Michael Bay’s Transformers series is made for people who don’t often watch movies. It’s about good and evil giant robots who can transform into cars and what not and fight in a never-ending war. Simple stuff that I’m sure will sell a lot of toys, but what if you bring over the common tropes you find in a Michael Bay film, such as the sweaty gorgeous women, an overtly patriotic military, edgy and somewhat offensive humour, and of course everything going boom-boom! These two forms were obviously meant to be because these films were incredibly successful back in their time, even with each movie proving to be a constant punching bag for critics. Not that the masses cared and because of Bay’s movies the Transformers are now a household name and are also considered to be the quintessential modern popcorn movies.
Since finishing the Fast and the Furious movies, at the back of my mind I wanted to watch Transformers again because 2021 is obviously the year where I want to fully engross myself in dumb action shlock. Well the actual reason is I haven’t seen any of the movies since I was teenager, and I’m curious to know if the Transformer movies are as bad as the online film community say. I guess I’ll find out in due course as we’re starting with the first Transformers and let’s see how that went.
First off, despite what I’m going to say next I actually kind of like the first Transformers movie. My biggest gripe is I forgot how needlessly complicated the first film is. In the opening voiceover, Optimus Prime tells us that the Transformers are after a magic cube called The AllSpark as it can save their dying robot planet. This information is very important because without it, then it would be impossible to understand what the evil robots, the Decepticons, are even trying to accomplish. Removing it would also make it difficult to understand what the hell is happening in the military and government subplots. The film is only complicated because it’s filled with subplots to stretch out the runtime, which is almost 2 and a half hours. This movie isn’t the most egregious example of overstuffed plots and the film does get better as it goes along. It’s just the first hour which puts a huge focus on Jon Voight, aka Mr Exposition of State, and his team of tech analysts striving to find out who’s trying to steal the US Government’s top secrets. It’s a real slog, regardless of if you figured out or not that the Decepticons are behind this. Luckily it is broken up between the more action oriented subplot of the stranded patriotic American soldiers and the main storyline of our protagonist Sam Witwicky.
Shia LaBeouf’s Sam Witwicky is up there with Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man as the most punchable losers in fiction. The way he stutters over words and struggles to complete sentences and the scene where he gets tossed around by the evil robot copper are all highly amusing but the king of Witwicky awkward comedy is the scene where he’s trying to offer Megan Fox a ride home while also accidentally suggesting he wants to ride her home. It’s as comical as being forced to observe the sexually explicit Megan Fox leaning over that car bonnet. This plotline focuses on Sam’s dad taking him out to buy his first car and little do they know that his cruddy old Camaro is actually a Transformer. During this time we learn Sam is trying to sell his great-great grandfather’s glasses on eBay under the alias Ladiesman217 while also worrying about his dog’s drug addiction. It sounds like I made those two plot points up, but one of these is actually a critical plot point in this serious action comedy movie about giant robots!
The film definitely picks up an hour in with the cheesy, but satisfying introduction to Optimus Prime and his Autobot buddies. At this point in the movie we’re mainly focused on Sam as all the other subplots meet-up at Hoover Dam to answer all the mysteries that need some resolution. Plus the AllSpark and the main evil Transformer are all conveniently here so we have an excuse to have a super epic final battle in the city. It’s ultimate Bayhem, if you like seeing robots ripping each other apart and a bunch of people and some pretty babes running around in terror. (I almost forget to mention the bountiful explosions.) This film is littered with product placement (if it wasn’t already obvious with eBay being a major plot point) and the most amusing use of it is after Sam drops the AllSpark it creates killer robots such as a killer Mountain Dew vending machine and an Xbox coming out of the box.
So I guess I surprised myself with how much I did enjoy this first movie. So far I don’t fully get the hate for these movies, as I would argue that this film is quite underrated. The acting is perhaps underappreciated as I really like Shia LaBeouf’s performance as Sam and I love Peter Cullen whose voice fits perfectly for someone like Optimus Prime. For sure there is some pretty bad acting in this, Megan Fox especially stands out, but I also put a lot of that blame on how simplistically these characters were written. This movie loves hinting that we’re seeing something bigger than what meets the eye, but we never do, because the conflict is as black and white as the Autobots and the Decepticons. The only antagonistic human in this is John Turturro’s super secret government agent character, but once we know what his deal is, he’s on team goody like the rest of his race. If the plot was more concise and cut out the entire military portion then this film would be so much better.
To return to the positives the CGI Transformers don’t look too bad for 2007 and they blend in with the real life backgrounds and actors very well. I feel the score for this film is also quite underappreciated and it’s got Linkin Park in the soundtrack, how nostalgic. The one final major reason why I like Transformers, is for more nostalgic reasons, but it’s all the little things, such as the epic slow-mos, the over saturated lighting and every other Michael Bay related trope I’ve already mentioned in this post. I love this stuff because it’s so dumb and cheesy, and is very 2000’s. So in the end my 2000’s bias is why I ultimately enjoyed Transformers.
Alright, that’s it for this post, sorry it took longer than I expected to write up. Hopefully that won’t be the case for the sequel, but you never know because I already know I have a lot to say about that one!