In which I admit that I was wrong: ‘Transformers’ rocked hard

The boy in blue: Optimus Prime is as you know and love him in Bay's "Transformers"

Transformers (2007)
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel
PG-13, 144 mins.

***½ out of *****

Allow me to preface this review with a public apology. From the bottom of my heart, from the deepest recesses of my very soul, I’m sorry. I apologize to anyone who listened to me whine and gripe this past year about Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” I apologize to everyone who happened to be in the theater when I followed a trailer for the film with a hearty fart noise. But most of all, I apologize to director Michael Bay, for doubting that “Transformers” would deliver.

To each and every last one of you, I’m sorry. I was wrong. “Transformers” was an undeniably fun flick, with awesome special effects and a heavy dose of 80’s nostalgia, steeped in Bay’s hyper-stylized action and fluid camerawork. And I enjoyed it. God help me, I enjoyed “Transformers.”

As the film opens, the audience is met with the familiar baritone of Peter Cullen as the one and only Optimus Prime. Prime speaks of the Allspark, an object of dangerously immeasurable power. Long ago, the Allspark ignited a destructive civil war on the Transformers’ homeworld of Cybertron. Two robotic factions emerged from the ashes, the noble Autobots (led by Prime) and the evil Decepticons. The Autobots, in an attempt to foil the traitorous plans of the Decepticon commander, Megatron (voiced fantastically in the film by Hugo Weaving), launched the Allspark into space. Obsessed with gaining the power of the Allspark, Megatron followed the Allspark into the darkest depths of the universe and disappeared.

Earth, the year 1850: Megatron’s frozen mass is discovered under the Artic ice by Captain Archibald Witwicky, whose glasses are imprinted with coordinates leading to the Allspark. Over a century later, the Transformers’ war finds its way to Earth, where Witwicky’s great-grandson, Sam (Shia LaBeouf) still retains the precious spectacles. The Decepticons begin reeking havoc in their search for the glasses, while the Autobots stand strong in defense of the “primitive” humans. A vicious battle between the warring factions ensues, with humanity caught despairingly in the midst.

For old-school “Transformers” fans, this is a definitive film – albeit an updated one. New designs and plot tweaks aside, these are the Transformers I recall from my childhood. And the gang’s all here. The Autobots are Bumblebee, Iron Hide, Jazz, Ratchet and, of course Optimus Prime; Star Scream, Devastator, Bonecrusher, Blackout, Barricade, Frenzy, Scorponok and the devious Megatron make up the Decepticons.

Each and every one of them retain their distinctive personalities – Bumblebee is cheerful and fond of humans, Star Scream is conniving and ruthless, etc. – and I felt like a kid again seeing my favorite shape-shifting robots back in action on the big screen, kicking ass with reckless abandon.

And the action! The chase and battle sequences in this film are completely nuts, riddled with Bay’s signature explosions and flying vehicles. The Transformers haul their multi-ton steel frames through city streets and freeways, crashing into one another in hails of sparks and flaming hunks of steel. In one particularly slick fight, Optimus squares off against Megatron in the city streets. “At the end of this day,” Prime growls. “One shall stand; one shall fall.” The two titans collide, their combined bulks nearly toppling the buildings around them.

I was geeking out the whole time.

However, the surprising amount of enjoyment I got out of “Transformers” does not mean that Bay has redeemed himself for “Bad Boys” and its sequel, “Pearl Harbor,” “Armageddon” and “The Island.” In fact, I still consider him to be a hackish, self-indulgent filmmaker more suited to music videos than movies.

His hectic camerawork is there in spades, and the chaotic battle scenes definitely suffer for it. The wide-shots are few and far between, and it gets severely confusing at times. The ad placement is, per usual of Bay, stifling – at one point, a Mountain Dew vending machine Transformer appears on screen, if only for a moment.

But “Transformers” is Bay’s best since “The Rock,” and it’s a surprisingly enjoyable big-screen treatment of everyone’s favorite robots. Worth a theater viewing? Oh, most definitely. Personally, I’m contemplating a second viewing. I’m also excited at the prospect of a sequel, with favorites like Sideswipe, Soundwave and Hot Rod making appearances.

So, once again, I’m sorry, Michael Bay. “Transformers” is far from great, but it’s about as good as Summer flicks come.

1 comment:

  1. I'm definitely seeing this. Probably Monday.


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