay is that he wanted the effects team to watch martial arts movies so they could understand how he wanted the Transformers to fight. Well, that’s a neat idea, but a little ridiculous. And if someone hadn’t told you that bit of trivia, you’d never guess they were influenced by martial arts movies. They use guns the whole movie, and while that’s fine, I would have been happier with a few lasers. There doesn’t seem to be any lasers in it. In the cartoon they used lasers so much it seemed like they ate the beams for breakfast. But the movie? The only laser I remember is used to fix a Transformers wounds, and they don’t work until the last minute of the movie. What gives?
Bay suggested that he wanted to make the film family friendly, which for the most part is fine, except you don’t have to make it overflowing with stupid jokes to be family friendly. You can cut out all the dumb remarks and overacting and goofy personalities and it still be family friendly. I know the cartoon was riddled with silly jokes, so the movie should have been too, but the way they’re presented is so juvenile, it makes your skin crawl. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the people looking forward to the movie were fans of the show, and those people are all typically eighteen years and older, so a PG-13 rating would work, just don’t dumb it down to appeal to ten year olds more than the fans of the show. Those are the people you needed to win over Bay, and you failed.
So with the generic everything, poor lighting, horrible camera work, poor script, bad story, piss poor decisions, stupid jokes, silly moments, annoying robots I didn’t even go into, side plots, useless characters, and everything else I’ve mentioned, you’d think that was it. But no, there’s more screw ups. Things are left with no answers. Transformers disappear and never come back, there are multiple devices in the plot that make no sense, and it’s so clear to anyone paying attention. Clearly Bay was hoping the action sequences would shadow all the little problems, but they didn’t. It seems pointless going into them, since they’re not really issues that demand closure, my problem is that it feels (and problem is) that they just didn’t care enough to write everything with a proper ending. Oh, the ending, yeah it’s stupid too. Girl falls for boy, robots and boy become friend, Optimus Prime makes a statement nodding to the theme song, and the credit roll. Kick start crapping music, and start demanding your money back. Going in as a Transformers fan, you’ll be left angry at the changes, shocked at all the screw ups, and confused as to why the Transformers seem so completely secondary. Like mindless robots on some stupid quest. As a fan of action movies, you’ll be pissed that it’s a love story, and it takes two hours for any real action to kick in. But the real action is impossible to see due to the camera work. I can’t see any real way to enjoy this movie, and I’m now more curious than ever as to why it has such high reviews. To be fair, this movie did do one thing right, and that’s convince people to buy the DVDs of the original cartoon show and movie. Think of it as the really bad food you just ate to promote gum or toothpaste. A huge conspiracy. I’m sure that’s not the case, but, if it were, it would at least explain why this movie was so bad.