A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 280 – Transformers (2007)

Transformers – December 5th, 2010

As a child I was a casual viewer of the cartoons this movie was based on. I liked them fine, but they weren’t my favorite (that would have been Dungeons & Dragons, which I loved and which got moved around so much it was nearly impossible to find on a regular basis), so I can’t say that this movie was something I was dying to see. I don’t know the cartoon canon and I can’t name more than a small handful of characters. I’m not really in the target audience for this movie. I’m the right age, but probably not the gender they were going for. Granted, I know a number of women in my age range who were massive Transformers fans, so I could give Michael Bay some credit and hope I’m wrong, but when you get down to it? No, this was a movie made for all the men who loved their Transformers as boys.

Just look at the casting. Now, let me preface this by saying that I do have somewhat unconventional taste in physical attributes when it comes to men. I don’t go for big and muscular or underwear model-esque. But Shia LaBeouf was not cast to be a draw for the ladies. Josh Duhamel, maybe, but he’s got a much smaller role. Shia LaBeouf is comic relief, really. Sure, he put on twenty-odd pounds of muscle for this role. He’s still the naive klutz who gets yanked into the whole plot by dint of his great grandfather having discovered Megatron. Megan Fox, on the other hand, was clearly cast to look pretty. The camera lingers, with LaBeouf’s Sam, on her curves and skin and tiny little skirt. No, I’m pretty sure I’m not the one being catered to here. But the funny thing is? I liked Fox’s Mikaela a lot. Like, way more than I expected to. For one, she’s quite capable on her own and has more useful skills to bring to a car-based plot than Sam does. For another, she pulls her hair back.

Why yes, I am going to obsess over this. It’s a frequent issue I have with female characters in action movies. They always have their hair down, whipping around their faces and in their eyes, getting in the way and looking all pretty and crap, but being totally ridiculous in whatever situation is going on. Mikaela has her hair pulled back through the vast majority of the movie. Come the climax? She’s got herself a ponytail, keeping her hair neatly out of the way because it’s all well and good to look pretty, but when you’re driving through a battle you need to be able to see. I don’t know who made that call. I don’t know if it was Michael Bay, the costume people, an assistant director or even Fox herself. I don’t know. And I don’t care. I care that it’s rare enough that I noticed it and I really rather appreciate that a character who’s obviously largely in the movie as eye candy got to do important actiony things and look capable while doing them.

All that being said? This is a ridiculous movie. It truly is a Michael Bay explosion extravaganza. I’m a little worried, after tonight, about what tomorrow will bring. This was a lot of explodiness and I’m told the sequel is bigger. It’s just plain full of machines making things go boom. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s shiny. There are the Transformers themselves, yes, and they are very pretty examples of the current level of computer effects. And then there’s all the stuff the humans fire at the Transformers. Also computer graphics, yes, but it hardly matters. Things go up in balls of flames, bullets zip through the air, people scream, metal screeches, explosions rock the entire set. There are plot holes all over the place, likely caused by more explosions and bullets. It was bound to happen, really.

Right. Plot. There was some introductory voice-over at the beginning, but I don’t really remember the specifics. Too many explosions. The Autobots and the Decepticons both came from a planet called Cybertron, but it was destroyed and eventually they all ended up on Earth, looking for a cube called the All Spark which could restore life to their planet. Or something. Obviously the bad guys (that would be the Decepticons, if you couldn’t tell by the name) want it for their own aims and the Autobots want to stop them. Enter Sam Witwicky, a high school student who has a talent for embarrassing himself and a new car that has a habit of turning itself on. And why is Sam our hero? Because his great great grandfather discovered a frozen Decepticon in the Arctic several decades back and the coordinates of the All Spark somehow got imprinted on his glasses, which Sam has and is trying to sell on eBay to get some cash so he can ask a girl on a date. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen! The Autobots fixate on him to get the glasses, as do the Decepticons. And so the movie goes, with the two groups of robots battling it out over the glasses at first, and then the All Spark. Oh, and there’s a secret US government agency that gets involved too and provides some impressive scenery chewing from John Turturro.

See, the thing about the plot is that it’s all just a means to an end, and that end is giant robot battles and explosions. This is a movie that is well aware of its own scale, too, and Michael Bay wasn’t shy about that. His ego seems to be growing quite large, really. Not only are there apparently numerous references to his name and possessions throughout the movie (his dog is in it, one of the helicopters has the same registration as his private jet and IMDB claims that ‘Mikaela Banes’ is a reference to his name), but references to at least one of his other movies. “This is at least a hundred times cooler than Armageddon,” screams a young man as he tries to catch the landings of the Autobots on his camera. That’s not subtle.

Nothing about this movie is subtle. That’s the point. This is a movie made to bash you over the head. It’s a movie for people who have fond memories of the cartoon but aren’t hung up on its canon. There’s at least one really obvious scene where all of the Autobots are showing themselves to Sam and Mikaela and Optimus Prime introduces them all and it’s tailor made for folks who watched the cartoon. You’re supposed to see that scene and be brought back to your childhood and then get ready for some action. That’s the whole point. And if that’s how you go into this movie? Ready for action and some callbacks to the source material? It’s fine. Just ignore the ‘comedic’ human performances and enjoy the effects and explosions.

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December 5, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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