The live action Transformers franchise is still going after ten years, four films and $3.7 billion later. Before Transformers: The Last Knight hits theatres this week, we went back and checked out the one that started it all, 2007’s Transformers.
So, is still any good?Now, this is kind of a ‘best of the worst’ situation. Transformers is by no far a great movie, but it is certainly the most watchable of the franchise. It has many issues – too many characters, a long run time and some questionable camerawork. It does, however, have some pretty great stuff. The Transformers themselves look fantastic. 2007 CGI wasn’t perfect but goddamn the Transformers look awesome, especially when they transform in and out of vehicle mode. The sheer amount of time and effort that went into these sequences is impressive and needs to be recognised.Transformers stars Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky, a teenager whose ancestor had some Transformer stuff imprinted on his glasses 100 years ago which will lead to the AllSpark, an artefact with the ability to create transformer life. This is the first problem with the movie – too many MacGuffins.
For the uninitiated, a MacGuffin is a plot device, usually an object, that the characters in the film are after. Think the Holy Grail from The Last Crusade or the Power Gem in Guardians of the Galaxy. In Transformers they want the glasses, then they want the Allspark cube and it all just feels incredibly, well, lazy.
It’s hard to talk about Transformers sometimes; it’s a bit of a hot mess. So much effort seems to be put into some areas of the film, while others are seemingly treated as an afterthought. The screenplay from writing duo Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman is the seed of a lot of problems with this movie. It feels like a draft was written and sent straight into production, without any revisions or corrections. So much dumb stuff made it into the final cut of this film. Why would Bumblebee try and help Sam try to seduce Mikaela (Megan Fox)? Who knows, but it’s in there.
There’s just too much going on, too many threads to follow. You’ve got Sam being pursued by both Decepticons and Autobots, a USAF team led by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson roaming around the desert, a team of hackers tracing Decepticon hacks, Jon Voight as the US Secretary of Defense, a secret government agency called Sector 7, Sam’s parents and high school exploits – it’s just too much.
Keep Sam and the soldiers – cut the rest. Sam’s story keeps to the Transformers mythology and feels right – a teenager discovering his car is a transformer. As a teenager, this was the best idea and I was thoroughly entertained. The soldiers get a lot of the best action sequences and they even try – kind of – to develop the characters a little.So what happens when there are a million characters and subplots? No one gets a full character arc and sacrifices have to be made. What was sacrificed in the movie called Transformers? That’s right, the Transformers.
Autobots and Decepticons are simply not the focus of Transformers; the human characters are. It’s a damn shame as they did such a great job with the look of the characters – despite some redesigns from the originals – but you never get enough time to spend with them to get really attached. There are some good decisions made here and there. Peter Cullen was brought back to voice Optimus Prime and his work is nothing short of epic. Even Hugo Weaving does a pretty solid job voicing Megatron.
Let’s talk about the directing by Michael Bay. I like Bad Boys and The Rock. Armageddon is one of my favourite bad movies of all time. The guy is an interesting director. He can shoot an interesting action scene – especially once all the special effects are incorporated into it. But the “bay-isms” are just everywhere. The military tech-babble, low angle shots, slow motion, too many shots of attractive women that serve no purpose. I’ll also be the only person that thinks all of the explosions in Bay movies look the same.
I could go on about the too many subplots and superfluous characters, the lazy writing and stereotypical situations – not to mention that the entire movie is essentially one big toy and car commercial in one, but I won’t. Because upon revisiting the movie, despite the obvious problems, I could still enjoy it. It’s entertaining, there are some funny moments and great action scenes. Seeing the transformers on screen does hit me with nostalgia and I’m reminded of the old cartoons.
Transformers isn’t great, but it isn’t bad – it is a perfectly fine popcorn movie that, with perhaps 20 minutes cut out, could actually be a solid movie. Though, for nearly every sequel that follows, the same cannot be said.
What do you think of Transformers? Love it, hate it, don’t care? Sound off in the comments and on Facebook and let us know. Don’t forget to check back soon for our review of Transformers: The Last Knight and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Autobots, roll out.