Random thoughts on most things from A. M. Craig.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Transformers: A Review

Went and saw Transformers last night. Here is what I thought.

I was excited to see the movie, I'd heard nothing but positive reviews from everybody I'd talked to. It was a thing of nostalgia from my youth, so I figured this should be fun.

It started off well enough. The characters were introduced well, the main character especially so. Our protagonist is an average teenager, ogling the school beauty, dreaming of his first car, trying to manage his life under the constraints of his parents. So far, we're pretty grounded in reality. That is, before the introduction of the Giant Space Alien Robots.

From that point on, the fundamental premise of the story is so far out, I think Michael Bay just abandoned any real attempt to suspend your disbelief. In every regard.

There is a scene where the heroine, Mikaela Banes (played by Megan Fox {fitting name}) asks the main character if he thinks she is shallow. He says no. I say shallow doesn't really describe it. More like two-dimensional (which is okay, because if he is that in to her, then he must be too). I say this because she is just as difficult to believe as the Giant Space Alien Robots. There are as many shots of her perfect stomach as her inexpressive face, and she is supposed to be this bad girl with a perfect knowledge of mechanical inner workings of high end hot rods. Nobody like this exists in reality. There is no human female like that on earth. So far as performance is concerned, they could have gotten a blow up doll to fill the role nicely. But it wouldn't have had the perfect stomach.

In addition to the male teenage dream played out on screen, the racial stereotypes are pretty glaring. There is a black kid in it whose only purpose I can see is to pull in the (now defunct) UPN crowd. He doesn't really do anything special in the movie other than act as the minstrelshow's main attraction. There is even an Autobot named "Jazz" who is clearly the Black Transformer. That must have been a popular motif of 80's cartoons.

I couldn't get over how perfectly choreographed this movie was made to make money. It was a product placement dream. Some of the primary characters in the film are automobiles, for crying out loud. Everything was branded. The characters were, all of them, caricatures. The awkward backward hero as the proxy of every awkward backward kid lacking in heroism, the unbelievably alluring female thing, the red-blooded soldier unafraid of anything, the Secretary of State in his unquestioned authority, the secret government agency, and, of course, the Giant Space Alien Robots, come to conquer/defend the world (depending on which one we're talking about). None of the characters you really care about die (people don't like dying).

It's my understanding that Michael Bay recycled footage for the movie. He even used some of the same camera tricks as he did in Bad Boys.

The whole thing was absurdly over the top, with non-stop action, the world ultimately saved, the guy getting the girl, and we are left with the likelihood of a sequel.

Now, with all the criticism in mind, I have to admit something. It was fun. I enjoyed it. True, sometimes I was enjoying how ludicrous it was, but i enjoyed it all the same.

So don't expect storytelling magic. This isn't an M. Night Shyamalan flick with some deeper meaning (despite the vague attempt to make Optimus Prime a Messianic figure) or any twist ending. It all plays out exactly as you might expect. So even though you know exactly where you're going, sit back and enjoy the ride.

P.S. What do modern auteur's think of somebody like Michael Bay, whose every film follows the proven formula for financial success as to make him more a businessman than a director? Is he the Thomas Kinkaid of the popular film world?

1 comment:

Austin said...

Another review, if you're interested.