Talking pictures: Transformers
Thanks to Alex, I was able to attend a screening of Transformers tonight. I've been both worried and excited about this film for some time. While the idea of a Transformers movie sounded great, I was just sure that allowing director/executive producer Michael Bay anywhere near the project was a recipe for disaster. I'll give the guy credit for The Rock, but otherwise his filmography reads like an abridged list of the loudest, stupidest, most craptacular movies of the last decade. Now I may not be cheering loudly for it at Oscar time, but I was quite satisfied with the final product.
Transformers is a classic popcorn movie. It's loaded with action and humor, and has a pretty flimsy romantic story thrown in for good measure. The robot factions battle to recover the powerful Allspark, and along the way wreak serious havoc on humans and each other. The lineup of Autobots and Decepticons includes many of the classic characters from the G1 series. Several of them are revamped significantly from their original forms. The film does preserve many aspects of the characters' personalities, although the Decepticons don't get nearly as much attention as their Autobot counterparts. Optimus Prime gets a paint job, Bumblebee is reborn as a Chevy Camaro, Starscream is upgraded from an F-15 to an F-22, Devastator (now a tank) and Bonecrusher are now separate entities... and so on. Still, the rehashed alien robots come to life through fine special effects and voice acting (although a key member of the Autobots is actually mute much of the film).
Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are the hero and his love interest/partner, and I was fairly surprised not to hate either of them. The humans supporting the 'bots are generally more tolerable than I expected, although Bay does play up the camp factor. Bernie Mac is a fast-talking car dealer, random twenty-something hackers/analysts aid the Pentagon, and the military seems to have added courses in one-liners and stoic speeches to basic training. The product placement is a bit out of control too, particularly with regard to branding the alien robots. However, many of the jokes do work, and the filmmakers don't allow the humans to save the world too easily.
It's not a perfect flick, but it's fun and bound to kick serious box office ass this summer. I certainly enjoyed it more than either Spider-Man 3 or the most recent adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow, which are its most obvious competitors. Odds are it won't be last film in the franchise, as the ending isn't altogether conclusive and a peek at IMDB reveals a sequel may already be in the works. Overall, a very satisfying take on a cartoon from my childhood.
Transformers opens on July 3.